COVID-19 End of Week Update + Contact Tracing 5/10/20

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Happy Mother's Day and National Nurses Week (May 6-12) and National Hospital Week (May 10-16). ​​

I hope this finds you and yours healthy and in good spirits. As we continue to grieve those we've lost, our hearts remain full and grateful for what we once shared and what we have now.

Two weeks ago, Governor Baker established the Reopening Advisory Board. This group is charged with advising the administration on strategies to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics. To submit comments to the board, click here to access the form.

As we begin to hear of plans to reopen, we know the wisest public health path involves physical distancing and robust testing and contact tracing.

Launched last month, the state's Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) focuses on tracing the contacts of confirmed positive COVID-19 patients, and supporting individuals in quarantine. Remember, if an individual tests positive for COVID-19, the MA COVID Team will reach out by phone to connect the confirmed case with support and resources necessary for quarantine, and to identify any close contacts that may have been exposed.

As the CTC continues its contact tracing work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, it is critical that residents answer the phone when a contact tracer calls or texts. Contact tracers will only reach out from phone numbers with 833 or 857 area codes, and the phone’s caller ID will say MA COVID Team.

PLEASE ANSWER THE CALL TO HELP KEEP OUR COMMUNITIES SAFE.

Since calls began on April 12, tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents have participated in contact tracing. Staffed with more than 1,600 tracers, the Tracing Collaborative has reached nearly 14,000 confirmed cases and established more than 7,500 of their contacts since calls began on April 12.

The good news is, so far, in part due to effective social distancing measures, the median number of contacts reported by each confirmed case remains approximately two.

Please continue to be kind to yourself and others during these challenging times.

Warmly,

Liz Malia

MA State Representative, 11th Suffolk

liz.malia@mahouse.gov

State Updates

5/5 - The Administration updated its essential services FAQs page to allow some small non-essential businesses to fulfill online and phone orders.

5/5 - To date, Massachusetts distributed 8.5 million pieces of PPE including masks, gloves, and ventilators. If you have PPE to sell or donate, the state is continuing to collect equipment to support the response effort.

5/5 - RMV customers can now schedule a reservation online 7 days in advance for an open service center. Previously, you could only schedule for 3 days in advance.

5/6 - Starting today, the Governor’s order regarding the use of cloth face coverings goes into effect. Residents over the age of two must wear a face mask or covering in all public places where maintaining proper social distancing is not possible.

5/6 - Today, MA was awarded $3.9M under FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program through the CARES Act. This funding is meant to support organizations that feed, shelter, and provide critical resources to people experiencing, or at-risk of experiencing, hunger, homelessness.

5/7 - The Registry of Motor Vehicles cautioned customers to only use the RMV’s website when trying to renew a license or registration or process any business transactions online. Customers should avoid using any unofficial third-party websites that are offering RMV services to ensure that their personal and financial information is protected.

5/8 - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released guidance for Advanced Placement testing for school districts. This guidance permits schools to open for the test, but only for a limited number of students who are unable to take the test at home due to inadequate access to a computer or internet connectivity. For this and previous guidance issued around competency requirements for the class of 2020, click here.

5/8 - The Governor shared an update regarding care capacity in the Commonwealth. Hospitals continue to have the capacity to care for all medical conditions, including those suffering from heart attacks or strokes. Those with ongoing medical needs should continue to seek care. The Governor's administration and the Mass League of Community Health Centers are launching a COVID-19 public awareness campaign to encourage residents to continue to seek care for medical conditions and remind individuals not to delay treatment due to COVID-19.

Unemployment

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) continues to offer virtual town halls that provide information on how to apply for unemployment assistance.

Recently, the DUA posted information on returning to work as it relates to unemployment insurance. You can find guidance for workers here and for employers here.

Legislative Updates

This past week, Massachusetts joined a regional consortium of 7 states that will work together to find and purchase personal protective equipment, COVID-19 tests, ventilators, and other needed medical equipment.

Additionally, the MA House agreed upon temporary emergency rules and voted remotely for the first time in the institution's history, ensuring that the Commonwealth’s essential legislative business continues during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

This coming week, I look forward to voting again remotely on the final enactment of the bill that will allow our state treasurer to borrow funds to balance the FY20 budget and to repay those sums by June 30, 2021, so that hopefully the state can avoid cutting government services due to the delay of state income tax filings.

Whether in full formal session or previous informal sessions, the MA House of Representatives has acted on several pieces of critical legislation since the State of Emergency declaration on March 10. The list of those bills is below.

COVID-19-Related Enacted Laws

  • An Act making $15 million in Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2020 to Provide for Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations Relating to the Coronavirus (H.4561)

  • An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities, School Districts and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19 (H.4586)

  • An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19 (H.4616)

  • An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency (H. 4615)

  • An Act Granting Authority to Postpone 2020 Municipal Elections in the Commonwealth and Increase Voting Options in Response to the Declaration of Emergency to Respond to COVID-19 (S.2608)

  • An Act Authorizing Waiver of the One Week Waiting Period for Unemployment Benefits (S.2599)

COVID-19 Legislation Awaiting MA Senate Action

  • An Act Relative to Long Term Care Facility and Elder Housing COVID-19 Reporting (H.4667)

  • An Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment (H.4672)

  • An Act to Facilitate the Delay of the Income Tax Filing Deadline (H.4677)

City Updates

Mayor’s 5/8/20 Update

Case numbers as of Thursday, May 7:

  • Massachusetts: 73,721 cases and 4,552 deaths.

  • Boston: 10,598 cases, 486 deaths, and 2,882 recoveries.

Case trends in Boston:

  • The Mayor noted that Thursday marked the first time Boston has had more confirmed recoveries than new cases reported. This means that the total number of active cases went down for the first time since the crisis began. He cautioned that one day of data does not mark a trend or turning point, but it's an encouraging sign.

Testing update:

  • As of Thursday, May 7, a total of 36,702 people have been tested in the City of Boston, which is over 5% of the city’s population.

  • The overall positive test rate is down to 30.3%, from 32.1% last week.

  • There are now more than 20 testing sites operating across Boston’s neighborhoods.

  • As the Mayor announced on Wednesday of this week, the City now has a plan to consistently test 1,500 people per day in Boston, by continuing to support community health centers, continuing to conduct universal testing of Boston’s homeless population, expanding mobile testing, and introducing universal testing of additional high-risk groups, including first responders.

Food access:

  • On average, the City and its partners are distributing nearly 25,000 free meals daily Monday-Thursday, with more than that on Fridays to get people through the weekend.

  • A total of 806,000 youth meals have been distributed at more than 65 sites citywide, and 15 adult sites are now operational.

  • Hours and locations for meal sites are available on the City’s Food Resources Map.

Boston Hope Medical Center:

  • The field hospital at the BCEC is currently treating 156 patients, including 74 on the respite shelter side, and 82 on the hospital side. Altogether, roughly 630 sub-acute COVID patients have been treated at Boston Hope to date, which is helping area hospitals maintain ICU capacity.

New milestone for the Boston Resiliency Fund:

  • As of Thursday night, the Boston Resiliency Fund had raised more than $30 million from more than 5,700 donors.

  • So far, more than $16 million has been distributed in the form of grants to support 180 organizations.

  • $8.3 million has gone to provide children, families, and seniors with food and other basic needs.

  • $5.9 million has gone to provide healthcare to the vulnerable, and provide support for front-line workers.

  • $2 million has gone to bringing learning technology into the homes of Boston’s children while school buildings are closed.

  • The fund had an initial goal of $10 million, and in less than two months, it tripled that goal. It continues to support the deepest needs in Boston’s communities, including those identified by the City’s COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force.

  • In all, the Fund and its grantees have helped 130,000 families with basic needs.

  • The Fund continues to accept donations and statements of interest.

Update on the Rental Relief Fund:

  • The Fund made $3 million available for residents who lose income and do not have access to unemployment benefits.

  • For the past two-and-a-half weeks, the City’s nonprofit partners have been processing eligible applications, and contacted every approved applicant.

  • Next week, the City will distribute over $820,000 to more than 300 families to cover rent for April, May, and June.

  • Applications will continue to be processed, and additional funds distributed, in the weeks to come.

  • Anyone who needs rental housing assistance should contact the Office of Housing Stability at 617-635-4200.

Announcement about summer events:

  • The Mayor addressed the City’s plan for public events in the coming months.

  • He reiterated his commitment to public health and safety, and said that he does not envision a point this summer when it will make sense to have large crowds in close contact for prolonged periods of time.

  • He announced that parades and festivals will not take place this summer in the City of Boston, up to and including Labor Day on September 7.

  • The City will consider smaller events on a case-by-case basis.

  • The Mayor expressed his desire to give organizations as much notice and clarity as possible, and said that if an event brings crowds together in close contact, including concerts, road races, or flag raisings, organizers should start looking at alternatives now.

Tribute to Zoila Weddborn:

  • A well-known Boston resident and activist, Zoila Weddborn, passed away due to the COVID virus on Thursday afternoon.

  • Zoila worked for 40 years as a nurse at Boston Medical Center, where she received her final care and treatment.

  • In recent years, she was a City Hall greeter, a dedicated and dynamic volunteer at many Age Strong Commission events, and a dear friend to many people in Boston.

  • The Mayor offered his condolences to Zoila’s family, including her daughter, Tina Chery, founder of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, a non profit named in honor of Tina’s son and Zoila’