Chamber News

October 22, 2020 Likes Comments

Yesterday's new CDC guidance could impact workplaces & schools

New guidance from the CDC could have a big impact on workplaces, schools and other group settings where we might come into contact with an individual carrying the coronavirus multiple times over the same day.

The CDC had previously defined a “close contact” as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of a confirmed COVID case.
 
But yesterday's updated guidelines defines a "close contact" as someone who was within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
 
The new guidance could impact when our workplaces and other locations might have to shut down due to a positive COVID test, or when individuals should self-quarantine.
 
And it would certainly expand the parameters for when contact tracing should be employed.
 
“It’s easy to accumulate 15 minutes in small increments when you spend all day together — a few minutes at the water cooler, a few minutes in the elevator, and so on,” Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the Washington Post.
 
“I expect this will result in many more people being identified as close contacts,” she added: “This change underscores the importance of vigilant social distancing — even multiple brief interactions can pose a risk.”
 
The CDC also stressed that mask wearing and social distancing is more important than ever this fall and winter as Americans head indoors.
 
Speaking of masks, here’s something that makes a lot of sense: A PPE industry group is collaborating with scientists to create a rating system to help consumers become smarter mask shoppers.
 
But, of course, there’s disagreement about just what those standards should be, or how it would be carried out. The Washington Post explains.
 
New program to help restaurants and customers
 
Remember back in August when I wrote about a British stimulus program that subsidized the cost of meals for restaurant goers on days when foot traffic is the lowest?
 
Well, Mass Restaurant Association and SEATED have just announced plans to roll out a similar program here.
 
The “Eat Out to Help Out MA” program will provide Bay State restaurant patrons with a 50 percent rebate on any check from full-service restaurants, for both on and off-premise dining, from Monday to Wednesday each week in November. Customers can reap their rewards by downloading a SEATED app.
 
There no cost for restaurants to participate, except that they must be an MRA member. Restaurants can learn about participating here.
 
Employers: Please find ten minutes for this
 
The chamber is joining in an effort with the state to collect information from employers on their employees’ childcare needs. Please take ten minutes to complete this survey.

Business associations from across the Commonwealth will be sending this survey to their members and the total responses will be compiled and aggregated. The results will help inform the business community, general public and policymakers about the views, interests, and needs of the community at this critical moment.

Frustrating PPP story of the week
 
It seems like every week, there’s another story about inequities in the Paycheck Protection Program.
 
The latest comes from a report by House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis which found that some of largest PPP lenders often kept it smallest businesses waiting far longer to receive their money.
 
For example, PPP applicants at JPMorgan Chase & Co. for loans under $100,000 saw an average wait time from application to funding of about 14.5 days. For loans $5 million and up, it was just 3.7 days. And small businesses with five employees or fewer waited 14.3 days compared with 8.7 days for companies with 100 or more employees. (Boston Business Journal)
 
Today’s helpful bullet points
  • The Boston Foundation and Barr Foundation are holding a virtual event Weds. (Oct. 28) at 10 a.m. to introduce the release of the Building Movement Project's new 2020 Race to Lead report: “The Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap in Massachusetts: A Race to Lead Brief.” The webinar will highlight the need for nonprofit leaders, funders and supporters to understand and acknowledge the systemic white advantage that permeates the sector, challenging us to move toward achieving greater equity and inclusion. Register here.
  • Lawyers Clearinghouse provides pro bono legal services to help small businesses and nonprofits who will need assistance dealing with employment and contract issues as well as those needing help to navigate and apply for assistance through the CARES Act.
  • Bruce Johnstone a senior marketing investment strategist with Fidelity Investments will be talking about the current state of economies around the globe, with a focus on prospects for US corporate profit growth at a Needham History Center day-after-the-election event on a Weds, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. Details here.
More woes for the MBTA
 
From Chris Lisinskiat State House News
 
The rush hour traffic that we all used to dread may not be back to pre-COVID crowds until at least 2024 -- or perhaps longer if the economic recovery drags or if working from home remains common -- according to new Department of Transportation projections.
 
That sounds like good news for commuters but it's bad news for the MBTA, which is once again downgrading its already-strained financial outlook, based on new projections.
 
"One of the factors that attracts people to transit is that they are trying to avoid morning rush-hour traffic," Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said. "If morning rush-hour traffic is substantially lower than it was in 2019, that could have knock-on effects in terms of how quickly transit ridership comes back."
 
Instead of ending the current spending year about $2 million in the black, the T now expects it will wrap up FY21 between $18 million and $46 million in the red. Fare revenues could drop another $114 million to $271 million below the existing expectations for fiscal year 2022.
 
Local elected officials have been vocal about the damage that MBTA service cuts would inflict, and a coalition wants state lawmakers to step in and revive transportation-related taxes to help stave off the damage. But so far, lawmakers have not indicated any plans to find more mass transit revenue.
 
Baker comes out against fun (size)
 
Gov. Charlie Baker announced earlier this month that there will be no state mandate on Halloween or trick-or-treating. But -- at the urging of a 9-year-old, crayon-wielding resident -- yesterday the governor seemed to be endorsing a position on what to give -- or really, not to give -- trick or treaters. Video here.
 
(You can find NBC10’s town-by-town guide to trick-or-treating is here.)
 
Be back tomorrow. Slow, deep, breaths if you're planning on watching the debate.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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