April 10, 2020
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTIONS
USDA Rural Development actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak
USDA Rural Development announced loans and changes to funding programs to assist rural communities with the impact of COVID-19. Visit www.rd.usda.gov/coronavirus for information on Rural Development loan payment assistance, application deadline extensions, and more.
Full information about USDA Rural Development’s loan programs and CARES Act implementation can be found here: https://www.rd.usda.gov/sites/default/files/USDA_RD_SA_COVID19_ProgramImmediateActions04082020.pdf
BAKER ADMINISTRATION ACTIONS
DPH Advisory on masks and face coverings
The Department of Public Health issued a Public Health Advisory that, consistent with CDC guidance, recommends that people wear a mask or cover their face in public when they cannot safely socially distance. For example, members of the public will be advised to wear something to cover their face in public places like supermarkets and pharmacies.
Hospital Surge Capacity Projections Released
The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center released its initial projections on the surge last week. Since then, the Command Center has remained in regular contact with the Commonwealth’s hospitals on a daily basis as they work to increase acute and ICU bed capacity. As of today, the Commonwealth has worked to make a total of approximately 14,500 treatment beds available ahead of the surge:
11,000 beds could be available for ICU and acute care in the existing hospital system. This represents a breakdown of roughly 9,400 acute care beds and 1,500 ICU beds.
Through hospital surge planning and field hospitals, the Commonwealth is bringing approximately 3,500 new beds online for ICU and acute care. This breaks down to approximately 2,500 new hospital beds coming online from hospital surge planning, and 1,000 beds coming online through field hospitals.
The Command Center continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on different regions and tracking how many hospital beds are available across the Commonwealth. As of today, hospitals have reported that 8,100 beds are occupied now statewide, or approximately 55% (this figure includes hospitalizations for non COVID-19 patients). This means that 6,400 beds are currently available for both ICU and acute care, or roughly 45%.
Graphs and charts on surge capacity can be found here:
Job Application Portal for Temporary Care Sites
In preparation for the expected surge, temporary care sites and long-term care facilities are being stood up statewide. All of these sites have ongoing staffing needs. In addition, existing skilled nursing and long term care facilities are also in urgent need of staffing support. Today, Secretary Sudders announced the creation of a job portal to connect healthcare professionals with these staffing opportunities.
To learn more, or to apply for a position, visit https://www.mass.gov/joincovidteam
RMV cancelling road tests and other changes
The RMV is cancelling all passenger and motorcycle road tests (Class D and Class M) through Monday, May 4. Learner’s Permits expiring between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020 will continue to have an active status until sixty days after the printed expiration date – learner’s permit holders need not worry immediately if their road test is cancelled.
Note: Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) road tests are still being conducted; Massachusetts State Police manage CDL road tests, and require anyone taking a CDL road test to bring and wear mask or face covering for the entirety of the road test.
Reminders About Other Previously Announced Changes
Extended Credential Expiration Date
All Massachusetts driver’s licenses, ID cards, and learner’s permits that have expired or are expiring between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020 will have a 60-day extension applied to their current expiration date.
Non-Classroom Drivers Education
Through a temporary policy, the RMV is allowing Driving Schools to offer online driver education training and testing during this emergency period only. The RMV will continuously monitor the current emergency and will keep you informed about the timeframe in which driving schools can offer alternative training.
New measures throughout the state parks system ahead of the upcoming holiday weekend
To expand pedestrian and cyclist access, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will open segments of three parkways in the Greater Boston Metro Area for recreational use starting Saturday, April 11, 2020 at dawn. These segments will close to vehicular traffic on Friday, April 10, 2020 at dusk, and after the weekend, DCR will evaluate the effectiveness of the measure. Additionally, the agency will work to reduce parking capacity at state park properties statewide starting Saturday, April 11, 2020, which will continue indefinitely.
Importantly, the measures will reduce close contact of park users, and aid in the reduction of large concentrations of people on adjacent sidewalks and paths. Parkways that will open to pedestrians and cyclists include:
William J. Day Boulevard between Farragut Road and Shore Drive in the City of Boston (South Boston);
Francis Parkman Drive between Perkins Street and the Arborway in the City of Boston (Jamaica Plain); and,
Greenough Boulevard (Little Greenough) between Arsenal Street and North Beacon Street in the Town of Watertown.
While visiting state park properties, the public should visit locations that are located near their homes, limit their excursions to short periods of time, and only participate in recreational activities that are transitory in nature, such as walking, jogging and biking. This will allow access to the outdoors while continuing to ensure social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
DCR continues to stress that if a park is crowded, visitors should visit a different location or return at a later date or time. The state parks system has over 450,000 acres of property, and every region of the state contains multiple parks to explore that may be less busy than others in the area. DCR also advises visitors of state parks to stay within solitary or small groups, avoid gatherings of ten or more people, participate in only non-contact recreational activities, practice healthy personal hygiene, such as handwashing for at least 20 seconds, and, stay home if ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population.