I write to you this evening with relevant COVID-19 updates and resources as well as recent legislative news.
Watch the Children’s Mental Health Panel from Boston 25 Last Week
Last week, I joined Kerry Kavanaugh with Boston 25 News to discuss children’s mental health alongside a panel of experts featuring Dr. Fatima Watt, the Director of Behavioral Health Services at Franciscan Children’s Hospital; Amara Azubuike, the Director Of Behavioral Health Policy & Advocacy at Boston Children’s Hospital; and John Crocker, the Director of School Mental Health & Behavioral Services at Methuen Public Schools.
You can watch the full segment here: https://bit.ly/3l1zEOI. I appreciate Kerry and Boston 25 for their ongoing coverage of this crisis.
Moms Demand Action
Earlier this week, I spoke to the Moms Demand Action MA Chapter on the importance of suicide prevention and mental health. We made a commitment to each other and to parents and children across the state that we would work together to pass laws that have been proven to reduce gun homicides and suicides. You can read my full comments to the group here: https://bit.ly/3mhiXOP.
Enhanced cash benefits pitched to get Mass. families out of ‘deep poverty’
State House News Service
The maximum Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or TAFDC, benefit for a family of three is currently $712 after the Legislature as part of the fiscal year 2022 budget approved an increase of 20 percent above December 2020 benefit levels.“I’m asking that we continue the momentum. We have really proven ourselves over the last several years to be a Legislature that’s serious about reducing poverty,” Decker said, testifying at a hearing before the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.” Read more: https://bit.ly/3zY3jfZ
Here’s how advocates want to modernize the statewide Bottle Bill
By Julia Taliesin, Boston.com
“The 1982 Massachusetts Container Deposit Act, or the renewal of the “Bottle Bill,” will make some significant changes to the law, including an increase in deposit refunds from $ 0.05 to $ 0.10.Campaign behind the Better Bottle Bill Starts Tuesday at an event hosted by MASSPIRG Marjorie Decker and Senator Cynthia Cream sponsor the bill.
“Our climate, environment, and public health are connected. We know that toxins from our waste are sickening us, our wildlife, and our nature. “I’m doing it,” said Decker. “It’s only a matter of time to act. It’s time for public health and the environment to win.”” Read more: https://bit.ly/2Y9Ihy1.
‘It’s just greed, that’s all there is’: Local officials question Smith & Wesson’s reasoning for relocating HQ to Tennessee
“Representative Marjorie Decker, the Cambridge Democrat who sponsored the gun manufacturing bill, was even more pointed in her criticism. “Smith and Wesson’s statement today is filed with as many holes as a target range. While their press release is politically convenient for them, it’s disingenuous,” she said. “This is about cheaper labor.””
Citing bills, Smith & Wesson moving HQ
by Colin Young, State House News Service
Gunmaker Smith & Wesson to relocate from Mass. as state considers ban on making assault weapons
By Andrew Jeong, Washington Post
You may have seen the news that Smith & Wesson is moving its headquarters to Tennessee, and blaming my legislation, An Act to stop mass shootings, for the move. In my quote for the Boston Globe, I stated “Smith and Wesson’s statement today is filed with as many holes as a target range. While their press release is politically convenient for them, it’s disingenuous. They’re closing facilities in two other states and have been moving jobs out of Massachusetts for years. They will be keeping some jobs in Massachusetts and could keep more if this bill became law. This is about cheaper labor – Smith & Wesson has been all about the bottom line since they were bought out. The real issue that should be getting coverage is that no gun manufacturer should have a safe haven anywhere in this country that allows them to produce weapons for private use that can kill multiple people within seconds and have killed thousands across the US. These weapons were meant for the police and military, not for private citizens. We see through their political shenanigans — nobody believes that this was a spontaneous decision, and their filings at the federal level show that they have been on this track for years. The focus should continue to be on how many people have been murdered with weapons that their murderers shouldn’t have access to. Smith & Wesson continues to put profits over safety.”
For Smith & Wesson to cite this legislation, An Act to stop mass shootings, as a reason for moving jobs from their Springfield facility is a politically convenient and disingenuous Trojan horse, when in fact they are also moving jobs from Connecticut and Missouri and have been migrating manufacturing jobs out of our state for years. Even if our bill were to become law, Smith & Wesson would still be able to manufacture these weapons in Massachusetts for military and law enforcement use. Smith & Wesson is centering profits over people as they choose to find safe harbor in a state that has lower wages and does not have the life-saving oversight and common-sense gun laws that ours does. The real headline should be focused on why companies like Smith & Wesson continue to manufacture weapons of mass destruction for sale and use by private citizens. As one of the House lead sponsors of this bill, I am looking forward to seeing this legislation move through the legislative process, which will eventually lead to a hearing. We will also continue to advocate that no manufacturer be allowed to produce assault weapons for the purpose of sale to private citizens outside of MA, since MA law already prohibits the sales.
MIAA Recommends Vaccination for Student Athletes
This week, the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) overwhelmingly approved a recommendation made by the Sports Medicine Committee to recommend that high school student-athletes get vaccinated against COVID. Read more at t.ly/kYUF.
Amherst Mandates Vaccines in Public Schools
The Amherst Board of Health approved a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all eligible students attending public school in the district, the first Massachusetts district to do so. The vaccination rate of eligible students and school staff is currently over 80%. Read more at t.ly/fYuR.
Extension of School Mask Mandate Through October
On Monday, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley announced that masks will remain required in Massachusetts public schools until at least November 1st. Learn more here: https://wbur.fm/3uuEhEm.
COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave program extended
On Wednesday, Governor Baker on Wednesday approved an extension of the emergency paid sick leave program until April 1st. The program was first authorized under a law passed in May with the intention of giving workers time to quarantine, recover, get vaccinated, or help a family member dealing with the coronavirus. Learn more here: https://wbur.fm/2ZQB6LZ.
Pfizer Booster Shots Available in MA
The Baker-Polito Administration announced last week that COVID-19 booster shots are available for eligible residents who have received the Pfizer vaccine. In accordance with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pfizer COVID-19 Booster is now available to:
- Individuals 65 years of age and older.
- Individuals 18-64 years of age at risk for severe COVID-19 due to certain underlying medical conditions as defined by the CDC.
- Individuals 18-64 years of age who are at increased risk for COVID-19 because of occupational or institutional settings.
These residents are eligible to receive their Pfizer booster shot at least 6 months after their second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Additional information on the COVID-booster, including FAQs, can be found at mass.gov/COVID19Booster.
Pfizer Submits Initial Data on Vaccines for Kids 5-11 to the FDA
Pfizer and BioNTech have submitted initial data to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from their COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials for children ages 5-11. They plan to submit a request for emergency use authorization for that age group in the coming weeks. Separate trials are in progress for younger children. Read more at t.ly/z63D.
CDC Data Reinforces Benefits of School Mask Mandates
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that schools without mask mandates were 3.5 times more likely to have a COVID-19 outbreak than schools that had mask mandates beginning at the start of the school year. The CDC notes that “given the high transmissibility of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, universal masking, in addition to vaccination of all eligible students, staff members, and faculty and implementation of other prevention measures, remains essential to COVID-19 prevention in K–12 settings.” Learn more at http://bit.ly/MMWR92421.
California will require all schoolchildren to get COVID-19 vaccination
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced today that California will require all elementary through high school students to get the COVID-19 vaccine once the vaccine gains final approval from the U.S. government for different age groups. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3A7eGTe.
Where to Get a Pfizer COVID-19 Booster Shot
COVID-19 boosters are available for eligible MA residents who got the Pfizer vaccine. You’re eligible if: You’re 65+, age 18-64 & at risk for severe #COVID due to certain medical conditions , or age 18-64 & at increased risk for #COVID because of occupational/institutional settings. You can get a booster shot at the following locations in/near Cambridge:
- Cambridge Health Alliance (Walk-ins or appointments)
- CVS (Appointments required)
- 624 Mass. Ave (Central Square)
- Schedule here: https://bit.ly/3mgBACv.
- Star Market (Walk-ins or appointments)
- 699 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge
- Schedule here: https://bit.ly/3uujXTv.
- Search by zip-code for other locations https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/
Flu Clinics Scheduled for October
Residents are encouraged to register two weeks ahead of time. Walk-ins are also welcome. No charge, but bring your insurance card – cambridgepublichealth.org/flu
- Friday, October 15, 2021
- Citywide Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Ave
- 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
- Saturday, October 16, 2021
- King Open School, 850 Cambridge St
- 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM
- Friday, October 22, 2021
- Reservoir Church, 170 Rindge Ave
- 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM
- Saturday, October 23, 2021
- Pisani Center, 131 Washington St
- 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Cambridge COVID Testing Now Available 4 Days Per Week
As of September 8, 2021, the City of Cambridge is offering COVID-19 testing 4 days per week.
- Monday: 4:00 – 8:00 PM at the CambridgeSide mall
- Wednesday: 2:00 – 6:00 PM at 2254 Massachusetts Ave, St. John the Evangelist Church
- Thursday: 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM at the CambridgeSide mall
- Sunday: 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM at 50 Church Street
Testing for CambridgeSide 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. Beginning Monday, October 4, 2021, the COVID-19 testing location at CambridgeSide mall will transition back to a drive-through only testing site. Those arriving on foot or by bicycle will not be allowed.
Apply to the DHSP Preschool Lottery
The Department of Human Service Programs (DHSP) is currently accepting Preschool Lottery applications for enrollment in the 2022-2023 school year, which begins in September 2022. Children are considered age-eligible for preschool enrollment when they are between the ages of 2 years 9 months and 4 years 5 months. To enter the October 2021 lottery, a child’s date of birth needs to be between April 1, 2018 – December 1, 2019. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3B0ARvz.
Apply to the Fuel Assistance Program
The Fuel Assistance Program helps low-income residents in Cambridge and Somerville with winter heating costs between November 1st and April 30th. Renters and homeowners in both cities are eligible to apply if they meet federal income guidelines. Applications are being accepted starting today, 10/1. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3A1Ixwj.
Grab-and-Go Lunches available to Adults Ages 60 and Older
This program will provide cold sandwich lunches for local older adults (ages 60 and over), their spouses, and dependents with disabilities. Suggested $3.00 donation. A pick-up site – Cambridge Senior Center (806 Massachusetts Ave.), Monday – Thursday from 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Recipients may eat in the Senior Center’s dining room or take the meal to go. Reservations are required by 11:00 a.m. on the previous business day for Grab-and-Go lunches. To make a reservation, please call 617-349-6042.
Upcoming Affordable Housing Information Sessions
The City of Cambridge will offer information sessions about its affordable rental and homeownership programs. Attendees will learn about the eligibility requirements and application process for Cambridge Rental and Homeownership Programs. The next sessions are:
- Affordable Housing Information Sessions Wednesday, October 6
- 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Rental Programs
- 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Homeowner Programs
- Register at t.ly/9pWd.
- Affordable Housing Information Sessions Monday, October 18
- 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Rental Programs
- 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Homeowner Programs
- Register at t.ly/cEUT.
Bills I have filed that are being heard next week
Two of my bills are scheduled for a public Judiciary Committee hearing next Tuesday: An Act to enhance the rights of crime victims in the Commonwealth and An Act combating misinformation about ex-offender voting rights. The hearing will be livestreamed at malegislature.gov.
Final ARPA Hearing Next Tuesday
The Joint Committee on Ways and Means will be holding its final virtual hearing on the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funding on Tuesday, October 5 at 11:00AM. This hearing will be available to be viewed live at malegislature.gov/Events/Hearings/Detail/3994.
MA Vaccination Updates
Mobile Vaccination Services
You can find hours and dates for mobile vaccination clinics here — t.ly/qTMc.
CHA Offering Walk-In Vaccinations
These sites are open to all Massachusetts residents age 12 and older:
- 176 Somerville Ave
- Cambridge Hospital
- East Cambridge Care Center
- Malden Care Center
CHA is also offering “pop-up” vaccination clinics – information on hours and locations here: https://www.challiance.org/patients-visitors/covid-19-vaccine.
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.
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, September 30, 2021:
Residents who have received at least 1 dose: 85,104
Fully Vaccinated Residents: 77,049
Daily COVID-19 Vaccination Report
Total doses administered: 9,537,723
Total cumulative doses shipped to MA: 10,809,700
Vaccination Appointment Resources
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!
Booster Shot Eligibility
COVID-19 boosters are available for eligible MA residents who got the Pfizer vaccine. See if you’re eligible to receive one on the graphic below, and learn more here: https://bit.ly/3mkHVg6.
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 did not hold a press conference today.
Today’s Case Count
Total Cases: 759,392
New Cases: 1,543
Total Deaths: 18,260
Total Cases: 7440
New Cases: 39
Total Deaths: 124
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.
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:
Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention Helpline Now Open to all MA residents
Thanks to COVID-19 relief funds from the CARES ACT, Massachusetts now has a Helpline that people can call for help rather than harming their partner. Open to any resident, the helpline is the first in the nation of its kind. This initiative is designed to prevent intimate partner violence by fostering accountability and change in people who harm or may harm their intimate partner. You can find more information at 10to10helpline.org or by calling 877-898-3411.
Where to Give
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.