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, or have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, 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

COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. There is widespread community level transmission in Massachusetts and travel history is no longer a significant risk factor. For more information on travel, see the CDC-issued Travel Health Notices, as well as 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:

  • Keeping social interactions outside
  • Limiting gathering sizes to below 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors
  • Wearing a mask whenever you leave your house
  • Remaining 6 feet away from others at all times
  • Ensuring good ventilation
  • Staying home as much as possible – see www.mass.gov/SaferAtHome for more details

COVID-19 Testing Information

You should get a test for COVID-19 if:

  • You develop any symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, or
  • You are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

If you are a resident of a community at higher risk for COVID-19 spread, you are encouraged to get a COVID-19 test even if you have no symptoms. See a list of communities and learn more at www.mass.gov/StopTheSpread.

Visit Find a COVID-19 Test to search for a testing site near you.

Many sites may require pre-screening, a referral and/or an appointment. Please contact the site prior to arrival.

Learn about the free drive-through Express COVID-19 Testing Sites in Massachusetts.

COVID-19 testing for symptomatic individuals and close contacts is usually covered by insurance and available at no cost to you.Additionally, many test sites in the Commonwealth test uninsured individuals for free. If you are uninsured, please call your local test site to confirm before making an appointment.

COVID-19 Vaccination Information

Massachusetts has begun vaccinating residents of the state. This is an ongoing and constantly evolving process as the Administration updates eligibility, locations, and more. Stay informed using the Administration’s website: https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine.

The Administration has outlined three phases for vaccine eligibility. Phase I ran from December to February, Phase II will run from February to April, and Phase III is slated to begin in April. More information on the phases can be found here.

Across the Commonwealth, the Administration has stood up a number of vaccination sites. Find the closest one to you and schedule an appointment when eligible here.

If you are unable to access the website due to technological difficulties, you can call 2-1-1 to set up an appointment by phone.

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:  Changes effective March 14th. Variable changes across routes. Check your route’s schedule page to determine if your line has altered service levels.
    • SubwayChanges effective March 14th. We will not be changing hours of operation or eliminating/consolidating any routes. Around 20% frequency reduction to Green LineOrange Line, and Red Line service. Up to 5% frequency reduction to Blue Line service.
    • Commuter Rail: Changes effective April 5th. Modified weekday services on all lines. No weekend service on the Fitchburg, Franklin, Greenbush, Haverhill, Kingston/Plymouth, Lowell, and Needham Lines.
    • Ferry: Changes effective January 23. Weekday Hingham/Hull service is operating with reduced frequency. Direct Charlestown (F4) and Hingham (F1) ferry service is temporarily suspended. No service on weekends.
    • The RIDE: Changes effective March 14th. All trips must be booked 1 – 3 days in advance. RIDE trips will be scheduled 40 minutes from request time instead of the current 30 minutes. 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).
  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting is happening system-wide, with vehicles being cleaned daily and high-contact surfaces being cleaned every 4 hours.
  • As part of the Forging Ahead initiative, the MBTA released more extensive, system-wide reductions rolling out over the course of spring 2021. Find more information on changing service levels and how to submit feedback here.

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).
  • Unemployment Insurance (UI)
    • Unemployment Insurance (UI) is the traditional unemployment benefits program for people who work for an employer and have earned at least $5,100 in the past year.
    • It provides up to 39 weeks of assistance in a benefit year.
    • Learn more and apply here: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-unemployment-benefits.
  • 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 of becoming unemployed, whichever is more recent, as long as the recipient became unable to work because of a COVID-19 related reason.
    • 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. For most claimants, the last payable week of PEUC is the week ending 3/13/2021.
    • There is a phase-out period for claimants who are receiving PEUC benefits during the week ending 3/13/2021, and who have weeks remaining. Those claimants can collect PEUC through the week ending 4/10/2021.
  • Extended Benefits (EB)
    • If you have exhausted all rights to regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and exhausted PEUC benefits, eligible UI claimants will see an application for Extended Benefits in their UI Online account. Federal Unemployment Extended Benefits (EB) are available for up to 20 weeks for certain eligible UI claimants.
  • 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
  • S.2984, An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first
    • Requires insurance companies to cover the costs of telehealth services in lieu of in-person services
    • Requires behavioral health services via telehealth be charged at the same rate as in-person
    • Provides various other modernization updates to health care in the Commonwealth

Other Priorities