Tuesday Recap: COVID-19

Important protective measures to be aware of:

  1. Gatherings of over 25 people are prohibited until April 6th.

  2. On-premises consumption of food and drink at bars and restaurants is prohibited until April 6th.

  3. Elementary and Secondary Schools are closed until April 6th.

  4. Colleges and universities, both public and private, are urged to reduce the need for students to be on campus.

  5. Employers are encouraged to support alternative work arrangements, including allowing employees to work from home.

  6. Some government offices are closed, you should check the website or call ahead, to confirm hours of operation.

  7. MBTA trains and buses are running a reduced service schedule.

TESTING UPDATE. Here is the Tuesday testing update from Mass DPH. There are now 218 positive cases in Massachusetts, up from 197 yesterday. New cases in Barnstable (1), Berkshire (3), Bristol (3), Middlesex (6), Norfolk (7), Plymouth (2), Suffolk (6) and Worcester (2) counties, with 1 case of unknown location. The total number of tests conducted by state lab is now 1367 as of 7:30am. Private labs have conducted additional 384 tests.

TWO PEMBROKE CASES. Today we learned of our first two reported cases in the town of Pembroke. From the Board of Health: “The first case is that of a resident that encountered another individual that was infected with the virus. The second case was a resident did not knowingly encounter an individual that was infected but is a health care worker. Neither resident had traveled recently. Based on what we currently know, both individuals and their households are doing well and took every responsible precaution to self-isolate and mitigate exposure.”

EXPANSION OF HELATH CARE WORKERS. Gov. Baker has issued a series of Executive Orders today to expedite onboarding of licensed health care professionals during the COVID-19 emergency. These include 1) Licenses of physicians who have retired within the last year in good standing may be reactivated. 2) Providers in good standing licensed in other states may obtain emergency licenses to practice in person or through telemedicine. 3) Adjust minimum standards for ambulance staffing to ensure sufficient availability and capacity of EMS services.4) Expands telehealth by facilitating telehealth services across state lines. See https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-17-2020-registration-of-health-care-professionals-order/download and https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-17-2020-expand-access-to-physician-services-order/download

STATE EMPLOYEE TELEWORKING. Gov. Baker administration has issued new telework guidance for state employees through April 3. Non-emergency employees who are able to work remotely will continue to do so, and employees who are not performing “core functions” but cannot work remotely will be contacted by their manager for alternative assignments. “As a result of these new guidelines and the increased usage of telework, there will be closures of some public-facing government services and walk-in offices; these services will be made available online as appropriate.” See https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-issues-new-guidance-for-executive-branch-employees

UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE. Several steps have already been taken to make the unemployment claim process easier. DUA may now pay unemployment benefits if a worker is quarantined due to an order by civil authority or medical professional; or leaves employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection, or to care for a family member and does not intend, or is not allowed, to return to work. The worker need not provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able. Emergency regulations are being filed to allow workers to collect unemployment if a workplace is shut down and expects to reopen in four or fewer weeks; and also to waive the one (1) week waiting period for unemployment benefits. (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2598)

SMALL BUSINESS RECOVERY LOAN FUND. Gov. Baker’s administration has announced $10 Million in small business recovery loans in partnership with Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation. These loans are for up to $75,000. Open to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits (negative impact must be verifiable). This fund is offered with no payments due for the first 6 months, then 30-months of principal and interest payments and no prepayment penalties. Application on MGCC’s website: EmpoweringSmallBusiness.org. Email completed applications to mgcc@massgcc.com with subject line “2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund.’

ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOANS. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses or 2.75%.for non-profits. Long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. The Mass. Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) will make announcement when EIDL program is activated for Massachusetts. See: https://www.mass.gov/info- details/small-business-assistance-for-covid-19

EMERGENCY FUNDS FOR LOCAL HEALTH BOARDS. The Baker Administration today is distributing an initial $5 million emergency funding to address immediate needs of the Commonwealth’s local health boards, with more funding to be distributed soon. This additional funding will support COVID-19 public health emergency resources in cities and towns, and the Administration will execute emergency contracts with cities and health districts that have sufficient capacity to receive and utilize funding.

PETS. Can my pet get COVID-19? What can I do to help animals and shelters during this crisis? The Society of the United States has developed a COVID-19 shelter toolkit. This is a live page that is being continuously updated with new resources and information as the situation develops.

COURTS LIMITS IN-PERSON VISITS. The Supreme Judicial Court has issue a series of new orders to address state courthouse access issues, including moving most proceedings to video-conference or telephone. For full list of orders see https://www.mass.gov/supreme-judicial-court-rules/supreme-judicial-court-order-limiting-in-person-appearances-in-state

MASSACHUSETTS 2-1-1. Massachusetts residents are urged to use 2-1-1 for information, resources, and referrals regarding COVID-19. Operators are staffing this hotline 24/7 and translators are available in multiple languages. Residents with questions can dial 2-1-1 from any landline or cellphone, or use the live chat option on the Mass 2-1-1 website. As of 9:00 AM today, Mass 2-1-1 has answered a total of 4,502 coronavirus-related calls since last Friday. There are 17 staff now answering calls, including staff from United Way and 7 staff members from DPH.

RMV SERVICE. The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is announcing will reopen Wednesday, March 18 at seven of its 30 customer service center locations, while asking that customers who do not have immediate needs for required in-person services delay their visits. The RMV facilities that are being reopened prioritize regional availability, accessibility and facility size and capacity. To assist with “social-distancing” and reducing facility volume, customers are asked to not bring multiple individuals with them. Meanwhile, AAA locations will continue to offer select RMV services to AAA members and road tests will be suspended indefinitely.

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