COVID-19: August 7, 2020 Update from Representative Dykema

August 7 Coronavirus Update

Today, the Governor announced a number of significant changes to protect the progress we have made in slowing the spread of COVID-19. In particular, the administration has identified instances in which large social gatherings have led to “hot spots” of transmission, and the updates below are designed to address these challenges and other priority issues that have been raised as numbers tick upward in recent weeks.

A brief summary of today’s updates:

  • The Governor, at the recommendation of the Reopening Advisory Board, has indefinitely postponed progression of reopening phases. The Commonwealth will remain in step 1 of Phase III until further notice.
  • The Governor has revised the current outdoor gatherings order to lower the gathering size limit for all outdoor gatherings, public and private, from 100 to 50. This order includes gatherings of all types and settings except for public demonstrations of political expression. The indoor gathering limit is still 25 people or 8 people per 1,000 square feet of space.
  • Restaurant safety guidance has been updated to clarify that on-premises alcohol sale is only allowed with purchase of food prepared on premises, effective August 11. This updated guidance is designed to clarify that bars are still prohibited from operating, and that restaurants are only allowed to offer drink service with meals.
  • Beginning next week, the Commonwealth will convene an inter-agency COVID-19 Enforcement and Intervention Team that will be responsible for ramping up enforcement statewide and coordinating local intervention efforts at the local level in higher risk COVID-19 communities. Communities will be designated as higher risk COVID-19 communities based on public health data, including but not limited to rising trends for new cases and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests. 
  • The requirements of the statewide travel order have not changed, but due to changing COVID-19 numbers, Rhode Island is now considered a higher-risk state. More detailed information can be found in the “New Updates” section below.

The full announcement from the Governor’s office can be read here

CORRECTION: Yesterday’s newsletter erroneously stated that mail-in voting ballots needed to be postmarked by August 26th. In fact, mail-in applications must reach your local election office by August 26 for the State Primary. State primary ballots need to arrive back at your local election office by 8 p.m. on September 1. You can return your ballot by mail or in person. The Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website has a helpful voting by mail FAQ for your convenience.

New Updates

Coronavirus Testing and Response

Source: Department of Public Health data
  • Today, the state saw 417 new confirmed and probable positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 120,291 total cases and 18  reported deaths as of today at 4pm. 
  • The average new cases over the last 7 days is 383, and the average number of deaths is 14.
  • The 7-day weighted average positive test rate in Massachusetts is 1.9%.
  • 390 individuals are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, a decrease of 13 from yesterday.
  • The Department of Public Health regularly releases a daily reporting dashboard containing detailed information on hospitalizations, demographic data, and county-by-county breakdowns of cases. To view the DPH dashboard, visit here.

Heath Care

  • Hospital Capacity: As of 8/7, 33% of the Commonwealth’s 12,400 permanent and temporary hospital beds are available for new patients if needed. In the MetroWest region, 39% of the region’s 2,100 beds are available for new patients.
  • Long-term care: As of 8/7, there are 376 long-term care facilities with at least one case of COVID-19 and 24,467 staff and residents in facilities who have tested positive for COVID-19. 5,551 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in long-term care facilities.
  • For information on COVID-19 testing and guidance on whether you should get tested, how to get tested, and where to get tested, visit the COVID-19 testing portal at mass.gov/gettested
  • The Stop the Spread initiative providing free testing for both asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals continues in 17 communities, including Worcester, Marlborough, and Framingham. Today, the administration announced an extension to the program, which will now run through September 12, and plans are underway to expand to more communities. For more information, visit mass.gov/stopthespread.
  • Curbing the spread of the virus in health care “hot spots” is critical to keeping both patients and health care providers safe. I have received questions from constituents about this issue, and for your convenience, you can review the CDC guidance for infection control plans at hospitals here.

Local Update

  • You can find this week’s DPH report on town-by-town COVID-19 testing and case numbers here, as well as counts of COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities across the Commonwealth. Our towns’ numbers are below (through 8/5):
    • Holliston: 62 (+5)
    • Hopkinton: 135 (+2)
    • Southborough: 43 (+0)
    • Westborough: 350 (+5)
  • The weekly public health report also contains facility-specific information on COVID-19 case rates on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, which can be found here starting on page 24.
  • In compliance with the new statewide data collection law, DPH has also begun reporting COVID-19 testing and infection rates at all state facilities, including state hospitals and congregate care facilities. You can find that data on this page.
  • The statewide Department of Correction COVID-19 data can now be found in a new weekly report, which can be found here.

Education

  • This week, the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus announced that it was updating its fall reopening plan to require most students to engage in remote instruction, with specific exceptions for students enrolled in essential in-person courses. The chancellor’s announcement can be found here.
  • You can read general reopening guidance for higher education here, but as always, if you have specific questions about a college or university’s reopening and COVID-19 prevention plans, contact the institution directly.
  • Following school districts’ submissions of preliminary reopening scenarios and plans, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released general feedback today on additional information required in final reopening plans. DESE also extended the deadline for districts to submit final plans to Friday, August 14.
  • DESE also updated its frequently asked questions (available in English and Spanish) on its K-12 reopening guidance this week, and has indicated in its FAQ where responses have changed or been updated.

Workforce Update

  • Today, the Department of Unemployment Assistance announced that statewide employment data has triggered federal extensions of both unemployment insurance claims and pandemic unemployment assitance (PUA) claims. PUA recipients will be eligible for an additional 7 weeks of benefits, up to 46 weeks, and certain standard UI recipients will be eligible for an additional 13 weeks (Note: eligible UI recipients will receive direct notification of their extended eligibility). More information on these extensions can be found here, and general information on unemployment and COVID-19 can be found here.

Transportation

  • This week, the Registry of Motor Vehicles began offering “drop off” registration and title services for customers at its Braintree service center. For transactions that cannot be competed online, documents can be dropped off for processing at an RMV location for turnaround within 4 business days. The Registry is expected to expand this service to additional locations on Monday, August 10. For more information, visit this page or the RMV COVID-19 information page.
  • This week, the MBTA announced it was expanding bus service in the coming weeks to reduce crowding and promote social distancing. There will be a virtual public meeting on these changes on Thursday, August 13 at 6pm. For more information on all MBTA service changes related to COVID-19, visit mbta.com/covid19.
  • Beginning August 24, there will be limited lane closures on I-90 near the Fenway neighborhood due to the beginning of construction of an air-rights development near Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. For more information on the project and lane closures, visit buildp12.com.

Legislative Update

  • Several major pieces of legislation, including major omnibus police reform, telehealth, economic development, and climate/energy packages, are now being reviewed by conference committees. This process occurs when the House and the Senate pass two different versions of similar legislation, and a small committee of members from both chambers meet to resolve differences and make recommendations for final legislative language to send to the Governor for his signature.
  • On Tuesday, the Governor signed legislation authorizing a land exchange for a local construction project in Hopkinton. This bill will allow for roadway reconfiguration on Chamberlain Street to allow for improved public safety access and result in a net increase in protected natural lands in Town.

Additional Items

  • A brief reminder that all individuals visiting or returning to Massachusetts from higher-risk states must comply with a 14-day quarantine, receive a negative COVID-19 test less than 72 hours prior to arrival, or quarantine until they receive a negative result. As of today, Rhode Island is no longer a low-risk state and visitors must self-quarantine or get tested. It is important to note that those who travel regularly to or from Rhode Island for work are exempt from travel requirements, provided that they are only traveling to a fixed location of work, school, or residence. More information on the travel order and exemptions can be found here.

Local Resources

All of the towns in the 8th Middlesex District now have centralized COVID-19 resource pages with resources, updates, and alerts regarding town services.

HollistonHopkintonSouthboroughWestborough

The Department of Public Health also releases weekly reports on town-by-town COVID-19 case numbers and rates, which can be found online here.

Resources for Residents Experiencing Job Loss or Loss of Income

COVID-19 is causing broad disruption to the economy which is affecting incomes of many residents and families. There are a number of State resources and supports available to support workers who may find themselves unemployed or otherwise income-constrained during this uncertain time. 

Guide for job/income loss resourceshttps://carolyndykema.com/covid19-state-resources

Department of Unemployment Assistancehttps://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-unemployment-assistance

Department of Transitional Assistancehttps://www.mass.gov/dta-covid-19-resources-and-support

Statewide Information

Information on the state of emergency and related orders can be found here.

Reopening guidance can be found at mass.gov/reopening

Information on COVID-19 testing can be found at mass.gov/gettested.

How You Can Help (updated)

Holliston Youth and Family Services requests your support of the Community Action Fund, which provides emergency assistance to those affected by COVID-19. Learn more or donate here.

Southborough’s Community Fund has supported local COVID-19 response efforts and families impacted by the pandemic, as well as other charitable organizations in Town. Learn more or donate here.

The Westborough Rotary Club has launched a COVID-19 Community Relief Fund to provide assistance to those affected by COVID-19. Learn more or donate here.

The American Red Cross is asking for blood donations, the need for which is significant due to blood drive cancellations. The need is dire due to the cancellation of hundreds of blood drives. People can donate at the Worcester American Red Cross Donor Center, 381 Plantation St. Worcester or call 1-800-RED CROSS. Some local donor sites, including the Natick Senior Center, are available for appointments as well.

Information on our local food pantries can be found below. The most pressing need right now is cash donations to ensure that food drop-off and delivery do not inadvertently contribute to the spread of the virus.

Holliston Pantry Shelf | Project Just Because | Southborough Food Pantry | Westborough Food Pantry

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