COVID-19 Massachusetts State House Update 4-23-20

April 23, 2020

  • As of Wednesday night, DPH reported a total of 42,944 cases.  The state has now confirmed a total of 2,182 deaths from the virus.
  • To increase the volume of testing, Baker announced a new partnership between the private lab Quest Diagnostics and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers focused on “areas of high need,” including densely populated urban areas.
  • Quest plans to send 2,200 tests per day to 12 community health centers with the capacity to increase testing, including centers in Quincy, Brockton, Lowell, Fall River, New Bedford, Worcester, Provincetown and multiple sites in Boston.
  • EOHHS Secretary Marylou Sudders said that for the half-a-million low-income students who will no longer be able to access free or reduced-price lunches at school the state had been approved by the USDA, along with three other states, to participate in a pilot program to send families a stipend to buy healthy foods.
  • While grocers and convenience stores remain open as “essential businesses,” Baker said the state was not ready to begin talking about opening other parts of the economy to consumers.
  • Once Massachusetts does get to that point, however, Baker said it’s likely that businesses will no longer be divided along essential and non-essential lines.
  • Instead, Baker said the state will likely develop a set of safety protocols to protect workers and consumers, and it will be up to businesses to figure out if they can adhere to those guideposts.
  • He predicted that “pretty forceful guidance” would govern permissible activities once the state reaches the other side of the COVID-19 curve.
  • In New Hampshire, Governor Sununu has put together a task force to help develop a plan to reopen Granite State businesses, and Baker said the only thing he can do is ask that Massachusetts not get caught off guard by what neighboring states do.
  • Governor Baker said he was on a conference call Tuesday with Maine Gov. Janet Mills, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo when this issue came up.
  • Governor Baker said he didn’t want to “speculate” on whether he would consider a travel ban if New Hampshire or another neighboring state reopened its businesses before Massachusetts. He also declined to predict how the virus would impact July 4 celebrations.
  • A conservative talk radio host sent out an email on Wednesday seeking to organize a protest outside Baker’s house in Swampscott on Thursday morning under the banner of “Liberate Massachusetts.”
  • The House and Senate will both meet tomorrow at 11am.
  • House lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill (H 4663) requiring daily reports on COVID-19 cases and deaths from long-term care and elder housing facilities.
  • Legislation empowering notaries public to conduct business by video conference, S.2645 is on the move in a House committee one day after the Senate approved it and could emerge for a vote in the House as soon as an 11 a.m. informal session scheduled Thursday. The text is attached.
  • Under the bill, notaries public in Massachusetts would be permitted to perform “an acknowledgement, affirmation or other notarial act” through real-time videoconference rather than an in-person transaction for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Principals and notaries public involved in the transactions must be located in Massachusetts, and principals must also provide evidence to confirm their identities. The provisions, aimed at allowing the key business transactions to continue without violating social-distancing practices, would last until three days after Gov. Charlie Baker repeals his state of emergency declaration.
  • The Senate Ways & Means Committee was polling a bill that would ban the Department of Transitional Assistance from denying family or individual assistance under a pair of programs because “countable resources” exceed allowable limits.
  • The legislation would remain in effect from the time of its passage until 120 days later, or later if postponed by the governor, or 45 days after the March 10, 2020 state of emergency is terminated, whichever is sooner.
  • The Senate meets again next on Thursday morning.
  • The state pension fund announced at a special Zoom meeting that it will have no problem paying out the $1.3 billion in pension benefits for the year.
  • Legislation has been introduced before the Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development committee that would create a $75 million emergency relief fund for non-profit cultural organizations.
  • The legislation (HD 5017) would offer $75 million in grants to organizations experiencing financial distress as a result of COVID-19.
  • Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides announced on Wednesday to finalize the state’s new net-zero greenhouse gas emissions limit.
  • The new limit calls for statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to be equal to or less than the amount of carbon dioxide or its equivalent that is removed from the atmosphere and stored annually in Massachusetts. Under no circumstance, however, should the level of emission be greater than 85 percent below 1990 levels.
  • Senate Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Chairman Michael Barrett of Lexington said he had “big problems” with the administration’s announcement. Barrett said he hopes the House and Senate can still reach agreement this year on a net-zero bill, noting that House Speaker Robert DeLeo identified climate change as an issue he still hopes the Legislature can address this year, even if it means extending the session beyond July 31.
  • The EOEEA letter is attached.

Share This