The Massachusetts House of Representatives held its first-ever remote formal session on Wednesday, during which the House unanimously passed Governor Baker’s borrowing bill that authorizes the Treasury to borrow billions of dollars as needed through June to meet the state’s financial obligations during the ongoing fight against the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
On Monday, Governor Baker released the Administration’s four-phased approach to methodically reopen Massachusetts’ economy. In addition to the phased approach, Governor Baker issued Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards that all businesses will be required to operationalize once Phase 1 of the reopening plan goes into effect. Highlights from this announcement are below.
- Phased Planning: Massachusetts will follow a four-phased approach to reopening. Non-essential businesses and activities with a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission will open in earlier phases. If the data allows, riskier activities will open in later phases. Additional information will be provided in the coming days about which industries and activities will open in each phase. These four phases can be ramped up, or back down based on available COVID-19 epidemiological data.
- Framework: There will be three levels of guidance from the Administration that each sector, industry, and business will need to follow.The first is general social guidance about how people should conduct themselves. Today, the Governor announced the second level, which is Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards that all businesses must adopt upon reopening. Industry specific guidance will be released when necessary.
- Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards: All workplaces in Massachusetts that are allowed to operate will be required to implement these Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards once Phase 1 is operational. The standards were developed by the Reopening Advisory Board, in consultation with the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the COVID-19 Command Center.
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives meets in another mostly remote, full formal session to take its final enactment vote on the aforementioned borrowing bill. The Senate is expected to vote on this bill on Thursday under new rules that enable Senators to submit their vote via a letter to the clerk or vote remotely.
In Federal news, US House leaders are expected to release and potentially vote on the next phase of a coronavirus release package in the coming days. Additionally, some members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force will appear before a congressional panel on Tuesday to answer questions about their response efforts so far. Those expected to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) include: top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, and White House “testing czar” Brett Giroir.
And on Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it is proposing to create a new Medicare-severity-diagnosis related group (MS-DRG) designed specifically for reimbursing providers administering CAR T-cell therapies to cancer patients. The new proposed regulation is expected to be finalized this summer.