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Your Tewksbury Today

Covid-19 Updates #14: Phase II, Climate Crisis, RMV Update, and More

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope everyone is doing well this week and finding or intentionally spending time to practice self care. One thing I have been doing is continuing to find ways to give back to our great community. On Saturday, I joined the Merrimack Valley Central Labor Council, Ironworkers Local 7, and other unions for a food drive to help the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council address the increased need for food, diapers, and other supplies during the pandemic. And yesterday, I delivered face coverings to Lazarus House, which does tremendous work to feed, clothe, and shelter our neighbors who are hit especially hard during these difficult times.

We also heard from Governor Baker on Saturday about his plans to move forward with Phase II of the Reopening Plan beginning this week on June 8th. Phase II is happening in two steps. First, retail stores, childcare providers, day camps, lodgings, youth sports, and outdoor dining at restaurants are allowed to reopen as of June 8th. The start of step two will depend on public health data and be announced at a later time. Step two of Phase II will include indoor service at restaurants and close contact personal services like nail and tanning salons and massage therapy. Additionally in Phase II, more in person elective non-urgent health care treatment and procedures will be allowed, including routine office visits, dental visits, and vision care subject to ongoing public health compliance. It will also allow in-person behavioral health treatment, while we hope that people will continue to use telehealth as much as possible. Elective cosmetic procedures and surgeries and in-person day programs have been deferred until Phase III. The Phase II order can be found here and more information about the Reopening Plan can be found here.
Town Halls

Tomorrow, June 13th at 10:00 am, I will be hosting a discussion with Jim Mulloy, an environmental activist, on public policies that would help combat the climate crisis and how you can get involved! If you have questions for us, you can submit them using this Google Form: https://forms.gle/iztV8a95gh98HH7j9.

Additionally, please save the date for our final Town Hall in this series: on Saturday, June 20th at 10:00 am, I will be joined by Family Law Attorney Laura Gal from Northeast Legal Aid to have a conversation about healthy relationships. It is important that we all understand what healthy relationships and consent should look like, as well as know what resources are available to those in need. You can submit your questions about healthy relationships at https://forms.gle/jZUbyhsbDTfSAwXY6.

As a reminder, we are live streaming the town halls on my Facebook Page. You don’t need a Facebook account to watch the Facebook Live stream or to replay the recording afterwards. You simply need to visit my page at facebook.com/TeamTram.MA and a link to my scheduled live streams should appear near the top of the page. Additionally, if you are not able to watch it live, a recording will be available on my page afterwards.

I hope you can join us tomorrow!
Resources
  • Many families are struggling right now. Know that you are not alone. Please reach out to the 2-1-1 resource hotline to get connected with resources that you may need.
  • If you feel overwhelmed with emotions like sadness or anxiety, or feel like harming yourself or others, Call2Talk is a resource available through the 2-1-1 resource hotline.
  • Massachusetts Network of Care, a searchable behavioral health directory of mental health services and over 5,000 organizations, is available here.
  • Resources for people in need can be found at https://findhelp.org/ and on this map developed by MEMA, MA VOAD, and other partners.
  • Resources for people with disabilities can be found through the Disability Resource Center on this spreadsheet.
  • For Covid housing and emergency needs you can reach out to Community Teamwork, Inc. (CTI) between 8:30 am and 4:00 pm at their general hotline 978-654-5607 or by emailing them at CovidResponseCTI@commteam.orgClick here to check CTI’s website for updates.
  • State Attorney General Healey’s Office (AGO) has resources here. You can find information about protecting yourself from scams and fraud, division hotline numbers, and more.
  • UI Fraud Alert: Criminal enterprises using stolen personal information from earlier national data breaches have been attempting to file fraudulent unemployment claims through the DUA system. If you have received notification that you've been approved for benefits that you never applied for, please report it right away. Click here for more information and to report DUA fraud online. It is also recommended that you file a police report and freeze your credit with all three major credit reporting agencies.
  • The COVID-19 Command Center and MEMA have stood up regional isolation and recovery sites located in hotels across the Commonwealth. Providers or individuals from Boston can access isolation sites at Boston Hope or Newton Pavilion by calling (617) 534-5050. Individuals who do not live in Boston can access Isolation & Recovery Sites in Lexington, Everett, Taunton, Northampton, and Pittsfield by calling (617) 367-5150 between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm More information, including clinical and financial eligibility, can be found here.
Source: https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-dashboard-june-11-2020/download

Latest updates on the State of Emergency
  • Click here for Frequently Asked Questions about Covid-19.
  • Click here for the latest guidance on prevention and treatment.
  • On Thursday, June 11th, we tested 10,833 individuals and had 519 new positive cases (about 5%). In total, 678,925 patients have been tested. There are 104,667 total reported cases of Covid-19 and 7,492 deaths in the Commonwealth. The latest updates can be found here.
  • Hospital capacity: As of June 11th, there are about 17,300 beds statewide and about 53% are currently empty and available. There are 1,260 patients hospitalized statewide for Covid-19.
  • Contact Tracing: as the Contact Tracing Collaborative continues its work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, it is critical that Massachusetts residents answer the phone when a contact tracer calls or texts. Contact tracers will only reach out from phone numbers with 833 or 857 area codes, and the caller ID will say MA COVID TeamClick here to learn more.
  • Visitation: beginning on June 3rd, family visitation restrictions at nursing homes, rest homes, and assisted living facilities were eased to allow for scheduled outdoor visits. Visits are limited to no more than two individuals. Guidance has been issued and applies to all nursing homes, rest homes, and assisted living facilities except Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers Homes. Additional guidance to come for congregate care facilities.
  • On May 18th, the Governor issued a “safer at home” advisory, urging that people should stay at home unless heading to an essential service or a newly reopened facility or activity. Residents aged 65 or older and those with underlying health conditions should stay home except for necessary trips.
  • Face coverings are required in public when physical distancing is not possible. Full details of the order can be found here.
Legislative Updates
The American Red Cross Needs Our Help!
  • Blood drives are being cancelled at an alarming rate. Low donor turnout could hurt U.S. blood supply. The Red Cross understands people may be hesitant to give blood due to coronavirus, but wants to reassure everyone on the precautions their teams are taking to keep you safe. The Red Cross urges healthy individuals to give blood. Learn more and schedule an appointment at rcblood.org/2IAWGba.
Healthcare
  • Health Connector has a special enrollment period for healthcare coverage through June 23rd for those who are uninsured.
  • Buoy Health offers a free 24/7 online tool for Massachusetts residents to give personalized guidance on what to do if residents experience symptoms of Covid-19. Visit Buoy Health Covid-19 Web App to use the tool.
  • Massachusetts launched a Covid-19 test site locator map for people who qualify for testing, which was expanded to include people with mild symptoms and those who are close contacts of a positive case.
  • There is a dedicated phone line operating 7 days a week for any family concerns about loved ones in nursing homes and rest homes: 617-660-5399.
  • People in need of Personal Care Attendant (PCA) services, which support individuals with disabilities and older adults with activities of daily living (ADL), such as dressing, grooming, bathing, and ambulating, can call 1-844-422-6277 to be connected to home health services in your region.
  • MassHealth and the Health Connector will protect coverage for all individuals who have Medicaid coverage as of March 18th and for all individuals approved for coverage during the national emergency.
  • DPH warned of virus-linked syndrome in children. You can read more about this here.
Employment
  • Jobs are available to assist long term care facilities
  • People may use this contact form to submit questions and comments to the Administration about the Reopening Plan. It also outlines the process for reporting non-compliant businesses.
  • Minors under the age of 18 who have been employed part-time but are not eligible for regular UI should be eligible under the CARES Act for PUA benefits. According to Secretary Acosta, those who are under the age of 18 can file for unemployment insurance under the PUA program, but they must do so over the phone at (877) 626-6800. There is no timeline for creating the ability for minors to file for UI online at this point.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): the CARES Act expands unemployment benefits for individuals who may have already exhausted regular unemployment compensation for an additional 13 weeks – this benefit is now available. PEUC will begin automatically for individuals who have been receiving regular standard benefits on an active claim. If an individual's standard unemployment claim has expired, they must file a new standard claim. Individuals who exhausted regular benefits but were receiving benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) established under the CARES Act must apply through the standard unemployment benefits portal here. Individuals will automatically receive the additional $600 weekly through the week ending July 25, 2020. Get more information at www.mass.gov/peuc.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The PUA application form for self employed, gig workers, and those who have exhausted their state benefits launched on April 21st. Click here for more information about the CARES Act implementation.
  • Click here for the latest updates and resources to apply for UI Benefits. The application is now available in m English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
  • People experiencing unemployment may also need help with finding health care coverage. Health Connector has a Special Enrollment Period that has been extended until June 23rd. For more information please visit the Health Connector COVID-19 website. Additional health insurance resources for people who have recently lost their employment can be found here (English) and here (Spanish).
  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued guidance on emergency paid leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law on March 18th. This includes guidance for employer requirementsemployee rights, and potential frequently asked questions.
  • Here is a Guide for Workers on returning to work, as it relates to unemployment insurance (UI).
Employers
Students, Borrowers, and Parents
  • The Massachusetts Division of Banks (DOB) has joined a multi-state initiative to secure payment relief options for Massachusetts student loan borrowers and issued a Consumer Advisory with important information and resources for private student loan borrowers. Through this initiative, DOB has secured relief options with 15 private student loan servicers to expand on the protections the federal government granted to federal student loan borrowers. These new options stand to benefit over 182,000 Massachusetts borrowers with privately held student loans. This response builds on the federal CARES Act, which provided much needed relief for students with federal loans, including the suspension of monthly payments, interest and involuntary collection activity until September 30, 2020. Check the advisory linked above for more information.
  • In addition, the MA Department of Higher Education (DHE) is deferring scheduled repayments for its No-Interest Loan Program for a duration of four months to support relief efforts during the Covid-19 public health emergency. These deferments will help approximately 12,000 students. All no-interest loan accounts currently in repayment will automatically be placed in a deferment from April 2020 through July 2020. More information can be found here.
  • Student Aid Relief: an administrative forbearance and zero interest loan relief was implemented for certain federal loans from March 13th through September 30, 2020. Click here for more information.
Resources for Survivors of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault
  • For the latest information, please check mass.gov/covid19.
  • Domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, know that you are not forgotten and we are here to provide resources to support and keep you safe. Physical spaces are temporarily closed, but there are resources available remotely. Also, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are still available at hospitals to collect forensics.
  • Trial courts can be reached during regular hours at 1-833-91COURT. Judges are available 24/7 to issue 209A restraining orders and 258E harassment orders. These forms have been repackaged as one document to streamline and expedite the process and can be found online. However, please note that you must still contact the trial courts to start the process.
  • The Safelink Hotline is a centralized number to call to talk to someone and receive services for sexual and domestic violence. Calls are confidential and available in many different languages to support survivors and their family. The hotline is available by calling 211 or toll free 1-877-785-2020. For people who are hearing impaired, call TTY 1-877-521-2601.
  • If you are not comfortable calling, you can instant message with a trained advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, www.thehotline.orgwww.loveisrespect.org, or www.rainn.org.
  • If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
Preventing Child Abuse
  • Child abuse affects every community, whether you are aware of it or not. As adults, there are many things we can do to prevent child abuse, like actively acknowledging the signs of child abuse and knowing when and where to report instances of abuse or neglect. Check out the MA Children’s Alliance Resource Page to learn more.
Advisory Affecting Drivers
  • For the most up-to-date information, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/rmv-covid-19-information.
  • Online Learner’s Permit Tests: as of June 10th, Class D and M learner’s permit exams are available online.
  • AAA Northeast reopened select branch offices in Massachusetts, while following strict distancing procedures and CDC guidelines for the protection and benefit of employees and AAA members. Members should visit aaa.com/branches and enter their zip code to find the nearest open office.  Everyone will be required to wear a face covering to enter and conduct business at AAA branch offices and will be asked to physically distance. RMV services will be available by appointment only to members who complete an online reservation ahead of time.
  • The RMV is cautioning customers to use only mass.gov/rmv when they are trying to renew a license or registration or process any business transactions online.  Customers may inadvertently come across unofficial third-party websites or “mimic sites” that advertise similar services but have no affiliation with the RMV.
Census 2020
  • The census impacts more than $16 billion in federal funds that Massachusetts receives, from hospitals, to schools, roads, transportation, unemployment benefits, financial aid, healthcare, and more, all receive the federal funding based on Census data. These are tough times for all of us. Help our community receive the federal funding it needs for the next 10 years by taking 10 minutes to complete your 2020 Census. If we go undercounted, we risk missing out on funds. We can’t let that happen. Please fill out your census today - online, by phone, or by mail! Fill out your Census, and tell your family and friends to do so too!
Law-related Resources
  • Volunteer Lawyers Projects Eastern Region Legal Intake (ERLI) is available to callers seeking legal assistance, advice, and referral. If you’re looking for help with a legal matter check out the Get Help page, contact the ERLI helpline at 617-603-1700, or apply online for legal assistance here. ERLI is open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9AM - 12PM; and Tuesday and Thursday at 12:30PM - 3:30PM. If you call and reach a voicemail, be sure to leave your name and number and they will contact you.
  • Northeast Legal Aid (NLA) has information and resources here.
  • For some law-related updates and help regarding Covid-19, you can visit https://www.masslegalhelp.org/health-mental-health/covid-19.
  • Massachusetts Covid-19 bills, summarized in plain English by the MassTrac Legal Division, are now available to the public for free here.
  • The Trial Court helpline is available. Assistance includes general information about cases & navigation of the court system, while it is closed to the public for all but emergency matters. It's staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Please call 1-833-91COURT.
What You Can Do to Help
  • To donate goods for use in Massachusetts' response to the Covid-19 public health emergency click here.
  • To provide information about goods you are looking to sell to support Massachusetts' Covid-19 response efforts click here.
  • To adapt your business to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) click here.
  • To volunteer to assist in public health, health care, and emergency response click here.
Practicing Self-care
  • Do activities to reduce stress & cope with fear of Covid-19, like physical and mindfulness exercises, planting a garden, cooking, connecting with your friends and family on the phone or video chat, reading a book, and getting plenty of sleep.
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