In The People's Blog

Greetings Friends,

I write to you today as our state grapples with the COVID-19 outbreak. This is a very hard time and we’re going to get through it, together.

First, thank you to all public officials, boards of health, medical providers, first responders, school staff, transit authorities, and everyone charged with the care and well-being of Commonwealth residents.

I am with you at the state level. Here’s a Dear Jo article that outlines my work to date, including information about a Joint Committee on Public Health Oversight Hearing on COVID-19 that I chaired last week. You can view the hearing via this link . You can also listen to a radio interview I did earlier this week with Monte Belmonte here.

The Senate President has asked me to lead a working group focused on the Senate’s response to COVID-19-related challenges to our Commonwealth and its people. I have also accepted an invitation to join a state-wide task force charged with developing policy recommendations to address the disproportionate burden on communities already experiencing marginalization and discrimination. We can only consider ourselves as prepared as our most vulnerable neighbors are prepared.

Here’s what we can do now:

  • Reach out if you have questions or need assistance. My team is ready to help. Call 413-367-4656 or email me directly at jo.comerford@masenate.gov.
  • Think about those around you who may need assistance or benefit from a supportive call or text.
  • Spread the facts (and only the facts) about the virus. Get them here: MA Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DPH also runs a 24/7 phone hotline at 617-983-6800.
  • Buy local. Support main street businesses and our farmers. Double down on your support of local non-profits providing care.
  • Talk with the children in your life. Here’s a good resource.

Engage in prevention, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Clean things that are frequently touched (like doorknobs and countertops). The virus lives on surfaces for a period of time.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Stay home when sick.
  • Avoid large gatherings if you are at higher risk. Higher risk groups include: Older adults, anyone with underlying health conditions (such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes), anyone with weakened immune systems, anyone who is pregnant.
  • Postpone or cancel non-essential large events and gatherings.
  • Get a flu shot to prevent the spread of influenza, which can leave those affected more vulnerable and stretch our medical system that much more.
  • Remember, if you suspect you have COVID-19: Call your medical provider first!
    • Do not use public transportation, ride sharing services, taxis, or show up unannounced at a hospital. You can call your local board of health, your healthcare provider, local hospital, or community health center, or call the Massachusetts State Epidemiology line at 617-983-6800.

Spread the facts about where people can turn for legal help. Here are some good resources from Attorney General Maura Healey:

  • Information about sick time laws: 617-727-3465
  • Help with insurance claims or medical bills: 888-830-6277
  • Report price gouging or defective products: 617-727-8400
  • If you’re having difficulty negotiating a travel refund or are concerned about a potential scam, consider filing a complaint: www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint

What else?

The Legislature recently passed a supplemental budget to provide DPH with $95,000 to ensure that Massachusetts could test for the COVID-19 virus at our in-state laboratory, and we are now readying an additional $15 million supplemental budget for passage.

I also joined with Sen. Eric Lesser, Rep. Mindy Domb, and 59 of our colleagues to call on the Governor to require health insurers to waive copays and deductibles for COVID-19 testing, and subsequently the Division of Insurance issued a new directive prohibiting health insurers from charging any patient costs for that testing. Background on this here .

Governor Baker has declared a state of emergency, a decision that I support fully. The Massachusetts Senate is also recommending measures for offices in line with public health guidance about stopping the spread of COVID-19.

In accordance with good public health guidance, where possible, my team and I are going virtual.

Please see information about my upcoming People’s Office Library Tours which have been changed to public conference calls. Additionally, our People’s Office Hours are going virtual. You can visit my website calendar for the most up-to-date information on how to participate in our virtual events, which start this Saturday.

My team and I have heard from school superintendents, emergency room department staff, local officials and non-profit organizations over the past weeks with suggestions for how the state can best offer a comprehensive response to the health, economic, and social challenges posed by this outbreak. As the working group that I am chairing ramps up, I will keep their ideas top of mind and allow them to propel us forward.

Please know that my team and I are advocating for the most comprehensive state response possible.

Sending our love to you.

– Jo, Jared, Elena, Sam, and Brian

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