COVID-19 community updates

Published: 9/29/2020 7:10:28 PM
Free Covid tests through October

The state’s “Stop the Spread” initiative has extended free COVID-19 testing through Oct. 31.

The testing is available in 18 high-priority communities across the commonwealth, including Holyoke, and is open to all residents of the commonwealth.

Residents can visit the initiative’s website at to find testing locations and additional information. Residents are reminded that if they test positive for COVID-19, they should answer the call when they are contacted by the Community Tracing Collaborative or their local board of health. Also, any individual who needs a safe place to isolate can call (617) 367-5150 to access an isolation and recovery site at no cost.

Indoor visits OK for nursing, rest homes

Safe indoor visitation may resume in nursing homes and rest homes, and assisted living residences as of Sept. 25. The guidance from the Department of Public Health and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs balances the important role visitation plays in supporting resident emotional health and quality of life, while ensuring necessary infection control measures are in place.

Nursing homes and rest homes may resume in-person visits so long as appropriate infection control and safety measures are in place, including:

■Indoor visits should occur within a designated visitation space that is close to the entrance of the facility and allows for social distancing.

■The visitor must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and have their temperature checked.

■Residents, staff, and visitors must wear a mask or face covering for the duration of the visit.

■The visitor must remain at least 6 feet away from the resident for the majority of the visit.

■If desired by both parties, there may be physical contact between the resident and visitor so long as precautionary measures are followed such as hand sanitation before and after contact.

■A schedule is implemented for frequent disinfection of the designated visitation space.

■The unit, floor, or care area where the resident lives must not have any COVID-19 cases in residents or staff in the past 14 days and the facility is not experiencing a staffing shortage that requires a contingency staffing plan.

DOC resumes safe in-person visits

The Massachusetts Department of Correction announced that in-person visits will resume at all facilities on Monday in a way that balances the benefits of visitation with the need for vigilance against COVID-19.

DOC’s approach is guided by public health data and focused on its responsibility to those living and working in its facilities. Visitors may schedule a visit via phone and obtain additional information about health and safety protocols. Personal visits are limited during this phase to one visit per inmate per week, with up to two visitors at a time, and must be scheduled 24 hours in advance. Attorney visits remain ongoing and unaffected by this change.

In line with public health guidance, DOC remains committed to using public health data, specifically positive test rates within DOC facilities and in the broader community, to create protocols that protect public safety and embrace its responsibility for those in its care. As a result, there have only been four COVID-19 cases in DOC population since July 1, all of which reflect inmates who had contracted the virus prior to entering DOC custody. The department’s testing, screening, and quarantine initiatives continue to safeguard the health of about 6,900 inmates, as well as DOC staff and vendors.

Upon arrival and prior to entering the facility, visitors will participate in a standard screening process, will be required to use hand sanitizer, and face coverings will be worn at all times. Visits will take place in designated areas without physical contact, with a physical barrier between the visitor and inmate. All high-touch areas are sanitized between visits and at the end of the visiting period.

Economic impact payment deadlines

Federal benefit recipients who don’t normally have a filing requirement but do have qualifying children must register by Wednesday to receive a $500 catch-up payment per child. Other non-filers have until Oct. 15 to register for their Economic Impact Payment.

Anyone using the non-filers tool can speed up the arrival of their payment by choosing to receive it by direct deposit. Those who don’t choose direct deposit will get a check.

The deadline applies to individuals who didn’t receive $500 per qualifying child earlier this year when they received their own automatic Economic Impact Payment and who receive:

■Social Security retirement

■Survivor or disability benefits

■Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

■Railroad Retirement benefits

■Veterans Affairs Compensation

■Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefits

Federal benefit recipients can use the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool to get a catch-up payment for a qualifying child if they have not done one of the following:

■already used the non-filers tool to provide information about their qualifying child or

■filed their 2019 or 2018 federal tax return

Anyone who filed or plans to file a 2018 or 2019 tax return should not use this tool and should file their tax return by the Oct. 15 deadline.

People who’ve already used the non-filers tool to provide info on children don’t need to do anything else. The IRS will automatically make a payment to them in October.

Oct. 15, 2020 is the registration deadline to get an economic impact payment this year.Eligible individuals with little or no income who are not required to file a tax return may still qualify to receive an economic impact payment this year, if they use the non-filers: enter payment info here tool by Oct. 15.

Anyone who misses either of these deadlines will need to wait until next year and claim the payment as a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return.

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