COVID-19 End of Week Update 7/12/20

Dear Friends and Neighbors, 

 

Change isn't easy, yet it's constant and creates opportunities for growth. 

 

We are all feeling challenged in many ways by this invisible virus, which has exacerbated pre-existing economic and racial inequities and injustices. The Mayor reminded us on Friday that as the City enters the state's Part 1 of Phase III, we are only able to do so because we've all been doing our part: wearing a face covering whenever in the public, keeping six feet distance from other people, avoiding large crowds, washing hands often with soap and warm water, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.

 

 

However, the current Rt for the coronavirus in the Commonwealth -- a measure of a virus's average transmission rate at a given point in time -- is estimated at 1.07, according to the website Rt.live. The Rt value is essentially the number of people that one infected person transmits the virus to. Since hitting the low end of the scale around 6/22, the transmission rate of the virus in Massachusetts has been steadily inching upwards.

 

 

 

We are all in this together and only as strong as our most vulnerable. To prevent any further increase, please, when you must be out and about, cover your nose and mouth and continue to operate with intention, compassion, and patience. 

 

 

Helpful links: 

 

Warmly, 

Liz Malia 

11th Suffolk District

liz.malia@mahouse.gov

 

Federal Updates

 

7/6 - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released regulations that state international students who attend U.S. colleges cannot remain in the U.S. if their school is offering only online classes this fall. There are nearly 77,000 international students in Massachusetts. 

 

7/13 - U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs holds a hearing to consider a lawsuit that Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed attempting to halt a federal policy that would order international students to leave the U.S. if their college or university offers online-only classes in the fall. The new rules unveiled by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency prompted immediate upheaval in the higher education landscape both in Massachusetts, where tens of thousands of students would be affected, and nationally. Harvard and MIT argue in their lawsuit that the policy is arbitrary and capricious and that it violates the Administrative Procedures Act. The hearing will be conducted by video conference, and the media and public can request access. Registration (Tuesday, 3 p.m., John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse, Courtroom 17)

 

State Updates

 

7/15 - Wednesday is the deadline for Massachusetts residents to file both federal and state 2019 income tax returns, postponed from the normal April 15 deadline because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The later deadline falls in the new fiscal year and questions remain around how much revenue the state will ultimately take in for fiscal 2020, which ended on June 30.

 

7/13 - Massachusetts state courthouses will physically reopen to the public for limited purposes on Monday, with most business still conducted virtually. Entry will be limited to persons attending in-person proceedings, persons conducting business with a clerk's, register's or recorder's office, persons meeting with probation, and persons conducting business at other open offices in the courthouses, according to the Supreme Judicial Court. Anyone wishing to enter a courthouse will be subject to a screening process including having their temperature taken with a contactless thermometer and answering questions. Everyone over the age of 2 will be required to wear masks or cloth face covering, and all must practice physical distancing. A second phase of the courts' reopening is slated to begin on Aug. 10. 

 

7/10 - The Governor did not hold a press conference today. 

 

7/9 - The Governor did not hold a press conference today. 

 

7/9 - The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts on Thursday announced a donation of 10,000 face masks, in partnership with UniFirst Corporation and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. Donated by the Wilmington-based company UniFirst, the masks will be distributed by members of the council, the Black Mass Coalition, the Boston chapter of Black Lives Matter and Violence in Boston, in historically Black communities including the Boston neighborhoods of Roxbury, Mattapan, Hyde Park and Dorchester. The Black Economic Council on Thursday also held a press conference at Roxbury's Twelfth Baptist Church "to discuss the urgent need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for Black communities and small businesses in Boston.

 

7/8 - WinnCompanies announced this week it would extend its own moratorium on tenant evictions for financial hardship through the end of the 2020.

 

7/8 - Governor Baker announced the launch of the Stop the Spread initiative, a strategic testing program which will support the testing of those who are asymptomatic in the following communities which have seen a higher number of residents testing positive for COVID-19: Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough, and New Bedford. Testing will be available at no cost to all residents of these communities between July 10-August 14. 

 

7/7 - The Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced Massachusetts received more than 58,000 fraudulent unemployment claims between the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and the traditional unemployment insurance system.

 

7/7 - Governor Baker provided an update on the state's efforts to combat the EEE virus. He warned residents that it is a dangerous virus, and that due to an outbreak last summer, the 2020 season is expected to have a high number of EEE cases

 

7/6 - Governor Baker signed into law mail in voting legislation that will allow all voters who wish to cast their ballot by mail to do so without having to qualify for an absentee ballot. The Secretary of State's office must send applications for mail-in primary election ballots to all voters by July 15.

 

The components of the new law are as follows:

 

Implements an early vote-by-mail system: An application to receive an early voting ballot for the primary will be mailed to all registered voters by July 15, 2020. The Secretary will then mail another application for the general election by September 14, 2020.  Both applications and ballots will have postage costs already paid for.  

 

Ballots postmarked on or before November 3, 2020 will be counted until Friday November 6, 2020 at 5.PM. Applications for early voting and absentee voting must be received 4 business days before the election, by Wednesday August 26 2020 (for the primary) and Wednesday Oct. 28 2020.

 

Creates early voting for the primary and expands early voting periods: For the first time in Massachusetts, early voting will be available for the state primary, and will take place from Saturday, August 22, 2020 through Friday, August 28, 2020. Early voting for the general election is scheduled to take place from Tuesday, October 17, 2020 to Friday, October 30, 2020.
 

Makes in-person voting safer and more efficient: The bill allows municipalities, with proper notice, to consolidate polling places and eliminate the check-out table at these locations, allowing for a more efficient process and fewer poll workers. It also expands who is eligible to serve as a poll worker, knowing that many current volunteers are seniors who may feel less comfortable working in public during COVID-19.

 

Provides tools to assist clerks: Acknowledging the increased burden these options may place on municipalities and clerks, the bill also provides for several accommodations to make the logistics of processing votes easier. The legislation allows for tabulating ballots prior to election day, and it offers pre-addressed envelopes to voters, so their applications go directly to their clerk’s office.

 

Tasks the Secretary of State with creating an online portal and promoting voting options: To make it as easy as possible for people to apply for general election early voting, the bill requires Secretary Galvin’s office to create an online portal not later than October 1, 2020. Electronic applications for early voting will be available for the general election, and if feasible, for the primary election.

 

The bill also requires the Secretary of State to conduct a public awareness campaign to inform and notify voters of the many options available to cast a vote in upcoming 2020 elections.

 

7/6 - Updated guidelines for youth and amateur adult sports were released by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. These guidelines outline limitations on recreational activities and facilities and categorize different sports and recreation activities into categories of risk, including low, moderate, and higher risk activities. 

 

7/6 - Today was the first day of Phase III of the state's reopening plan. If you have thoughts or concerns about reopening in Massachusetts, you can submit questions and comments via online form or share them with Governor Baker via email

 

7/6 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today. 

 

7/3 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today and State offices were closed in observance of July 4.

 

7/2 - Applications are available for the Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance and Residential Assistance for Families in Transition programs through Metro Housing Boston. The same application will be used for both programs. 

 

7/2 - Governor Baker announced Step 1 of Phase III of the state's reopening plan will begin on July 6. This will not start until July 13 in the City of Boston.

 

The following businesses will be eligible to reopen in Step One of Phase III, subject to industry-specific rules concerning capacity and operations:

  • Movie theaters and outdoor performance venues

  • Museums, cultural and historical sites

  • Fitness centers and health clubs

  • Certain indoor recreational activities with low potential for contact

  • Professional sports teams, under the authority of league-wide rules, may hold games without spectators

 

Full guidance and list of businesses eligible to reopen in Step 1 of Phase III: www.mass.gov/reopening. Businesses and sectors set to begin opening in Phase III are subject to compliance with all mandatory safety standards.

 

7/2 - Governor Baker also announced a revised gatherings order

  • Indoor gatherings are limited to 8 people per 1,000 square feet and should not exceed 25 people in a single enclosed, indoor space. 

  • Outdoor gatherings in enclosed spaces are limited to 25 percent of a facility's maximum occupancy, with a maximum of 100 people. 

  • The order does not apply to outdoor,  unenclosed gatherings if proper social distancing measures are possible.

 

7/2 - Health care providers may now provide certain group treatment programs and day programs that were not allowed in Phase II, including adult day health, day habilitation programs, and substance use disorder services day treatment and outpatient services. Certain human services programs can reopen in Phase III, including community based day services for adults with intellectual and cognitive disabilities and psychosocial rehabilitation clubhouses

 

7/2 - Visitation guidelines have been updated for 24/7 congregate care facilities and programs overseen by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. 

 

7/2 - MassHealth will extend current telehealth flexibility through at least the end of the year.

 

7/1 - Metro Housing Boston set a record in June for the distribution of housing assistance and directed more than $1 million to those enrolled in the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program. 

 

7/1 - The Group Insurance Commission is deferring $190 million in premium payments for dozens of cities and towns, which will give cash-flow flexibility to school districts, cities, and towns that are enrolled in GIC health plans flexibility. 

 

7/1 - Governor Baker spoke at the Huntington Avenue YMCA in Boston and provided an update on ongoing food security initiatives including a collaboration between the T, City of Boston, YMCA, and Greater Boston Food Bank. The Ride drivers have made more than 8,000 food deliveries to more than 1200 Boston Public School students over the course of the pandemic. 

 

6/30 - The MA House of Representatives met in a formal session to pass H.4818 An Act to Reduce Racial Disparities in Maternal Health, to accept a conference committee report on H.4820 An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19, and to enact H.4803 An Act financing improvements to municipal roads and bridges.

 

6/30 - Governor Baker announced updated travel restrictions that will take effect 7/1. All travelers arriving in Massachusetts, including residents who are returning home, are instructed to self-quarantine for 14-days. This does not apply to those travelling from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York or New Jersey and workers designated by the federal government as essential critical infrastructure workers. Any travelers displaying COVID-19 symptoms are instructed not to travel to Massachusetts. 

 

 

6/29 - MassDevelopment opened applications for the Collaborative Workspace Program, which provides grants of up to $100,000 to established coworking spaces for new equipment or building improvements, including adjustments to help spaces adhere to COVID-19 social distancing and health and safety standards.

 

6/29 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today. 

 

Legislative Updates 

 

7/15, 7/16, 7/17 - MA House members have been advised of a "potential" full formal session with roll calls starting at 1 p.m.

 

7/16 - The Senate plans to hold a formal session to consider S 2813 a $16.9 billion multi-year transportation bond bill. The House approved its version of the bill in March. Amendments due 7/13 by 5 p.m. 

 

7/14 - Veterans and Federal Affairs Commit