COVID-19

COVID-19 Overview

COVID-19 is a new respiratory disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

Symptoms of this infection may appear 2-14 days after exposure and include:

  • Fever, chills or shaking chills
  • Signs of a lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, lowered oxygen saturation)
  • Fatigue, sore throat, headache, body aches/myalgia, or new loss of sense of taste or smell
  • Other less common symptoms can include gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), rash, and inflammatory conditions such as “COVID toes”.
  • In elderly, chronically ill, or debilitated individuals such as residents of a long-term care facility, symptoms of COVID-19 may be subtle such as alterations in mental status or in blood glucose control

However, it’s possible for people with COVID-​19 to spread the virus to others up to 48 hours before they have symptoms. Visit the CDC’s resource on symptoms for more information.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, please contact your healthcare provider and a test site near you to schedule a test. You can also check your symptoms online.

You can also call 2-1-1 to learn more about:

  • COVID-19 prevention, symptoms, and treatment
  • Information about testing
  • Guidance for people planning or returning from travel

Call your healthcare professional if you develop symptoms, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19. See DPH’s travel information related to COVID-19.

 

Tips For Prevention

The MA DPH, CDC, and other federal, state, and local agencies are leading a comprehensive response to COVID-19.  Here are some things that each of us can and should do to keep ourselves and those around us safe and healthy:

  • Wash your hands, often
  • Avoid close contact with other people
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces, often
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth

In addition, the Administration has released guidelines on preventing community spread, which include:

  • Limiting gathering sizes to below 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors
  • Wearing a face covering whenever you leave your house
  • Remaining 6 feet away from others at all times

 

Stay Informed

Visit your town websites to learn the most recent information, local services, and guidance from our municipal officials.  

State Resources

Federal Resources

 

Health Services

Information

Insurance Coverage

  • Massachusetts health insurers are required to cover the cost of testing and treatment for members who may be affected by COVID-19, including not charging copays or deductibles for those services.
  • The Massachusetts Health Connector has options for enrollment outside of the Open Enrollment period.
  • MassHealth announced new policies to expand telehealth coverage, allow 90-day and early refills of prescriptions, make billing for COVID-19 tests easier for providers, and remind providers that there are no copays for lab tests, and pharmacies that they cannot deny medications if a member cannot pay.
  • Attorney General Health Care Helpline: (888) 830-6277

 

Transportation

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)

  • Service changes have been made across modes to match reduced demand and help prevent the spread of COVID-19:
    • Bus and Silver Line: Effective August 30, 2020, most bus routes will run on a regular schedule, similar to (or better than) pre-COVID service. Check your route’s schedule page to determine if your line has increased service.
    • Subway: Regular weekday and weekend services have returned to all lines.
    • Commuter Rail: Modified weekday services and regular weekend services have returned to all lines.
    • Ferry: Reduced weekday services for Hingham/Hull and regular weekday services for Charlestown. No service on weekends.
    • The RIDE: All trips must be booked 1 – 3 days in advance. The RIDE will make every effort to eliminate transfer trips to reduce customer interaction with multiple drivers. Shared trips have been eliminated. RIDE customers can still bring a personal care attendant or guest on their trip. To cancel or reschedule your trip, call The Ride Access Center (TRAC). Please inform our office of any issues you might as a result of the operating system overhaul which occurred on August 15th.
  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting is happening system-wide, with vehicles being cleaned daily and high-contact surfaces being cleaned every 4 hours.

Registry of Motor Vehicles

 

Relief for Small Businesses and Employees

Small Business Resources 

Unemployment Assistance

  • The week-long waiting period for unemployment benefits has been waived.
  • Eligibility for unemployment assistance has also been expanded for those whose jobs have been impacted by COVID-19. Read the details here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-covid-19-unemployment-information
  • Use this tool to see if you should be applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or regular Unemployment Insurance (UI).
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
    • The FPUC program provided an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular Unemployment Compensation (UC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Extended Benefits (EB), Trade Readjustment Act (TRA), and Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DA).
    • The Department added the $600 to all eligible weeks of benefits retroactive to the week beginning March 29, 2020 -April 4th and continuing until July 31, 2020.
    • Those receiving PEUC, PUA, and EB will receive the additional $600 payments retroactive to March 29, 2020 as soon as their claims are processed and determined eligible.
  • Lost Wages Supplemental Payment Assistance (LWA)
    • Through FEMA funding, a grant to the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will fund an additional $300 weekly payment to those who are eligible for the three weeks ending 8/1/20, 8/8/20, and 8/15/20.
    • Eligible claimants currently receiving benefits do not need to take any action because the Commonwealth will automatically add LWA to their weekly benefit payment retroactive to the dates they are eligible.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
    • PUA provides up to 46 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are not working as a result of COVID-19 and are self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and others who otherwise would not qualify for regular UC or EB under state or federal law or PEUC. These individuals are not able to claim benefits directly through the UI Online System in Massachusetts.
    • Eligible claimants under PUA will be retroactively compensated with this benefit from January 27, 2020, or the date when of unemployment, whichever is more recent, as long as the recipient became unable to work because of a COVID-19 related reason. The last week this benefit is payable is the week ending December 26, 2020.
    • Individuals should visit https://ui-cares-act.mass.gov/PUA/_/ to apply.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
    • The PEUC program provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have exhausted their previous unemployment benefits. The first week a claimant can be compensated on this benefit is the week beginning March 29, 2020, and the last payable week is the week ending December 26, 2020.
    • Individuals who have exhausted their UI benefits after July 5, 2019 may receive PEUC by successfully applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
  • If you have any concerns about earned sick time, paid leave, or your rights regarding COVID-19, call the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Hotline (M-F 10am – 4pm) at 617-727-3465

 

Consumer Protections

Utilities

  • The DPU has issued a moratorium on electric and gas shut-offs by all private and public utility companies until the end of the declared state of emergency.
  • National Grid will continue emergency response, electricity and gas service, customer-requested service, regular billing, and payment assistance, while pausing collections activities and disconnections, non-essential planned electric outages, non-essential electric and gas-related services, and energy efficiency on-premise services. Get the latest updates from https://www.nationalgridus.com/COVID-19

Student Loans

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

The following bills have been passed by the legislature in the response to COVID-19:

  • H.4561, An Act making $15 million in Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2020 to Provide for Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations Relating to the Coronavirus
    • Appropriated $15 million to the state’s COVID-19 response
  • H.4647, An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency
    • Stops landlords from sending Notices to Quit
    • Stops courts from hearing eviction cases or entering judgements
    • Stops sheriffs from enforcing executions for possession
    • Stops late fees and negative reporting for COVID-impacted tenants
    • Moratorium on residential foreclosures
    • Forbearance program for mortgagors impacted by COVID
    • Gives landlords access to last month’s rent to cover expenses
    • Moratorium on evictions for small businesses
  • H.4598, An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19
    • Included basic provisions for the operations of municipal government (permission to delay town meeting and budget approvals, allowing public employees to come out of retirement for the COVID-19 response, tolling constructive deadlines, etc).
    • Delayed tax day to July 15
    • Authorized remote shareholder and board meetings for public and non-profit corporations
    • Authorized the sale of alcohol with food deliveries
  • H.4616, An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities, School Districts and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19
    • Delayed MBTA Budget Deadline
    • Unlocked funding for emergency housing, and suspended requirements for in-person interactions related to the MRVP and RAFT housing programs
    • Prohibited municipalities from terminating essential services (utilities, trash collection, etc) for residents because of non-payment due to COVID-19
    • Gave flexibility to DESE to make the decision to cancel MCAS, and to modify or waive “competency determinations”
  • S.2608, An Act Granting Authority to Postpone 2020 Municipal Elections in the Commonwealth and Increase Voting Options in Response to the Declaration of Emergency to Respond to COVID-19
    • Authorized local bodies to postpone municipal caucuses and elections
    • Made provisions for the implementation of postponed elections, including early voting by mail
  • S.2599, An Act Authorizing Waiver of the One Week Waiting Period for Unemployment Benefits
    • Waived the one week waiting period for release of unemployment benefits

Other Priorities