Data Update
New COVID-19 Cases in Western MA Fairly Steady Since Early June

As COVID-19 surges in some parts of the county, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) reports the rate of people testing positive for COVID-19 and the number of people with COVID-19 in hospitals is trending in the right direction. MDPH’s COVID-19 Dashboard also shows a decrease in COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations, the percentage of people testing positive, and the number of hospitals using surge capacity since April 15th.

Like the state overall, Western MA has experienced a decrease in new COVID-19 cases since April. The number of new COVID-19 cases each week has remained fairly steady since the beginning of June, with less than 200 new cases each week. The graph below shows the number of new COVID-19 cases each week in Western MA as well as milestones for the reopening of MA .
As stated in previous newsletters, caution should be exercised when interpreting COVID-19 data. For example, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is dependent upon who is tested and not necessarily reflective of the distribution of COVID-19 in the general population. Testing has been limited thus far. Because many people who have the disease are asymptomatic and have not been tested, prevalence of people testing positive is unlikely to reflect the prevalence in communities. As testing and contact tracing increase, we will have a better understanding of impacts on communities and populations, and more targeted actions can take place to mitigate spread and support those who are disproportionately impacted.

Check out our data archive to learn more.
Advocacy and Education
Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures Extended
On Tuesday 7/21, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that they will be extending the Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures to October 17th . The Moratorium, which was enacted in April, was set to expire on August 18th. While the law temporarily suspends most evictions, it does not relieve tenants or homeowners of their obligation to pay rent or make mortgage payments. Check out the press release .
Senate Passes Transportation Bill
Last week the Senate passed S.2813 to authorize borrowing up to around $17 billion over several years for capital projects (i.e. not operating expenses). Of the $17 billion, $330 million would be for regional transit authorities (RTAs). It also includes language allowing RTAs to consider zero/low fare options.   Learn more here.
Resources
Don't Forget to Use Your P-EBT Funds
The Pandemic - Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) Program provides additional money for families to buy food while schools are closed due to COVID-19. Families with children who receive free or reduced-price school meals under the National School Lunch Program will receive P-EBT funds.

Additional funds were issued in late June. If you have SNAP benefits , the funds should have been loaded on your existing EBT card.  If you do NOT have SNAP , you should have received a letter from the Department of Transitional Assistance starting in late May and then a separate mailing containing the P-EBT card (one per eligible child).   

If you did not receive your P-EBT card or the second issuance, visit www.MAp-EBT.org .
Tobacco Cessation During COVID
Quitting smoking is hard, let alone during the midst of a pandemic. COVID-19 has many people feeling stressed, alone, or worried about their health. It’s a lot to deal with if you’re trying to stop smoking or stay smokefree, but not smoking (or using any tobacco products) is one of the best ways to protect and improve your health.  

Smokefree.gov recently launched a new page about quitting smoking during the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides information on how to quit or remain abstinent and links visitors with quitting tools and live counselors for quitting help.
Mental Health Resources

Find local resources for you and your family on mental health and more.
Upcoming Events & Virtual Learning
Learn and engage from the comfort of your home. Check out these upcoming events:
  • Hablar Salva Vidas Virtual Training, July 28th and July 30th: This 60-minute training, conducted in Spanish, addresses the common risk factors and warning signs associated with suicide and educates us on how to keep ourselves and others safe. Learn more and register here.

  • Including Older Adults & People with Disabilities in Transportation Planning, July 23rd: This webinar will feature three initiatives that are involving consumers in community transportation planning efforts: Live Well Springfield, the Transportation Advocacy Coalition in Worcester, and the Greater Portland Council of Governments. Attendees will learn concrete strategies and lessons learned from each of these efforts. Learn more and register here.