COVID-19 – Massachusetts State Government Update 3-28-2020

March 28, 2020

UPDATED SBA Assistance and Relief Post

Leave Provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

  • Governor Charlie Baker on Friday said anyone arriving to the state through an airport or train station will be advised to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • The new guidance from Governor Baker follows a recommendation from the White House coronavirus task force on Tuesday that anyone who has left New York or who has passed through New York City on their way somewhere else self-quarantine for two weeks.
  • Governor Baker said anyone traveling through Logan International Airport, Worcester Airport, South Station or one of the state’s other transit hubs will be given fliers requesting that they self-quarantine for 14 days. The state will also be putting messages on electronic highway billboards along the Turnpike and putting notices at visitor centers advising travelers to self-isolate.
  • Governor Baker on Friday also shot down President Donald Trump’s suggestion that he would like to see the economy of the United States reopen for business by Easter Sunday, which arrives in two weeks on April 12.
  • Yeah, no. We’re not going to be up and running by Easter. No,” the governor said to end his daily briefing.
  • The contradiction of the president by Governor Baker was just the latest expression of frustration from the governor with the federal government’s coronavirus response, which included an op-ed by Baker, a Republican, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, published in the New York Times pleading for more support.
  • EOHHS Secretary Marylou Sudders said the Trump administration had come through with approvals for some of the state’s Medicaid waiver requests to “fast-track MassHealth enrollments,” enroll out-of-state providers, and to allow providers to be reimbursed for care delivered in alternative settings like tents or congregate care facilities. More approvals from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to ease restrictions on the delivery of care are expected by the end of the day.
  • It was announced on Friday evening that Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The Baker administration announced that he had reached agreement with Democratic leaders in the Legislature to postpone the income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15, consistent with a step taken by the Internal Revenue Service last week for federal tax returns.
  • Governor Baker also announced a new partnership between the state and Buoy Health, a Massachusetts-based e-health company that utilizes artificial intelligence to match people with the health services they need.
  • The online tool will be available for free to Massachusetts residents at buoy.com/mass where residents can complete a risk assessment interview to screen for symptoms of COVID-19 based on Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control guidance, and be connected with the appropriate medical care.
  • To continue to meet the demand for clinical care, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said a public health order had been issued expanding the scope of practice for 13,642 advanced practice nurses to allow many with more than two years’ experience to write prescriptions without doctor supervision.
  • The order is similar to legislation passed by the Senate Thursday to address the shortage of health care workers by giving nurses more latitude to practice outside the supervision of an overseeing physician. The legislation is now pending in the House.
  • Secretary Sudders also formally announced an agreement between the state and deans of various medical schools in Massachusetts to allow the early graduation of qualified fourth-year students from schools like Boston University School of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.
  • Those students entering internships, residencies and fellowships at board-certified health facilities in Massachusetts will be given emergency 90-day licenses to begin practicing medicine immediately before those programs begin this summer.
  • The need for workers is particularly acute in the respiratory therapy and public health nursing fields and the state has launched a portal to be coordinated by the Massachusetts Medical Society for volunteers with professional health backgrounds to sign up and be matched where their expertise can be used.  Potential volunteers can sign up at www.maresponds.org.
  • On Friday, the House sent borrowing legislation associated with delaying the income tax filing deadline to the House Ways & Means Committee.
  • The House also advanced a H4598, combining two of the Governor’s proposals.
  • The legislation would give towns options to postpone town meetings or conduct them with smaller attendance to approve interim budgets.
  • It also allows restaurants to sell beer and wine to go with food orders, but the House added language requiring orders to be placed before midnight.
  • The bill does not include language to allow state authorities the ability to modify or waive annual MCAS requirements.
  • The legislation is now on its way to the Senate.
  • The House and Senate are scheduled meet on Monday at 11am in informal session.
  • Sessions continue to be live streamed.
  • As of Friday night, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts has climbed to 3,240, with 288 hospitalizations and 35 deaths attributed to the disease.

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