Friday Coronavirus update

• LOCAL SCHOOLS TO CLOSE. The Pembroke, Duxbury and Whitman-Hanson Schools have all announced that their schools will be closed now thru Friday, March 27. Additional details on each district’s plan is available on their websites and social media.

• NOW 123 CASES IN MASS. The DPH daily case count has been updated for Friday. There are now 123 confirmed or presumed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, up from 108 yesterday. New cases were reported in Middlesex (11), Suffolk (4), and Worcester (1) counties. One of these cases is the “unknown” case reported from yesterday.

• UPDATED POLICY ON TESTING. The Mass DPH issued new guidance to healthcare providers on Friday spelling out when and under what circumstance individuals should be tested. “Massachusetts has now begun to see some initial evidence of community spread of COVID-19 and the Department of Public Health (DPH) has made recommendations consistent with a transition into the community mitigation phase of the response,” they wrote. The memorandum is available for download here:

• 2-1-1 SERVICE. The Department of Public Health announced today that Massachusetts 2-1-1 will now provide real-time COVID-19 information, resources, and referrals in multiple languages. This expansion is the result of an increased investment in resources directed towards this 24-hour state-supported telephone hotline. Massachusetts 2-1-1 is open to callers 24/7. Residents with questions should dial 2-1-1 from any landline or cellphone. Callers dialing 2-1-1 will hear an automated menu of options. Callers press 2-6 for coronavirus. Residents can also reach 2-1-1 through a live chat option on the Massachusetts 2-1-1 website.

• SMALL BIZ ASSISTANCE. MEMA is working with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to activate the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program which would provide help to eligible businesses and non-profits impacted by COVID-19. The MEMA Small Business website and SBA survey form are live as of Thursday. As of this Friday afternoon, MEMA Recovery has received 27 completed forms.

• UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS FLEXIBILITY. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) recently received federal guidance allowing flexibility with unemployment compensation for individuals affected by COVID-19. EOLWD is pursuing potential emergency regulations to assist individuals whose employment has been affected by the virus.

• GUIDANCE FOR OLDER ADULTS. The Gerontology Institute at UMass recommends this video by Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director of infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control with advice on what elders can do in response to the outbreak. Here is the Youtube link: https://youtu.be/QNo5ZDvKuHg

• BLOOD DRIVES. The Red Cross reminds residents that as the number of COVID-19 cases grow, so does the need for healthy blood donors. They urge healthy individuals to make an appointment to give blood. Look up a local blood drives here: https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive

• MORATORIUM ON UTILITY SHUT-OFFS. The Department of Public Utilities has issued a moratorium to suspend all shut-offs of gas and electric utilities, including Municipal Light and Gas Plants, for residential customers during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

• TESTING CAPACITY TO INCREASE AGAIN. HHS Secretary Marylou Sudders said testing capacity at the state’s public health laboratory is expect to increase from about 200 cases per day to 400 with further automation approved by the CDC. Academic labs such as Mass General are still await approval from the Food and Drug Administration to start testing. The state has tests for about 5,000 people available and is seeking more from the federal government.

• NEW TESTING DATA. Starting this Wednesday, Mass DPH will begin releasing data on how many individuals have been tested in addition to the current data being report on confirmed and presumed cases. The data will be published along with the weekly quarantine figures on the state COVID-19 website.

• SEP. 14 HOLIDAY? Gov. Baker will file legislation to designate Sept. 14 as a state holiday in order to host the previously postponed Boston Marathon. Organizers hope the new three-day weekend can fill the void created by shifting the marathon off its Patriots’ Day tradition and help local businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

• EXECUTIVE ORDER ON LARGE GATHERINGS. Gov. Baker issued an emergency order Friday banning gatherings of 250 or more people effective immediately. Community, civic, leisure and faith-based events — a broad set of categories including fundraisers, religious services, concerts, conventions and weddings — are all covered by the ban on large gatherings. Sporting events can take place, but cannot have crowds in attendance. The order does not apply to airports, train and bus stations, medical facilities, grocery stores and other retail locations, or standard government and office business. Restaurants are also exempt, but they are asked to “encourage social distancing” when possible. [SHNS]

• PEM COA SERVICES. The Pembroke Senior Center will be closed to the public until March 30, 2020. Outreach Activity, Meals-on Wheels deliveries and medical, ADA and related transportation services will continue uninterrupted. All public events at the Pembroke Public Library have also been cancelled.

• SPECIAL ELECTION VOTING. The Pembroke Town Clerk encourages all residents to consider absentee voting in the March 31 special senate election. Absentee Ballot request form is located at: https://www.pembroke-ma.gov/sites/pembrokema/files/uploads/absentee_ballot_application_1.pdf

• VERIZON FEE WAIVER. For the next 60 days, Verizon will waive late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus. In addition, the company will not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus.

• OTHER STATES. The National Conference of State Legislatures has an interesting page detailing steps that each of the various states have taken in response to the Coronavirus. See: https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-action-on-coronavirus-covid-19.asp

• DUX COA ESSENTIAL SERVICES ONLY. The Duxbury Senior Center will be temporarily postponing non-essential programs, classes & events (including lunch) until further notice. All essential services will continue, including home delivered meals, referral services, medical transportation, and transportation for grocery store & pharmacy trips.

• EMPANELMENT OF JURIES. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court issued a directive today to delay the empanelment of any new juries as follows: all jury trials, in both criminal and civil cases, scheduled to commence in state courts between the date of this order and April 17, 2020, are hereby continued to a date no earlier than April 21, 2020. This order does not affect any case in which a jury has already been empaneled or where a jury has been selected for empanelment.

• COVID-19 QUARANTINE ASSISTANCE FUND. New legislation is being filed to establish a fund to assist residents of the Commonwealth who are unable to perform wage-earning services due to COVID-19 infection, quarantine, or isolation. The lead sponsor is Rep. Smitty Pignatelli and Rep. Cutler is a co-sponsor of the bill.

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