March 1 Legislative & COVID-19 Update

News from the office of Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante

Today, Massachusetts advances to Step 2 of Phase III of the state’s reopening plan. The Commonwealth has also announced plans to transition to Step 1 of Phase IV on Monday, March 22.

Phase III, Step 2

On May 18, 2020, the Commonwealth released a four-phased plan to reopen the economy conditioned on sustained improvements in public health data. As of October, 2020, the reopening had proceeded to Step 2 of Phase III of the plan. On December 13, 2020, in response to an increase in new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations following the Thanksgiving holiday, the Commonwealth returned to Step 1 of Phase III, reducing capacities across a broad range of sectors and tightening several other workplace restrictions. 

Since the beginning of this year, key public health data, such as new cases and hospitalizations, have been closely monitored and a significant decline has been documented, allowing for a return to Step 2 of Phase III, effective March 1 for all cities and towns. This includes the following updates to businesses, activities and capacities:Indoor performance venues such as concert halls, theaters, and other indoor performance spaces will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity with no more than 500 personsIndoor recreational activities with greater potential for contact (laser tag, roller skating, trampolines, obstacle courses) will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacityCapacity limits across all sectors with capacity limits will be raised to 50% and exclude employeesRestaurants will no longer have a percent capacity limit and will be permitted to host musical performances; six-foot social distancing, limits of six people per table and 90 minute limits remain in placeResidents must continue to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and are encouraged to avoid contact outside of their immediate households. The Travel Advisory and other public health orders remain in effect.

Gathering Changes and Phase IV Start

Provided public health metrics continue to improve, effective on March 22, all communities in Massachusetts will move into Step 1 of Phase IV of the state’s reopening plan. This will open a range of previously closed business sectors under tight capacity restrictions that are expected to be adjusted over time if favorable trends in the public health data continue. Effective on the planned advancement to Step 1 of Phase IV, the following industries will be permitted to operate at a strict 12% capacity limit after submitting a plan to the Department of Public Health (DPH):Indoor and outdoor stadiumsArenasBallparksAlso effective on March 22, gathering limits for event venues and in public settings will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors. Outdoor gatherings at private residences and in private backyards will remain at a maximum of 25 people, with indoor house gatherings remaining at 10 people.

Additionally, dance floors will be permitted at weddings and other events only, and overnight summer camps will be allowed to operate this coming summer. Exhibition and convention halls may also begin to operate, following gatherings limits and event protocols. Other Phase IV sectors must continue to remain closed. 

Please read on below for new, updated, and important legislative updates and information surrounding the COVID-19 crisis and see our past newsletters if you haven’t had a chance to read them already for more relevant guidance and directives following Governor Baker’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 10th. Visit Mass.gov for complete information, check the municipal websites for GloucesterRockport, and Essex for local guidance, and text “COVIDMA” to 888-777 to receive COVID-19 text message alerts straight to your phone.
CareWell Vaccination Clinic Update
We have heard from several individuals who were vaccinated at CareWell Urgent Care vaccination clinics who have expressed concerns over hearing they may not be able to get their second vaccination. My office has brought these concerns to the Baker-Polito Administration.

The Administration has stated that it will be ensuring that second doses will be delivered to vaccinate all individuals who receive their first doses at vaccination clinics across the state. The COVID-19 Command Center and the Department of Public Health are actively working with CareWell on their request for second doses and once DPH receives their survey request for doses, the doses will be allocated and delivered to CareWell for second dose appointments.

If you received your first vaccination at one of thise vaccine clinics, please remain in contact with the vaccination provider to ensure that you receive your follow-up appointment for your second vaccination.
COVID-19 Business Relief Grants
Last week, the Commonwealth announced more than $49 million in awards to 1,108 additional small businesses in the eighth round of COVID-19 Small Business and Sector-Specific Grant Programs administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC). 

To date, the Commonwealth has awarded more than $563 million in direct financial support to 12,320 businesses impacted by the pandemic, including over $2.6 million to small businesses on Cape Ann, to help with expenses like payroll, benefits, utilities and rent.

Each business meets sector and demographic priorities set for the two grant programs. More than half of grantees are restaurants, bars, caterers, operators of personal services like hair and nail salons, and independent retailers. Over half of the businesses receiving relief are women-and-minority-owned enterprises. 

The awards announced last week are the result of a process by MGCC to engage directly with applicants that met sector and demographic priorities but were missing documents necessary to be considered for an award. MGCC is continuing to work with business owners in targeted sectors and demographic groups to allow for applicants to submit necessary documents.

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