Massachusetts Department of Public Health:
Massachusetts has established this dedicated hotline to answer coronavirus related questions and concerns.
We want you to know that Massachusetts is prepared for this potential outbreak. Massachusetts public health departments and our world-class health care providers are well-versed in emergency preparedness and our healthcare workers, institutions and public health partners across the Commonwealth are constantly training for the possible emergence of diseases.
We are engaging in daily communications with the CDC, US Health and Human Services, and other federal and regional agencies to make sure we are sharing with you and all of our Massachusetts partners the latest guidance and recommendations.
MAssachusetts covid-19 ppe procurement and donation program
The Commonwealth’s COVID-19 PPE Procurement and Donation Program creates an easy portal allowing companies and organizations to sell or donate protective equipment that is in short supply given the global demands for such items.
- For information on the number of cases in Massachusetts, click here.
- Learn more about case counts on the CDC website.
While there is no vaccine available for the virus, the CDC has released recommendations measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus including :
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
- Shortness of breath
Steps taken to prepare & combat the virus:
Universal Coronavirus Vaccine
With three novel coronavirus outbreaks in the last 18 years, it is imperative that we find a vaccine that treats all coronaviruses to prevent the next novel biothreat. That’s why Senator Markey introduced legislation that would invest $1 billion to research a universal vaccine for these viruses.
Call for a Permanent Health Chief
The 2019 coronavirus is not the last biothreat our country will face. That’s why, at the beginning of February, Senator Markey called for the reestablishment and appointment of a Permanent Health Chief to address the virus. On Thursday, March 19, Senator Markey introduced legislation requiring the President to appoint a permanent Pandemic Prevention and Response Coordinator who would be housed on the National Security Council (NSC).
Maintaining Funding for Critical Programs
Senator Markey expressed concern in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the Trump administration’s proposal to combat this crisis by transferring money out of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Defense Production Act
On Sunday, March 15, Senator Markey called on the president to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would activate a wartime military mobilization of private industry to allow for increased production of the lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies and devices, and diagnostic testing supplies we need to combat this coronavirus. The following day, Senator Markey introduced a resolution that called on President Trump to use this authority, and discussed its importance with MGH President Dr. Peter Slavin in The Boston Globe.
Later in the week, President Trump heeded the Senator’s call and announced that he would invoke the Defense Production Act in order to bring the full power of the federal government to bear in mobilizing a war-scale manufacturing effort. Watch Senator Markey’s remarks on the Senate floor from Thursday, March 18.
Aid to Small Business
Senator Markey, a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, is working with his colleagues to provide small business relief. Small businesses across the country, especially those in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry, are being impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. Senator Markey is working to draft legislation that will aid with cash flows and low- or no-interest loans for small businesses. He has also worked with colleagues to develop a package of proposals that will provide aid to business owners, including recovery grants, debt relief, loan programs, and more.
Halting Deportations & Closing Immigration Courts
Senator Markey has called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to immediately halt needless deportations and release from detention immigrants who pose no safety threat as the coronavirus pandemic evolves. U.S. immigration detention centers have been called a “public health disaster waiting to happen,” due to overcrowding conditions and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) history of medical neglect.
Additionally, as the number of coronavirus cases surpassed 200,000 worldwide, Senator Markey called on the Department of Justice in a letter on Wednesday, March 18 to temporarily close all immigration courts under the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR).
Airline Bailout Conditions
Acknowledging that financial assistance may be necessary for industries economically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Senator Markey and colleagues are calling for basic consumer and worker protections in any coronavirus financial assistance granted to airline and cruise industries. The letter that was sent to Senate leadership included ten requirements to ensure that these industries do not return to predatory business practices after receiving federal assistance.
Protecting Senior Income and Retirement
On Wednesday, March 18, Senator Markey announced a package of legislation to protect seniors and retirees during the economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The package includes two bills, one that will suspend the penalty on Required Minimum Distribution (RMDs) for retirement accounts for calendar year 2020, and a second that would exempt Social Security benefits from income taxes for calendar year 2020. Together, these bills will prevent seniors from facing unfair tax burdens due to this emergency.
Protection for Gig Economy Workers
Gig workers are some of the most valuable employees during this crisis, but also the most vulnerable. Senator Markey called on Senate leadership to provide economic support for every impacted worker in the next relief package, urging leadership to consider relief that includes: 1) paid leave provisions which specifically apply to gig workers; 2) broadened paid leave provisions to include employees who are feeling sick; and 3) expanded paid leave to include workers at companies of more than 500 employees. Watch Senator Markey and Shannon Liss-Riordan discuss the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the gig worker economy.
Bank Fee Moratorium
Senators Markey and Warren sent a letter to the 19 largest banks and credit unions in Massachusetts urging them to grant a moratorium for the duration of the crisis on ATM fees, overdraft fees, minimum balance mandates, late fees for credit card payments, and any other fees that would increase the financial burden on consumers. It is important that we provide relief to customers and families struggling during the coronavirus emergency.
Travel Insurance Consumer Protection
Too many American consumers are now learning that the fine print and hidden terms of their travel insurance policies means that they have no coverage for claims caused by the coronavirus. That’s why Senator Markey called on travel insurance companies to reimburse all coronavirus-related travel insurance claims. Americans are following the advice of public health officials to shorten or cancel their trips, and should not discover that, unless they fall ill from the coronavirus, the travel insurance plans they purchased will not cover their claims.
Protecting Consumer Privacy
Senator Markey sent a letter to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) regarding recent reports that it is considering future partnerships with companies including Google, Facebook, IBM and others, some of which would involve analyzing information about the location of those companies’ users, to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. In his letter, Senator Markey affirms that the federal government “must use technological innovations and collaboration with the private sector to combat the coronavirus,” but raises concerns about the privacy risks that location data collection and processing pose. He wants to know how any data will be collected and stored, who will have access to it, and more.
This bill is the first step to getting every American the help they need. We fought hard to win protections for workers, help for hospitals, and relief for small businesses and we are going to keep fighting to make sure everyone is protected as we face this crisis. pic.twitter.com/CsoTNkAHc7
— Ed Markey (@EdMarkey) March 26, 2020
Senator Markey’s statement on the Senate’s “Phase 3” economic relief package:
“This legislation is far from perfect, but families, workers, and small businesses are desperate for help right now and the resources in this package will support countless Americans. Democrats fought tooth and nail, and we were successful in securing worker retention protections, larger direct payments to families, expanded small business relief, support for our beleaguered hospitals, more resources for our cities and states, and much-needed transparency for the $500 billion corporate fund. This package is massive, it is historic, but it will still need to be followed by additional relief and legislation to ensure that our economy and our families survive.
“I called for special protections for our gig workers and independent contractors, including self-employed fishermen, in this package, and now they will have a new Unemployment Insurance program to provide benefits.
“I have been fighting for the Trump administration to fully utilize the Defense Production Act to secure, distribute, and ramp up production of key medical supplies, and there is $1 billion appropriated for using authorities in Title III of the Act, as well as $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile.
“I led the call for major strings to be attached to any airline bailout, and I am proud this bill keeps millions of airline workers on the job while also prohibiting stock buy backs and puts limits on executive pay.
“This legislation also includes $10 billion for airports such as Logan International and Nantucket Memorial that I fought for, so that these essential hubs of travel can continue to keep their facilities operational, safe, and secure. And I helped work to secure $25 billion for public transit agencies such as the MBTA, to help allow families and workers return to work and school after the crisis, while also preserving good-paying jobs on the system.
“For our seniors, the bill includes my legislation to suspend unfair penalties on retirement accounts so that they don’t face unfair tax burdens due to this emergency.
“The package provides $300 million to help fishermen in Massachusetts and around the country. I called on Senate leadership to support our fishing and seafood industries, and now they will be eligible for disaster assistance.
“For the more than 669,000 Massachusetts small businesses fighting for their economic survival, this bill will provide some much-needed relief with more than $350 billion in loan forgiveness grants to small businesses and non-profits, so they can maintain their payroll and pay expenses. As a member of the Small Business Committee, I joined the fight to secure provisions to waive the payments for every small business with an existing loan from the Small Business Administration.
“I spoke directly to Senate leadership on behalf Massachusetts hospitals, including smaller community hospitals that could face bankruptcy due to collapsing revenues and strained resources. This package includes more than $150 billion – $55 billion more than the Republican proposal – to stabilize our health care system during this crisis.
“I joined Senator Warren to urge immediate stopgap funding to prevent colleges and universities in Massachusetts from raising tuition costs or laying off workers. This bill provides some funding for these educational institutions, but we must continue fighting for financial support for our institutions of higher education.
“Some of Massachusetts’s most vulnerable residents will also benefit from an additional $900 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps families pay their electric and gas bills, and which I have fought to protect.”
“I called on the Administration to devote more resources to ensuring U.S. citizens stuck overseas could get home safely, and this package provides $264 million in additional funds to support consular services such as evacuations.”
“A bailout I’m glad to see missing from this package? It does not include a $3 billion direct bailout for the oil industry, which I have led the fight against.”
“Unfortunately, this bill does not do enough for our students, the climate, and it is woefully insufficient on providing paid sick time to workers. Republicans continue to block meaningful action to provide this critical benefit to America’s workers, but I will not stop until all workers have the paid sick time they have earned and deserve. And despite fighting for the immediate cancellation of student loan payments during this national emergency, this package does little for the millions of Americans saddled with student debt. Future stimulus bills must include significant relief for these borrowers.
“This bill also does not include my push for a nationwide moratorium on gas and electric utility shut-offs, fees, and cost hikes. We did not address dangerous carbon emissions from our airline industry, nor the need to provide cash to consumers for unused tickets despite its bailout. And this package neglected to address funding for vital needs right now such as closing the homework gap and protecting low-income students, nor to protect emergency spectrum for our first responders.
“This will not be the last relief package that our families, workers, and economy will need as this pandemic grows. I will continue to fight so that future relief efforts protect our workers, our families, and our planet.”
*Last updated March 29, 2020.