May 7 Coronavirus Update
Dear Neighbor,
The MA COVID Team is Calling
The MA COVID Team is Calling

As we prepare for the eventual reopening of the economy and the relaxation of some of the current public health restrictions, it will be important to focus on  testing and contact tracing.

Federal guidance and public health best practice requires robust testing and contact tracing frameworks to be in place before large scale reopening can occur. Public and private stakeholders across the Commonwealth are working essentially around the clock to ramp up our capacity for both testing and contact tracing. 

Massachusetts has already conducted over 350,000 tests and currently processes over 10,000 tests a day. Long-term plans include expanding capacity to test hundreds of thousands more in weeks to come. Contact tracers are also following up with individuals who have been in contact with a known infected person. If "MA COVID Team" appears on your caller ID, please answer the call. More information on testing can be found in today's Q&A, and I've included an update on the state's contact tracing operation in today's news updates below.

To receive this newsletter in your inbox,  sign up here . Past issues and additional resources can be found at*  You can also check  my Facebook page  for more up-to-the-minute updates and communications. Overall, the state  Dept. of Public Health website  is the best source of accurate and up-to-date information and contains a wide-range of information and a likely source of answers to many of your questions.  

While the State House is closed to the public, my office continues to operate remotely. The best way to reach me or my staff at this busy time is via email at We are also available by phone if necessary at 617-722-2680. 
Frequently Asked Questions
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the questions evolve with it. Most recently, I've begun receiving questions about how and when the state will begin to return to "normal" and related issues. While the level of uncertainty makes it difficult to answer many of your questions directly, I hope the following Q & A will provide some context to help anticipate what may come next. 

Why is testing such an important part of our response?
The Governor has established a multi-stakeholder Advisory Group to plan for when and how to re-open the economy. A plan is expected by May 18, and the Group is anticipated to recommend a very gradual reopening process.
A key element of an overall plan is expected to be the establishment of a robust testing network to ensure that those who are infected can be quickly and accurately tested, diagnosed, and, if necessary, quarantined. A contact tracing plan goes hand in hand with a testing plan, because it identifies and contacts anyone who has been in proximity to an infected person and ensures they are also prevented from spreading the virus. If "MA COVID Team" appears on your caller ID, please answer the call. The caller may be informing you that you have been in contact with a COVID positive person, and will offer guidance for how to get tested. The hope is that the combination of testing and contact tracing, once widely adopted, will keep the virus closely contained so that the population at large can begin to return to normalcy.  
Testing is particularly important since we know that a large number of people who have the virus do not show symptoms, but they are still able to transmit the virus to others. Some estimates have put this number of asymptomatic people between 25-50% of the population, although this number is still speculative. A re-opening strategy is reliant on the ability to test widely so that these asymptomatic carriers can be identified and prevented from spreading the infection. This is also why it's important for everyone to wear a mask. Masks make it more difficult for an asymptomatic person to unknowingly infect others. 
Massachusetts has ramped up testing capacity, including expanding the use of private laboratories, but we know that testing supplies and capacity are still lacking. This is due in large part to lack of manufacturing production capacity as well as competition for supplies due to high global demand. Also, states like Massachusetts with high infection rates are disproportionately struggling to meet high demand for testing. As a result, states like Massachusetts have had to prioritize limited supplies, directing them to first responders, high risk populations, and those in infection hot spots. The manufacturing of testing supplies is ramping up, but until supplies are readily available or a vaccine developed, large scale reopening could pose significant risks to life and public health.
Because large scale testing is so fundamental to a re-opening strategy, Governors and experts all over the country have been urging the federal government to play a stronger role in ensuring access to safe and accurate testing and in the development of more detailed national testing guidance. 
More information about the Commonwealth's testing and contact tracing efforts can be found online.
What about "antibody tests"?
You may be reading in the news about the role that antibody tests will play in our pandemic response. In short, these tests detect the presence of "antibodies" in the blood which are proteins that result from our immune system responding to an infection. If accurate, these tests tell us who has had the virus in the past, even if the virus is no longer present in their system.
There are two relevant questions relative to antibody tests: 1) Are they accurate? There are emerging concerns that there is wide variation in test accuracy. The FDA is working to gather data  on test accuracy and to approve more antibody tests for widespread use. 2) If the presence of antibodies is detected in your blood, are you immune? With most viruses, having antibodies means that you are immune to getting the same virus for some period of time. However we don't know if this is true for COVID-19 since the virus is so new. There isn't yet enough information to confirm whether immunity is conferred and if it is, how long it lasts.  
If accurate antibody tests can be developed, and we can confirm that immunity is conferred for some period of time, this will help enable re-opening effort until a vaccine can be developed.

Mass General Hospital recently published a useful overview of antibody tests and their role in COVID-19 response on their website.
New Updates
Below is a summary of the most recent efforts to respond to the wide range of needs in our communities.  For a summary of previously issued guidance and state restrictions related to the coronavirus epidemic, visit . For previous updates visit
Coronavirus Testing and Response
Source: Department of Public Health data
  • There are 73,721 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 1,696 new cases and 4,552 deaths as of today at 4pm. 
  • Overall, over 351,000 tests have been conducted by public and private sources. 14of the 11,993 tests reported today were positive.
  • 3,436 individuals are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, a decrease of 126 from yesterday.
  • The Department of Public Health has regularly released a daily reporting dashboard containing detailed information on hospitalizations, demographic data, and county-by-county breakdowns of cases. To view the DPH dashboard, visit here.
Health Care
  • Hospital Capacity: As of 5/7, 51% of the Commonwealth's 18,000 permanent and temporary hospital beds are available for new patients if needed. In the MetroWest region, 36% of the region's 2,500 beds are available for new patients.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: PPE distribution continues across the Commonwealth, with over 1,450,000 pieces of PPE distributed in the MetroWest region, including 297,000 N95/KN95 masks and 136 ventilators.
  • Mobile testing: The MA National Guard mobile testing unit continues to visit and conduct test at the Commonwealth's long-term care facilities, having made 588 visits and conducted 33,416 tests as of 5/7.
  • Massachusetts's Contact Tracing Collaborative is now staffed with 1,600 employees with a capacity of roughly 10,000 calls a day, and staff have already contacted 14,000 individuals to conduct contact tracing efforts. The collaborative is tasked with reaching out to all individuals who have been in prolonged close contact (which experts define as more than 15 minutes) with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.
    • Currently, fewer than half of the calls made by the collaborative are being answered. All individuals are encouraged to answer the call if they are contacted by the contact tracing team to help protect theirs and their neighbors health and safety. The phone calls should come from an 833 or 857 phone number and the caller ID should display "MA COVID Team."
    • Fortunately, the median number of individuals who need contact due to interaction with a COVID-19 positive person remains around 2, which is a promising indicator that social distancing and stay-at-home advisories are working to contain the spread.

Economy and Workforce

  • In recognition of the changing dynamics of the economy, business operations, and the possibility of some employees returning to work, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development has released guidance and frequently asked questions for employers and employees.
Public Safety
  • The state Department of Corrections has released an update on its COVID-19 response, including information on protocols for staff and inmate testing, visitation policies, and personal protective equipment. More information, including a detailed Q&A, can be found here.
  • The Middlesex County Sheriff's Office also maintains a page dedicated to COVID-19 updates, including inmate and staff testing and positive case reports. Sheriff Koutoujian, in conjunction with the Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan, has worked with stakeholders to reduce the incarcerated population in the county jail and house of correction by 25%, and the incarcerated population under the sheriff's jurisdiction is now under 600 individuals.
  • The Registry of Motor Vehicles is cautioning customers to use only https://Mass.Gov/RMV when they are trying to renew a license or registration or process any business transactions online.  There have been reports in an increase in unofficial third-party websites or "mimic sites" that advertise similar services but have no affiliation with the RMV, which may be dangerous to provide personal information to. Please ensure that you are only using sites when conducting business through the RMV.
Legislative Update
  • Today, the Senate passed legislation passed by the House earlier this week to allow for temporary borrowing to cover revenues delayed by the income tax filing deadline extension. The bill will now be enacted by both chambers and sent to the Governor for his signature.
 Additional Items
  • Effective today, golf courses in Massachusetts are permitted to partially reopen in compliance with safety guidelines. MassGolf has released detailed reopening guidance in conjunction with the administration, which has updated its essential services FAQ to include information on golf course safety and protocols.
Local Resources
All of our towns now have centralized COVID-19 resource page with resources , updates, and alerts regarding town services.

The Department of Public Health also releases weekly reports on town-by-town COVID-19 case numbers and rates, which can be found online here.

Resources for Residents Experiencing Job Loss or Loss of Income

COVID-19 is causing broad disruption to the economy which is affecting incomes of many residents and families.  There are a number of state resources and supports available to support workers who may find themselves unemployed or otherwise income-constrained during this uncertain time. 

Guide for job/income loss resources:

Department of Transitional Assistance

How You Can Help

Holliston Youth and Family Services requests your support of the  Community Action Fund , which provides emergency assistance to those affected by COVID-19. Learn more or donate here.

The Westborough Rotary Club has launched a COVID-19 Community Relief Fund to provide assistance to those affected by COVID-19. Learn more or donate here.

The American Red Cross is asking for blood donations, the need for which is significant due to blood drive cancellations.The need is dire due to the cancellation of hundreds of blood drives. People can donate at the Worcester American Red Cross Donor Center, 381 Plantation St. Worcester or call 1-800-RED CROSS. Some local donor sites, including the Natick Senior Center, are available for appointments as well.

Information on our local food pantries can be found below. The most pressing need right now is  cash donations to ensure that food dropoff and delivery do not inadvertently contribute to the spread of the virus.

Current Statewide Advisories
Stay at Home: Due to evolving spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, Governor Baker has directed the Department of Public Health to issue a stay at home advisoryResidents are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary activities until  May 18th. Residents over 70 years of age or with underlying health conditions, who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19, should limit social interactions with other people unless absolutely necessary. 

Face Covering: To maintain behaviors that limit the spread of COVID-19 and to prepare for the precautions necessary once the state begins to reopen, Governor Baker has issued an advisory requiring masks or cloth face coverings in public indoor and outdoor spaces in situations where social distancing is not possible. The full advisory and detailed guidance can be found online.

A list of all executive orders in place during the Commonwealth's COVID-19 state of emergency can be found here.
*NOTE:  The email software client that we use to send these emails provides "click tracking" by default. We do not review this data or use tracking for any purpose, but we wanted to make all our readers aware as some have raised privacy concerns.
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Contact My Office
State House Room 127
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: (617) 722-2680
Email: Carolyn.Dykema@MAHouse.Gov