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COVID-19 End of Week Update 5/17/20

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

To help dispel any misunderstanding, the Commonwealth of MA is NOT REOPENING on Monday 5/18.

Rather, the Governor will announce plans for how to safely and slowly re-open businesses. This will need to be done carefully and incrementally, with very strict guidelines and policies. To echo some of his comments this week, we’ve been shut down since 3/23 and it’s been hard. We have to be flexible and honest about our reopening approach and revisit our approach based on what the metrics tell us.

Our ability to move forward and how successful we are depends on everyone and the role they play. To be clear, the state has *NOT* told any non-essential businesses (businesses not currently open) that they will be able to open yet. There continues to be no vaccine or cure for this deadly virus, and re-opening in an irresponsible fashion will cost thousands of lives in our Commonwealth and negate all of our efforts at social distancing and sheltering in place over these last two months. It’s hard to plan for the future when we don’t have certainties on how the virus moves and operates across time. We must continue sharing information with each other.

Our work has been paying off, that’s why we’re here and able to move forward in this manner now. This is, however, no time to quit -- we have to keep driving forward and respecting the data; with time and patience, we’ll get there. To save lives, it’s critically important we continue to socially distance and wear face coverings, even if you are not showing symptoms. We need everyone to help us spread this message.

As we celebrate virtually with our 2020 graduates, we wish for them the courage, tenacity and perseverance to reinvent much of the world as we know it toward a new "normal".


Liz Malia

MA State Representative, 11th Suffolk District

State Updates

5/11 - The Governor announced a 4-Phased Reopening Approach to begin reopening the MA economy when the public health data deem it is safe to address and told us to expect industry-specific guidance in the coming days. The goal of the phased reopening is to allow certain businesses, services, and activities to resume while protecting public health and limiting a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases.

Public health metrics will determine when the first phase of reopening begins. The phases are:

1. "Start:" limited industries resume operations with severe restrictions

2. "Cautious:" additional industries resume operations with restrictions and capacity limits

3. "Vigilant:" additional industries resume operations with guidance

4. "New Normal:" development of vaccine and/or therapy enables resumption of "new normal"

5/11 - The Department of Public Health and the COVID-19 Command Center, in consultation with the Reopening Advisory Board, have developed Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards that will apply to all sectors and industries once reopening begins. You can learn more about these safety standards here. The Reopening Advisory Board is scheduled to provide its full report to the Governor Monday 5/18.

5/12 - The Governor filed a supplemental state budget HD5083, An Act Making Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2020 to Authorize Certain COVID-19 Spending in Anticipation of Federal Reimbursement, to authorize $1B in COVID-19 response. This is needed to allow the state to be reimbursed by the federal government. Until the federal government passes an additional relief package, our ability to arrive at a new state budget figure remains uncertain.

5/12 - A walk-in COVID-19 testing site opened in Dorchester Center at the Sportsmen’s Testing & Enrichment Center on Blue Hill Avenue. This temporary coronavirus testing and food distribution site through 5/15, opened and operated by Brigham Health, is for people with symptoms of the virus and no appointment is needed.

5/13 - Governor Baker provided an update regarding the Contact Tracing program in the Commonwealth. If you receive a call from the area codes 833 or 857 with the name “MA COVID team, it is from the contact tracing collaborative.

5/14 - The Governor announced the Administration will be submitting its plan to expand testing to the federal government this month, which is required to secure COVID-19 testing resources allocated in legislation passed by Congress on 4/24.

This plan will call for:

  • Increased testing capacity to 45,000 daily tests by the end of July, and 75,000 daily tests by the end of December, with the goal of decreasing positivity rate to less than 5%

  • Expanded lab testing capacity

  • Expanded testing for residents and patients in high-risk congregate settings and ensured testing for those who are symptomatic, close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases or whose employment places them at a high risk

  • Randomized testing for surveillance purposes to build on contact tracing efforts

  • Improved testing turnaround time

5/14 - There will be an expansion of self-swab and send testing sites at 10 CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations in the state. Those who meet testing criteria will be able to schedule an appointment on starting 5/15.

5/14 - Over 7.5 million pieces of PPE and supplies will be delivered to front-line workers in the state. To learn more, read the announcement here.

5/14 - Our Commissioner of the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) Dr. Bharel alerted health care providers to be on the lookout for patients with pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which may be linked to COVID-19, and to report any cases they find immediately. Nine children in MA hospitals are currently suspected to have PMIS.

5/15 - The executive order closing "non-essential" businesses that was set to expire at midnight on Sunday 5/17 has been extended by 24 hours. The Reopening Advisory Board will release its report and recommendations for a phased reopening on Monday. *No one should assume that additional businesses beyond the currently deemed essential business will be open on Monday. We’ve pressed the Governor for more details, and the best we understand is to be prepared for a report back on Monday for more details on the 4-phase re-opening.

5/15 - The state launched a website with a map of all of the COVID-19 testing sites in the state.

5/17 - The Administration announced the state will be investing $56 million to combat food insecurity. The initiative will implement some of the recommendations brought forward by the Food Security Task Force. You can learn more about the funding here.

Legislative Updates

Again, Monday 5/18 is when the new plan and additional guidelines will be issued, *NOT* when businesses can return to pre-COVID-19 "normal."

This past week, the MA House met on Wednesday 5/13 for a remote formal session and enacted An Act to Facilitate the Delay of the Income Tax Filing Deadline, which will allow for short-term borrowing to balance the FY20 budget, to be paid back by the end of next fiscal year.

On Wednesday 5/20, the MA House plans to meet in a formal session to consider a more than $1 billion bond bill calling for long-term investments in information technology spending.

City Updates

Mayor’s 5/15/20 Update

Case numbers

  • As of Thursday, May 14, in Massachusetts: 82,182 cases and 5,482 deaths.

  • As of Thursday, May 14, in Boston: 11,395 cases, 551 deaths, and 4,089 recoveries.

Updates on testing

  • The Mayor provided an overview of the ongoing expansion of testing in Boston.

  • The antibody testing study, which the City conducted in partnership with Mass. General Hospital, is complete and the results are available. A total of 750 residents from 4 zip codes, in East Boston, Roslindale, and two in Dorchester, were tested. Participants in the study had not tested positive for the virus before, and were not currently experiencing symptoms. 9.9% of the participants tested positive for antibodies, indicating past infection. 2.6% tested positive for the virus, meaning they were currently infected. Those infected individuals were provided access to care.

  • The data shows differences in the numbers among neighborhoods, which is an indication of how localized the spread can be and how targeted the response needs to continue to be. The data does not show significant differences for race and ethnicity.

  • This localized, point-in-time sampling of residents does not give us a definitive picture of the spread of the virus citywide. However, it does suggest certain takeaways moving forward:

  • A 10% antibody rate is lower than expected, which indicates that physical distancing and hygiene precautions in Boston are making a difference. The data also suggests that around 90% of the city has still not been exposed to the virus, meaning Boston could be susceptible to another surge, which is why we must be cautious moving forward and appropriate precautions will continue.

  • A 2.6% positive rate among people with no symptoms suggests that about 1 in 38 people who do not have any symptoms could be carrying the virus. This emphasizes the importance of social distancing and face covering among people who are not experiencing symptoms.

  • The City continues to expand testing resources across all neighborhoods. Currently there are 20 total sites up and running, and testing has increased each week in Boston.