COVID-19 Massachusetts State House Update 3-21-20

March 21, 2020

  • Yesterday Massachusetts reported its first COVID-19 related death.
  • Data released Friday showed 418 cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, 85 more than the previous day’s tally. Hospitalizations also climbed, from 43 to 58.  A total of 3,132 Massachusetts residents have been tested for the virus.
  • Governor Baker again reiterated that he is not planning to impose a mandatory shelter-in-place order, saying his decision was based on the guidance of medical and public health officials and that particulars vary from state to state.
  • Boston Mayor Marty Walsh also stated yesterday that the city will not impose a shelter-in-place order, but that it is being considered.
  • An emergency fund the state launched earlier in the week to support small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will receive another $10 million for a total of $20 million.
  • The Department of Revenue will waive late-file and late-pay penalties for returns and payments due from March 20 through May 31 for meals and room occupancy taxes.  That follows a postponement announced earlier this week for collection of sales, meals and room taxes would be postponed for small businesses.
  • A new order will also allow the Registry of Motor Vehicles to extend car vehicle registrations, to modify the conditions of registrations, plates and titles, and, with the Department of Environmental Protection, to waive certain inspection requirements. A separate order last week allowed the RMV to extend licenses, permits and IDs, and these additional steps mean people won’t need to make in-person trips to the registry.
  • Governor Baker activated the National Guard to support the state’s efforts in combating the virus.
  • The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, working with the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association and the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, has launched an “emergency supply hub” to coordinate efforts to bring extra resources to health care institutions, including protective equipment, testing and diagnostic supplies.
  • The groups are asking life sciences and health care organizations, including dentist offices and universities, to fill out a survey indicating what they can donate, and providers to send an email requesting what they need. The supply hub is not collecting the equipment, but is sharing its information with the Department of Public Health.
  • EOHHS Secretary Sudders said $200 million in accelerated payments and cash advances will be infused across MassHealth and safety net health care providers as a “stopgap measure” to help ensure the system can provide necessary care. She urged that people use telehealth instead of going to doctor’s offices to help conserve resources.
  • State officials plan to file a waiver request with the federal government seeking emergency flexibilities.  If approved, the waiver would allow fast-tracking of MassHealth enrollment and streamlining of administrative requirements for providers.
  • The waiver and other authorities the state is seeking will allow for non-traditional care sites to expand surge capacity, including the use of testing tests and overflow hospital sites.
  • Restaurants cannot serve food on-site and Governor Baker said he is not at this time considering allowing to-go alcohol service, as some states have done.
  • The state’s first large-scale, drive-through testing facility opened Thursday at a CVS in Shrewsbury, as a partnership between the pharmacy, the Baker administration, the federal government and local health authorities.
  • The House and Senate are both scheduled to have informal sessions on Monday at 11am. These sessions will be live streamed.

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