This page chronicles important changes, resources, and closings on the federal and state level during COVID-19. For reopening updates, please visit my Reopening Massachusetts page.
7-24-20 Massachusetts has a new travel order, effective August 1. Travelers (including returning residents) entering MA from another state except for these states will need to quarantine for 14 days or risk being fined $500/day. Read full details here.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation also released a reminder to follow health and safety rules when visiting state beaches and parks. For more detailed guidelines, see the excerpt below from a DCR press release or visit Mass.gov.
5-4-20 As a reminder, effective Wednesday, May 6, 2020, when out and about in public, and unable to properly distance, residents of Massachusetts will have to wear a mask or cloth face covering, unless a person is unable to do so because of a medical condition. The requirement applies whether an individual is indoors or outdoors. All customers and employees of grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail stores must wear masks or face coverings at all times. People must wear masks in taxis, when utilizing ride-sharing services, and when on public transportation. If a customer of these stores or services refuses to wear a mask or face covering, they may be refused entry to the location or use of the service. Enforcement will be through local authorities with a civil fine of up to $300.00. A copy of the Governor’s Order can be found here. More information about the Order, how to make face coverings, and “Do’s and Don’ts” can be found here.
4-28-20 Massachusetts Governor Baker on Tuesday extended the Non-Essential Business closure and the limit on gatherings until May 18, 2020. The Stay-At-Home Advisory also remains in effect. An Economic Reopening Advisory Board is being created to assist with planning for a “safe and responsible reopening.” More can be found here.
4-15-20 A Focus on Long-Term Care Facilities. To address the spread of the virus in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living residences, and rest homes, the Commonwealth today announced $130 million in new funding, expanded mobile testing, expanded PPE distribution, the mobilization of rapid-response clinical teams, and the availability of crisis management support. You can find the details here.
4-15-20 CARES Act Payments Can Not Be Seized by Debt Collectors. There have been some questions about whether the payments being made by the federal government, by check and direct deposit, can be seized by debt collectors. They can not be seized, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Click here for her press release.
4-9-20 Order Expediting Licensure of Nursing Students and Graduates. On April 9, 2020, and in anticipation of the need for health care providers over the next few weeks, Governor Baker signed an Executive Order that allows nursing school graduates and students in their final semesters of nursing programs to practice nursing in advance of receiving a license, provided they are directly supervised by other licensed medical professionals. Find the Order here.
4-9-20 Order Ensuring Access to In-Patient Services. On April 9, 2020, Governor Baker signed an Executive Order mandating that insurers cover all medically required costs of COVID-19 treatment in out-of-network hospitals or other medical facilities with no charge to the patient, including co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance payments. Find the Order here.
4-6-20 CDC Guidance on Wearing Cloth Masks in Public. On April 3, in response to new information about the spread of the coronavirus by people who are without symptoms, the CDC recommended wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, especially in places where appropriate distancing of 6 feet is not always possible, for instance in grocery stores. The CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health still emphasize that we at all times should continue social distancing, stay at home measures, and constant hand washing.
4-3-20 Community Tracing Collaborative. The Baker-Polito Administration has created a COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. A collaboration between the administration and Partners In Health, it is the first of its kind in the nation. The purpose of the initiative is to trace the contacts of confirmed positive COVID-19 patients, and to support individuals in quarantine. Find more information here.
4-3-20 Assistance for Seniors. South Shore Elder Services has always provided great services to the senior community throughout the region. Thankfully, they are still operating, virtually, and continue to be a great resource to our office. If you are a senior and a client of South Shore Elder Services, or any senior in need of services, please do not hesitate to reach out to them.
4-2-20 Health Connector Insurance. If you have lost your job and are worried about health insurance coverage for you and your family, the Massachusetts Health Connector may be an option for you. You can find information here.
4-2-20 Complete Your Census. There’s a lot going on, but please do not forget to complete the 2020 Census. You can complete it online if you have your 12-digit Census ID. It does not take long to complete, and getting an accurate count for our communities will ensure that we get a fair share of important federal funding. Please, complete the Census form.
4-1-20 Schools and Daycare. Governor Baker announced today that all schools in Massachusetts will be closed through the end of the scheduled school year. Remote learning will continue. Please check with your local school districts for details. Also, all non-emergency child care centers will be closed through June 29, 2020. The Governor’s announcement can be found here.
3-31-20 Governor Baker announced today an extension until May 4, 2020 of his earlier Order regarding the closing of non-essential services and certain workplaces, and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. Today’s Order can be found here, and an updated list of “Essential Services” can be found here. For an updated list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) relative to the Order and Essential Services, click here. Also, the Department of Public Health today issued a Stay-at-Home-Advisory.
3-31-20 The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has released some new educational resources for students and families, updated recommendations for remote learning, and announced a partnership with the PBS Learning Media and WGBH’s online Distance Learning Center.
3-30-20 If you or somebody you know is interested in selling or donating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help the Commonwealth in its efforts against the coronavirus, you can use the portal found here.
3-27-20 Federal Relief Bill. I was on the phone today with Senator Edward Markey receiving an update on the coronavirus relief bill passed by the U.S. Senate when the House of Representatives passed the bill. More details to follow.
3-27-20 New Virus Assessment Tool. The Commonwealth has announced the launch of an online tool for residents concerned they may have symptoms of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Upon accessing the website, each person will be asked a few basic questions regarding their symptoms, and the tool will assess whether referral to the next appropriate health care resource is in order. The assessment will be done based on information from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Please note that the tool is not a substitute for emergency medical care. A person who is in acute distress should still contact their physician or 911 as appropriate.
The new 24/7 tool, made available by a Massachusetts company called Buoy, is free for Massachusetts residents. You can learn more and access the tool at Buoy.com/mass.
3-27-20 Medical Professionals Needed. Already the coronavirus (COVID-19) is putting strains on our health care delivery system. To address the need for medical professionals, the Commonwealth has taken several steps, including the following:
- Medical school students who would otherwise have graduated but for the declared State of Emergency, and who have matched as an intern, resident or fellow with a Board-approved Massachusetts health care facility or training program, will be able to apply to the Board of Registration of Medicine for an emergency 90 day license to practice.
- Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) in good standing will be able to practice with greater flexibility, as follows:
- APRNs who have at least two years of supervised practice experience will be allowed to prescribe without physician supervision.
- APRNs with fewer than two years of supervised practice experience will be allowed to prescribe with physician supervision, but without the normally required written guidelines.
- Certified nurse midwives will be allowed to continue to prescribe as already authorized.
Read the order here.
- Residents with medical backgrounds interested in volunteering will by matched by the Massachusetts Medical Society with communities and health care providers based on skill sets and need. There is an immediate need for respiratory therapists and public health nurses. Those interested in volunteering can sign up at MAResponds.org.
3-25-20 – Today Governor Baker announced that all public and private elementary and secondary schools and non-emergency childcare programs will be closed until no sooner than Monday, May 4, 2020. To see the order regarding schools, click here, and to see the Order regarding childcare programs, click here.
3-25-20 American Red Cross in need of donations.
Nearly 3,000 blood drives across the country have been cancelled, so the American Red Cross is in urgent need for blood donations for people with chronic conditions and for those who have suffered trauma. In Massachusetts, the donating of blood is considered an essential service. Giving blood has always been safe, and the Red Cross has put in place enhanced measures to ensure the health safety of its staff and donors.
You can get more information and schedule an appointment to donate at the American Red Cross, or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800) 733-2767.
To schedule a new blood drive: contact Bill Forsyth at (617) 699-3808 or email William.Forsyth@redcross.org.
3-25-20 Utility Shutoffs Temporarily Prohibited. The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an order prohibiting investor-owned utility companies during the State of Emergency or until DPU otherwise determines, from sending communications threatening to shut off, and from shutting off gas, electric, and water utility service to any customers for failure to pay a bill or a portion of a bill. For complete information, go here.
3-25-20 Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) closes state athletic fields and courts. DCR has temporarily closed athletic fields and courts, such as basketball, tennis, handball, pickle ball, and bocce, as well as DCR owned ice rinks, visitor center, campgrounds, playgrounds fitness areas, and bathroom facilities throughout the state parks system effective March 24, 2020 until Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at which time the closures will be reassessed. Please note, however, that all state parks across the Commonwealth remain open and available for the public to visit. Residents visiting the parks are urged to avoid gathering in groups of ten or more people, to maintain social distancing, and to carry out any trash they may generate while visiting, e.g. food wrappers, and water bottles. For more information visit DCR COVOD-19.
3-25-20 Massachusetts RMV offers additional information on appointment-only reservation.
Effective March 24, 2020, the RMV will be operating an appointment-only reservation system for certain necessary and required in-person transactions at the RMV’s eight open and operating Service Centers. These transactions include certain Commercial Driving License (CDL) transactions and some new registrations. Appointment reservation times will be available on a rolling basis up to two business days in advance and can be booked here. Customers who make an appointment will be sent a confirmation email that they should be prepared to show on arrival.
For RMV information regarding suspension hearings and reinstatements, 60-day extensions of CDL medical certificates, REAL IDs, and other transactions, visit the RMV.
For information about available services and additional steps the RMV has taken under the State of Emergency declaration, including the extension of expiring licenses / permits and vehicle inspection stickers, please visit the RMV COVID-19 site.
3-24-20 Governor Baker issues Order Assuring Continued Operation of Essential Services in the Commonwealth, Closing Certain Workplaces, and Prohibiting Gatherings of More than 10 People. The Order can also be found here. A list of “Essential Services” can be found here. Guidance on gatherings can be found here.
In sum, effective Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 12:00 noon and continuing until Tuesday, April 7, 2020 at 12:00 noon, only businesses that provide essential functions and services related to COVID-19 will be permitted to operate. All other businesses that do not provide COVID-19 essential services shall close their workplaces (brick and mortar, not virtual) and facilities. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants providing takeout services are considered essential, and safe distancing practices should be followed at each location.
The Order also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people, with the exception that individuals can gather outdoors in an unenclosed area, provided safe distancing is practiced.
To keep up to date on the latest from your State government, follow this link.
I will update this page as the news breaks. Thank you. Stay healthy – for you, your family, neighbors, and friends!
3-22-20 United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted on Friday that the federal tax filing deadline would be extended to July 15, however he urged all Americans to file earlier in order to get tax refunds as soon as possible. More information will follow on this announcement.
3-19-20 On Thursday, March 19, 2020, Governor Baker activated the Massachusetts National Guard. The main responsibility of the Guard will be to support requests from state agencies for “equipment, logistics, warehousing, and related duties.” Up to 2,000 National Guard members may be activated. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is advising cities, towns and state agencies to submit requests for support through MEMA. For more information, click here.
Governor Baker’s order authorizes activation of up to 2,000 National Guard members across the Commonwealth, who will be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing, and related duties. Local cities, towns, and state agencies should submit requests for support through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
3-19-20 Yesterday, the Massachusetts State Senate and House of Representatives passed, and Governor Baker signed, An Act Authorizing Waiver of the One Week Waiting Period for Unemployment Benefits. This law, Chapter 40 of the Acts of 2020, covers unemployment related to COVID-19, and takes effect immediately. More information can be found here.
3-19-20 On March 18, 2020, the US Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. A news article about that can be found here.
3-19-20 Childcare Operations. Governor Baker issued an Executive Order requiring all early education centers and family childcare providers to close, starting Monday March 23 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) also issued emergency procedures to set forth a process for opening Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs during the COVID-19 outbreak to provide priority access for families of emergency personnel, medical staff, and others critical to confronting COVID-19. Read the Executive Order here.
3-19-20 Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs. Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs will be the only child care programs able to operate during the COVID-19 outbreak. Families who work to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens will receive priority access to emergency childcare programs and these centers should only be used by people who must go to work. Vulnerable children will also receive priority access and space will be made for people who must go to work but aren’t necessarily emergency personnel.
- The Department of Early Education and Care put procedures in place to quickly review applications for emergency child care programs, and to conduct expedited background record checks for childcare teachers and staff.
- The Department is working to ensure there is sufficient access to emergency child care programs in each region of the Commonwealth, so those workers who need childcare can still access it.
- A proposed program can be either a currently-licensed child care program, or a new program such as a location within or near a medical facility.
- Providers impacted by these closures will continue to receive child care subsidy payments from the state. This ensures that programs will be able to re-open once the crisis is over. Parents who receive subsidies will not lose their vouchers, and will be able to eventually resume care. EEC will cover the cost of parent fees for subsidized families enrolled in care.
- All programs that would like to operate must complete the EEC’s Emergency Licensing and Background Record Check process. Programs that have a current license and educators with confirmed background checks will be expedited for approval.
- Programs must adhere to strict safety and health standards established by the Department of Public Health and Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
3-19-20 Public Health Orders. Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel signed three public health orders on March 18, 2020 which do the following:
- The first Order relaxes administrative requirements so as to allow physician’s assistants who previously worked on elective surgeries to be used elsewhere in the hospital under a different supervising physician.
- The second Order, due to the expected demands on nursing staff, would allow pharmacists to administer certain medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder, where, under normal circumstances, such medication must be administered by a nurse.
- The third Order requires Local Board of Health to disclose the addresses – but no other identifying information – of those diagnosed with COVID-19 to the official in charge of emergency calls in the jurisdiction. That information can only be used for responding to emergency calls and is to be kept confidential.
3-19-20 Extending the Licenses of Certain Licensed Professionals. Governor Baker signed a new emergency order to ensure that licensed professionals do not have their licenses or registrations lapse due to unforeseen problems with renewal during the COVID-19 emergency. Specifically, under this order, occupational or professional licenses of individuals that are in good standing and that would otherwise be up for renewal during the COVID-19 emergency shall be extended for 90 days after the end of the public health emergency. This order does not affect license extensions that have already been granted in earlier emergency orders.
Read the Emergency Order here: Extension of Professional Licensure Order
3-19-20 Department of Environmental Protection suspends bottle redemption enforcement. Out of an abundance of caution due to the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office are suspending enforcement of the requirements for retailers to accept beverage containers that have a deposit effective immediately until further notice or until the current state of emergency is terminated. Many grocers, supermarkets, and other retail operations have indicated that they are overwhelmed with an unprecedented volume of customers purchasing provisions. Temporarily suspending enforcement of these requirements will allow individual retailers to assess their operations and, if necessary and appropriate, shift staffing to enable smoother operations. This action will also limit any contamination that potentially could occur from staff handling used beverage containers. Consumers are encouraged to hold on to their deposit containers for redemption at a later date or to recycle those containers with existing household recycling. Details here.
3-19-20 Division of Banks guidance for financial institutions working with customers affected by COVID-19. The Massachusetts Division of Banks recognizes the potential for COVID-19 to adversely affect the customers and operations of financial institutions. The Division encourages financial institutions to take steps to meet the financial services needs of affected customers and communities here.
3-19-20 Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) sends survey to municipal police and fire chiefs. The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS)is tracking all PPE’s (Personal Protective Equipment) and resources from public safety entities. In partnership with MA Chiefs of Police and MA Dept of Fire Services, EOPSS sent a survey to municipal police and fire chiefs asking them to identify their PPE supplies and needs. If one of your chiefs did not received this email, please have them contact Chief Mark K. Leahy, Executive Director Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association at firstname.lastname@example.org, office: (774) 293-2587, or cell: (508) 922-8370. You may also contact Peter J. Ostroskey, State Fire Marshal, Department of Fire Services at email@example.com or office: (978) 567-3111.
3-18-20 DPH emergency credentialing and licensed staff transfer procedures. The Department of Public Health issued an order regarding expedited credentialing process for licensed independent practitioners and expedited transfers of licensed clinical staff among facilities. The full DPH order on credentialing and staffing can be found here.
3-18-20 Division of Insurance coverage for telehealth. The Division of Insurance issued an order on 3-16 regarding insurance coverage for medically necessary telehealth services. The full order is here.
3-18-20 For MBTA riders, please note that trains and buses are running with reduced service to support efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. More information can be found at the MBTA. Use of a real-time tracking app will be very helpful over the next few weeks. I have used ProximiT for a couple of years, and I know Boston Transit is used by many as well. These and others can be found in your App Store.
3-18-20 All public and private schools in the Commonwealth will be closed through April 6, 2020. The situation will be reviewed prior to that date to determine whether an extended closure is warranted. Please also check with your local school districts
3-18-20 All restaurants in Massachusetts will be limited to takeout and delivery only until April 6, 2020. Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open, although customers are advised to check the hours for such establishments.
3-16-20 MBTA announcement of reduced service. The MBTA has announced reduced service effective 3-17, and full updates and guidance from the MBTA can be found here.
3-16-20 “No Sail” Order for Cruise Ship Operations. The CDC has issued a 30 day ‘No Sail’ order for any cruise ship which has not voluntarily suspended operations. The Coast Guard will assist the CDC in preventing cruise ships from embarking passengers in US ports. The Port of Boston does not currently have any cruise ship arrivals scheduled until April 17th, though will identify any cruise ships or vessels carrying 250 or more persons (passengers and crew) with an overnight itinerary, planning to embark passengers.
3-16-20 Updated Executive Order on large gatherings, restaurants, and on-premise food and beverage consumption. The Baker-Polito Administration issued an Executive Order to prohibit on-premise consumption of food or alcohol at restaurants, effective from 3-17 until 4-5. Restaurants will be able to provide food for take out or delivery. The Baker-Polito also revised its Executive Order prohibiting large gatherings of over 250 people to prohibit gatherings of over 25 people. The full Executive Order can be found here.
3-16-20 Updated guidance on elementary and secondary school closures. The Baker-Polito Administration announced a three week suspension of all public and private elementary and secondary schools effective 3-17. School districts are still permitted to keep the buildings open for actions like getting food out to children who need it. Preschool and childcare services are not ordered to close, but are strongly urged to observe guidelines established by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Early Childhood Education. The full order is here. Full guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education can be found here.
3-16-20 Guidance for Executive Branch employees on March 16th and 17th work. All non-emergency state employees working in Executive Branch agencies should not report to their workplace on Monday, March 16th and Tuesday, March 17th. Employees who are designated by their managers as emergency for the purposes of coronavirus planning should report to work. During this period, the administration will work to expand alternative work arrangements for the executive branch workforce and further develop plans to continue to provide essential state government services. The full announcement can be found here.
3-16-20 Department of Public Health guidance on insurance coverage for telehealth. The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15 that stipulates that all commercial insurers and the Group Insurance Commission are required to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services.
3-16-20 Registry of Motor Vehicles guidance on extending the renewal timelines. The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) will extend the renewal timeline of certain credentials to reduce the need for customers to physically visit an RMV service center for in-person transactions. Effective this week, the RMV will implement a 60-day extension to the current expiration date for Class D, Class DMs, ID cards, and Learner’s Permits within the RMV system. All customers with expired/expiring credentials physically dated between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, will continue to have an active status within the RMV system until sixty (60) days after the expiration date printed on their credential. The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-rmv-license-extensions/download
3-16-20 Guidance for Hospitals on the Cancellation of Elective Procedures and Restricting Visitors. The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15th that hospitals must restrict visitors and cancel non-essential elective procedures, effective Wednesday. The order on restricting visitors can be found here and the order on non-essential elective procedures can be found here.
3-16-20 Guidance on nursing home visitor prohibition. The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15th that assisted living residences are to ban visitors to protect the health of residents and staff. This is in addition to the federal guidance issued on Friday that bans visitors to nursing homes and rest homes. The announcement can be found here.
3-16-20 Updates on Legislation to Assist Municipal Governance. Governor Baker announced a package of legislation to help address challenges to municipal governance resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, including potential delays in holding Town Meetings and adopting Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) municipal budgets. Provisions in the proposed legislation include:
- Amend existing statute authorizing Moderators to postpone Town Meetings by thirty days.
- Permit local Select Boards to postpone Town Meetings beyond the statutory June 30 deadline when the Governor has declared a state of emergency..
- Permit local Select Boards to temporarily adopt lower quorum rules.
- Permit continued month-to-month spending into FY21 by towns based on the prior fiscal year budget with approval of the Division of Local Services during states of emergency. Cities have similar authority under existing state law.
- Permit towns to access their free cash balance for FY21 spending with approval of the Division of Local Services.
- Permit municipal spending from revolving funds at the level set by their Fiscal Year 2020 appropriation until an FY21 budget is adopted.
- Authorize a three-year amortization period for deficit spending incurred as a result of COVID-19 crisis.
The announcement can be found here.
3-16-20 Governor Baker files legislation for rescheduled Boston Marathon. Governor Baker also filed legislation designating September 14, 2020 as a legal holiday to support the rescheduled 2020 Boston Marathon. The announcement can be found here.
3-16-20 Updated guidance for community-based and congregate care settings:
The Baker-Polito Administration has released new policies for Assisted Living Residences, Congregate Care Settings, In-Home Caregivers and Workers (Agency Based and Non-Agency Based), and Community Day Program Settings to further protect individuals served in community-based and congregate care settings from respiratory illnesses, including Coronavirus (COVID-19). This guidance is available through the following links:
- Assisted Living Residences
- Congregate Care Settings
- In-Home Caregivers (Agency Based)
- In-Home Caregivers (Non-Agency Based)
- Community Day Program Settings
3-15-20 Updates from Governor Baker Press Conference. Governor Charlie Baker, Health and Human Services Secretary MaryLou Sudders, and Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel provided the following guidance at a 6 PM press conference:
- Only emergency and executive branch employees should report to work tomorrow
- The Baker-Polito Administration is issuing a directive to all health insurers to cover telehealth services
- The Registry of Motor Vehicles will issue guidance extending renewals so residents do not need to visit the RMV for renewals at present
- The Baker-Polito Administration is directing hospitals to cancel all elective procedures beginning on Wednesday to create additional capacity in hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients
- The Baker-Polito Administration is issuing a prohibition on visitors to nursing homes
- The Baker-Polito Administration will file emergency legislation on Monday 3-16 to relax Unemployment Insurance guidelines, including waiving the one week waiting period to collect unemployment and expanding eligibility for collecting unemployment for people who have been impacted by COVID-19
- The Baker-Polito Administration will file emergency legislation on Monday to help municipal governments with town meetings and adopting budgets
- The Baker-Polito Administration will file legislation to move date of Boston Marathon to September
- The Baker-Polito Administration is amending its Executive Order on gatherings of larger than 250 people to prohibit all public gatherings of larger than 25 people including fitness centers and private clubs
- The Baker-Polito Administration is issuing guidance to prohibit on-premise consumption of food or alcohol at restaurants which will be effective from 3-17 until 4-17. Restaurants will be able to provide food for take out or delivery.
- The Baker-Polito Administration announced a three week suspension of all public and private elementary and secondary schools effective Tuesday – school can occur normally on Monday for districts that have not already suspended classes. School districts are still permitted to keep the buildings open for actions like getting food out to children who need it. Preschool and childcare services are not ordered to close, but are strongly urged to observe guidelines established by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Early Childhood Education.
Guidance on nursing home visitor restrictions:
On March 12, tThe Department of Public Health issued an emergency order restricting visitor access to nursing homes and rest homes to protect higher-risk populations from COVID-19. Here are the Department’s full order and guidance.
Guidance on expediting licensing for nurses from another jurisdiction:
On March 11, tThe Board of Registration in Nursing updated its policies to expedite the processing of reciprocal license applications for nurses that are licensed in another jurisdiction to allow those applications to be processed in one business day. The full policy can be found here.
3-14-20 US House of Representatives passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) by a 363-40 vote. This legislation provides free coronavirus testing, secures paid emergency leave, enhances Unemployment Insurance, strengthens food security initiatives, and increases federal Medicaid funding to states. The bill now awaits U.S. Senate action, which is expected the week of March 16. A summary of the legislation can be found here.
3-14-20 Baker-Polito Administration announces creation of COVID-19 Response Command Center led by HHS Secretary Marylou Sudders. The Command Center, under the leadership of Secretary Sudders and reporting to Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, will be the Commonwealth’s single point of strategic decision making and coordination for the Administration’s comprehensive COVID-19 response. The Command Center will have complete authority and discretion to tap whatever state funds are necessary, including the $15 million recently appropriated by the Legislature for Coronavirus.
The Command Structure will enable expert teams to advance key initiatives including:
- Working to expand lab capacity for testing
- Planning quarantine operations
- Coordinating communication and guidance across government
- Responding to the needs of our local boards of health
- Monitoring supply chains
- Identifying surge capacity in the Commonwealth’s health network.
The Command Center will hold daily briefings with the Governor, key secretariats and agencies and will communicate regularly with other stakeholders such as municipalities and local boards of public health. The Command Center will work closely with and support the Department of Public Health’s ongoing response in conjunction with federal and local partners, and will include decision -makers from across state government, including:
- Executive Office of Health and Human Services
- Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency
- Massachusetts Department of Transportation
- Executive Office of Education
- Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
- Executive Office of Technology and Security Services
- Human Resources Division
The Command Center will also facilitate coordination and communication with key stakeholder groups like the CDC, FDA, cities and towns, the Legislature, local boards of public health, and others.
3-14-20 Baker-Polito administration Announces New Clinical Protocols for COVID-19 Testing. Updated protocols will expedite testing for patients with a range of symptoms and conditions as well as health care workers and emergency responders; MassHealth issues guidance to providers to ensure access to treatment including telehealth here.
3-14-20 Mass Gaming Commission suspends casino operations. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted unanimously to temporarily suspend operation at the state’s three casino properties, including Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was made in collaboration and cooperation with Gaming Commission licensees to safeguard the health and well-being of casino guests, employees, and regulators.
The Gaming Commission is in close consultation with public health authorities and government officials to determine safe protocols for resuming operation. This decision will be re-assessed in two weeks, while an orderly shutdown process is actively underway. It is anticipated that the gaming floor will close to patrons at 5:59am on March 15, 2020. The full statement from Mass Gaming and COVID-19 related updates can be found here.
3-13-20 Updated guidance from the Department of Conservation and Recreation on park closures. The Department of Conservation and Recreation announced a temporary closure of certain state conservation and recreation managed facilities. The full guidance can be found here.
3-13-20 Updated guidance on jury trials and courthouse access. On March 13, the Supreme Judicial Court postponed jury trials until after April 21 and issued restrictions on courthouse entry. This guidance is available through the following links: and issued updated guidance which can be found here.
3-12-20 Updated guidance on Open Meeting Law The Baker-Polito Administration issued an emergency order temporarily modifying the state’s Open Meeting Law in order to allow state, quasi and local governments to continue to carry out essential functions and operations during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. This emergency order suspends the requirement for public access to the physical location where a public meeting is taking place, provided there are other means of access available, such as a phone conference line, social media or other internet streaming services, or on-line meeting services. Additionally, the order relieves the requirement that a quorum of members be physically present at a public meeting. During this period, members may all participate by remote or virtual means. This order is applicable to meetings of public bodies including commissions, boards, and committees that engage in policy making at the state, quasi and local level, and it does not apply to Town Meetings or judicial and quasi-judicial hearings. The full text of the order is available here.
3-13-20 Updated guidance on large gatherings. On March 13, Governor Baker issued an emergency order prohibiting most gatherings of over 250 people in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The order includes, but is not limited to, the following events: community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, festivals, and any similar event or activity that brings together 250 or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time in a venue such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theatre, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. The Governor also directed the Department of Public Health (DPH) to issue guidance implementing the terms of the Emergency Order. The full DPH guidance is available here.
3-13-20 Updated guidance on gas and electric shut offs. On March 13, the Department of Public Utilities issued a moratorium to suspend all shut-offs of gas and electric utilities, including Municipal Light and Gas Plants, for residential customers during the State of Emergency.
3-13-20 Federal declaration of state of emergency. The President of the United States issued a proclamation declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak. The full proclamation can be found here.
The link for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is here.
For information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, click here.
Information from the World Health Organization is here.
For up to date information about COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts or residents subject to quarantine, please visit this link.