I write to you this evening with relevant COVID-19 updates and resources as well as recent legislative news.
This week’s update is coming to you a day early. I hope that you and your family enjoy your Labor Day Weekend. Please stay safe and healthy.
Expanded Vaccine Requirement for Long-Term Care Providers and Home Care Workers
On Wednesday, the Baker-Polito Administration announced plans to require COVID-19 vaccination for all staff at rest homes, assisted living residences (ALRs), hospice programs, as well as for home care workers (HCWs) providing in-home, direct care services by October 31, 2021 unless they qualify for a limited exemption because they have a medical condition that prevents them from receiving vaccination or they object to vaccination based on a sincerely held religious belief.
The plan to expand the vaccine requirement for caregivers is subject to Public Health Council (PHC) approval.
Early Education Mask Mandate
On Tuesday, the Board of Early Education and Care voted unanimously to align its masking policies with K-12 masking policies. All employees and children age 5+ and enrolled in a state-licensed day care, after-school or out-of-school program will be required to wear masks indoors beginning 9/7. Younger children between age 2 and 5 who can "safely and appropriately wear, remove, and handle face masks" will be "strongly encouraged" to wear one. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3mTBenk.
High Vaccination Rates Among Returning University Students and Staff
The City announced that its three largest academic institutions - Harvard, MIT, and Lesley - report high vaccination rates among their students and employees and will be promoting mask wearing, testing, and social distancing as appropriate to keep students and the broader community safe. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3t67Tak.
- Harvard: As of August 23rd, 90% of students and 94% of employees are vaccinated.
- MIT: As of August 27, 98% of the members of the MIT community had been fully vaccinated.
Cambridge Indoor Mask Mandate Effective September 3
The City of Cambridge has issued an emergency order requiring that face masks or coverings be worn in indoor public places. The order takes effect at 8:00 AM on Friday, September 3, 2021. It applies to everyone over the age of two years old, with exceptions in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines. Learn more at camb.ma/3DpTD11.
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
Beginning September 8, 2021, the City of Cambridge will offer 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.
Learn more: https://www.cambridgema.gov/covid19/News/2021/08/septembertesting
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Community Job Fair
The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce will host a Community Job Fair on Wednesday, September 15th from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM at the Lawn On D in Boston. This job fair is an opportunity for jobseekers to meet dozens of companies actively hiring in fields like IT, health care, finance, and advanced manufacturing. Registration for this event is free and information on the event, including employers who will be participating, can be found here.
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:
- Thursday, September 9
- 12:00 - 1:00 PM Rental Programs
- 1:00 - 2:00 PM Homeowner Programs
- Register here
- Tuesday, September 21
- 6:00 - 7:00 PM Rental Programs
- 7:00 - 8:00 PM Homeowner Programs
- Register here
Learn more: https://www.cambridgema.gov/news/2021/08/cambridgeaffordablehousing
Cambridge Works, City’s Transitional Jobs Program, Accepting Applications.
Cambridge Works City’s Transitional Jobs Program is now accepting applications for Cambridge Residents between the ages 18-35 who are in need of work experience in order to secure a full-time job. The 2021 cycle of Cambridge Works will run from mid-September through December. Learn more: cambridgeworks.org
Nationwide and Federal Updates
CDC Director Asks Unvaccinated People Not to Travel for Labor Day Weekend
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is asking unvaccinated Americans not to travel during the Labor Day holiday weekend due to the surge of COVID-19 cases. Dr. Walensky also said that while people who are fully vaccinated can travel with precautions, current transmission rates mean they too need to take Covid-19 risk into consideration when deciding whether to travel. Learn more: https://cnn.it/3jAZQ26.
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.
Consumption site bills idling on Overdose Awareness day by Chris Van Buskirk, State House News Service
“One bill (H 2088), filed by Reps. Dylan Fernandes and Marjorie Decker, would create a 10-year pilot program of two or more safe drug consumption sites across the state that municipalities could opt-in to. The bill was filed earlier this year but has yet to emerge for an introductory public hearing, which is scheduled for Sept. 27. The goal, advocates of the sites say, is to create a safe environment where people can use pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of trained individuals, create relationships with health care workers, and reduce the risk of infection or potentially fatal situations.” Read more: https://bit.ly/3DJM9Wu.
It’s never been more urgent to give safe injection sites a try by the Editorial Board, Boston Globe
“This isn’t the time to be cautious. On the contrary, state and city leaders should use every tool in the proverbial arsenal to combat opioid deaths, including the most controversial: safe injection sites. The city of Somerville is leading the charge in the state and is planning to open a safe and clean facility where individuals can use previously acquired illicit drugs, so that if they overdose they can receive speedy medical attention.” Read more: https://bit.ly/3jFTWNo.
Thank you to the Boston Globe Editorial Board for this piece. We must use every tool we can, including safe injection sites, to save lives. I filed An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment with Representative Fernandes and Senator Cyr to meet the urgency of this moment https://bit.ly/3zHFutA.
MA Vaccination Updates
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, August 26, 2021 (the most recent available as of this writing):
Residents who have received at least 1 dose: 83,974
Fully Vaccinated Residents: 76,345
Daily COVID-19 Vaccination Report
The Department of Public Health publishes a Daily COVID-19 Vaccine Report in addition to its Weekly COVID-19 Vaccination Report. Information as of Thursday, September 2, 2021:
Total doses administered: 9,221,173
Total cumulative doses shipped to MA: 10,377,660
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 Press Conference Updates
Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
Today’s Case Count
Total Cases: 712,988
New Cases: 1,593
Total Deaths: 17,899
Total Cases: 6,825
New Cases: 7
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.
For Harvard University COVID-19 information, click here. For MIT COVID-19 information, click 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.