I hope you and your loved ones are well and staying safe, healthy, and hopeful and that you were able to connect this past weekend with all the moms in your life.
I know many of us were hoping the end of the spring would see the pandemic behind us. It has become clear COVID-19 is here to impact our lives for much longer than the spring and we are about to enter a very different summer season from those of the past. I am happy, however, to say this is my first email update to you in which I can say we have seen a true downward trend in COVID-19 data, and Governor Baker has publicly said on several occasions we can be cautiously optimistic that the Commonwealth is on the downward slope of our first COVID-19 outbreak. While this of course does not mean life will go back to normal, or a switch will flip to turn the economy back on immediately, it is certainly the news we have all wanted and I commend you all for doing your part in social distancing to make it happen.
Our focus has shifted to how to safely re-open our economy and return to activities we miss and sharing time with people we love, while ensuring COVID-19 rates do not spike again. This is uncharted territory for all of us and will take great patience and empathy. I am confident we will all rise to the challenge, as I have consistently witnessed in Shrewsbury, Westborough, and across the Commonwealth over the course of the past few months. I am at Floating Hospital today for my daughter Caitlin's infusion and we looked at the hearts displayed for the health care staff on the bridge between buildings and I thought that this one was powerful and timely.
Please see the below updates on the state's COVID-19 response since my update last week:
Current Cases of COVID-19
The Department of Health (DPH) updates the MA DPH COVID-19 Dashboard daily around 4 pm. The dashboard includes trend data in a variety of areas (information on case rates, testing, geography of confirmed cases, etc.) death related data, and specific data on COVID-19 hospital census information, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes (with known clusters) and PPE distribution. Find the dashboard, as well as the city and town data,
Yesterday's report shows that we have lost 5,141 people to this deadly virus, out of the 79,332 people who have tested positive. We also saw 13 percent of the tests provided be positive, which is a percentage that is far less than our mid-April test highs of 34 percent. Overall we are continuing in a downward trend overall, despite some days being higher than the day before. This is critically important as the public health data will determine when and how fast we can continue the work of re-opening.
Re-opening Advisory Board
The Re-opening Advisory Board, led by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, is tasked with determining how MA businesses can safely re-open once decreasing COVID-19 rates make it safe to do so. The Board has heard from groups representing more than a million workers and filed interim reports with Governor Baker ahead of its May 18th reporting deadline and is expected to continue to make ongoing suggestions before and after this deadline.
Four-phase Re-opening Approach
On May 11th, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that based on downward COVID-19 trends and guidance from the Re-opening Advisory Board a
four-phase approach to economic re-opening
has been developed. The first phase is currently set to begin on May 18thwith the re-opening of businesses and activities with a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission. The phased re-opening will go hand-in-hand with Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards that will apply to all businesses. This careful, deliberate approach is aimed at allowing the state to establish a "new normal" without triggering increased COVID-19 rates. The four phases are:
- Phase #1: "Start" - limited industries resume operations with severe restrictions
- Phase #2: "Cautious" - additional industries resume operations with restrictions and capacity limits
- Phase #3: "Vigilant" - Additional industries resume operations with guidance
- Phase #4: "New Normal" - Development of vaccine and/or therapy enables resumption of new normal
Standards for social distancing:
- All persons, including employees, customers, and vendors should remain at least six feet apart to the greatest extent possible, both inside and outside workplaces
- Establish protocols to ensure that employees can practice adequate social distancing
- Provide signage for safe social distancing
- Require face coverings or masks for all employees
Standards for hygiene:
- Provide hand washing capabilities throughout the workplace
- Ensure frequent hand washing by employees and adequate supplies to do so
- Provide regular sanitization of high touch areas, such as workstations, equipment, screens, doorknobs, restrooms throughout work site
Standards for staffing and operations:
- Provide training for employees regarding the social distancing and hygiene protocols
- Employees who are displaying COVID19-like symptoms do not report to work
- Establish a plan for employees getting ill from COVID-19 at work, and a return-to-work plan
Standards for cleaning and disinfecting:
- Establish and maintain cleaning protocols specific to the business
- When an active employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, cleaning and disinfecting must be performed
- Disinfection of all common surfaces must take place at intervals appropriate to said workplace
The phased re-opening plan is contingent on continued downward COVID-19 data trends. It is not set in stone and could change at any time based on public health data.
Community Tracing Collaborative
The Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) is a key part of the state's fight against COVID-19. The CTC traces close contacts of people who have been confirmed positive for the virus and informs them so that they do not continue to spread the virus on to others. CTC also supports people who are in quarantine. The initiative employs public health college students as contact tracers and shores up the work being done already by local boards of health. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, the CTC contact tracers reach out to the person and ask them a series of questions to determine who their close contacts are and connect them with support for quarantine. Tens of thousands of MA residents have participated in contact tracing since mid-April when calls began. Staffed with more than 1,600 tracers, the CTC has contacted nearly 14,000 confirmed cases and established more than 7,500 of their contacts. In part due to effective social distancing measures, the median number of contacts reported by each confirmed case remains approximately 2 people.
The CTC relies on you answering your phone. Contact tracers will reach out from phone numbers with 833 or 857 area codes and the phone's caller ID will say MA COVID Team. Please make sure to take these calls and provide them with all relevant information. The health and safety of your community depends on it. When you answer the call, the following will occur:
- A case investigator will ask you for a list of all the people and places you were within six feet of during the 48 hours prior to your symptoms. For those who do not have symptoms, include all contacts 48 hours prior to your diagnosis. The case investigator will also ask for the phone numbers of any people you identify so that they can be reached and notified about their exposure.
- You are encouraged to inform your contacts about your illness. The state will not share your information. The MA COVID Team calls your contacts and tells them they have been exposed to COVID-19 so they can get tested, but will not release your name. This process is called contact tracing, and it is a very important piece to fighting this pandemic and stopping transmission.
- Your information will not be shared with immigration officials or ICE.
- If you are staying at home during the isolation period, the case investigator will also discuss any needs you may have for this time period and may connect you with a care resource coordinator who will help you get the support you need.
- A case investigator and/or your local board of health will check in on you regularly to monitor your symptoms and needs.
Face Covering Order Takes Effect
On May 6th, the Order issued by the Baker-Polito Administration requiring individuals to wear face coverings in public places took effect. If you are in a place open to the public in the Commonwealth, when unable to maintain a distance of approximately six feet from every other person, you are required to cover your mouth and nose with a mask or cloth face covering. Masks should be washed routinely in a washing machine or with soap and water and allowed to dry completely. The order applies to both indoor and outdoor spaces. Exceptions include children under the age of 2 and those unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition.
Face coverings are required at all times when:
- Inside or waiting in line outside of grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail stores
- Providing or using the services of any taxi, car, livery, ride-sharing, or similar service
- On any form of public transit, including train or bus
- In an enclosed or semi-enclosed transit stop or waiting area
Exceptions for wearing face coverings include situations that may inhibit an individual from wearing a face-mask safely. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Those who cannot breathe safely
- Those who, due to a behavioral health diagnosis, are unable to do so
- Those communicating with people who rely upon lip-reading
- Those who require supplemental oxygen to breathe
- Those who are exercising outdoors and are able to keep physical distance from others
Per COVID-19 order No. 31, violations of the masking order shall be punished in the following manner:
- The first offense shall result in a warning.
- The second or subsequent offense may result in a civil citation and a fine of up to $300.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the business shutdowns aimed at preventing its spread eliminated more than 20 million American jobs in April. New figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm the economic devastation of the pandemic - national unemployment rate rose to 14.7% last month. Both the 20.5 million lost jobs and the 10.3 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate were the largest one-month jumps since the Bureau of Labor Statistics launched those data series in 1939 and in 1948. The largest impact came in the leisure and hospitality sector, where April employment dropped by 7.7 million jobs, or 47% of the industry's entire job force.
In Massachusetts, approximately 1 million workers, close to 25% of the state's workforce, have sought unemployment benefits since mid-March, according to new figures published by the state on May 7th. Between March 15th and May 2nd, state labor officials received nearly 780,000 applications for standard unemployment insurance. Another 185,000 claimants sought aid through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which extends benefit eligibility to gig workers, self-employed workers, and others who do not qualify for traditional unemployment insurance since it launched on April 20th. Last month, Governor Baker requested federal loans to cover $900 million of unemployment benefits in May and $300 million in June.
Unemployment and Returning to Work
Access information for employees and employers on returning to work, as it relates to unemployment assistance, by clicking here if you are an employee
and here if you are an employer.
As reported in State House News, Commonwealth tax collections in April fell by more than $2.3 billion compared to April 2019, in part due to the pushing of the April 15th tax filing deadline to July 15th. Experts who testified in the Legislature last month projected that next year's tax collections could land $4 billion to $6 billion below initial estimates. These shortfalls throw the state of the future budget into uncertainty for anyone who relies on spending in the more than $43 billion budget. The lack of clarity also means that local aid levels, a major source of revenue for municipal government, remain unknown for the municipal officials who usually craft their city and town budgets in the spring. It is still unclear when the Legislature will take up the fiscal year 2021 budget or what it will even look like. A set of emergency rules the House adopted last week gave the House Ways and Means Committee until July 1st to report out its version of the budget, which is usually done in late April.
The Legislature is currently looking at the possibility of proposing a joint House and Senate budget, as opposed to the traditional method of the budget starting in the House and then being taken up by the Senate. Operating on a one-twelfth budget is also an option being considered, which would allow the state to pass a budget each month to ensure necessary operations are funded until a complete, year-round budget can be established. Last month, the Legislature passed and Governor Baker signed a bill that eases some of the deadlines and scheduling requirements municipalities face and allows cities and town to tap into their free cash, or remaining FY20 reserves, for FY21 budgets without having to go through the usual state approval process.
Short-term Borrowing Bill & Remote Voting
On May 6th, the House unanimously voted to allow the Treasury to borrow billions of dollars as needed through June to meet the state's financial obligations due to the economic devastation caused by COVID-19. The bill, House Bill 4677, was filed by Governor Baker in late March. Most House lawmakers, including me, participated virtually from across the Commonwealth due to House leadership reaching a compromise on May 4th on emergency rules allowing all members to vote virtually. The borrowing bill was needed to allow the Treasurer to issue revenue anticipation notes to bridge the gap in funding created by the movement of the 2019 tax filing deadline from April 15th to July 15th.
The historic 157-0 was the first time in its nearly 400-year history the House held a roll call vote remotely. On May 7th, the House adopted a clause to the short-term borrowing bill that would set it into effect immediately after the Governor signs it into law. On May 7th, the Senate also passed the borrowing bill and approved a remote voting system to achieve a final vote on the bill. A long-term rules change in the Senate is also in the works to allow for consideration of other bills that require roll call votes during the COVID-19 emergency. H4677 will require one more vote in both the House and Senate before it goes to Governor Baker's desk for his signature. The House is scheduled to take our final vote on the bill today, I will be "attending" session and voting remotely from the Floating Hospital for Children during Caitlin's infusion.
MA Secretary of State William Galvin filed new legislation that would, if passed, allow the Commonwealth to give a mail-in ballot to any voter who requests one and expand in-person early voting. The proposed legislation would allow any MA voter to request a mail-in ballot without providing the justification normally required. Secretary Galvin's plan would also expand early voting at polling locations to an 18-day period ahead of the general election, including two weekends, and a week-long period ahead of the September 1st primary.
State law currently only requires 12 days of early voting opportunities, with no guaranteed weekends, ahead of the general election, and the state has never allowed early voting for the primaries. Voters are currently unable to vote by mail outside of a two-week early voting period before the general election. In addition to allowing no-excuse mailed ballots, Secretary Galvin's legislation would allow voters to return ballots to an official drop box or appoint a family member to deliver it by hand. Anyone hospitalized or quarantined within one week of an election could designate someone to hand-deliver them a ballot. Secretary Galvin's office is collaborating with the US Postal Service to ensure voters do not need to pay for postage to return their mail-in ballots.
Easing of Restrictions on Retail, Car Dealers
On May 5th, Governor Baker gave florists, as well as many other "non-essential" businesses, the go-ahead to bring back a limited number of employees to fulfill online and phone orders for delivery, provided they follow proper safety measures and do not let customers into the store. The updated guidance came just ahead of Mother's Day.
The updated essential business guidelines also made new allowances for car dealerships, allowing sales to resume over the phone or online and for dealerships to follow the same remote fulfillment rules as other retailers. Test drives of vehicles are not permitted, and all processing of documents has to be done electronically if possible. Dealerships will remain closed to walk-in customers, but transfer, delivery, and return of new and leased vehicles or trade-ins can be conducted in person by appointment.
Trustees of Reservations Opening Properties
On May 8th, the Trustees of Reservations announced some of their properties will re-open on May 19th, including Crane Beach in Ipswich, World's End in Hingham, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, and Naumkeag in Stockbridge. The re-openings come with rules aimed at continuing to protect staffers and attendees from COVID-19. Details can be found here
Golf Courses Open
On May 7th, Governor Baker updated the COVID-19 essential services list allowing golf courses to re-open providing there are no gatherings of any kind. The new rules require that six feet between all people is maintained and groups will be limited to four golfers, as is traditional. The updated guidance also allows municipal golf courses to open, but all courses must comply with a strict set of restrictions, including a ban on caddies and golf carts. Courses are mandated to have hand sanitizer readily available. Of the states that closed golf courses at the start of the pandemic, MA was the last to allow the sport to resume. Under the new guidance:
- Golf courses can identify staff to serve as security personnel and enforce social distancing, but no other employees may work the "recreational component" of the golf operation. Groundskeeping has been allowed through the pandemic.
- Golfers will have to pay either online or via a remote payment method.
- Players must wait in their car until 15 minutes before their tee time, and courses are required to keep practice greens and driving ranges closed.
- Tee times must be at least 15 minutes apart.
- Everyone must use their own clubs, flag sticks must remain in the hole at all times, there will be no rakes to tidy bunkers, and courses must remove or cover ball washers.
- Once the round is over, players must immediately return to their cars.
- There will be no 19th hole - clubhouses, pro shops, restaurants, and other facilities must remain closed.
On May 8th, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced no parades or festivals will occur from now through at least Labor Day, including the Fourth of July fireworks display and Boston Pops performance on the banks of the Charles River. The Boston Pops will instead produce a tribute to frontline workers that will be broadcast on TV, radio, and online. Fireworks from a previous Fourth will stream to end the broadcast. Smaller events in Boston will be looked at on a case-by-case basis throughout the summer months. Walsh's office reiterated that no event should be planned that would involve more than 10 people gathering or that could draw a crowd of any size.
Some events were cancelled before Friday's announcement, including Boston Pride, feasts and processions in the North End, the Caribbean Carnival Parade, and the Battle of Bunker Hill Day Parade in Charlestown. The Boston Marathon is still currently scheduled for September 14th, 2020.
Operation: American Resolve
On May 6th, National Nurses Day, F-15 Eagles from the 104th Fighter Wing in Westfield, Massachusetts, flew over several area hospitals in a show of support for medical workers serving on the front lines in the combat against COVID-19. The fly-over was part of Operation American Resolve, a nationwide salute to those supporting COVID-19 response efforts. Air Force Salutes flyovers are a way for the US Air Force to show appreciation for those making great sacrifices to work on the frontlines and to support Massachusetts residents sick with the virus. It was great to see the pictures posted by so many on Facebook!
Beginning on Monday, May 4th, customers can schedule a reservation online 7 days in advance for one of the open Service Centers. Previously, they could only schedule a reservation 3 days in advance. Please find
for up-to-date information on extensions, cancellations and service changes here.
The RMV is cautioning customers to use only Mass.Gov/RMV when they are trying to renew a license or registration or process any business transactions online. Customers may inadvertently come across unofficial third-party websites or "mimic sites" that advertise similar services but have no affiliation with the RMV. Customers can use the helpful hints listed below to determine whether the website they are using is the official site for the MA RMV:
- Massachusetts uses the abbreviation "RMV." Any website using the phrase "Department of Motor Vehicles" or "DMV" should be avoided.
- Make sure the Commonwealth's seal is located somewhere on the page. This will help ensure that it is an official government website. If it cannot be found, customers should leave the site immediately.
- Always read the fine print and look for key phrases such as "for-profit" or privately owned" at the top or bottom of the third-party websites which may note that they are not affiliated with the Commonwealth.
- The Registry will never charge a customer to check the status of a license, registration, or title. If the site requires payment to access this information, it is an unsecured mimic site.
- At Mass.Gov/RMV, a customer will never be charged to access Registry forms and information, but unofficial third-party sites may charge for this service. Their information is also not guaranteed to be accurate.
- The Registry never charges for address changes. If a customer uses a mimic site, the change cannot be guaranteed to have actually gone through.
Westborough COVID-19 Community Fund
The Westborough COVID-19 Community Fund is a terrific way to support residents who are disproportionately impacted by the outbreak, including frontline and essential workers, seniors or people experiencing food insecurity, disabilities, or housing instability. Created through the recommendation of Westborough's COVID-19 Task Force, the fund will support local nonprofit organizations and community members. The effort is administered by the Rotary Club of Westborough. Learn more and donate
Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services:
We are very fortunate to have
Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, a private, non-profit counseling and social services agency that provides a diverse offering of programs and services that help to strengthen and support youth and families. No one who needs help is turned away, regardless of ability to pay. If you need help, you can reach them at 508-845-6932 or
, or learn more here.
SYFS, like so many other non-profits, has been financially decimated by the pandemic. A significant portion of SYFS revenue is generated from generous donations and sponsorships. The annual gala, the largest fundraiser to support their work, had to be canceled this coming May. Please learn more by
watching the brief video here
and join me in donating to SYFS to help them survive in this critical time of crisis.
Local Food Pantries
: St. Anne's Human Services and the Westborough Food Pantry continue to request the donation of grocery store gift cards that they can provide local residents who need supplemental food assistance.
You can drop off gift cards in the Rectory Mailbox at St. Anne's or mail them to 130 Boston Turnpike Road, Shrewsbury, MA 01545 and you can mail the Westborough Food Pantry at PO Box 502, Westborough, MA 01581 or drop them off gift cards at the Westborough Town Clerk's office at Town Hall.
Reliable Information Sources
For the most up to date case counts in the US and for general information regarding best practices during this crisis, please visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website
News alert text service:
Text COVIDMA to 888-777 to receive updates on the state's coronavirus response. Once you register, and public health officials will be able to send short messages and links to information directly to your cell phone.
They will not overload you with messages. The average so far has been a few texts a day.
husetts residents are urged to use 2-1-1 for information, resources, and referrals regarding COVID-19. Once you choose a language, dial 26 to access the COVID-19 information line. Other dial in options provide information and referrals about critical resources and needs. Operators staff the hotline 24/7 and translators are available in multiple languages. You can also visit the MA 2-1-1 webpage here
Both Shrewsbury and Westborough are providing regular updates on their websites and FB pages.
Contacting my Office
As a reminder, the State House itself is closed to the public and my Legislative Aide Anna Darrow and I are working remotely. We are fully accessible via email and we are constantly checking our office voicemail. You can reach our office number at
, my cell number is
, and my email is
. Anna's email is
and her cell number is
While this email is not exhaustive of all that the Commonwealth is undertaking to battle COVID-19, I hope that the information is relevant and helpful. My prior weekly emails can be found on my website,
in the "Updates from Hannah" section and I will continue to post regular updates each day on my State Representative Facebook page. I remain grateful to all workers who go to work each day to help us through our time of crisis. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if I can be of assistance.
11th Worcester District
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