COVID-19 Weekend Update + Resources 4/19/20
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This week, we mourn the passing of one of our own E-13 Boston Police Officers due to COVID-19 complications. Officer Jose Fontanez proudly served our local neighborhoods and our city for 29 years. Our hearts remain heavy and with his family, friends, colleagues, and all those who loved him.
To echo our Mayor, the best way we can honor our fallen officer and show our respect and gratitude for our first responders, healthcare workers and frontline staff who are putting their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, is to STAY HOME. I know it's really hard, and like me, you're probably feeling very stir crazy by now, but as the Governor reminded us going into the weekend, if we let up now, it will only result in greater harm. That includes tomorrow, Monday, April 20 -- please do not visit the Boston Marathon route or attempt to run the course on what would have been Marathon Monday. The Boston Marathon is postponed to September 14.
As my colleague Rep. Jon Santiago (D-9th Suffolk), a Boston Medical Center emergency department doctor who is working two 12 hour shifts at the Boston Convention Center field hospital this weekend, shared on Thursday after finishing a shift: we're right in the surge and things are going to get worse before they get better. Please continue to hunker down and hang in there.
If you're healthy and up to it, please consider donating blood. The need is urgent now.
Appointments are required and you can find the nearest drive here. Additionally, your local knowledge, suggestions of sites, and potential partners are crucial to meeting the needs of our neighbors who need blood and blood products. To schedule a new blood drive contact Bill Forsyth at 617-699-3808 or at email William.Forsyth@redcross.org.
State Representative, 11th Suffolk
To read the Commonwealth’s Command Center Daily Updates: www.replizmalia.org
How to Help Out
Donate to the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Volunteer opportunities for health professionals. MA Responds is a centralized volunteer management system designed to enhance the state’s ability to prepare for and respond to health related emergencies and events. *All levels of volunteers, clinical or non-clinical, active or retired, are needed.
Donate or sell personal protective equipment.
Health care facilities can learn more about requesting personal protective equipment.
Apply for Jobs at COVID-19 Temporary Care Sites.
Upcoming Items of Interest
SMALL BUSINESS ZOOM: Join the Globe's Small Business Community for a virtual event with business reporter and Talking Points writer Jon Chesto. Chesto wants to hear about your business, how it's been affected by the current crisis, and what you're doing to keep it going. He'll come with a few questions that will fuel his future reporting on the region's economic outlook -- and if you have questions on that topic, he'll try to tackle those as well. (Monday, 10 AM, Register)
HEALTH DISPARITIES PANEL: Boston Medical Center's Dr. Thea James and Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center's Stan McLaren take part in a panel discussion hosted by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce about health disparities in communities of color and efforts to mitigate the effects on those communities from COVID-19. Michele Courton-Brown of Quality Interactions Inc. will also take part. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., Register)
1918 ELECTIONS DISCUSSION: Massachusetts Historical Society holds an online program titled "Voting During a Pandemic: The 1918 Elections in Massachusetts," looking at the primary and general elections held just after the peak of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. Register (Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.)
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider and tell them about your symptoms. They will help you decide whether testing is appropriate. If your clinician thinks you should be tested but they are unable to offer a test at their own health care facility, they will provide a referral and you can be tested at a test site near you (by appointment only). If you don't have a provider, call 211 or 311.
Mobile testing sites are operating to serve eligible public safety personnel, including police officers, firefighters, EMS and PSAP personnel, correction officers, mortuary service providers, grocery store workers, and state active duty National Guard personnel who perform critical public safety functions.
The Department of Public Health, in partnership with the Massachusetts National Guard, and the State Public Health Laboratory in conjunction with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is operating a program for Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Residences and Rest Homes (Facilities) to allow for in-facility testing of residents and staff.
During what would have been school vacation week (4/20-24), school meal deliveries will continue. *Locations and times are subject to change. Please check back to confirm information before you head to a meal pickup site or food pantry.
Extra Emergency SNAP Benefits and what you need to know.
Animal Food: The MSPCA is working hard to ensure people facing financial or medical struggles are able to continue feeding their pets. They’ve created a list of food pantries and organizations across MA that accept pet food donations (always contact pantry to make sure they have pet food in stock). Learn more about how to protect your pets and plan ahead.
New: Metro Housing put RAFT & Section 8 applications online (as of 4/14/20)
RAFT: For households at risk of homelessness due to a housing crisis such as rent, mortgage, or utility arrears through Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, this application process is done completely electronically, and can be initiated by completing the pre-application online.
Section 8: Metro Housing recently made the application for the Housing Choice Voucher program available and submittable electronically.
If you have experienced a loss of wages due to the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be eligible for MassHealth or subsidized coverage through the Health Connector, which opened enrollment to all uninsured residents and is accepting applications through May 25. If you are under the age of 65 and do not require long term care, you can apply for MassHealth or the Health Connector online www.mahealthconnector.org or call MassHealth’s Customer Service Center 800-841-2900 TTY: 800-497-4648.
MassHealth Limited is available on an emergency basis to all Massachusetts residents who do not qualify for public health insurance programs due to their immigration status, and will cover the costs of testing and treatment for COVID-19
The Commonwealth’s Health Safety Net program is also available to qualifying low-income MA residents no matter their immigration status, and will pay for testing and treatment for COVID-19 provided by hospitals and community health centers.
Unemployment (Mass.Gov) - Have you lost your job or had hours reduced due to COVID-19?
Where to start: Sign up or tune in to a live DUA unemployment daily virtual town hall
Avoid common mistakes: ***read this FAQ BEFORE you apply***
Reaching the DUA: If you're a constituent having issues securing a successful application, please contact my office with the following information: Full Name, Address, Phone, Email, Last 4 SSN, Last Employer, File Date, Claimant ID, The Details, Your Ask
Expanded unemployment under the CARES Act (coming 4/30): new FAQ
Need help? filing an Unemployment Insurance claim online because you don't read English or don't have regular access to a computer? Use this form to provide basic contact information, and Greater Boston Legal Services will call you to provide assistance by phone.
Spanish Application (available as of 4/11): mass.gov/desempleo
Economic Impact Payments (IRS website) *BEWARE OF SCAMS: IRS/SSA NEVER CALL*
Get My Payment: No further action is needed by taxpayers who filed tax returns in 2018 and 2019 and most seniors and retirees. Eligible taxpayers with qualifying children under age 17 can receive an extra $500. For taxpayers who filed tax returns in 2018 or 2019, the child payments will be automatic.
Non Tax Filers: if you aren't typically required to file tax returns AND you have children who qualify, an EXTRA STEP: NON FILERS ENTER PAYMENT INFO HERE is needed to add $500 per child onto the automatic payment of $1,200.
SSI & SSDI recipients: YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO ANYTHING; expect to see your payments like you normally would (but from Treasury not SSA) before early May.
No SSN? options: Benefits Available to All Regardless of Immigration Status
Regularly Updated Legal Resource: https://www.masslegalhelp.org/covid-19/stimulus-payment
Connect with an online community of naturalists to learn about wild plants and animals in MA. Join MassWildlife’s iNaturalist project to see and add to species info. for featured properties.
Anyone feeling overwhelmed with sadness, anxiety or stress, or who wants to harm themselves or others, can access the mental health, emotional support, and suicide prevention program Call2Talk by dialing 2-1-1. Call2Talk is also available by calling 508-532-2255 or by texting C2T to 741741.
NAMI's COVID Guide
NEW MA COVID-19 Response Dashboard - MEMA has developed and maintains a public-facing COVID-19 ArcGIS Online dashboard - it's continuously updated and captures information about current COVID 19 case counts, cases by age, cases by county, hospital status, hospital bed status, death tolls, and deaths by age. Users should refresh the dashboard on a daily basis as enhancements are continuously being added.
4/14 - The Governor signed an order to increase the National Guard’s response from 2,000 to 5,000 members. The National Guard has been working to increase the number of beds for COVID-19 patients by setting up field hospitals across the Commonwealth. This increase will allow more flexibility with the emergency response as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve.
4/15 - The Administration announced multiple steps to support long-term care facilities, including rate increases for facilities that create dedicated COVID-19 wings and units, continuing onsite testing through the Mobile Testing program, contracting with a firm specializing in nursing home crisis management to assist with staffing, vendors, and implementing infection control measures, and mobilizing rapid-response clinical teams to provide short-term support to facilities with a high volume of cases or with critical staffing needs.
4/15 - To meet staffing needs at long-term care facilities, the Administration has set up a Long-Term Portal to match individuals seeking work with facilities. There will be a $1,000 signing bonus to all individuals that register through the portal and work for a certain amount of time. To register, visit: https://covid19ltc.umassmed.edu/
4/15 - The RMV announced a 60-day extension for most credential, passenger plate registrations, and inspection stickers expired or expiring in May will receive a 60-day extension. This is in addition to the previously announced 60-day extension for Match and April.
4/15 - Attorney General Healey launched a new website - https://www.frontlinema.org/ - to provide resources for healthcare workers and first responders. This website will also have information for the public regarding how to help and thank our frontline workers responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
4/16 - The nation’s first contact tracing initiative is now underway in Massachusetts. If you are contacted by someone working for the initiative through the organization Partners in Health, you are urged to take the call and provide relevant information. The program will help determine who infected patients have had close contact with and help craft isolation strategies to prevent the spread of the virus. Learn more here: https://www.pih.org/ma-response.
4/16 - The Department of Early Education and Care, in conjunction with the Department of Children and Families, announced an emergency approval process for congregate care sites to provide services for youth (cared for by DCF, DDS, DMH, DYS and live in residential programs or group homes) who have tested positive for COVID-19, in an effort to support vulnerable youth in the care of the Commonwealth. Providers interested in opening such emergency sites can apply online.
4/16 - Attorney General Maura Healey launched a Small Business Relief Partnership Grant Program to direct funding to municipalities and regional planning agencies that assist small businesses in their communities. Grant funds can be used to administer or supplement grant programs targeting local businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19.
4/17 - The Administration announced that the COVID-19 Response Command Center would be distrusting 200,000 respirator masks for public safety officials in the Commonwealth. MEMA will be distributing these masks through the regional points of distribution.
4/17 - The Governor announced 4,500 foster families in the Commonwealth will receive an additional $100 per month per child for April, May, and June to help care for 6,700 children in foster care during the COVID-19 outbreak.
4/17 - MA has opened 550 beds across 5 isolation and recovery sites around the state to provide regional solutions for people experiencing homelessness that need a safe place to isolate and recover after testing positive for COVID-19. It also developed an expedited process for homeless shelters and municipalities to request equipment and supplies, like tents, beds, and portable showers, and for requesting Personal Protective Equipment. 84 shelters have already requested equipment through this process.
4/18 - Governor stated MA is in top 5 states nationally for COVID-19 testing per capita.
4/18 - Governor advised people to not visit the Boston Marathon route or attempt to run the course on what would have been Marathon Monday, April 20. The Boston Marathon is postponed to September 14.
4/19 - On Sunday's CBS "Face the Nation", the Governor called upon the federal government to help states with their budgets that are struggling from the economic impact of the pandemic.
This week, the MA House of Representatives launched an initiative to address the needs of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors during the stay-at-home advisory. This initiative, led by Chairs Cronin and Decker, will analyze state policies in order to assess the existing and emerging needs of survivors in the Commonwealth.
On Tuesday, in my role as Assistant Vice Chair of the House and Joint Committees on Ways and Means, I attended the virtual economic roundtable hosted by Chairs Michlewitz, Rodrigues, and Secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance Michael Heffernan to listen to expert testimony and analysis on the economic impacts of the pandemic. Tax collections in the state are projected to fall between $4 billion and $6 billion below estimates for FY21, and it is not yet clear what the economic recovery from COVID-19 will look like. Due to this uncertainty, the House will not debate a budget in April as we traditionally do, but we are committed to adapting in light of this new reality. The fact is we’re in a public health crisis that’s caused a massive economic fallout. As leaders work to identify a new revenue figure from which we will build a new budget, I will continue to update you on the process ahead and how to you participate.
Additionally, on Thursday, the MA Senate working group that's been studying (pre-COVID) the state's tax code and considering possible changes heard from members that it's too soon to think seriously about changes meant to address the fiscal fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
By Friday afternoon, after much legislative work in the MA State House and Senate, two bills landed on the Governor’s desk. The first bill, which he signed Friday night, would provide extra liability protections to health care professionals working under unusual circumstances giving health care professionals immunity from lawsuits and civil liability for alleged damages related to COVID-19, as long as the services were provided in good faith and did not stem from gross negligence, recklessness or an intent to harm or discriminate. The workers in the field hospitals set up or soon to open in Boston, Worcester, Bourne, Lowell and Dartmouth will be covered by the new law. Hopefully, these protections will help our providers feel more confident as they care for a surge of patients while working in unprecedented circumstances. The second bill would establish a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. If passed, the bill would stop all eviction proceedings — not just court-ordered evictions themselves — except in cases related to the health or safety of other tenants, for four months or until 45 days after the state of emergency is lifted. It also bans late fees for unpaid rent and requires banks to grant up to 180 days of mortgage forbearance to homeowners who’ve been hurt by the coronavirus crisis. I appreciate hearing from many of you on both sides on this predicament - tenants and small landlords - and I know there's more work to be done keep people people in their homes and sheltered during this unprecedented time.
The City of Boston is asking City and community leaders, local organizations, and non-profit partners to push this message out to their networks.
Mayor’s 4/17 Update
Update on case numbers:
As of Friday, April 17, throughout Massachusetts there have been 34,402 cases and 1,404 deaths. In Boston, there have been 5,096 cases and 143 deaths.
Update on community outreach efforts:
So far, the City has delivered literature in multiple languages to every home in Boston; it is using nearly 200 digital and print billboards to share vital information; and it is calling approximately 80,000 seniors twice a week with messages in 6 languages.
This weekend, the City is deploying 7 trucks mounted with speakers into neighborhoods that are hard hit, including Hyde Park, Mattapan, Dorchester, East Boston, and Roxbury. They will broadcast a message about preventing the spread of coronavirus in 7 languages: English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, Arabic, Somali, and Cabo Verdean Creole.
The City has begun phone banking small businesses, using the networks that the Office of Small Business built to reach small neighborhood markets. These small businesses are being asked to put up a poster in multiple languages asking customers to wear masks and practice distancing.
The City is also adding new signage throughout the city, and is planning another literature delivery, in multiple languages.
Precautions during Patriots’ Day weekend:
The Mayor reminded everyone that it is crucial to continue maintaining strict physical distance during the holiday weekend.
He also warned people against running the Boston Marathon route on Monday, April 20, since it would draw important resources from public safety agencies, and it could lead to an increase in exposures.
The City is coordinating a total of 65 food sites to serve youth and children while schools remain closed. They are operated by the Boston Public Schools, BCYF, the YMCA of Greater Boston, Boston Housing Authority, and others.
So far the City has provided more than 400,000 meals at these sites, and BPS is delivering meals to the homes of students with special needs.
There are dozens of food pantries affiliated with the Greater Boston Food Bank continuing to operate across the city.
The City is also continuing to deliver meals to veterans.
The Mayor reminded people that they can find more information by visiting boston.gov/coronavirus or by calling 3-1-1.
New initiative to support seniors:
The Department of Neighborhood Development has a partnership with a company called Nesterly that safely matches younger adults as roommates and tenants for senior homeowners.
During the outbreak, they cannot house young people with seniors, so we have pivoted to a new program called Good Neighbors, which matches volunteers with seniors who need grocery delivery, medication, or a check-in. The Age Strong Commission is helping connect with older adults.
To sign up to request help, or to volunteer, go to NesterlyGoodNeighbors.com.
Update on medical system capacity:
Boston Hope Medical Center at the BCEC went into operation last week with 1,000 beds. As of Thursday, April 16, Boston Hope was treating 133 patients, including 55 homeless individuals and 78 sub-acute hospital patients. In total it has served 172 individuals, including 39 who have been treated and discharged.
Expanding testing access:
The City of Boston has been working closely with local hospitals and community health centers to expand access to testing, particularly in parts of the city with the highest incidence of cases.
The City has been able to jump-start many of these resources using grants from the Boston Resiliency Fund.
Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury began testing for all on Wednesday, April 15.
On Thursday, April 16, testing became available for residents of Hyde Park at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Community Physicians facility.
Bowdoin Street Health Center in Dorchester also opened their testing site on Thursday, April 16th.
On Friday, April 17, the testing site for first responders in East Boston is expanding to serve residents of that neighborhood, as well. This is a partnership with the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center.
Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester will have testing available starting this weekend.
The City is also supporting Mattapan Community Health Center; Uphams Corner Health Center; and DotHouse Health, and is in talks with Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center in Dorchester and the Dimock Center in Roxbury.
The City is also developing a Testing Access Map to make it easy for residents to find out where they can get tested. This will be online at Boston.gov/coronavirus by Monday.
New Boston Public Library “Books for Boston” program:
The BPL is safely delivering new children’s and adult books to a variety of non-profit organizations that serve low-income families; homeless individuals; senior housing buildings; and domestic violence shelters.
They have already delivered more than 1,400 books with a goal of 5,000 in all.
All of the books are being purchased from local bookstores that have lost business due to the health crisis.
This new program adds to the wealth of material available to everyone online at bpl.org.
Continued social distancing in anticipation of peak:
The peak is now projected to arrive at the end of April. Distancing and hygiene in the next two weeks is critical to flattening the curve and saving lives.
The Mayor urges residents to stay home and avoid contact with others; respect the recommended curfew from 9pm to 6am; wear a face covering whenever they leave home; stay at least six feet from other people at all times; wash their hands and clean and sanitize surfaces frequently.
The City of Boston is asking City and community leaders, local organizations, and non-profit partners to push this message out to their networks.
Mayor’s 4/15 Update
One Boston Day observances:
Today is the 7th anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. It is also the 6th annual One Boston Day, a citywide day of reflection and service. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the City won’t be able to host in-person events or volunteer projects for One Boston Day this year.
The Mayor emphasized that this year’s One Boston Day is as important as ever. He urged people to do everything they can to support their fellow Bostonians, especially through physical distancing and wearing a face covering every time they leave the house.
The Mayor is calling on everyone to spread goodwill through acts of kindness you can safely do from home, and inviting people to share their reflections on the meaning of One Boston Day on social media with the hashtag #OneBostonDay.
Mayor Walsh proclaimed today as a citywide day of reflection, prayer, and unity. At 2 pm, we hosted an online, interfaith prayer service.
At 2:49 pm, the time the first bomb exploded on Marathon Monday in 2013, Old South Church will ring its bells in honor of those we lost.
Reminding residents to seek medical care and help if needed:
We have asked people to call their doctor or the Mayor’s Health Line if they experience symptoms, rather than going straight to an Emergency Department.
But we’re hearing that some people are afraid to reach out to their doctor or even call 911, because they think our healthcare system is overwhelmed.
Our medical professionals, EMTs, and paramedics are always here for our residents. No one should hesitate to call their doctor or 911 if they need help—especially if you experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or pain in your chest. These are life-threatening emergencies.
That includes people facing domestic violence or abuse. Never hesitate to call 911 if you or someone you know needs help.
Update on race and ethnicity data:
Starting today, the City will post race and ethnicity data for deaths, as well as for confirmed cases on boston.gov/coronavirus. As of yesterday, the data shows that of the 84 deaths in Boston, where race is known, 33% are white, 29% are black, 15% are Asian or Pacific Islander, 14% are Latino, and 9% are identified as other.
Identifying and addressing inequities in the impact of the virus:
Our COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force is meeting regularly. They are identifying key strategies to address inequities. Those include expanded testng, data sharing and analysis, and strengthening neighborhood outreach.
We are currently working with the Task Force on a webinar about COVID-19 in Haitian Creole. This is one of many efforts that are allowing us to reach more people, in more communities, and in more languages.
Expanding access to testing:
This week, Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury began offering expanded scheduled testing to all.
On Friday, we will expand service at our testing site for first responders in East Boston to serve residents, as well.
Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester will have expanded access to testing by this weekend.
In the coming days, Brigham and Women’s Hospital will expand services at their Hyde Park primary care site. They will be offering screening and testing, as well as other supports for people who are impacted by the coronavirus. Brigham and Women’s will also deploy resources to other high-risk communities in the weeks to come, responding to data about where testing is needed, and helping to prevent new hotspots from emerging in the future.
Update on the Boston Resiliency Fund:
Today we announced $1.7 million in new grants through the Boston Resiliency Fund.
Our latest grants will allow six more community health centers to expand testing: Mattapan; Whittier Street; Bowdoin Street; Codman Square; Uphams Corner; and DotHouse Health.
Other grantees include: all of the family shelters in Boston; St. Francis House; RIZE Massachusetts; The Dimock; Elevate Boston and Families for Justice as Healing; Brazilian Worker Center; Urban Guild; Mujeres Unidas Avanzando; Boston Girls Empowerment Network; Project RIGHT; Voice of Tabernacle; and Mothers for Justice and Equality.
In one month, we’ve raised over $25 million, with $12 million already out the door to local organizations.
We continue to accept donations at Boston.gov/BostonResiliencyFund.
Other significant contributions:
The MAPFRE Foundation has committed to donating $500,000 to the City of Boston. We will use this money to buy critical supplies for medical professionals and first responders.
Liberty Mutual has committed $15 million in grants to Boston nonprofits. The first installment will include $1 million each for BMC, Pine Street Inn, and Boston Healthcare for the Homeless; and $500,000 each to St. Francis House, Friends of Boston’s Homeless, and the Greater Boston Food Bank. This is in addition to $1 million that Liberty Mutual contributed to the Boston Resiliency Fund.
Continued social distancing in anticipation of peak:
According to some models, the peak is now projected to arrive at the end of April. Distancing in the next two weeks is critical to flattening the curve and saving lives.
The Mayor urges residents to stay home and avoid contact with others; respect the recommended curfew from 9pm to 6am, wear a face covering whenever you leave home; stay at least six feet from other people at all times; wash your hands and clean and sanitize surfaces frequently.