COVID-19 Crisis in Massachusetts

State Rep. Kate Hogan, 3rd Middlesex District
Bolton Hudson Maynard Stow
Dear Friends,

I hope that you - and those you care about - are healthy and safe. As Secretary Sudders said last week of the COVID-19 surge in our state, "This is just the eye of the storm." It is of utmost importance that Massachusetts residents continue to stay home, wear masks when in public, practice social distancing, wash hands, and if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, stay at home and contact telehealth through www.buoy.com.

Today 1,556 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Massachusetts, which marks five consecutive days of a decrease in the number of confirmed cases. While we don’t have evidence that the outbreak is receding yet, this could indicate that the COVID-19 surge may be peaking and that our state’s hospital system will not be overwhelmed. We’ll continue our efforts to mitigate and contain the spread of COVID-19, with increased testing across the Commonwealth and by supporting our medical professionals and citizens fighting the disease.

Following is an update with details on our efforts, including details on the recent availability of unemployment insurance for self-employed workers and new legislation to ban evictions.

We’ll continue to get through this together and our office is here to help. If you have questions or need assistance, please contact us at  kate.hogan@mahouse.gov  or 617-722-2199.  This email and phone number are the most efficient ways to contact us right now and the best way to ensure a prompt response to your inquiry.  I also post updates daily on Facebook.

Kate Hogan
State Representative
Third Middlesex District
(617) 722-2199
As of April 21, there are 41,199 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported 1,961 deaths from COVID-19.   More than 17,605 people have been quarantined and 9,487 are currently undergoing monitoring/quarantined. 175,372 Massachusetts residents have been tested for COVID-19 by the State Public Health Laboratory, hospitals and commercial laboratories. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health  shares updated numbers on its website  each day.

School Closings Governor Baker announced today that all K-12 public and private schools will remain closed for the duration of this school year and non-emergency daycare will remain closed through June 29. The administration is also offering 90-days of free skilled in-home care to families of essential workers and families with children who have special needs. Additional support includes resources and activities from WGBH for parents with young children, online STEM education resources for students and teachers, and a four-month deferment for repayments of Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) no-interest loans.

Unemployment Assistance Available for Self-Employed Workers The Federal CARES Act announced unemployment benefits for self-employed, gig economy, and those with limited work history and Massachusetts is one of the first states to begin distributing those benefits. Residents who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits can now apply online for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The new federal PUA program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to those who are unable to work because of a COVID-19-related reason, but are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits. Applicants can learn more and apply at www.mass.gov/pua .

No evictions during pandemic The legislature passed, and Governor Baker signed, a bill prohibiting landlords to file most eviction notices during the coronavirus crisis. The bill blocks all eviction and foreclosure proceedings in the state , unless the health or safety of other tenants is at risk, for the next four months or until 45 days after the coronavirus state of emergency is lifted. It also protects homeowners from being foreclosed upon and keeps many small businesses from being evicted from their storefronts if they’re unable to pay rent.

Legal Protections for Health Care Workers, Facilities, and Organizations Responding to COVID-19 The legislature passed, and Governor Baker signed, a bill to shield those providing critical health care services from legal liability for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. Under the legislation, health care professionals, facilities and volunteer organizations assisting in the state’s efforts to respond and treat COVID-19 would be protected from suit and civil liability for alleged damages related to the virus. Health care facilities and professionals would still be subject to consumer complaints brought by the Attorney General and protections would not extend to acts of negligence, recklessness, or intent to harm or acts of discrimination.  These protections would apply retroactively to March 10, 2020, and remain in effect for the duration of the State of Emergency.

PPE Update Massachusetts continues to make every effort to secure supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) to support front line workers. To date, 1,935,010 pieces of PPE (respirators, masks, gowns and gloves) have been delivered. This summary and chart show the distribution breakdown by entity and region and will be updated regularly: https://www.mass.gov/doc/ppe-distribution-summary-april-12-2020/download  If you or your organization would like to easily donate or sell personal protective equipment (PPE) that can be used by Massachusetts health care workers, please go to the online portal. Manufacturers interested in producing needed PPE and materials are encouraged to visit this site for more information.

Health Connector Updates In response to the impacts of the coronavirus, the MA Health Connector has announced some changes:
  • A Special Enrollment Period for anyone who does not currently have health insurance coverage, or has experienced changes in circumstances, to enroll in health insurance
  • Opportunity to update online applications to reflect changes in circumstance, such as job loss, reduced hours, or other reduced income as these changes may result in a lower monthly premium or new eligibility for financial subsidies
  • The Health Connector has paused terminations or reduction of subsidies that would otherwise result from members not responding to requests for information.
  • Ensuring coverage for COVID-19 related care All plans issued through the Health Connector are required to cover services for telemedicine and reduced cost-sharing for testing and treatment related to COVID-19.
  • Important Dates New members must submit their applications by the 23rd of the month for coverage on the first day of the following month
New and existing members are encouraged to update their accounts online https://www.mahealthconnector.org/ or call customer service for assistance 1-877-MA-ENROLL(1-877-623-6765) More information is available at www.mahealthconnector.org/covid-19  

MA Responds needs volunteers of all skill levels and backgrounds from both medical and non-medical professions. If you are a licensed or certified health care provider, a public health professional, a retiree, or are an individual with an interest in helping the community, they invite you to complete the secure, online registration process.