FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UPDATES AND GUIDANCE
Federal declaration of state of emergency:
On March 13 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: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-declaring-national-emergency-concerning-novel-coronavirus-disease-covid-19-outbreak/
US House of Representatives passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act:
On March 14 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: https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/Families%20First%20summary.pdf
STATE GOVERNMENT UPDATES AND GUIDANCE
March 14: 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.
March 14: 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:
March 14: 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 realted updates can be found here: https://massgaming.com/news-events/covid19/
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: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-temporary-closure-of-certain-state-conservation-and
Updated guidance for first responders, law enforcement, businesses and schools:
The Department of Public Health has provided updated guidance and recommendations for emergency responders and law enforcement, businesses and employers, elementary and secondary schools, and colleges and universities:
- Guidance for emergency responders and law enforcement click here.
- Guidance for businesses and employers click here.
- Guidance for elementary and secondary schools click here.
- Guidance for colleges and universities click here
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: https://www.mass.gov/doc/sjc-order-in-re-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-regarding-empanelment-of-juries