I write to you this evening with relevant COVID-19 updates and resources as well as recent legislative news.
I try to answer the emails that come into the repdecker@gmail inbox, but I have primarily used that account to manage outgoing communications. I ask that if you are reaching out to me about an urgent issue to please email Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov, where we have a more robust system to track incoming emails.
Over 1400 COVID Cases Reported in MA Schools This Week
Between September 13- 15, school districts across the State reported a total of 1,420 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. According to the report, 1,230 were students and 190 were staff members. This was the first report of the 2021-2022 school year; going forward, the report will cover a time frame of Thursday to Wednesday. Learn more at t.ly/2lM2.
As you may recall, I wrote an op-ed with my Public Health Committee co-Chair Senator Jo Comerford calling on the Governor for a more comprehensive plan for keeping children, families, and school employees safe. I have communicated the need for the tracking and reporting of positive cases to the Department of Public Health and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and am pleased that the administration is taking this step to keep students and staff members safe.
New Centralized Rent and Mortgage Relief (RAFT+) Applications
Metro Housing is now introducing a new application process for rent and mortgage relief programs (RAFT/ERMA/ERAP) by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). This new process includes a centralized application for all residents and property owners across the state, allowing a more efficient process. Learn more at: www.metrohousingboston.org
Flu Clinics Scheduled for October
Cambridge residents can receive a seasonal flu shot at the Cambridge Public Health Department’s annual flu clinics this fall. The health department has implemented strict safety procedures at their clinics to reduce the risk of getting — or transmitting — COVID-19. They encourage people to register online and registration will be open around 2 weeks before each clinic date. Walk-ins are also welcome. There is no charge but the health department asks that people with health insurance bring their cards. The clinic dates are:
- 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
Learn more at cambridgepublichealth.org/flu.
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. The lunches are available to older adults for a suggested $3.00 donation. A pick-up site is located at the 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.
Cambridge Health Alliance to Require Mandatory Vaccination For All Employees
Cambridge Health Alliance joins leading healthcare systems across the state by making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all CHA employees effective October 18, 2021. Employees must receive their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by October 18. Staff who are not in compliance will be placed on unpaid leave and given until November 5 to receive their final dose or their employment with CHA will not continue unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption. There is a process for people to apply for an exemption. With new variants continuing to form, vaccination is the best defense against continued spread and serious effects from the virus, and a vaccine mandate will help CHA provide the safest environment for its staff and the patients and communities it serves.
I’d like to thank CEO Dr. Assaad Sayah for leading on this issue and being unafraid to lead in order to protect the health and safety of CHA patients and staff.
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. There will be no testing on Labor Day, September 6, 2021.
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:
- Tuesday, September 21
- 6:00 - 7:00 PM Rental Programs
- 7:00 - 8:00 PM Homeowner Programs
- Register at t.ly/FiXZ.
- 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.
FDA panel recommends Pfizer vaccine boosters for people 65+ and those at high risk
A federal advisory panel has voted to recommend administering Pfizer vaccine booster doses to people over 65 and those at high risk of severe COVID-19. It voted down a proposal to recommend booster shots for all people age 16 and older. Learn more: https://bit.ly/39eWKeb.
Vaccination Mandate for People Applying to Immigrate to the US
As of October 1, 2021, people applying to immigrate to the United States will have to show that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. There are exceptions for children who are too young to be eligible for vaccination as well as for people with certain medical conditions, and a waiver process for people who refuse to be vaccinated for religious reasons. The US already requires immigrants to be vaccinated against a list of diseases including polio and chickenpox. Learn more at t.ly/THXQ.
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) also recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status and says that children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place. Visit bit.ly/39RLWS8 for more information.
Bargaining bill adds dimension to rideshare driver debate
by Chris Lisinski, State House News Service
"Labor activists and gig economy workers on Tuesday urged lawmakers to pass a bill that would grant workers a role in regulating the industry.
What makes S.1224 so important is it will allow rideshare drivers to organize at the state level and collectively bargaining for fair pay and working conditions without waiting on the courts or another election cycle," Learn more here: https://whdh.com/news
Maternal Health Equity Commission Meeting & Listening Session Monday
The Racial Inequities in Maternal Health Commission, of which I am the legislative co-chair, is holding a public meeting and a listening session focused on the Greater Boston Area on Monday, September 20. The meeting begins at 4 PM and the listening session at approximately 5 PM; both will be livestreamed at malegislature.gov. We are especially interested in testimony from people of color, including maternal health practitioners, birthing people, birthing partners, mothers, fathers, and other family members affected by maternal mortality or severe maternal morbidity. This will be used to inform a report and policy and budget recommendations. This is a chance to hear from families impacted by these issues and help strengthen our call to action.
The deadline to sign up to testify is Saturday, 9/18 at 12 PM. Please take 5 mins to visit bit.ly/rimh920, sign up or submit testimony, and spread the word.
Bills I have filed that are being heard next week
Several of my bills are scheduled for public committee hearings next week, including An Act to place a moratorium on high stakes testing, An Act relative to patient financial protection, and An Act relative to firearm safety and harassment prevention orders. The hearing schedule is available at malegislature.gov, where hearings will also be livestreamed.
ARPA Hearing Next Tuesday
The Joint Committee on Ways and Means will be holding a virtual hearing on the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funding focusing on the areas of Health Care/Mental Health/Public Health/Human Services on Tuesday, September 21 at 11:00AM. This hearing will be available to be viewed live at malegislature.gov/Events/Hearings/Detail/3930.
Public Invited to Testify at Structural Racism in Probation Hearing
The Commission on Structural Racism in the Massachusetts Probation Service will hold its second virtual hearing on Friday, October 1st, at 1:00 pm. To register to testify, please provide your contact information via this form (https://forms.gle/wqfVeZthFSpxzCBF7) by Wednesday, September 29th, at 1:00 pm. Once registered, you will receive further instructions on how to participate. I am honored to serve on this important commission and I encourage you to take advantage of this final opportunity to provide oral testimony.
MA Vaccination Updates
Mobile Vaccination Services
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is now more convenient than ever. Mobile pop-up vaccination clinics are happening in cities and towns across MA - at community centers, auditoriums, parks, and other locations. Dates and locations can be found here.
DPH is offering organizations the option to easily vaccinate groups. Mobile vaccination services are available for employers, schools, community organizations, priority populations, and other groups. For more information on hosting a mobile pop-up vaccination clinic, click here.
CHA Offering Walk-In Vaccinations
The Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) is now offering walk-in vaccinations at its Somerville site (176 Somerville Ave), and also at the three CHA pharmacy locations (Cambridge Hospital, East Cambridge Care Center and the Malden Care Center). CHA has also been offering "pop-up" vaccination clinics in local communities. You can find information on hours and locations for the pop-up clinics here: https://www.challiance.org/patients-visitors/covid-19-vaccine. 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, September 16, 2021:
Residents who have received at least 1 dose: 84,399
Fully Vaccinated Residents: 76,454
Daily COVID-19 Vaccination Report
Total doses administered: 9,336,960
Total cumulative doses shipped to MA: 10,679,060
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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 did not hold a press conference today.
Today’s Case Count
Total Cases: 738,303
New Cases: 2,024
Total Deaths: 18,062
Total Cases: 7186
New Cases: 29
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:
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
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.