COVID-19 Evening Updates 3/30/20

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Below are some highlights from the end of last week and the weekend.

To link to the Commonwealth COVID-19 Command Center's daily situation reports (sent at end of day), visit https://www.replizmalia.org/covid-19-response

We are all in this together. Please do your part to continue physical distancing, practicing good hygiene, and taking good care of yourself and your loved ones during these trying times.

Warmly,

Liz Malia

liz.malia@mahouse.gov

617-722-2380

Federal Updates

Gov. Baker announced Thursday, March 26 he filed a request for a federal disaster declaration in connection with COVID-19. The Trump administration approved it on Saturday, March 28 creating more flexibility to aid in the virus fight and making certain workers eligible for unemployment benefits.

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-federal-disaster-declaration

On Friday, March 27, the federal government enacted the CARES Act, which provides unemployment compensation to individuals not covered under regular MA unemployment law, such as those who are self-employed or paid by 1099s, those who have recently exhausted their weeks of unemployment benefits, and those who do not have sufficient earnings over the last year to qualify for state unemployment. The new law also extends the number of available weeks of benefits for all claimants, and supplements all claimants’ weekly benefit amount by $600.

The MA Department of Unemployment Assistance is awaiting federal guidance regarding the CARES Act’s application requirements, business rules, eligibility requirements, exceptions, and technical requirements. Until that guidance is issued, benefits under the CARES Act are not yet available in MA and claimants may not apply for such benefits through UI Online at this time. Updates about when CARES Act benefits will be available, and about when and how you should apply for those benefits will be posted at mass.gov/unemployment/covid-19 as soon as they are available.

State Updates

On Friday, March 27, the Governor pushed back the state's tax filing deadline, consistent with the federal deadline, to July 15.

To check symptoms and connect with health care resources, the state launched the 24/7 online tool Buoy Health, a Boston-based company, for all MA residents to use free of charge. The Boston-based company Buoy Health is offering free coronavirus (COVID-19) online screenings to MA residents: http://www.buoy.com/mass

The Newton Pavilion in Boston will be reopened to house up to 250 homeless COVID-19 patients, offering treatment and acting as an outpatient facility. The state is also working with homeless providers across the state to facilitate capacity for homeless individuals.

Governor Baker asked all travelers arriving in MA to self-quarantine for 14 days. MassDOT will be distributing flyers with information on this to transportation hubs in the state, and information will also be posted on highway message boards.

The Attorney General's office filed an emergency regulation to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive debt collection. It prohibits creditors from engaging in methods of debt collection that require people to leave their homes or have in person contact and from making unsolicited debt collection telephone calls to consumers. The AGO also prohibited the price gouging of essential products and services during the Public Health emergency. If you see price gouging, you can file a report here or call the Consumer Hotline at this number: 617-727-8400.

The state is working with deans of medical schools to look at early graduation dates to expand the provider workforce.

For teachers, students and parents, you can virtually tour the MA State House! https://malegislature.gov/virtualtour

Recent Public Health Orders

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurses in good standing will be given greater flexibility in prescribing.

  • An executive order was issued to expedite approval for pharmacists licensed in other states to practice in MA. It also allows for remote prescription processing.

  • Certain hospitals are exempt from certain nurse staffing requirements and must ensure that staffing remains adequate to meet the needs of patients.

  • Health care facilities are no longer required to submit a Notice of Determination of Need for certain activities to respond to COVID-19.

  • The state has a partnership to deploy personal care attendants to individuals with disabilities in the event that their personal care attendant can no longer work. Hiring processes for PCAs will be streamlined, and PCAs will be allowed to work more hours.

City Updates

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and encourage social distancing, group sports activities on fields and courts are temporarily suspended. Please review service changes here.

Many of you continue to reach out to offer additional help. As we move forward, Mayor Walsh is helping to coordinate prospective volunteers and connect them to future outreach and volunteer opportunities. Attached here, you will find an updated Google Form. There have been some modifications to the questionnaire. If you are still interested in volunteering please fill this out AGAIN. As future volunteer opportunities arise, a representative from the City of Boston will reach out to you directly.

Resources

The FoodSource Hotline (800-645-8333) continues to have the most up-to-date information on food resources, including new school sites, food pantries, and federal programs. They can help callers with SNAP applications over the phone 8am-7pm, Mon-Fri and 10am-2pm on Saturdays throughout the crisis. To better help families access food resources during this time, they created a master list and map of all meal sites currently serving students and families.

The Massachusetts Military Support Foundation will be distributing two weeks worth of meals to veterans starting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 31 at Gillette Stadium in Lot 5 from 10am-2pm. The pick-up truck will be staffed with healthy volunteers wearing proper gear to keep everyone safe.

Mass Cultural Council is sponsoring a listening session on April 2 from 1-2 PM with the Joint Legislative Committee on Tourism Arts and Culture.

Call to Action

The state established an online portal where individuals and companies can donate or contract with the commonwealth to sell personal protective equipment and volunteer to support the COVID-19 outbreak. They are looking for N95 or N99 masks, facemasks with built in shields, surgical masks, PAPRs, goggles, gloves, protective suits and gowns, booties and shoe covers, headcovers, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes.

The Baker Administration and the MA Medical Society partnered to match health care professional volunteers with communities and health care providers. They are in need of respiratory therapists and public health nurses. If you're interested in volunteering, you can sign up here: MAResponds.org

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