WHAT IS “MATILDA’S LAW?” HOW CAN SENIORS COPE WITH SOCIAL ISOLATION?
Matilda’s law was announced by Governor Cuomo in conjunction with the 100% reduction in non-essential workforce and closure of non-essential businesses as part of the NY PAUSE program during New York’s state of emergency. Despite the name, it is an executive order with guidelines for vulnerable populations, rather than a law that was passed by the Legislature. However, executive orders issued during emergencies such as the COVID pandemic carry the full force of law. It provides additional social distancing guidelines for people over the age of 70, people with underlying health conditions and people with compromised immune systems. The guidelines are as follows:
- Do not go to the homes of your relatives or homes with multiple people in them. Limit visits in your own home to immediate family members or close friends for emergency purposes only. Any visitors to your home should be screened for fever before being allowed to enter.
- Everyone in the home of a senior or vulnerable person (including the vulnerable person themselves) should wear a mask for the duration of the visit.
- Engage only in solitary outdoor exercise activities (taking a walk, etc.)
- Stay home unless necessary to obtain supplies, medical care, or emergency services.
Seniors and others who are practicing social distancing according to Matilda’s Law should know that there are resources available to help ease the emotional burden of isolation. Catholic Charities offers a Telephone Assurance program to residents of Erie County, and a Friendly Phones program to residents of Orleans County. People can call (716) 218-1400 (Erie) or (585) 786-3440 (Orleans) and leave a message if they would like someone to call them occasionally to check in on them.
Additionally, Compeer offers a service that will connect isolated individuals with someone who will call and check in on them. To access Compeer’s services by county, call:
- Erie - (716) 883-3331 x.314.
- Niagara – (716) 443-3780
- Chautauqua – (716) 487-2956
- Cattaraugus – (716) 373-4602
- Allegany – (585) 593-6344
- Monroe – (585) 546-8280
- Livingston – (585) 226-8220
- Steuben – (607) 664-2045