COVID-19 Update from Senator Comerford’s Office

Dear local officials and community leaders,

First, thank you for your tireless work to keep your communities safe during this challenging time.

Senator Comerford is chairing the Senate’s COVID-19 response working group. As such, I am writing both as the Senator’s District Director and as staff to the state Senate initiative.

Below is what I hope is timely and useful information on the Governor’s initial executive orders, COVID-19 prevention, information on small business loans, a request to report supply chain shortages you experience to us, and information on our upcoming community conference calls.

Be assured more information is coming. Please reach out any time to jo.comerford@masenate.gov.

If any municipal officials would like to send in a comment about H.4572 An Act to address challenges in town governance resulting from COVID-19, we welcome you to be in touch.

Report supply chain issues

  • The Senate working group is tracking supply chain shortages and price gouging issues, we need to hear from you to know what you’re seeing or expect to see so we can escalate to the Administration and watchdog and advocate for western Massachusetts.
  • Please email Jared.Freedman@masenate.gov to report specific supply shortages - both medical and non-medical.

Small business / nonprofit loans now available, as a first step

  • The Governor has announced a $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund to 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

Community conference calls

Senator Comerford is hosting a series of community conference calls on COVID-19 starting TOMORROW, Wednesday, March 18 at both 9:30 a.m. then again at 1:00 p.m.

  • These one-hour calls are open to the public. You'll first hear updates on the Senate working group on COVID-19 and then have an opportunity for Q&A.
  • To call in, dial (605) 313-5111 and use access code: 378045
  • The full schedule is here: senatorjocomerford.org/events/list/ (note that all upcoming virtual library tours are also opportunities to hear directly from Jo via conference call)

Are you getting questions from constituents about testing?

  • The state is ramping up testing availability quickly, however we are not yet at capacity. My team and I are advocating strongly for clear communication and guidance from the Department of Public Health and grateful to all of the local and regional public health officials on the ground and responding.
  • The current guidance is that if you think you should be tested, please call your healthcare provider (if you don’t have a primary care provider, call your local hospital or community health center). Remember: Call before visiting!
  • More from DPH here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/frequently-asked-questions-about-covid-19#should-i-be-tested?

Some guidance on prevention

  • Please visit the MA Department of Health website.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Clean things that are frequently touched (like doorknobs and countertops). The virus lives on surfaces for a period of time.
  • Practice responsible social distancing to prevent the escalation of the virus.
  • Postpone or cancel all non-essential large events and gatherings.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Stay home when sick.
  • Get a flu shot to prevent the spread of influenza, which can leave those affected more vulnerable and stretch our medical system that much more.
  • Help spread the facts (and only the facts) about the virus. Get them here: MA Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DPH also runs a 24/7 phone hotline at 617-983-6800.
  • Buy local. Support main street businesses and our farmers. Double down on your support of local non-profits providing care.
  • Talk with the children in your life. Here’s a good resource.

If you need guidance regarding legal help, here are some resources from Attorney General Maura Healey:

  • 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

The Governor’s Executive Orders are listed below. For more information, including orders and current guidance for the bulleted items below and the latest updates, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-state-of-emergency.

Please know that there are limitations to what the Governor can do and that’s where the Legislature comes in.

  • GATHERINGS & RESTAURANTS: On March 15, Governor Baker issued an emergency order limiting gatherings to 25 individuals and prohibiting on-premises consumption of food or drink at bars and restaurants, beginning on March 17 and effective until April 6.
  • ELEMENTARY & SECONDARY SCHOOL OPERATIONS SUSPENDED: On March 15, Governor Baker ordered a 3-week suspension of school operations for educational purposes at all public and private elementary and secondary (K-12) schools in the Commonwealth (not including residential and day schools for special needs students), beginning Tuesday, March 17 and continuing until Monday, April 6.
  • HOSPITAL VISITOR RESTRICTIONS: On March 15, the Department of Public Health issued hospital visitor restrictions.
  • ASSISTED LIVING VISITOR RESTRICTIONS. On March 15, the Department of Public Health issued visitor restrictions for assisted living facilities.
  • PHARMACY HAND SANITIZER ORDER: On March 15, the Department of Public Health issued an order permitting licensed pharmacies to create and sell hand sanitizer over the counter.
  • ELECTIVE PROCEDURES: On March 15, the Department of Public Health issued an order mandating that hospitals must cancel non-essential elective procedures.
  • RMV RENEWAL TIMELINE: 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.
  • TELEHEALTH: The Department of Public Health has issued guidance that requires all commercial insurers, self-insured plans, and the Group Insurance Commission to cover medically necessary telehealth services related to COVID-19 testing and treatment (medical and behavioral). Insurers must do this without requiring cost-sharing of any kind – such as copays and coinsurance – for testing and treatment.
  • OPEN MEETING LAW MODIFICATIONS: On March 12, Governor Baker issued an emergency order making modifications to the state’s Open Meeting Law to allow state, quasi and local governments to continue to carry out essential functions during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • NURSING HOME VISITORS RESTRICTED: On March 12, the Department of Public Health issued an emergency order restricting visitor access to nursing homes and rest homes to protect higher-risk populations from COVID-19.
  • NURSING LICENSURE CHANGES: On March 11, the Board of Registration in Nursing updated its policies to expedite the processing of reciprocal license applications for nurses that are licensed in another jurisdiction to allow those applications to be processed in one business day.

Please continue to think of us as a resource.

Warmly,

Elena

Elena Cohen

District Director

Office of Senator Jo Comerford

Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester District

413.367.4656

elena.cohen@masenate.gov

Pronouns: she/her/hers

www.SenatorJoComerford.org

Posted: to General Town News on Tue, Mar 17, 2020
Updated: Tue, Mar 17, 2020

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