I write to you this evening with recent legislative news as well as relevant COVID-19 updates and resources.
This past Monday, the Joint Committee on Public Health and the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management held a joint public oversight hearing on vaccinating children under 12 against COVID-19. The committees heard from the Baker Administration and invited guests including pediatricians, infectious disease specialists, an NAACP leader, school nurses, community healthcare providers and municipal leaders. If you are interested in watching the archived video, you can do so at https://malegislature.gov/Events/Hearings/Detail/3890.
Among other points, the oversight hearing highlighted that vaccinating children is critical to reach herd immunity and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Until we can do that, we need to ensure that as many eligible adults and older children are vaccinated as possible so that younger children can safely return to school in person. Another emerging theme was the gap in vaccination rates when we look at demographics. To date, according to Department of Public Health (DPH) statistics, the cumulative rate of infection for Hispanic residents is 3x that of white residents, and the rate of infection for Black residents is 1.5x that of white residents. As of July 27th, 51% of Hispanic residents and 53% of Black residents have received one dose of the vaccine and 65% of white residents have. During the hearing, experts repeatedly made requests for more robust and precise data analysis that includes information on race and ethnicity. It came to our attention that statistical information based on race and ethnicity was dropped from reporting two weeks ago. Today, I sent a letter to Governor Baker today requesting that DPH resume reporting demographic information. Thank you to Speaker Mariano who also made this request of Governor Baker.
Additionally, I was quoted in this Boston Globe article this morning on the leadership that the Governor should be providing during this moment:
As COVID cases rise, Charlie Baker back in unenviable position: Should he impose new restrictions or not? By Emma Platoff, Boston Globe
“COVID “requires a lot more political leadership than he may want to provide,” said state Representative Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge Democrat who co-chairs the Legislature’s public health committee. “He needs to have a more nuanced public conversation” about how he assesses the new CDC guidance and what he plans to do about it, she added. “And he hasn’t given that to us and he owes it to us.” Read more: https://bit.ly/2UXpUex.
This hearing clearly impacted and influenced the Governor’s decision to come forward with updated masking guidance today, in contrast to where he stood just the other day. The good news is that Governor Baker is now making stronger mask recommendations informed by science. The concerning piece is that the absence of a masking mandate and leaving that decision to communities and schools seems to be informed by politics. Whether we like it or not, we’re still in this pandemic, and that requires being prepared to respond to changing circumstances. I encourage communities and school districts to look at adopting mask policies that reflect both the recommendations of the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
I had further conversations with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) today and I have more scheduled conversations with DESE and DPH over the next couple of weeks.
I continue to express my concern that as schools are preparing to bring back hundreds of thousands of students, vaccination rates of eligible adolescents have been leveling off for a month. I’m happy that the Administration will be offering back-to-school vaccine clinics, but the question is when and how. Even if we vaccinate kids next week, that still falls short of bringing fully vaccinated kids back to school. We need to hear more from DPH and DESE about what the timeline is and what actions they plan to take other than offering these recommendations.
Here is some of the press coverage from the hearing:
Doctors tell lawmakers: Kids need masks at school By Jim Morelli, Boston 25 News
One agency that didn’t send a representative to the hearing was the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE. Rep. Decker invited DESE, she said, but they declined to attend. This left her baffled, she said.
“We are sending thousands and thousands of children back to school in the fall who haven’t been to school in a year and a half and we have a Delta variant very very quickly becoming far more contagious than previous variants,” Decker said. “And so I can assure you that parents and educators across the state are sitting on edge and really, quite honestly, deserve to hear from DESE.” Read more: https://bit.ly/3ldaX2p
State Prepares For Children’s COVID-19 Vaccine By Katie Lannan, State House News Service
“Today’s interest is really where we stand in vaccinating children. What does it look like? Are we ready? What are the lessons that we’ve learned from how we’ve managed vaccinations for everyone else from 12 and older? Are we more confident in our ability to provide vaccines to our most vulnerable community members?” Public Health Committee House Chair Marjorie Decker said at the start of the hearing. “There’s a lot of questions that parents across the state have and so this is an important conversation that I think many people are having in their homes, having with their friends, having with their pediatricians.” Read more: https://wbur.fm/3ffWgrL
COVID-19 Guidance for Districts and Schools: Fall 2021
In addition, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Public Health jointly announced today that when schools reopen in the fall they strongly recommend that students in grades K-6 wear face coverings indoors and that unvaccinated staff and visitors, and unvaccinated students in grades 7 and above, wear masks indoors.
Mask Advisory for Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Residents Effective Today
Today, the Department of Public Health issued a public health advisory that advises all unvaccinated residents to continue to wear masks in indoor settings and when they can’t socially distance. The advisory also recommends that vaccinated residents who are at increased risk from COVID-19, or who live with someone who is at increased risk or unvaccinated, should wear a face covering indoors (other than in their home). Learn more: https://bit.ly/3xcMBbt.
Mass VaxMillions Giveaway Registration Now Open
Residents of Massachusetts who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can now register at https://vaxmillionsgiveaway.com/ for one of five $1 million cash prizes or, for those under age 18, a $300,000 scholarship. The deadline to register is August 19, 2021.
Let Trans Athletes Play Event - Sunday 8/1 11AM-5PM @ Danehy Park
This Sunday from 11AM-5PM, there will be a Let Trans Athletes Play event at Danehy Park. This event has been organized in response to hateful legislation being filed across the country that aims to restrict the participation of trans children and athletes from participating in sports. There will be activities including basketball, soccer, flag football, water balloons, puzzles, checkers, and more. There will also be speeches from community members and activists.
Free Water Safety Program at Francis J. McCrehan Memorial Swimming Pool 8/7
DCR and New England Swimming are partnering to offer Water Safety Days at pools across the state. Water Safety Days will offer safe, fun activities to help teach and inform young people between 4 and 14 years old about aquatic safety and water skills while promoting the importance of water competency.
A water safety day will be held at the Francis J. McCrehan Memorial Swimming Pool in Cambridge on Saturday, August 7, 2021 from 10:30-2. You can register for it here: https://bit.ly/3xp1Z4R.
Participatory Budgeting Deadline Tomorrow
The City of Cambridge has launched the 8th Cycle of Participatory Budgeting (PB8). Idea collection is open to everyone of all ages, and the deadline is July 31st. Learn more here: https://pb.cambridgema.gov/.
Free Breakfast and Lunch for People Aged 18 and Under
Anyone 18 and under can get free breakfast and lunch at Daily Table 7 days a week, from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Visit locations in Cambridge, Dorchester or Roxbury and ask for the Local Lunchbox Special, or order free delivery online at dailytable.org/shop. No identification is required and parents/guardians may pick the food up. Visit dailytable.org for locations.
Cambridge Works is Recruiting
Cambridge Works, a transitional jobs program for Cambridge residents aged 18-35, is accepting applications through August 20, 2021 for the 2021 cycle, which runs from mid-September through December. Visit camb.ma/36BqD7h to learn more.
Upcoming Webinars on Housing Resources
Cambridge residents are invited to attend upcoming informational webinars about available housing services, programs, and resources. The free webinars will take place on August 3rd and September 21st from 3:00-4:00 PM. They will be recorded and available to residents following the events. Visit camb.ma/3qYMSNK to learn more.
C.D.C. Report Calls Delta Variant as Contagious as Chickenpox
According to an internal CDC presentation, The Delta variant is much more contagious, more likely to break through protections afforded by the vaccines and may cause more severe disease than all other known versions of COVID-19. Vaccinated people with the delta variant carry just as much virus in the nose and throat as unvaccinated people. Read more: https://nyti.ms/2TPhmFW.
CDC Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People
As the CDC released new recommendations for fully vaccinated people on Tuesday, recommending that they begin wearing masks again indoors and in places of high transmission rates, five counties in Massachusetts are recommending that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors https://bit.ly/3j5tOKb.
AAP Recommends Universal Masking in School
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending that everyone age 2 and up wear masks in school regardless of vaccination status. They note that universal masking is the best and most effective strategy to create consistent messages, expectations, enforcement, and compliance without the added burden of needing to monitor vaccination status. Read more at https://bit.ly/3j8AZB9.
Updated CDC Guidance for Schools
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released updated guidance for early education and care programs and K-12 schools. The recommendations say that unvaccinated students and staff should wear masks and maintain distances of at least 3 feet, but vaccinated students and staff do not have to wear masks. The CDC also recommends that all bus drivers and passengers wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Visit bit.ly/39RLWS8 for more information.
MA Vaccination Updates
The Vax Bus is hosting its second round of walk-in mobile vaccine clinics in 28 cities and towns from July 17 - August 5. The two-dose Pfizer vaccine will be available for ages 12 and up, and the single dose J&J vaccine will be available for ages 18 and up. Visit mass.gov/vaxbus for hours and locations.
CHA Offering Walk-In Vaccinations
The Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) is offering walk-in vaccinations at its three sites (176 Somerville Ave. in Somerville, Encore Boston Harbor in Everett and Tufts University in Medford, see https://bit.ly/3eM3TGF for locations and hours). These sites are open to all Massachusetts residents age 12 and older. They encourage people to pre-register here or via MyCHArt (for CHA patients), but walk-ins are welcome. As a reminder, only the Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for use in people under 18 years old, and minors must have a consent form signed by their parent or guardian.
Walk-In Vaccinations Available at CVS
Massachusetts residents age 12 and over can now get walk-in appointments at the 389 vaccine-carrying CVS locations across the Commonwealth. Read more here.
Cambridge Vaccination Data
The City of Cambridge has added Cambridge Vaccination Data to its COVID-19 Data Center. Data will be updated weekly on Thursdays at 6 PM. Information as of Thursday, July 29, 2021:
Residents who have received at least 1 dose: 82,166
Fully Vaccinated Residents: 75,110
Daily COVID-19 Vaccination Report
Total doses administered: 8,883,937
Total cumulative doses shipped to MA: 9,834,970
Vaccination Appointment Resources
Preparing for your Vaccination Appointment
Learn about how you can prepare for your vaccination appointment here.
Resources for Booking and Getting to Your Appointment
- Online: Find an appointment or see walk-in availability at vaxfinder.mass.gov/. You can also book directly with a pharmacy at cvs.com or walgreens.com.
- Phone: Call 2-1-1 between 8:30 AM-8:00 PM Monday-Thursday or 8:30 AM-5:00 PM Friday-Sunday and select the prompt for “help scheduling a vaccine appointment.”
- In-Home Vaccinations: Anyone who is unable to get to a vaccine location can call the Homebound Vaccination Central Intake Line at 833-983-0485 between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM Monday-Friday.
- Need help? For detailed information about how to make an appointment, including updates about specific health care providers, see the Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services vaccine resources page.
- Need a ride?
- Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is offering free transportation for local adults aged 60+ to COVID-19 vaccination sites in Cambridge and Somerville as well as Fenway Park and CHA Malden. For more information, click here. To register for a ride, call SCES at 617-628-2601 or email email@example.com.
- All MassHealth members or Health Safety Net patients can get free transportation to COVID-19 vaccine appointments. You can request transportation for a scheduled appointment by calling (800) 841-2900. You may find additional information on transportation help here.
Don’t forget to book your second appointment while you’re getting your first dose!
Massachusetts is currently in Phase Three of the vaccine rollout. Everyone age 12 and older is eligible for a vaccine. For more details and updates on vaccination priorities, please visit mass.gov/CovidVaccine.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has a Frequently Asked Questions site that is continually updated as they receive new questions. You may access the FAQs here. Questions can be submitted to COVID-19-Vaccine-Plan-MA@mass.gov.
Governor Baker held a press conference today and issued updated mask guidance. Please see the State Updates section for more information. You can watch the event at mass.gov/governor-updates.
Today’s Case Count
Total Cases: 672,488
New Cases: 844
Total Deaths: 17,714
Total Cases: 6287
New Cases: 26
Total Deaths: 123
The state has created an interactive dashboard, including the percentage of COVID-19 positive cases and testing rates by city and town. The dashboard can be viewed here.
Cambridge COVID Testing
As of July 26, the City of Cambridge is offering free COVID-19 testing on Mondays from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM and Thursdays from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM inside the CambridgeSide Mall. Testing is located on the 2nd Floor above the Food Court. Free parking is available in the lower-level of the garage; entrance located on CambridgeSide Place.
The City is working to add more testing sites in the first week of August.
Learn more at https://www.cambridgema.gov/covid19/Testing
Mental Health Services and Resources
If you or a loved one are struggling, please know that you are not alone. Here are some great resources:
Helpline for People Who Abuse Now Open to all MA residents
There is a new Helpline for People Who Abuse that launched on April 15, 2021, that came out of CARES ACT funding for COVID-19. The Helpline is open to any Massachusetts resident. This helpline is the first in the nation of its kind, and is based out of Western Massachusetts. You can find more information at 10to10helpline.org or by calling 877-898-3411.
Where to Give
On Fridays through the end of July, Cambridge CoHousing will be collecting food either in a paper bag or small box for the Chelsea Food Collaborative. Drop off is between 9 AM and 2:30 PM at the entrance to CoHousing at 175 Richdale Avenue, Cambridge, MA. If you don't see someone at the moment you arrive, please leave it just inside the gate where we will have boxes marked "For Chelsea." Starting in August, donations will be accepted on a once per month basis, with collections happening on the last Friday of every month.
Transition House in Need of Emergency Donations:
If you are able to give to others during this time, I encourage you to look to additional places that are working to help those most affected by COVID-19:
- Mayor's Disaster Relief Fund
- Cambridge Health Alliance
- Cambridge Community Center
- Cambridge Community Foundation
- Food for Free
- Chelsea Food Collaborative
- Greater Boston Food Bank
- Hospitality Workers COVID-19 Emergency Fund
- Cradles to Crayons Emergency Essentials Fund
- Mount Auburn Hospital
- The One Chelsea Fund
- Daily Table
I also encourage you to donate to the following organizations that are engaging in racial justice work:
- Louis D. Brown Peace Institute
- Families for Justice as Healing
- Prisoners' Legal Services
- Boston NAACP
- Massachusetts Bail Fund
- ACLU of Massachusetts
- Union of Minority Neighborhoods
As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.