Right now, the United States is working to combat the spread of a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus that was first detected in China and has now spread to over 100 locations internationally, including to Massachusetts. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).
I want to stress that this is a time for precaution, prevention, and preparation — not for panic. In the coming days and weeks, we can expect the number of cases in the United States to increase, and we all must do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
As of right now, there is 1 confirmed COVID-19 case in Massachusetts and there are 92 presumptive positive cases that tested positive in our state's public health lab and are being sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmation.
I want to let you know about some of the steps I have taken in response to this situation.
First, last week, I voted yes on an $8.3 billion dollar package of new funding to address this threat that has been signed into law by President Trump. Our funding includes:
- $3 billion to the development of a coronavirus vaccine, including $300 million to ensure everyone has access regardless of their ability to pay.
- $2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness and response, including $1 billion specifically to alleviate the immense financial strain on hospitals and health systems.
- $1 billion for medical supplies and medical surge capacity.
Second, my office has been in touch with Governor Baker, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and federal stakeholders to ensure we are doing everything we can do to assist and facilitate our Commonwealth’s response.
Our congressional delegation is actively working right now to ensure that Massachusetts has access to the tools, information, and resources we need to mount a robust local response to COVID-19.
Third, yesterday afternoon, my office held a conference call with health care providers in Central and Western Massachusetts to listen to their concerns about the COVID-19 response and to make sure they are getting the information, tools, and resources they need from our state and federal government to keep our community safe.
What you need to know about prevention and detection:
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Symptoms of infection may appear 2-14 days after exposure and include:
- Cough and shortness of breath, and
- In severe cases, pneumonia (fluid in the lungs)
If you have these symptoms and suspect you may have COVID-19, call ahead before going to a doctor or hospital!
If you do not have coverage, or if you need help with eligibility and enrollment into health insurance/safety net programs, I encourage you to call Health Care For All's Health Coverage Helpline at (800) 272-4232.
The best way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed. Here are some simple actions you can take to avoid exposure:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and care takers.
- Wash your hands often and vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water if they are visibly dirty.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has established a coronavirus resource page that can be found here and is updated daily.
Other reliable sources of information include:
CDC Coronavirus Website
CDC Frequently Asked Questions
Mass. Department of Public Health Printable Fact Sheets
The health and safety of you and your loved ones is my top priority. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call one of my district offices.
James P. McGovern
Member of Congress