After Governor Baker declared a State of Emergency for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on March 10, 2020, the state government has moved swiftly to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and related public health orders on the Massachusetts residents, businesses, and institutions.
In addition to working closely with the House of Representatives and the Baker Administration, the Massachusetts State Senate has also formed an emergency task force to help us better understand and respond to the many impacts of this outbreak on our families, schools, municipalities, businesses, and other institutions. Senator Jason Lewis was appointed by Senate President Karen Spilka to serve on this task force.
“The COVID-19 global pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for our communities and our Commonwealth, and it demands decisive and effective leadership from all levels of government,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “In the midst of this crisis, it has been inspiring to see the response from our healthcare workers, first responders, and residents of our communities who are stepping up to support each other.”
In addition to federal actions, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has taken many major actions to address the pandemic, including the following:
- The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has been activated and is bringing together health, human services, public safety and several other government agencies. This working group follows the Department of Public Health’s infectious disease task force that was stood up in January.
- The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced that by Monday, March 23, 2020, statewide capacity for COVID-19 daily testing would reach at least 3,500 tests analyzed per day.
- The Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation authorizing the Baker administration to spend $15 million as it works with local health officials to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
- The Legislature also passed a bill to enable immediate access to unemployment benefits for those who have lost their jobs as a result of the crisis, waiving waiting periods and loosening eligibility requirements for those seeking unemployment assistance.
- To limit the spread of the virus, the Baker Administration ordered the closure of all schools and child care providers until at least April 6, 2020.
- Similarly, Governor Baker ordered a halt to eat-in dining at restaurants and bars in order to minimize social contact and transmission of the virus.
- The state created a $10 million loan fund for small businesses and non-profits to provide working capital, and pushed back sales tax and meals tax payments that would otherwise be due this month to help small businesses, especially restaurants, weather the storm.
- Governor Baker ordered the activation of the Massachusetts National Guard, authorizing the 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.
The State Senate and Senator Lewis’s office, following recommended best practices from public health authorities, are implementing “social distancing” practices to limit the chance of virus transmission, including canceling State House events and tours, holding virtual committee meetings, and enabling more work to be done remotely. To that end, Senator Lewis encourages constituents and advocates to contact his office by email at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov, by phone at (617) 722-1206, or through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Senator Lewis’s office will continue to provide constituent services to residents in need throughout the crisis.
Senator Lewis also strongly encourages residents to rely only upon trusted sources of information, such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for news about the coronavirus. Anyone in Massachusetts seeking more information about the coronavirus or the state’s response should visit mass.gov/covid19 or call 2-1-1 to reach the state’s COVID-19 hotline. Residents should also rely upon their local town or city website for up-to-date information about preventative actions at the local level and advice from public health authorities.