COVID-19 Updates

To find out more information about your specific community, please go to:

Newton COVID-19 information

Brookline COVID-19 information

Wellesley COVID-19 information

Helpful Information

Information about this PPE procurement and donation program is here: https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-ppe-procurement-and-donation-program

Department of Public Health list of testing sites for those with clinical referral

DPH has posted a new list of COVID-19 testing sites for individuals who have a clinician’s referral. If someone thinks they have symptoms of COVID-19, they should first call their health care provider. If that clinician thinks a test is appropriate but are unable to offer one at their own health care facility, they can provide a referral that the individual can use to schedule a test at a site nearest to them. A referral and appointment are necessary.  

The list is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/frequently-asked-questions-about-covid-19#is-there-a-list-of-places-where-i-can-get-tested-for-covid-19-if-i-think-i-have-symptoms?

Below are updates on state and federal action taken regarding the COVID-19 outbreak​:

 

Updated 4/30

BAKER ADMINISTRATION ACTIONS

 

Homeless COVID-19 Isolation Sites

The Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Command Center and MEMA have stood up regional isolation and recovery sites located in hotels across the state (click here for more information). Currently there are sites in Lexington, Pittsfield, Taunton, Northampton, and Everett. These locations are for individuals who:  Are homeless (people who normally sleep at a shelter, on the street, for whom home is unsafe due to violence, or who do not have a permanent address) AND  Who are COVID-19 positive OR have a medical provider’s note recommending isolation and can safely isolate without medical supervision. These sites are for individuals who have mild or moderate symptoms and do not need hospital level of care or nursing facility level of care. Medical treatment is not provided on site. As noted above, individuals must have a positive COVID-19 test or must have been seen by a medical provider and directed to isolate for them to be accepted. These locations cannot support individuals who need assistance with Activities of Daily Living or who need the level of care provided at a Skilled Nursing Facility. 

For shelter providers located outside Boston, please call 617-367-5150 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The intake coordinator will determine eligibility, register an individual for the program, and have the guest placed and transported to the nearest Isolation and Recovery location that has availability. 

For shelter providers located in Boston please call 617-534-5050 to access sites in Boston.

 

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education creates alternative path to graduation for high school seniors who have not met MCAS requirements

For some high school seniors, passing an MCAS exam is the final criterion for receiving a diploma, but with MCAS testing cancelled this spring, the state education board unanimously approved an alternative qualification. 12th graders can now show that they successfully completed a course with the same subject matter that would have been on the MCAS. State education officials are expected to provide additional information and guidance on this process in the coming days

Additionally, DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley sent the below guidance to schools regarding competency requirements for high school seniors:

Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Assistant Superintendents,

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted yesterday to temporarily modify the competency determination requirement for current high school seniors during the COVID-19 emergency. Under this change, seniors who have not passed one or more of the high school MCAS tests will be able to earn the competency determination through successful completion of a relevant high school course.

For current high school seniors, as well as other actively enrolled students who were on track to graduate in the 2019-2020 school year (including the summer of 2020), the competency determination would be awarded in each subject as follows:

  • For English language arts and mathematics ­– upon district certification that the student earned credit this year for a course aligned to the curriculum frameworks in the relevant subject matter and has demonstrated competency in that subject. For students who were not enrolled in a course in the needed subject area during this school year, DESE will examine relevant coursework the district identifies for which the student received credit in previous school years.

  • For science and technology/engineering – upon district certification that the student earned credit for a course aligned to the curriculum frameworks in the relevant subject matter and has demonstrated competency in one of the four tested disciplines (biology, chemistry, introductory physics, and technology/engineering) in either the current school year or a prior school year.

We are working out the details of this process and will share that information with you as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
Jeffrey C. Riley
Commissioner

 

MassHealth Guidance for Pharmacies Related to COVID-19

MassHealth has provided guidance on how pharmacies should bill for home delivery, and updated information for pharmacies that provide durable medical equipment (DME) including DME prior authorization flexibilities.

More information can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/pharmacy-facts-145-april-28-2020-0 

 

Updated Guidance on Caring for Long-Term Care Residents during the COVID-19 Emergency

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) recognizes that providing care for individuals seeking treatment for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) may prove to be especially challenging for health care practitioners and facilities.  As part of ongoing statewide preparations and to address the increase in COVID-19 cases, DPH is issuing this memorandum to long-term care facilities with updated recommendations for admitting residents and caring for residents with presumed or confirmed COVID-19 to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

All rest homes and nursing homes must be prepared to care for COVID-19 positive residents. Residents infected with COVID-19 may vary in severity from lack of symptoms to mild or severe symptoms. Symptoms may be mild and not require transfer to a hospital. All facilities are expected to follow the infection prevention and control practices recommended by DPH and CDC.  

These recommendations are consistent with CMS guidance released on April 2, 2020, which can be found here:

https://www.cms.gov/files/document/4220-covid-19-long-term-care-facility-guidance.pdf 

More information can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/update-to-caring-for-long-term-care-residents-during-the-covid-19-emergency/download 

 

EOHHS Updated Guidance on Expanded Care Capacity at Sub-Acute Sites for COVID-19 Patients

As part of its efforts to expand existing health care capacity to serve individuals infected with COVID-19, the Commonwealth is issuing this list to assist acute care hospitals to identify nearby facilities that are accepting COVID-19 patients for sub-acute levels of care. A number of chronic disease and rehabilitation hospitals (CDRHs) have confirmed the availability of dedicated and isolated space to provide services, including respiratory support as needed, to COVID-19 patients. This list is intended only to offer guidance and serve as a reference for the provider community, and does not contain any requirements for care providers, issue updates to current MassHealth service rates, or endorse specific institutions or referral relationships. As this is a reference document, acute hospital providers should contact CDRH providers to confirm the availability of beds after April 7, 2020.

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/expanded-care-capacity-at-sub-acute-sites-for-covid-19-patients/download

 

DPH Guidance on Process to Transfer Hospital Intensive Care Unit Patients When There is a Surge in Demand for ICU Beds

As part of ongoing response to COVID-19 and to address the potential influx of patients with possible or confirmed novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) exposure or symptomology to hospital intensive care unit (ICU) beds, the DPH is issuing guidance to acute care hospitals that experience a surge in demand for their ICU beds. When requested, the DPH is committed to supporting hospitals experiencing a surge by supporting the transfer of patients to another hospital.  

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/process-to-transfer-hospital-intensive-care-unit-patients-when-there-is-a-surge-in-demand-for/download 

  

DPH Guidance on Using Space on Clinic Premises for COVID-19 Testing

DPH has received requests from clinics to use space on the premises of the clinic, including but not limited to, tents, to temporarily establish COVID-19-screening areas for the purposes of testing patients for COVID-19 exposure. Through this letter, DPH authorizes use of space on the clinic premises selected by the clinic for testing of possible COVID-19 patients for the length of the declared state of emergency, provided that the clinic complies with the below Guidelines for Use of Space for Screening of Patient Presenting with possible COVID-19 Exposure or Illness, hereinafter referred to as Guidelines. The Guidelines outline the conditions for temporary use of space at a clinic to test patients with possible COVID-19 exposure. 

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/space-on-clinic-premises-for-covid-19-testing/download 

 

DPH Clinical Lab Referrals for COVID-19 Testing Order

The DPH issued an emergency order allowing certain referrals to clinical laboratories for COVID-19 testing.

The order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-re-clinical-lab-referrals/download 

  

DPH Out-Of-Hospital Dialysis Unit Staffing Order

On April 28, the DPH issued an emergency order relative to staffing ratios in out-of-hospital dialysis units. 

The order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-dialysis-unit-staffing-ratio/download 

  

DPH Guidance on Reporting Requirement Extensions for Health Care Facilities

The DPH issued guidance to health care facilities to ease the burden of certain reporting requirements to ensure health care facilities can focus on providing needed care to patients. Continued Reporting requirements include deaths and allegations of abuse, and Suspended Reporting includes seasonal flu numbers, monthly opioid reporting, quarterly nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, and Primary Stroke Service (PSS). 

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/reporting-requirement-extensions-for-health-care-facilities 

 

DPH Guidance on Screening Patients for COVID-19 Cases in BSAS-licensed/contracted Programs

The DPH issued guidance to all programs licensed/contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) on screening patients for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in order to minimize the chance of exposing staff/patients to prospective patients potentially carrying COVID-19.

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/screening-patients-for-covid-19-cases-in-bsas-licensedcontracted-programs 

 

Board of Registration in Pharmacy recommended actions for a pharmacy if an employee is presumed or confirmed to be positive for COVID-19

The Board of Registration in Pharmacy issued recommended actions for licensed pharmacies to take if an employee is presumed or confirmed to be positive for the highly contagious virus. Pharmacies are urged to have a continuity of care plan to meet patient needs, identify at least one suitable pharmacy to provide continued care, and notify police if a pharmacy needs to close for an extended period to ensure that security systems are enabled.

The guidance can be found here:

https://www.mass.gov/doc/recommended-actions-for-a-pharmacy-if-an-employee-is-presumed-or-confirmed-to-be-positive-for

Baker Administration Actions

 

Essential Services Order Extended to May 18th

 Governor Charlie Baker’s emergency order requiring that all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public will be extended until May 18th. Businesses and organizations not on the list of essential services are encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by the order. This order also extends the existing ban on gatherings of more than 10 people until May 18th.

 

Stay at Home Advisory Remaining in Effect

Governor Charlie Baker announced that the Department of Public Health’s stay-at-home advisory will remain in effect. Residents are strongly urged to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary person to person contact during this time period. Residents who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19 should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible.

 

Executive Branch Employee Guidance Extended to May 18th:

The Baker-Polito Administration today also extended the guidance issued to Executive Branch employees on protocol during the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure state government can continue to provide key services while protecting the health and safety of the public and the Executive Branch workforce. Under the guidance, all employees performing non-core functions who are able to work remotely should continue to do so until May 18th.

 

Reopening Advisory Board Formed and Members

Governor Baker announced the formation of the Reopening Advisory Board, which will be Co-Chaired by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. The Board brings public health officials together with leaders from the business community and municipal government from across the Commonwealth. This group is charged with advising the administration on strategies to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics. It will meet with key stakeholders and solicit input from a variety of constituencies over the next three weeks to develop a report by May 18th that will include DPH approved workplace safety standards, industry frameworks and customer protocols and guidelines, including enforcement mechanisms and coordination with municipal leaders. This report is due on the 18th, but the administration has made clear that public health data and guidance from health care experts will dictate the timeline of the re-opening process.

The 17-member Advisory Board is composed of three public health officials, including Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel, three municipal officials, and eleven leaders from the business community, including MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. Members of the Advisory Board bring a range of perspectives to the table, such as an understanding of workplaces and workforces and insights into key areas like financial markets, education, manufacturing and transportation.

Reopening Advisory Board Members:

  • Aron Ain, CEO, Kronos Inc & Ultimate Software

  •  Carlo Zaffanella, Vice President and General Manager, Maritime & Strategic Systems, General Dynamics Mission Systems

  • Corey Thomas, CEO, Rapid 7

  • Daniel Rivera, Mayor, City of Lawrence

  • Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, Massachusetts General Hospital

  • Girish Navani, CEO and Co-Founder, eClinicalWorks

  • Joe Bahena, Senior Vice President, Joseph Abboud Manufacturing

  • Kathryn Burton, Chief of Staff, City of Boston

  • Laurie Leshin, Ph.D., President, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

  • Linda Markham, President, Cape Air

  • Mark Keroack, President & CEO, Baystate Health

  • Monica Bharel, Ph.D., Commissioner, Department of Public Health

  • Nicole LaChapelle, Mayor, City of Easthampton

  • Pamela Everhart, Head of Regional Public Affairs and Community Relations, Fidelity Investments 

  • Stephanie Pollack, Transportation Secretary and CEO

  • Steve DiFillippo, CEO, Davios Restaurants

  • Wendy Hudson, Owner, Nantucket Book Partners

 

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Issues Update on Remote Learning

The latest update from Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley outlines strategies and suggestions for implementing the next phase of remote learning, which will be in place for the remainder of the K-12 school year.

The full update can be found here: https://www.masc.org/images/news/2020/DESE_Remote-Learning_Guidance.pdf

 

MassCEC targeted loan program for clean tech startups

MassCEC is pleased to announce that it is launching the Bridging Recovery for Innovators Driving Green Energy Solutions (BRIDGES) program on May 1, 2020. BRIDGES is a limited $1.5M investment program that provides convertible notes to clean energy startups that have previously received funding from certain MassCEC investment and innovation grant programs. The program was created to support innovative clean energy technology startup companies that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and require financial support to bridge through the crisis. Companies selected for a BRIDGES investment from MassCEC also will have an opportunity to be considered for an investment from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which has committed an additional $1M to back MassCEC and the BRIDGES program.

Join us on Wednesday, April 29th at 3pm for an informational webinar where we will present details and answer questions about the launch of our new BRIDGES program. Solicitation and application materials will become available by May 1st on our web site at www.masscec.com/bridges

Please register for the BRIDGES Program Webinar on Apr 29, 2020 3:00 PM EDT at:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2934088966660997132

Updated 4/24

Disaster Recovery Information

On March 27, the President declared a Major Disaster Declaration for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts related to the COVID-19 pandemic response. Through this declaration, federal aid will be made available to cities and towns, state agencies, and certain non-profits in all Massachusetts counties to help pay for emergency protective measures (response costs) related to the COVID-19 pandemic. MEMA’s Recovery Unit has developed a website with information and guidance regarding the disaster declaration, eligibility criteria, and the application process. 

Federal disaster aid information can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-federal-disaster-declaration

 

Coronavirus Relief Package Passes Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress delivered a nearly $500 billion infusion of coronavirus spending Thursday, rushing new relief to employers and hospitals buckling under the strain of a pandemic that has claimed almost 50,000 American lives and one in six U.S. jobs. Read article.

 

Baker Administration Updates

 

Health Connector Enrollment Update

If a constituent does not have health insurance, or if they have health insurance that was bought somewhere other than the Health Connector, now is a good time to look at options to see if they can find a more affordable plan. The extended enrollment period continues through May 25 for people to apply for health insurance, without needing a qualifying event, and April 23rd is the payment deadline for May 1 coverage. Constituents can learn more at http://MAhealthconnector.org

 

Updated Information and FAQs on Pandemic EBT

The Department of Transition assistance provided updated information and frequently asked questions regarding the pandemic EBT program. That information can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/pandemic-ebt-p-ebt

 

Food Security Task Force Launched

Secretary Sudders announced today that the Baker-Polito Administration, though the COVID-19 Command Center has launched a Food Security Task Force today with membership from state agencies, the Legislature and other partners such as Greater Boston Food Bank, Project Bread, MA Restaurant Foundation, the Shah Foundation, and representatives from communities of faith. The task force will work to coordinate resources and communication across sectors, stakeholder group, and government at all levels to ensure food insecurity and issue related to the food supply chain are addressed. 

The Goals of the panel are to: 

  • Identify immediate needs to be addressed across the state 

  • Maximize nutrition program access, enrollment and participation 

  • Create and implement plans that address all regions of the state and their unique challenges in the food supply chain, short and long term 

  • Explore creative partnerships to maximize resource available in the Commonwealth

The Task Force will present their recommendations to the Governor by the end of this month.

Updated 4/23

MassHealth Coverage and Reimbursement Policy for Transportation Services Related to COVID-19

MassHealth issued a bulletin introducing additional flexibility for coverage and billing related to COVID-19 related transportation. Those who are under investigation or known to have COVID-19 meet the criteria for use of wheelchair vans and non-emergency ambulances, so long as the transportation is otherwise medically necessary and appropriate.

The bulletin can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/transportation-bulletin-17-masshealth-coverage-and-reimbursement-policy-for-transportation-0 

 

MassHealth Temporary Rate Increases for MCOs, ACPPs and the MassHealth Behavioral Health Vendor

MassHealth issued a bulletin directing Managed Care Organizations (MCOs), Accountable Care Partnership Plans (ACPPs), and the MassHealth Behavioral Health Vendor to institute temporary rate increases, and providing additional guidance regarding financial stabilization funding.

The bulletin can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/managed-care-entity-bulletin-24-temporary-rate-increases-due-to-covid-19-national-emergency-0/download 

 

MassHealth Temporary Rate Increases Due to COVID-19 National Emergency for One Care plans, SCOs, and PACE Organizations

MassHealth issued a bulletin directing One Care plans, Senior Care Organizations (SCOs), and the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) organizations to institute temporary rate increases, and has provided additional guidance regarding financial stabilization funding.

The bulletin can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/managed-care-entity-bulletin-23-temporary-rate-increases-due-to-covid-19-national-emergency-0

 

Increased Community Health Care Center COVID-19 Testing

 In partnership with Quest Diagnostics and the Mass League of Community Health Centers, the Baker-Polito Administration announced further efforts to increase COVID-19 testing through community health centers. 

In rolling out increased testing, community health centers in areas of high need that have the ability to increase their testing capacities will be prioritized. Since Friday, Quest has sent over 2,255 kits to community health centers in Boston and Brockton. Quest Diagnostics will ship additional COVID-19 test kits today and tomorrow to 12 community health centers, with a commitment to add additional health centers. By Friday of this week, Quest Diagnostics has committed to ship an additional 5,000 COVID-19 test kits to the 12 community health centers.

Today’s announcement provides increased testing capacity for community health facilities located in Boston, Brockton, Lowell, Quincy, Fall River, Provincetown, and Worcester.

 

Expanded Access to WiFi Hotspots

The Baker-Polito Administration announced expanded access to high-speed internet for unserved cities and towns throughout Massachusetts that do not yet have a completed last-mile broadband network. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) at MassTech, KCST and local internet service providers will offer communities new WiFi hotspots, building off the Commonwealth’s MassBroadband 123 fiber-optic network These WiFi hotspots will provide unserved communities with a temporary 250 megabit per second wireless hotspot, allowing increased broadband access for residents, families and students impacted by COVID-19. This program will be offered free of monthly charge to eligible communities until September 1, 2020.

Citizens who use these hotspots must continue to follow social distancing protocols, and the towns and ISPs will post clear signs with the DPH guidance. MassBroadband is providing support to local ISPs as needed, and is tracking these hotspots as they come online and posting them online here: https://broadband.masstech.org/wifi 

Courts expand remote capability to serve public during COVID-19 health crisis

During the current state of emergency and circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trial Court has adapted its policies and practices to protect court staff and the public, while maintaining access to justice for emergency situations. While the Courts continue to implement measures to meet the needs of court users during this time, some of the steps taken to date to ensure the continued delivery of justice include:

Trial Court establishes public Help Line during COVID-19

More than 1,326 calls have been handled by the Help Line established by the Trial Court on April 2nd to assist the public. Assistance includes general information about cases and navigation of the court system, while it is closed to the public for all but emergency matters. The Help Line is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and can be reached at 833-91COURT.

For emergency matters, court users should first call their local court Clerk's or Register's Offices. Contact numbers and email addresses for individual courts and offices are found online on the Courthouse Locator page (https://www.mass.gov/courthouse-locator). Each of the seven Trial Court Departments have issued Standing Orders (https://www.mass.gov/news/trial-court-and-trial-court-departments-issue-orders-concerning-court-operations-and) that contain full lists of emergency matters.

Representatives from all Trial Court Departments, as well as the Massachusetts Probation Service, staff the Help Line. Callers are prompted to select the Trial Court Department they wish to reach and are connected to a knowledgeable representative who can access MassCourts, the court 's case management system. 

More information is available in the press release linked here: https://www.mass.gov/news/trial-court-launches-help-line-to-assist-court-users

Updated 4/22

BAKER ADMINISTRATION UPDATES
 

Extension of School and Non-Emergency Child Care Program Closures

Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order extending the closure of all public and private schools through the end of the school year, and the closure of all non-emergency child care programs until June 29, 2020 in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.

This order expands the March 25 order suspending normal educational operations at schools and non-emergency child care programs. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) established a process to approve Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs (https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyParents) to serve families of first responders, medical personnel and essential workers. 

Emergency Child Care programs approved by EEC will continue operating. Currently there are 523 emergency child care programs statewide serving families of essential workers. Weekly attendance averages about 2,500 children in these programs across the Commonwealth. EEC will continue to pay subsidies to child care providers based on their pre-COVID-19 enrollment, in order to support the workforce. The order does not apply to residential special education schools. 

Read the Orders here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-21-2020-school-closure-extension-order 

Child Care Program Link is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-21-2020-childcare-programs-closure-extension

  

Child care program resources for essential workers

To support families of essential workers and families with children who have special needs, EEC and Care.com have partnered to assist currently unemployed child care workers and provide skilled in-home care. Care.com is offering both eligible families and child care workers free 90-day premium memberships.

The free memberships are accessible here: https://www.care.com/mass

  

STEM and Remote Learning Resources

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will issue updated guidelines for schools to support remote learning efforts through the duration of the school year, including expanded STEM learning, and will prepare recommendations to strengthen summer learning opportunities for students.

  • DESE has launched a Remote Learning Essentials initiative, focused on addressing access to tools, Internet connectivity, and educator training necessary to enhance remote learning during school closures.

  • The department is conducting a survey of school districts to identify barriers that inhibit effective remote learning, including challenges around inequitable access to technology.

  • An advisory group of administrators, educators, parents, students and business leaders will engage external partners to mobilize resources for schools, including philanthropic gifts and in-kind contributions.

  • DESE will also solicit input from national and local education vendors regarding the potential to create a statewide online education platform for districts to opt into and customize. 

In partnership with EEC, DHE, the STEM Advisory Council and Regional STEM Networks, DESE has established online STEM education resources to provide continued support for remote learning opportunities. This includes virtual STEM learning opportunities for both students and teachers.

EEC’s STEM Resources are available here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/stem/

 

No-Interest Student Loan Program

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) is deferring scheduled repayments for its No-Interest Loan Program for a duration of four months to support relief efforts during the COVID-19 public health emergency. These deferments will help approximately 12,000 students that participate in the $5 million program annually funded through the repayment of loans.

  • All no-interest loan accounts currently in repayment will automatically be placed in a deferment from April 2020 through July 2020. This deferment will not count toward the program’s permissible 36 months of available deferment.

  • If a payment has already been made for April, that payment will be applied to the outstanding balance and not refunded. While accounts are in deferment, borrowers who wish to continue monthly payments may do so, without incurring late fees until July 31, 2020.

  • Accounts currently 120 days past due will not be placed into collections until August 2020, and regular credit bureau reporting will resume at the end of August.

 

New DPH Daily Dashboard Released

The Administration released an enhanced, comprehensive and detailed COVID-19 data report, including trend data in a variety of areas. The new daily dashboard is 23 pages in length and includes information on cases rates, testing, and breakdowns by age, sex, race and ethnicity, and geography of confirmed cases. It also includes a similar breakdown of death data. Beyond the case data, the report also includes specific information on COVID-19 hospital census information, a list of nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and rest homes with known clusters of COVID-19 cases and data on PPE distribution by recipient type and geography. 

The daily dashboard report can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-dashboard-april-20-2020/download

 

PPE in BSAS Outpatient Programs

The DPH has provided guidance to all Acute Treatment Services (ATS), Clinical Stabilization

 Services (CSS), Transitional Support Services (TSS), Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP), Office Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT), and outpatient service programs licensed/contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Bureau of Substance Addiction

 Services (BSAS) regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This guidance will be updated as needed and as additional information is available.

The guidance can be found here:

https://www.mass.gov/doc/personal-protective-equipment-ppe-in-bsas-licensedcontracted-ats-css-tss-otp-obot-and 

 

PPE in BSAS Residential Programs

The DPH has provided guidance to all residential programs licensed/contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This guidance will be updated as needed and as additional information is available.

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/personal-protective-equipment-ppe-in-bsas-licensedcontracted-residential-programs

Notice of Dedicated Care Capacity at Nursing Facilities for COVID-19 Patients

As part of its ongoing efforts to expand existing health care capacity to serve individuals confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) has issued this notice to assist acute care hospitals and other individuals or health care entities with the identification of nearby facilities that are accepting COVID-19 patients for nursing facility levels of care. A number of facilities have partnered with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to provide dedicated and isolated space and staffing to serve the individuals who are infected with COVID-19 needing ongoing nursing facility level of care. 

This notice is intended only to offer guidance and serve as a reference, and does not contain any requirements for providers, issue updates to current MassHealth service  rates, or endorse specific institutions or referral relationships.

This notice will be updated twice per week, with new versions being posted each Tuesday and Friday by 4pm E.T.

The notice can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/notice-of-dedicated-care-capacity-at-nursing-facilities-for-covid-19-patients/download 

 

Expanded Care Capacity at Sub-Acute Sites for COVID-19 Patients

As part of its efforts to expand existing health care capacity to serve individuals infected with COVID-19, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) has issued this list to assist acute care hospitals to identify nearby facilities that are accepting COVID-19 patients for sub-acute levels of care. A number of chronic disease and rehabilitation hospitals (CDRHs) have confirmed the availability of dedicated and isolated space to provide services, including respiratory support as needed, to COVID-19 patients. This list is intended only to offer guidance and serve as a reference for the provider community, and does not contain any requirements for care providers, issue updates to current MassHealth service rates, or endorse specific institutions or referral relationships. As this is a reference document, acute hospital providers should contact CDRH providers to confirm the availability of beds after April 7, 2020.  (This guidance replaces guidance issued on April 14)

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/expanded-care-capacity-at-sub-acute-sites-for-covid-19-patients/download 

 

Division of Banks Joins Multi-State Initiative to Provide Relief to Massachusetts Student Loan Borrowers
The Massachusetts Division of Banks (DOB) has joined a multi-state initiative to secure payment relief options for Massachusetts student loan borrowers and issued a Consumer Advisory with important information and resources for private student loan borrowers.

Through this initiative, DOB has secured relief options with 15 private student loan servicers to expand on the protections the federal government granted to federal student loan borrowers. These new options stand to benefit over 182,000 Massachusetts borrowers with privately held student loans.

This response builds on the federal CARES Act, which provided much needed relief for students with federal loans, including the suspension of monthly payments, interest and involuntary collection activity until September 30, 2020, as well as the recently announced Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s deferment of payments in its No-Interest Loan Program until August 1, 2020. 

Under this initiative, borrowers with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Program Loans or privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief. Borrowers in need of assistance must immediately contact their student loan servicer to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances. Relief options include:

  • Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance

  • Waiving late payment fees

  • Ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting

  • Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days

  • Working with borrowers to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income based repayment.

Additional information and resources, including a full list of participating private student loan servicers, are included in the Division’s Consumer Advisory

Updated 4/16
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTIONS

 

Helpful CARES Act small business program summaries and loan application tracker

To help navigate these new federal programs and access accurate information, please find below a compilation of resources.

Click here to access the Small Business Guide to the Coronavirus, which provides detailed information about each CARES program: https://smallbusiness.house.gov/uploadedfiles/small_biz_cares_guide_update_4-6.pdf

The CARES Act provided $275 million for SBA’s Resource Partners to provide vital guidance and expertise to small business owners and entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19. Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers (https://www.awbc.org/), and SCORE (https://www.score.org/) counselors are available to help guide small businesses with their specific questions about their eligibility and the application process. 

 

To connect a small business with a local resource partner for COVID-19 advice please click here: https://smallbusiness.house.gov/uploadedfiles/lead_small_business_development_centers.pdf

Click here to learn more about SBA’s COVID-19 programs and how to apply: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options

The SBA now provides an application tracker for those who have applied for loans: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Account/Login

 

Tax return non-filer web tool for Economic Impact Payment

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service launched a new web tool allowing quick registration for Economic Impact Payments for those who don’t normally file a tax return. The Non-filer Tool provides a free and easy option designed for people who don’t have a return filing obligation, including those with too little income to file. The feature is available only on IRS.gov, and users should look for Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here to take them directly to the tool. The tool is a Free File fillable forms product developed in partnership with the Free File Alliance. Please see attached EIP Rebate documents for more information.

 

FDA best practices for food service during the pandemic

The FDA issued information and best practices for retail food stores, restaurants, and pick-up and delivery services during the pandemic to protect both workers and customers. Information shared includes smart food safety practices that employers can consider at any time.

The FDA guidance is here: https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-issues-best-practices-safe-food-handling-and-employee-health-retail-food-settings-during-covid

BAKER ADMINISTRATION UPDATES

 

Emergency Response Team funding and update:

The M-ERT is a coordinated response by the Baker-Polito Administration and leading academic and industry stakeholders to support the Commonwealth’s manufacturers in their efforts to produce much-needed supplies for front-line workers and the health care system. Members of the M-ERT include representatives from: Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), MIT, MIT Lincoln Labs, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP), Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), and other industry partners. 

The M-ERT is being launched alongside $10.6 million in new funding to help manufacturers scale their operations to produce PPE and other critical items. Companies can apply for grants through an online form (https://masstech.org/manufacturing-emergency-response-team-funding-program) for equipment, materials, supplies, workforce training and other needs. A Review Committee will process applications based on criteria including production timeline and recommend grant awards.

MassTech and AFFOA (Advanced Functional Fabrics of America), a member of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institutes based in Cambridge, will administer $5.6 million in funds through the existing Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Institute (M2I2) program. Another $4 million has been made available through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), with an additional $1 million for workforce training contributed by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Commonwealth Corporation through the existing

 

Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP).

In addition to this funding, the M-ERT will offer other assistance to manufacturers, including:

  • Understanding what PPE and COVID-19 related materials are of highest priority to produce;

  • Regulatory compliance, including insight into FDA guidance;

  • Addressing specifications and testing that is necessary, and identifying in-state test centers;

  • Retraining workers on new production lines and standards; and

  • Sharing design and CAD files for critical items.

 

Hospital surge capacity update

As of today, the Commonwealth has worked to make a total of approximately 14,500 treatment beds available ahead of the surge: 11,000 beds could be available for ICU and acute care in the existing hospital system. This represents a breakdown of roughly 9,400 acute care beds and 1,500 ICU beds.  Through hospital surge planning and field hospitals, the Commonwealth is bringing approximately 3,500 new beds online for ICU and acute care. This breaks down to approximately 2,500 new hospital beds coming online from hospital surge planning, and 1,000 beds coming online though field hospitals. 

The Command Center continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on different regions and tracking how many hospital beds are available across the Commonwealth. As of today, hospitals have reported that 8,100 beds are occupied now statewide, or approximately 55% (this figure includes hospitalizations for non COVID-19 patients). This means that 6,400 beds are currently available for both ICU and acute care, or roughly 45%.   

 

Field hospitals update

In the coming days, hundreds of new beds will come online that will help the Commonwealth significantly ramp up care capacity ahead of the surge to support existing hospitals. The Command Center is targeting five alternate care sites. These field hospitals will serve as an alternative site for hospitals to treat patients, particularly individuals who need acute care. They are being built all around the state to ensure all residents have access to this emergency care. The field hospital at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center opened already.  Field hospitals at the DCU Center in Worcester and Newton Pavilion started accepting patients as well. Over the coming week, additional facilities will open up in Cape Cod, Springfield, and Lowell. These facilities will provide approximately 1,000 additional beds for patients who do not require ICU-level care. The Administration is grateful to federal partners and to the hospital systems of UMass Memorial, Partners Healthcare, Beth Israel Lahey, Cape Cod Hospital, Baystate Hospital, and Lowell General for their efforts to stand these facilities up. 

 

Command Center PPE distribution summary by county

The Command Center posted for the first time a PPE distribution summary that describes what and where 1,935,010 pieces of PPE have been delivered. The summary provides the numbers of respirators, masks, gowns and gloves that have been distributed through April 12. The chart also provides a breakdown of distribution by entity and by region and will be updated regularly.  

See The PPE Distribution Chart: https://www.mass.gov/doc/ppe-distribution-summary-april-12-2020/download 

 

Update on mobile testing program for long term care, assisted living residences and DDS group homes

On March 31, the Commonwealth implemented a project that allows for safe, on-site testing of symptomatic residents of nursing and rest homes with a quick turnaround. The program, which has expanded to include Assisted Living Residences, and Department of Developmental Services group homes, is operating under the auspices of the Massachusetts National Guard in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Broad Institute of Cambridge. Since launching the initiative, nearly 3,700 tests have been collected at 221 facilities. Facilities with appropriately trained clinical staff can now conduct their own testing with test kits ordered through the mobile testing program; as of Saturday afternoon, 35 facilities had requested more than 4,400 test kits had been sent.  

 

Spanish language state government resources announced

The Baker-Polito Administration launched a Spanish language online, mobile-friendly, unemployment benefits application. The new, secure application for Spanish speakers is available through mass.gov/desempleo, the Spanish language website for unemployment in Massachusetts. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will make language applications available in Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Vietnamese and additional languages in the coming days.   

Additionally, the COVID-19 text message alert system is available in Spanish. Users can subscribe to the Spanish-language service by texting COVIDMAESP to 888-777.

All of Mass.Gov (including Mass.Gov/COVID19) is available in 13 different languages  The Commonwealth’s non-emergency help line for COVID-19, 2-1-1 is available in over 150 languages. Several agencies, including the Department of Public Health, offer additional fact sheets available in multiple languages   

 

Grocery store worker priority testing

 The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security expanded access to the free, priority COVID-19 testing sites for first responders to now include grocery store and supermarket workers. Beginning Saturday, April 11, the people who provide critical access to food and other necessities may schedule an appointment to receive COVID-19 testing at the sites located at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield.

All appointments must be made in advance by the worker’s supervisor or manager, and personnel do not need to be symptomatic to be eligible.

 

Massachusetts National Guard activated

The Baker-Polito Administration authorized the activation of an additional 3,000 military personnel of the Massachusetts National Guard to support the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response. This order raises the total authorization to up to 5,000 members statewide, who may be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing and related duties. Local cities, towns and state agencies should submit requests for support through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. The activation reflects Governor Baker’s statutory authority to activate the Massachusetts National Guard under state active duty to provide necessary assistance to state and municipal civilian authorities.

 

Commissioner Riley notification to school districts regarding legislation enacted on MCAS, SOA Plans, and Regional School District Budgets

Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Assistant Superintendents, 

Earlier today, Governor Baker signed legislation that addresses many concerns municipalities and school districts might have because of the state of emergency related to COVID-19, including this year’s MCAS testing and the competency determination, the deadline for Student Opportunity Act plans, and the process for regional school districts to approve their annual budget.

MCAS

We previously requested and received a waiver from the federal requirement for annual statewide student assessment. Now, with the state legislation enacted, the MCAS testing requirement is waived for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

As a result of these federal and state actions and in light of the on-going health crisis, I am cancelling this spring’s regular administration of grade-level MCAS tests for students in grades 3-10. 

In addition, the legislation allows the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon my recommendation, to modify or waive the requirements of the competency determination for high school graduation in order to address disruptions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 or the state of emergency. I am considering various options, and further guidance will be forthcoming. 

Student Opportunity Act

The legislation that the governor signed today gives me the ability to move the deadline for the three-year plans required by the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) to May 15, 2020 or later. I appreciate the work that several dozen districts did to submit plans in time for the original April 1 deadline. I recognize how challenging it is for school districts to complete the SOA district planning work right now. I will announce a new deadline soon.

Regional School District Budgets

Approving budgets for regional school districts can be particularly challenging during a time of social distancing. The legislation that the governor signed today states that, if a town’s or city’s vote on the approval of a fiscal year 2021 regional school district budget is delayed beyond June 30, 2020 as a result of COVID-19 and the state of emergency, the district should notify DESE. At that point, we will certify an amount sufficient for the operation of the regional district starting July 1, 2020, in an amount not less than one-twelfth of the regional district’s total annual budget in FY20. The Department will set similar sums for each successive month as needed. We expect to issue guidance on FY21 regional school district budgets in the near future. If you have questions about this process in the meantime, please email Michelle Griffin.

Updated 4/14

Commissioner Riley notification to school districts regarding legislation enacted on MCAS, SOA Plans, and Regional School District Budgets

Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Assistant Superintendents, 

Earlier today, Governor Baker signed legislation that addresses many concerns municipalities and school districts might have because of the state of emergency related to COVID-19, including this year’s MCAS testing and the competency determination, the deadline for Student Opportunity Act plans, and the process for regional school districts to approve their annual budget.

MCAS

We previously requested and received a waiver from the federal requirement for annual statewide student assessment. Now, with the state legislation enacted, the MCAS testing requirement is waived for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

As a result of these federal and state actions and in light of the on-going health crisis, I am cancelling this spring’s regular administration of grade-level MCAS tests for students in grades 3-10. 

In addition, the legislation allows the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon my recommendation, to modify or waive the requirements of the competency determination for high school graduation in order to address disruptions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 or the state of emergency. I am considering various options, and further guidance will be forthcoming. 

Student Opportunity Act

The legislation that the governor signed today gives me the ability to move the deadline for the three-year plans required by the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) to May 15, 2020 or later. I appreciate the work that several dozen districts did to submit plans in time for the original April 1 deadline. I recognize how challenging it is for school districts to complete the SOA district planning work right now. I will announce a new deadline soon.

BAKER ADMINISTRATION  ACTIONS

 

DPH Advisory on masks and face coverings

The Department of Public Health issued a Public Health Advisory that, consistent with CDC guidance, recommends that people wear a mask or cover their face in public when they cannot safely socially distance. For example, members of the public will be advised to wear something to cover their face in public places like supermarkets and pharmacies.  Read the guidance here.

 

Hospital Surge Capacity Projections Released 

The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center released its initial projections on the surge last week. Since then, the Command Center has remained in regular contact with the Commonwealth’s hospitals on a daily basis as they work to increase acute and ICU bed capacity. As of today, the Commonwealth has worked to make a total of approximately 14,500 treatment beds available ahead of the surge:

  • 11,000 beds could be available for ICU and acute care in the existing hospital system. This represents a breakdown of roughly 9,400 acute care beds and 1,500 ICU beds.

  • Through hospital surge planning and field hospitals, the Commonwealth is bringing approximately 3,500 new beds online for ICU and acute care. This breaks down to approximately 2,500 new hospital beds coming online from hospital surge planning, and 1,000 beds coming online through field hospitals.

The Command Center continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on different regions and tracking how many hospital beds are available across the Commonwealth. As of today, hospitals have reported that 8,100 beds are occupied now statewide, or approximately 55% (this figure includes hospitalizations for non COVID-19 patients). This means that 6,400 beds are currently available for both ICU and acute care, or roughly 45%.

Graphs and charts on surge capacity can be found here: 

https://www.mass.gov/doc/command-center-hospital-capacity-charts/download

 

Job Application Portal for Temporary Care Sites

In preparation for the expected surge, temporary care sites and long-term care facilities are being stood up statewide. All of these sites have ongoing staffing needs. In addition, existing skilled nursing and long term care facilities are also in urgent need of staffing support. Today, Secretary Sudders announced the creation of a job portal to connect healthcare professionals with these staffing opportunities. 

To learn more, or to apply for a position, visit https://www.mass.gov/joincovidteam

 

RMV cancelling road tests and other changes

The RMV is cancelling all passenger and motorcycle road tests (Class D and Class M) through Monday, May 4. Learner's Permits expiring between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020 will continue to have an active status until sixty days after the printed expiration date – learner's permit holders need not worry immediately if their road test is cancelled. 

Note: Commercial Driver's License (CDL) road tests are still being conducted; Massachusetts State Police manage CDL road tests, and require anyone taking a CDL road test to bring and wear mask or face covering for the entirety of the road test.

 

Reminders About Other Previously Announced Changes

Extended Credential Expiration Date

All Massachusetts driver's licenses, ID cards, and learner's permits that have expired or are expiring between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020 will have a 60-day extension applied to their current expiration date.

Non-Classroom Drivers Education

Through a temporary policy, the RMV is allowing Driving Schools to offer online driver education training and testing during this emergency period only. The RMV will continuously monitor the current emergency and will keep you informed about the timeframe in which driving schools can offer alternative training.

 

New measures throughout the state parks system ahead of the upcoming holiday weekend

To expand pedestrian and cyclist access, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will open segments of three parkways in the Greater Boston Metro Area for recreational use starting Saturday, April 11, 2020 at dawn. These segments will close to vehicular traffic on Friday, April 10, 2020 at dusk, and after the weekend, DCR will evaluate the effectiveness of the measure. Additionally, the agency will work to reduce parking capacity at state park properties statewide starting Saturday, April 11, 2020, which will continue indefinitely.

Importantly, the measures will reduce close contact of park users, and aid in the reduction of large concentrations of people on adjacent sidewalks and paths. Parkways that will open to pedestrians and cyclists include:

  • William J. Day Boulevard between Farragut Road and Shore Drive in the City of Boston (South Boston);

  • Francis Parkman Drive between Perkins Street and the Arborway in the City of Boston (Jamaica Plain); and,

  • Greenough Boulevard (Little Greenough) between Arsenal Street and North Beacon Street in the Town of Watertown.

While visiting state park properties, the public should visit locations that are located near their homes, limit their excursions to short periods of time, and only participate in recreational activities that are transitory in nature, such as walking, jogging and biking. This will allow access to the outdoors while continuing to ensure social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

DCR continues to stress that if a park is crowded, visitors should visit a different location or return at a later date or time. The state parks system has over 450,000 acres of property, and every region of the state contains multiple parks to explore that may be less busy than others in the area. DCR also advises visitors of state parks to stay within solitary or small groups, avoid gatherings of ten or more people, participate in only non-contact recreational activities, practice healthy personal hygiene, such as handwashing for at least 20 seconds, and, stay home if ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population.

Updated 4/2

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

 

Order closing state beach parking areas; select state parks to open early

Governor Baker issued an emergency order requiring all coastal beach reservation parking areas managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to close effective 12:00 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020 to reduce large concentrations of people at beaches during the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, effective 12:00 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020, DCR will open select seasonal state parks early and expand access at other parks to provide additional open space opportunities for residents to enjoy and alternatives to popular state parks throughout the Commonwealth. The full list of seasonal state parks is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/dcr-seasonal-park-locations-0

The full order on state beaches is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-2-2020-beaches-order

Coastal parkways that provide access to state beaches will also be closed to both parking and dropping off passengers. State beaches will remain open and available to pedestrians for transitory use only (walking, jogging, biking, solitary fishing, etc.). A link to find specific parking and traffic restrictions is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/dcr-coastal-beach-parking

State parks and associated parking areas remain open at this time; however, the public is asked to visit state parks and other open space properties that are located near their homes to ensure social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, DCR’s agency-owned ice rinks, visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, fitness areas, athletic fields, athletic courts, golf courses, and bathroom facilities will remain closed until Monday, May 4, 2020.

DCR will also be limiting the amount of parking spaces available at certain high-visitation state parks. DCR continues to stress that if a park is crowded, visitors should consider visiting a different location or returning at a later date or time. The state parks system has over 450,000 acres of property, and every region of the state contains multiple parks to explore that may be less busy than others in the area. You can see all state parks here: https://www.mass.gov/visit-massachusetts-state-parks

DCR advises visitors of state parks to:

  • Stay within solitary or small groups, and avoid gatherings of ten or more people;

  • Practice social distancing of at least six feet between individuals

  • Participate in only non-contact recreational activities;

  • Practice healthy personal hygiene, such as handwashing for at least 20 seconds; and,

  • Stay home if ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population.

To centralize COVID-19 updates that impact the state parks system, DCR recently developed a Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 Updates webpage which can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-state-parks-covid-19-update

 

Command Center outlines projections for anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases

The projections are the result of the Command Center’s work with medical experts to complete modeling of the outbreak in Massachusetts. The Administration also detailed its efforts to respond to this surge, including a significant increase in hospital capacity, staffing, and equipment.

  

Modeling and Projections

The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center has been working with its Advisory Board of medical experts and epidemiologists from Harvard University, University of Guelph and Northeastern to refine models related to the expected surge of COVID-19 cases. The full Advisory Board can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-covid-19-response-command-center-advisory-board-of 

The model’s latest projections estimate that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts could range from 47,000 to 172,000 (or 0.7% to 2.5% of the total population of Massachusetts). The models show hospitalizations would potentially peak between April 10-20. The current fatality rate in Massachusetts is lower than other areas – it is approximately 1.5% of those infected. The Command Center is monitoring this statistic closely.

The COVID-19 Response Command Center is working with hospitals to provide them with flexibility to expand ICU capacity. The Commonwealth is asking academic medical centers and teaching hospitals to work to significantly expand their ICU capacity. But after hospitals execute on their surge plans, the model estimates there could be a remaining gap in ICU capacity of more than 500 beds.

In response, the Administration is aiming to find or build an additional 750 - 1000 beds in field medical hospitals and other alternate care sites to reduce strain on hospitals as much as possible. The Administration has identified additional possible sites for Field Medical Stations including the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Joint Base Cape Cod, Springfield’s Mass Mutual Building and other smaller locations. The Administration has secured a contractor who can build out sites once a healthcare partner has been finalized. 

The Command Center is also securing 1000 beds in capacity for step-down care options in nursing facilities for stabilized COVID-19 positive patients who can be transferred out of the hospital to make room for those with higher medical need.

The full Command Center projection chart is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-2-2020-command-center-projections

 

DCU Center in Worcester to Be Used as a Field Medical Station

A field medical station with more than 200 beds is scheduled to be set up at the DCU Center in Worcester. The DCU facility will be the first of three temporary field medical stations the Commonwealth is working to set up after requesting and receiving approval from the federal Strategic National Stockpile. The Commonwealth is actively identifying other sites and partners for the two other facilities. UMass Memorial Medical Center will manage the facility, which will be staffed by a partnership including the City of Worcester, UMass Memorial, and others. UMass Memorial will lead the day-to-day running of the facility with support by state and local partners upon set-up. Medical stations, like the one being deployed to Worcester, are required to set up in facilities of at least 40,000 square feet to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and include beds, supplies, and a cache of medicine for basic care. Logistics for this field medical station will be coordinated between the City, UMass Memorial Health Care, and state and local agencies. 

Updated 4/1

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

 

Extension of non-essential business closures

Governor Baker’s emergency order requiring that all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public will be extended until May 4. Businesses and organizations not on the list of essential services are encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by the order. This order also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people until May 4th.

The Administration updated the “COVID-19 Essential Services” list today, which is based on federal guidance that was updated earlier this week. The new list will go into effect tomorrow, April 1, at noon.  While these businesses are designated as essential, they are urged to follow social distancing protocols for workers in accordance with guidance from the Department of Public Health (DPH).

Some of the updates to the essential services list include:

  • Clarity around the supply chain that supports other essential services

  • Adding health care providers like chiropractors and optometrists

  • Expanding the types of workers providing disinfectant and sanitation services

 

The full essential services extension order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-31-2020-essential-services-extension-order

 

The full list of essential services is updated here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-

essential-services?n

 

A COVID-19 Essential Services FAQs created by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-services-faqs 

 

Guidance to hotels, motels, and short term rentals

As part of the updated essential business list, DPH issued new guidance today around hotels, motels, inns, beds and breakfasts and other short-term residential rentals. Based on this new guidance, hotels, motels, and short-term rentals may only be used for efforts related to fighting COVID-19, like front line health workers or individuals, or for Massachusetts residents who have been otherwise displaced from their residences.

The full hotel and motel guidance is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-31-2020-hotel-motel-guidance

 

Stay at Home Advisory remaining in effect

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker directed DPH to issue a stay-at-home advisory, and the Governor announced today that the advisory will remain in effect. Residents are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary person to person contact during this time period. Residents who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19  should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible

The Stay at Home Advisory can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/dph-public-health-advisory-stay-at-home-advisory

 

Executive Branch Employee Guidance

The Baker-Polito Administration extended the guidance issued to Executive Branch employees on protocol during the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure state government can continue to provide key services while protecting the health and safety of the public and the Executive Branch workforce. Under the guidance, all employees performing non-core functions who are able to work remotely should continue to do so until May 4. 

Some Executive Branch services and walk-in offices remain open, but residents are encouraged to use online services when available. For the status of in-person Executive Branch office locations, please click here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-status-of-executive-branch-office-locations

 

USDA reimbursements to schools operating as meal sites

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved DESE’s request to waive the requirement that school meal sites must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of school lunch program participants are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Therefore, all school districts that are distributing meals during school closures related to COVID-19 and are focusing the distribution of these meals to children and teens in need of them are now eligible for USDA reimbursement. 

 

Free virtual classes for Advanced Placement students

The College Board is offering free virtual classes for Advanced Placement students in addition to at-home AP testing. The exam will only include topics and skills that most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March. Information about what will be covered on this year’s AP Exams is listed here: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/news-

changes/coronavirus-update

 

Students and teachers can attend free, live AP review courses here: https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/coronavirus-updates#free-ap-classes

These mobile-friendly classes will be recorded and available on-demand so teachers and students can access them any time and will focus on reviewing the skills and concepts from the first 75 percent of the course. There will also be some supplementary lessons covering the final 25 percent of the course. 

The AP exams will only be given remotely this year, and the College Board is working with partners to address any barriers to technology that students might face. If your students need mobile tools or connectivity in order to take an AP exam, please reach out to the College Board directly to let them know here: https://collegeboard.tfaforms.net/74 

Schools served by the Advanced Placement (AP) STEM and English Program implemented through Mass Insight Education can contact Wesley Chen at wchin@massinsight.org for information on additional AP programming support.

Updated 3/25/2020

FEDERAL GUIDANCE

Department of Labor announced dislocated worker grants

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the availability of up to $100 million for Dislocated Worker Grants to help address the workforce-related impacts related to COVID-19

The full advisory is here: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20200318

 

Department of Housing and Urban Development moratorium on foreclosures and evictions

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days.

The full advisory is here: https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/HUD_No_20_042

 

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

 

Full list of essential businesses during Stay at Home advisory

Following the Baker Administration’s 3-23 announcement of a Stay at Home advisory, the following guidance has been made available:

American Red Cross facing severe blood shortage

The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the COVID-19 outbreak. There is an urgent blood donation need now for patients with chronic conditions and trauma, as well as for ensuring an adequate blood and blood product supply going forward. The Governor has deemed “Blood and plasma donors and the employees of the organizations that operate and manage related activities” as an essential service. Donating blood is safe and people should not hesitate to give. In addition, there is a need for community blood drive sites in the eastern part of the state.   

To schedule a new blood drive: contact Bill Forsyth at (617) 699-3808 or email William.Forsyth@redcross.org.  

 

Those who are healthy, feeling well, and eligible to give blood or platelets are urged to make an

appointment by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).  

Department of Public Health expanded daily dashboard, text message alerts

The DPH Daily Case and Testing Dashboard now provides additional data categories to provide the public more information on the outbreak in Massachusetts. In addition to County, Sex, and Exposure of confirmed cases, DPH is now providing an Age Group breakdown. As testing across the Commonwealth ramps up, DPH is also now providing more robust information about all the labs submitting test data, including total number of patients tested and total positive results. The dashboard is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-cases-quarantine-and-monitoring 

DPH also announced the launch of a new text-based notification system to deliver important information about the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response to Massachusetts residents.

The new messaging tool called “AlertsMA” will allow residents to subscribe to real-time notifications by texting the keyword COVIDMA to 888-777.  After signing up, state and public health officials can send short messages and links to information directly to a resident’s cell phone or other mobile device.

Department of Public Utilities order temporarily prohibiting utility shutoffs

The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an order prohibiting investor-owned utility companies from shutting off gas, electric, and water utility service to any customers for failure to pay a bill or a portion of a bill until the State of Emergency is lifted or the DPU determines otherwise. The announcement builds upon the DPU’s March 13 moratorium (https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-shutoff-moratorium-eversource-and-national-grid/download) requesting utility companies refrain from shutting off gas and electric service to residents across the Commonwealth. The new order will expand the moratorium to include any investor-owned utility customers, including industrial, commercial, and small business customers, during the State of Emergency.

The Order also prohibits investor-owned utility companies from sending communications that threaten to shut off gas, electric, or water service to any of their customers for failure to pay a bill or any portion of a bill the Companies issued to a customer. Any company that fails to comply with these orders may be assessed penalties of up to $1 million per violation.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/chairs-1st-set-of-orders-under-c-25-s-4b-re-covid-19/download

Department of Conservation and Recreation announces temporary closure of state parks, athletic fields and courts

DCR has temporarily closed athletic fields and courts, such as basketball, tennis, handball, pickle ball, and bocce, throughout the state parks system effective today, March 24, 2020 until Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at which time the closure will be reassessed. Importantly, all state parks across the Commonwealth remain open and available for the public to visit. DCR reminds residents and visitors to avoid gathering in groups of ten or more people, maintain social distancing, and practice healthy personal hygiene to stop the spread of the virus.

 

Similarly, DCR has extended the closure of agency-owned ice rinks, visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, fitness areas, and bathroom facilities until Tuesday, April 7, 2020, which will also be reassessed at that time. The temporary extension of the closure of these facilities is consistent with an emergency order issued by Governor Charlie Baker on Monday, March 24, 2020.

 

Furthermore, the agency will be removing trash receptacles throughout the state parks system to aid in the prevention of spreading COVID-19. DCR asks that all visitors of state parks adhere to a “carry in, carry out” trash policy during this public health emergency, and urges visitors to do their part to help protect our shared natural resources by leaving no trace and taking any trash with them.

 

DCR has developed a Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 webpage, which centralizes COVID-19 updates that impact the state parks system, and the webpage can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-state-parks-covid-19-update

New Guidance Issued on prioritization and optimization of PPE

The Command Center, in partnership with MEMA, has developed new guidance on prioritizing and optimizing Personal Protective Equipment during COVID-19 Response. The full guidance is here: https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

The Command Center is aggressively pursuing every legitimate supply chain opportunity both internationally and nationally and is placing orders.  This includes coordinating with MassBio and MEMA to collect donated supplies through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency Supply Hub. 

Massachusetts RMV announcements regarding transition to suspension hearings by phone and online reservation system for required In-person transactions

 

The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is announcing several additional measures being implemented to prioritize reducing customer volumes in physical locations and maintaining proper “social-distancing” under Governor Charlie Baker’s declaration of a State of Emergency:

 Appointment-Only Online Reservation System

 Effective now, Tuesday, March 24, an appointment-only reservation system is being implemented for certain necessary and required in-person transactions at the RMV’s eight open and operating Service Centers. These essential transactions include certain Commercial Driving License (CDL) transactions and some new registrations. Appointment reservation times will be available on a rolling basis up to two business days in advance on www.Mass.Gov/RMV in the myRMV Online Service Center under “Make or Cancel a Reservation.” Customers who make an appointment will be sent a confirmation email that they should be prepared to show on arrival. The Milford and Wilmington RMV Service Centers will remain open to exclusively perform walk-in commercial transactions for CDLs and permits (CLPs), and CDL road tests continue to be administered.

Suspension Hearings and Reinstatement Procedures 

 

Effective Monday, March 23rd, the RMV implemented new protocols for suspension hearings. Applying for and initiating a suspension hearing to seek reinstatement will continue to require an in-person visit to an RMV Service Center, but the hearings are now being conducted by phone. 

At this time, customers will not be able to request a hearing under the appointment-only reservation system outlined above. Some suspended customers may already be able to complete the reinstatement process and payment online if all other outstanding requirements have been satisfied by visiting www.Mass.Gov/RMV and selecting “Pay my Reinstatement Fees.”

Hearings are being conducted at Boston/Haymarket, Brockton, Fall River, Lawrence, Springfield and Worcester. Hearings at the Pittsfield RMV occur weekly on Wednesdays and are scheduled to resume on March 25th. No hearings will be conducted in Plymouth. Chemical test refusal (CTR) hearings are only held at Boston/Haymarket.

 

Customers arriving at these locations to request a hearing will be provided tickets on a limited first-come, first-served basis, depending on the availability of Hearings Officers at that location that day. Customers should bring copies of all necessary documents, depending on the type of suspension, to submit along with an application completed on-site. A Hearings Officer will call a customer directly to conduct their suspension hearing by phone. 

60-Day Extension of CDL Medical Certificates 

CDL Medical Certificates (Med Certs) that have expired or will expire after March 1st will have a 60-day extension applied to prevent license downgrades and elective medical visits, as well as alleviate demand on medical providers, during the State of Emergency.

 

Suspending Issuance of New REAL IDs and Non-Commercial Learner’s Permit Knowledge Exams

On March 23rd, the federal government announced there will be a delay of the October 2020 REAL ID compliance deadline. Effective March 25th and until April 7th, the RMV is also suspending the issuance of new REAL IDs and knowledge/written exams for non-commercial learner’s permits, both of which are currently required, but non-essential, in-person transactions. As a reminder, all non-commercial Class D and M road tests for permit holders have already been suspended through April 6th. Renewals for standard driver’s license and ID credentials can be performed online at www.Mass.Gov/RMV along with more than 40 other transactions that can be conducted online, over the phone, or by mail.

 

For information about available services and additional steps the RMV has taken under the State of Emergency declaration, including the extension of expiring licenses / permits and vehicle inspection stickers, please visit:  https://www.mass.gov/info-details/rmv-covid-19-information.

Updated 3/20/2020

FEDERAL UPDATES

Families First Coronavirus Act signed into law

Today, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Act into law. This new law will provide funds to help deal with the COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as modify some federal programs, employment-related protections and benefits, health programs and insurance coverage requirements, and tax credits.

 

A statement on the bill signing is here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/bill-announcement-88/

 

Senate Republicans release an economic stimulus bill for coronavirus

On 3-18 the US Senate Republicans unveiled an economic stimulus bill that Includes large corporate tax cuts, direct checks to taxpayers and limits on paid leave.

A summary of the bill can be found here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/

 

THE LEGISLATURE

Senate President Spilka announces Senate action towards delaying elections

The Senate has determined that moving forward with traditional elections at this time would put voters, election workers, volunteers and others at excessive risk. The Senate President announced that the Senate will take action on Monday to give cities and towns needed flexibility to address this situation, including temporarily postponing municipal elections. The Senate will also propose that there are robust mail and absentee voting options and protections to maximize voter participation when elections do occur.  

The Senate is also working with stakeholders to postpone certain special Senate state elections previously scheduled for March 31, 2020.  As with postponed municipal elections, the Senate would propose allowing voters to vote with an absentee ballot or via a mail-in option due to the COVID-19 state of emergency.

BAKER -POLITO ADMINISTRATION UPDATES

Baker-Polito Administration activates Massachusetts National Guard to support COVID-19 response

Governor Baker’s order to activate the Massachusetts National Guard authorizes activation of up to 2,000 National Guard members across the Commonwealth, who will be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing, and related duties. Local cities, towns, and state agencies should submit requests for support through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

The full announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-activates-massachusetts-national-guard-to-support-covid-19

Department of Public Health order requiring local reporting of positive COVID-19 cases

On March 18, the Department of Public Health issued an order requiring local boards of health to communicate to the official in their district with the responsibility of administering emergency calls the addresses of those who have tested positive for Covid-19.  

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-of-the-commissioner-of-public-health-regarding-the-sharing-of-critical-information-with/download

Department of Public Health order allowing pharmacists to administer treatment for substance use disorder

On March 18, the Department of Public Health issued an order allowing pharmacists to administer substance use disorder treatment medication. The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-18-2020-pharmacist-opioid-misuse-disorder-medication/download

Department of Public Health order allowing flexible reassignment of physicians assistants

On March 18, the Department of Public Health issued an order providing for the flexible reassignment of physicians assistants.

The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-18-2020-physician-assistant-order/download 

Governor Baker provided the following updates on COVID-19 testing during a press conference

At a 3-19 press conference, Governor Baker noted that by Saturday, Quest Diagnostics (of Marlborough) will be able to conduct 20,000 tests per day on samples sent in from all over the country, with results being released in three or four days. There will be no out-of-pocket testing charges for the 1.8 million Massachusetts individuals on Medicaid. The Governor’s executive order waiving that cost sharing also applies to commercial and GIC insurance in Massachusetts.

By the beginning of the week, the Commonwealth hopes to be able to test 3,500 samples per day between state and commercial labs. The testing priority will be: (1) frontline health workers & first responders, and (2) hospitalized and sick individuals.

 

Attorney General Maura Healey provided answers on COVID-19 employee rights and employer obligations

The Attorney General asked and answered some frequently asked questions on employee rights and employer obligations with regard to COVID-19. 

The full guidance from the Attorney General can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/frequently-asked-questions-about-covid-19-employee-rights-and-employer-obligations

RMV Opening 8 Locations with New Protocols on Thursday

The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is announcing that eight of its 30 customer service center locations will be open on Thursday, March 19th, while asking that customers who do not have immediate needs for required in-person services delay their visits. These RMV facilities prioritize regional availability, accessibility and facility size and capacity and will prioritize ONLY transactions that cannot be completed online, over the phone or by mail. To assist with “social-distancing” and reducing facility volume, customers are asked to not bring multiple individuals with them. Meanwhile, AAA locations will continue to offer select RMV services to AAA members and road tests will be suspended indefinitely.

New protocols will be in place to mitigate customer queuing. Customers visiting the open centers will be issued tickets on a first-come, first-served basis with priority given to those customers with transactions that cannot be completed online. Tickets will designate for customers whether they will be served in the morning (9 a.m. until 12 p.m.) timeframe or the (12 p.m. until 5 p.m.) timeframe in groupings. Limited tickets will be issued based on the Service Center capacity and number of customers that can be served realistically through the course of the day. Any remaining customers will be asked to leave and return another day. Road tests remain suspended through at least March 20th.

Updated 3/17/2020

UPDATED BAKER-POLITO ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

Baker - Polito Administration announces $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund

The $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund will provide emergency capital up to $75,000 to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full and part-time employees, including nonprofits. Loans are immediately available to eligible businesses with no payments due for the first 6 months.

How to Apply:

Please complete the application found on MGCC’s website, EmpoweringSmallBusiness.org.  Completed applications can be sent via email to mgcc@massgcc.com with the subject line “2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund”. MGCC can be reached by email: mgcc@massgcc.com

Loan Fund Details:

  • Who Qualifies: Open to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits (negative impact must be verifiable).

  • Terms and Conditions: This fund is being offered with no payments due for the first 6 months, then 30-months of principal and interest payments and no prepayment penalties.

  • Businesses can apply for loans up to $75,000.

MBTA announcement of reduced service

The MBTA has announced reduced service effective 3-17, and full updates and guidance from the MBTA can be found here: https://www.mbta.com/covid19 

“No Sail” Order for Cruise Ship Operations

The CDC has issued a 30 day 'No Sail' order for any cruise ship which has not voluntarily suspended operations. The Coast Guard will assist the CDC in preventing cruise ships from embarking passengers in US ports. The Port of Boston does not currently have any cruise ship arrivals scheduled until April 17th, though will identify any cruise ships or vessels carrying 250 or more persons (passengers and crew) with an overnight itinerary, planning to embark passengers.

Updated Executive Order on large gatherings, restaurants, and on-premise food and beverage consumption

The Baker-Polito Administration issued an Executive Order to prohibit on-premise consumption of food or alcohol at restaurants, effective from 3-17 until 4-5. Restaurants will be able to provide food for take out or delivery. 

The Baker Polito also revised its Executive Order prohibiting large gatherings of over 250 people to prohibit gatherings of over 25 people. 

 

The full Executive Order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-large-gatherings-25-and-restaurants-order/download 

Updated guidance on elementary and secondary school closures

The Baker-Polito Administration announced a three week suspension of all public and private elementary and secondary schools effective 3-17. School districts are still permitted to keep the buildings open for actions like getting food out to children who need it. Preschool and childcare services are not ordered to close, but are strongly urged to observe guidelines established by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Early Childhood Education.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-school-closure-order/download

Full guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education can be found here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/emergencyplan/covid19.html 

 

Guidance for Executive Branch employees on March 16th and 17th work

All non-emergency state employees working in Executive Branch agencies should not report to their workplace on Monday, March 16th and Tuesday, March 17th. Employees who are designated by their managers as emergency for the purposes of coronavirus planning should report to work. During this period, the administration will work to expand alternative work arrangements for the executive branch workforce and further develop plans to continue to provide essential state government services. The full announcement can be found here:

https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19

 

Department of Public Health guidance on insurance coverage for telehealth

The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15 that stipulates that all commercial insurers and the Group Insurance Commission are required to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services.

Order: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-telehealth-order/download

Registry of Motor Vehicles guidance on extending the renewal timelines

The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) will extend the renewal timeline of certain credentials to reduce the need for customers to physically visit an RMV service center for in-person transactions. Effective this week, the RMV will implement a 60-day extension to the current expiration date for Class D, Class DMs, ID cards, and Learner’s Permits within the RMV system. All customers with expired/expiring credentials physically dated between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, will continue to have an active status within the RMV system until sixty (60) days after the expiration date printed on their credential. The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-rmv-license-extensions/download

Guidance for Hospitals on the Cancellation of Elective Procedures and Restricting Visitors

The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15th that hospitals must restrict visitors and cancel non-essential elective procedures, effective Wednesday. The announcement can be found here:

The order on restricting visitors can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-hospital-visitor-restrictions-order

The order on non-essential elective procedures can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-elective-procedures-order

Guidance on nursing home visitor prohibition

The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15th that assisted living residences are to ban visitors to protect the health of residents and staff. This is in addition to the federal guidance issued on Friday that bans visitors to nursing homes and rest homes. The announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19 

Updated guidance from The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) and the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) regarding unemployment assistance

Regarding current unemployment claims, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) and the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) have taken the following actions:

  • Suspending all requirements regarding attending seminars at the MassHire career centers.

  • Missing deadlines due to effects of COVID-19 will be excused under DUA’s good cause provision.

  • All appeal hearings will be held by telephone only.

The Department of Labor issued guidance to the states instructing state agencies to apply existing law flexibly. DUA may now pay unemployment benefits if a worker is quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional or leaves employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member and does not intend to or is not allowed to return to work. The worker need not provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able.

To assist individuals who cannot work due to the impact of COVID-19, the Baker-Polito administration is filing emergency legislation that will allow new claims to be paid more quickly by waiving the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits.

 

EOLWD and DUA are also filing emergency regulations that will allow people impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment if their workplace is shut down and expects to reopen in four or fewer weeks. The following conditions apply:

  • Workers must remain in contact with their employer during the shutdown.

  • Workers must be available for any work their employer may have for them that they are able to do.

  • An employer may request to extend the period of the covered shut-down to eight weeks, and workers will remain eligible for the longer period under the same conditions described above.

  • If necessary, DUA may extend these time periods for workers and employers.

  • Employers who are impacted by COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day grace period to file quarterly reports and pay contributions.

The pending federal legislation proposes further relief including additional money for unemployment benefits, and relief to employers for charges related to unemployment benefits paid due to COVID-19.

The announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19

 

Updates on Legislation to Assist Municipal Governance

Governor Baker announced a package of legislation to help address challenges to municipal governance resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, including potential delays in holding Town Meetings and adopting Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) municipal budgets. Provisions in the proposed legislation include:

  • Amend existing statute authorizing Moderators to postpone Town Meetings by thirty days.

  • Permit local Select Boards to postpone Town Meetings beyond the statutory June 30 deadline when the Governor has declared a state of emergency..

  • Permit local Select Boards to temporarily adopt lower quorum rules.

  • Permit continued month-to-month spending into FY21 by towns based on the prior fiscal year budget with approval of the Division of Local Services during states of emergency. Cities have similar authority under existing state law.

  • Permit towns to access their free cash balance for FY21 spending with approval of the Division of Local Services.

  • Permit municipal spending from revolving funds at the level set by their Fiscal Year 2020 appropriation until an FY21 budget is adopted.

  • Authorize a three-year amortization period for deficit spending incurred as a result of COVID-19 crisis.

The announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19

Governor Baker files legislation for rescheduled Boston Marathon

Governor Baker also filed legislation designating September 14, 2020 as a legal holiday to support the rescheduled 2020 Boston Marathon. The announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19

Updated 3/15/2020

What is the guidance on prevention measures?

For a full and continuously updated list of best practices on prevention, please visit the MA Department of Health guidance on prevention: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-prevention-and-treatment#prevention-

Where can I find information about sick time laws, get help with insurance claims, or report price gouging?

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has provided resources specific to the coronavirus crisis, and you can find a full list of those resources here: https://www.mass.gov/news/ags-office-issues-guidance-on-coronavirus-resources-warns-of-consumer-scams

  • Information about sick time laws: 617-727-3465

  • Help with insurance claims or medical bills: 888-830-6277

  • Report price gouging or defective products: 617-727-8400

  • If you’re having difficulty negotiating a travel refund or are concerned about a potential scam, consider filing a complaint: www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint 

How many people in Massachusetts have COVID-19 and how many people are quarantined?

For up to date information about COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts or residents subject to quarantine, please visit this link: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-cases-quarantine-and-monitoring
 

Are schools closing?

Many colleges will have remote classes for the remainder of the school year, have instructed students not to return from spring break, or have instructed students to vacate the dormitories by a certain date. To learn more about a specific college’s policy, please visit their website.


On March 13, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued updated guidance for elementary and secondary schools, which can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/guidance-to-elementary-and-secondary-schools-regarding-covid-19

Updated guidance on unemployment insurance:

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) recently received federal guidance allowing for flexibilities regarding unemployment compensation for individuals affected by COVID-19. EOLWD is analyzing that guidance and pursuing potential emergency regulations which further enable them to assist individuals whose employment has been affected by the virus. The federal guidance can be found here: https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/corr_doc.cfm?DOCN=8893

Additionally, in order to reduce in-person traffic at career centers and UI walk-in centers, EOLWD has suspended requirements related to the Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment for the time being. Staff are in the process of contacting customers scheduled to appear at the centers to let them know that their benefits will not be impacted as a result of this change and that they will be back in touch with them when these services are re-scheduled.

Guidance on gas and electric shut offs

On March 13, the Department of Public Utilities issued a moratorium to suspend all shut-offs of gas and electric utilities, including Municipal Light and Gas Plants, for residential customers during the State of Emergency.

Guidance on health care costs for COVID-19 testing and treatment

On March 6, the Division of Insurance released a bulletin instructing insurers not to charge patients for COVID-19 testing or treatment: https://www.mass.gov/doc/bulletin-2020-02-addressing-covid-19-coronavirus-testing-and-treatment-issued-362020/download  

On March 10, Governor Baker declared a state of emergency https://www.mass.gov/news/governor-baker-declares-state-of-emergency-to-support-commonwealths-response-to-coronavirus

 

Guidance on Open Meeting Law

On March 12, the Baker-Polito Administration issued an emergency order temporarily modifying the state’s Open Meeting Law in order to allow state, quasi and local governments to continue to carry out essential functions and operations during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. This emergency order suspends the requirement for public access to the physical location where a public meeting is taking place, provided there are other means of access available, such as a phone conference line, social media or other internet streaming services, or on-line meeting services. Additionally, the order relieves the requirement that a quorum of members be physically present at a public meeting. During this period, members may all participate by remote or virtual means. This order is applicable to meetings of public bodies including commissions, boards, and committees that engage in policy making at the state, quasi and local level, and it does not apply to Town Meetings or judicial and quasi-judicial hearings. The full text of the order is available at: https://www.mass.gov/doc/open-meeting-law-order-march-12-2020/download

State action on disaster and emergency response business assistance:

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Baker-Polito Administration are working closely with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to activate the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program which would provide assistance to eligible businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19.

Guidance on large gatherings

On March 13, Governor Baker issued an emergency order prohibiting most gatherings of over 250 people in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The order includes, but is not limited to, the following events: community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, festivals, and any similar event or activity that brings together 250 or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time in a venue such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theatre, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.  The Governor also directed the Department of Public Health (DPH) to issue guidance implementing the terms of the Emergency Order. The full DPH guidance is available at: https://www.mass.gov/doc/guidance-regarding-the-order-by-the-governor-prohibiting-assemblages-of-more-than-250-people/download

Updated guidance on jury trials and courthouse access

On March 13, the Supreme Judicial Court postponed jury trials until after April 21 and issued restrictions on courthouse entry. This guidance is available through the following links: and issued updated guidance which can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/sjc-order-in-re-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-regarding-empanelment-of-juries 

https://www.mass.gov/doc/sjc-order-in-re-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-regarding-access-to-state-courthouses-court/download

Guidance for community-based and congregate care settings:

The Baker-Polito Administration has released new policies for Assisted Living Residences, Congregate Care Settings, In-Home Caregivers and Workers (Agency Based and Non-Agency Based), and Community Day Program Settings to further protect individuals served in community-based and congregate care settings from respiratory illnesses, including Coronavirus (COVID-19). This guidance is available through the following links:

Baker Administration Executive Orders, Guidance, and Updates

Updated guidance on public transportation sanitation

On March 4, the MBTA announced increased sanitation measures: https://mbta.com/news/2020-03-04/increased-sanitation-schedule-preparedness-planning-coronavirus

A Massport Traveler Advisory is continuously updated here: https://www.massport.com/massport/media/newsroom/traveler-advisory-regarding-covid-19/