I write to you this evening with relevant COVID-19 updates and resources as well as recent legislative news.
I would like to wish everyone a joyful spring and a healthy and safe weekend, whether you are fasting and gathering with the community to celebrate Ramadan, Passover, Easter or just seeing friends and family. Please keep in mind that COVID-19 is still very much circulating and keep the following in mind:
- Being up to date on vaccines and boosters significantly reduces the risk of severe illness and hospitalization
- Masks, especially high-quality ones, are effective at reducing transmission in crowded indoor settings
- If you are having people over, consider opening your windows and taking other measures to improve air circulation
It can be a confusing time. Many of the public health tools that helped keep us safe over the course of the pandemic have been dropped, but the virus is still aggressively circulating. People who are immunocompromised, including the elderly and unvaccinated, are at greater risk. If you or someone you know has health risk factors and you think you may have COVID-19, it is very important that you call your doctor immediately and ask about antiviral treatments. They can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death for at-risk individuals by up to 88% if taken within the first 5 to 7 days depending on the drug type.
While people who are healthy and vaccinated will be okay, let's not be confused about where things are: as the below graphic from the Boston Public Health Commission shows, numbers are rising for viral wastewater concentration, new COVID-19 cases, and new COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Table of Contents
- State Updates
- National Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- COVID-19 Testing Information
- MA Vaccination Updates
- Vaccination Appointment Resources
- Today’s Case Count
- Legislative Updates
- Recent Press
- Mental Health Services and Resources
- Where to Give
New study links vaccine rates to socioeconomic factors
Language barriers, lack of regular health providers, absence of paid time off to get vaccinated and recover, and lack of trust in the health system all play a role in undermining vaccine coverage. A new study of vaccination data in Massachusetts found that significant differences in vaccine and booster rates still exist in the state, often linked to socio-economic factors, leaving thousands vulnerable to variants of COVID-19. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3voQzPi
Local businesses across the state will host COVID-19 vaccination clinics and offer giveaways for getting vaccinated during April school vacation week, April 18-22.
With the support of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), these clinics will be held in 10 cities and towns at various locations, including trampoline parks, zoos, bowling alleys, and the Six Flags New England amusement park, to encourage a family-friendly atmosphere in which eligible individuals of all ages can get vaccinated and boosted. The clinics are part of DPH’s Vaccine Equity Initiative to increase awareness and access to the COVID-19 vaccine and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic among the hardest-hit populations and communities. Learn more: www.mass.gov/KidsClinic.
CDC extends transportation mask mandate until May 3rd, 2022:
The Biden administration will be extending the face mask requirement for public transit for another 15 days. That means travelers will still need to mask up in airports, planes, buses, trains and at transit hubs until May 3rd. Learn more https://bit.ly/3Oc7Qnl
COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics to be Offered Every Wednesday at the Cambridge Public Health Department Beginning April 6
The Cambridge Public Health Department is introducing weekly COVID-19 vaccine clinics for the Cambridge community:
- Wednesdays, April 6 - June 15
- 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
- Cambridge Public Health Department, 119 Windsor Street, 2nd Floor, Cambridge
- By appointment only
The clinics will offer free COVID-19 vaccines (first, second, and booster doses). Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available to those who are eligible.
- *Appointments can be made at https://bit.ly/Camb-Color
- Residents ages 5 and older are eligible to be vaccinated.
- A parent or guardian must accompany children and teens who are under age 16.
- Teens aged 16 - 17 may come alone if a parent or guardian has completed a consent form via the online registration system.
- You do not need insurance, a social security number, or an ID.
CHA Vaccine Center Open for Walk-Ins
The CHA Somerville Vaccine Center is now accepting walk-in patients again, subject to availability. You can make an appointment through MyCHArt or at bit.ly/3A19n7N.
Where to Get a COVID-19 Booster Shot
This is a list of a few places that we are familiar with that are offering COVID-19 boosters in/near Cambridge for eligible MA residents:
- Cambridge Health Alliance
- CVS (Appointments required)
- 624 Mass. Ave (Central Square)
- Schedule here: bit.ly/3mgBACv.
- Star Market (Walk-ins or appointments)
- 699 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge
- Schedule here: bit.ly/3uujXTv.
- Search by zip-code for other locations https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/
Cambridge STEAM Initiative Launches New Website
The Cambridge STEAM Initiative, a joint venture between the City of Cambridge Department of Human Service Programs,(DHSP) the Cambridge Public School Department, and the Cambridge Public Library, today launched a new website: www.cambridgema.gov/STEAM. The website serves as a central digital hub for the Cambridge community to engage with STEAM resources, programs, and activities in Cambridge. Learn more: www.cambridgema.gov/STEAM.
Applications to the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program open April 11
The Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP) connects Cambridge teens with a variety of paid summer jobs in Cambridge and surrounding communities. During Summer 2022, MSYEP will run from July 11 – August 19. Teens work 20 hours a week and are paid minimum wage ($14.25) by the City of Cambridge. In addition to gaining job experience, teens participate in skill-building workshops for one hour each week and have the opportunity to attend college tours, financial literacy training, and a variety of program-sponsored social events during the summer. Applications to MSYEP will be open April 11 – April 29, 2022. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3r7cY2x.
Fuel Assistance Program
The Fuel Assistance Program assists low-income households with winter heating costs between November 1 and April 30. Renters and homeowners in both cities are eligible to apply if they meet the federal income guidelines. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3KN9byI
COVID-19 Testing Information
Cambridge Appointment-Only Testing
Appointment-only testing, provided through a partnership with CIC Health, is available 7 days per week to people who live or work in Cambridge. Testing at CIC Health’s 295 Third Street location is available during the following hours:
- Sunday, from 2:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
- Monday - Friday, from 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
- Saturday, from 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Appointments can be booked online at www.cic-health.com/cambridge or assistance is available from CIC’s Customer Service Team at email@example.com or by calling 877-280-2937.
Cambridge Walk-In Testing
Walk-in testing sites are open during the following hours:
- Monday, from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at CambridgeSide in the Parking Garage on Level G3.
- This will remain walk-up only, not drive-through. Level G3 is accessible by the CambridgeSide’s elevator and escalators. Visitors can park in the garage and proceed to Level G3. Parking will be validated. The Parking Garage entrance is located on CambridgeSide Place.
- Wednesday, from 2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. at 2254 Massachusetts Ave, St. John the Evangelist Church.
For more information please visit: https://bit.ly/3vH5wOL
State COVID-19 Testing
To find a COVID-19 testing site in Massachusetts, visit mass.gov/GetTested.
Home PCR Tests for Adults
Lab-based PCR testing with home collection is available at no cost to all eligible Massachusetts adults. Kits are reserved for adults (18+) who live or work in a congregate setting, are experiencing symptoms, have recently been in contact with someone with COVID-19, or who have otherwise been recommended for testing. Please visit the Pixel by LabCorp for Massachusetts webpage at t.ly/vL4j for details, and to request a test kit.
MA Vaccination Updates
Vaccination Locations for Children Ages 5-11
- Pharmacies: CVS and Walgreens locations
- Mass General Brigham (for patients): covidvaccine.massgeneralbrigham.org/MA
- Boston Children's Hospital (for patients): Schedule an appointment through the hospital’s MyChildren’s Patient Portal or call 617-919-7102.
- Atrius Health (for patients): Parents can schedule an appointment directly throughMyHealth Online or call their child’s doctor’s office.
- Pediatricians’ Offices: Call your child’s doctor or nurse to determine vaccine availability.
- To see all Massachusetts vaccine locations and make appointments, go to vaxfinder.mass.gov or VaxAbilities.com for children with sensory and/or other accommodation needs.
Mobile Vaccination Services
You can find hours and dates for mobile vaccination clinics at t.ly/qTMc.
CHA Offering Walk-In Vaccinations
These sites are open to all Massachusetts residents age 12 and older:
- 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.
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. Information as of Thursday, April 12, 2022:
Residents who have received at least 1 dose: 103,870
Fully Vaccinated Residents: 85,636
Residents with Booster: 53,212
Daily COVID-19 Vaccination Report
Total doses administered: 14,311,558
Total booster doses administered: 164,738
Total cumulative doses shipped to MA: 16,496,770
Vaccination Appointment Resources
Resources for Booking and Getting to Your Appointment
- Online: Visit 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. Boosters are also available.
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.
Today’s Case Count
Total Cases: 1,587,646
New Cases: 2,470
Total Deaths: 19,059
New PCR Tests: 65,848
Total Cases: 22,897
Total Deaths: 161
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.
House FY23 Budget Process Underway
The House Committee on Ways and Means released its Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget recommendations on Wednesday. House members have until 5:00 PM today to submit amendments and the House budget debate will take place the week of April 25. Here is a sneak peak of what is in it — next week I’ll share more on the tweaks, also known as amendments, that I’m focused on.
I am thankful to Chair Michlewitz and Speaker Mariano for the many investments already included in this budget:
- For MA’s youngest residents and their families:
- Invests $912.1M in early education & childcare
- Extends universal school meals for a year
- Increases funding for school-based health centers
- For justice-involved and incarcerated people:
- Funds criminal justice reform including $24 mil for reentry and recidivism reduction programs, funding for police reform commissions and police reform reserve, $11.6 mil for the municipal police training council and $2 mil for a pilot program to provide rent subsidies to individuals returning to the community.
- Removes barriers to communication services for incarcerated people and their loved ones by requiring the Department of Corrections, Sheriffs and the Department of Youth Services to provide phone calls and communication in video or electronic formats free of charge
- For vulnerable people and people in crisis:
- Increases Medicare Savings Program to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level
- Includes $10 million to expand emergency diversion boarding programs within the Department of Mental Health and $12.5 mil for behavioral health support and workforce development
- For the environment:
- Invests $349.7 M in funding for environmental services
- Includes $78.7M for DCR State Parks to increase staffing support and lifeguard demand, $72.8 M for Environmental protection for climate law implementation and violation enforcement, and $36.5M for fisheries and wildlife for dams, culverts and related infrastructure removal.
- Additional investment includes $1.3M for environmental justice and 4.7M for climate adaptation and preparedness
- For people experiencing housing instability:
- Invests $853M in affordable and accessible housing
- Includes $150M for Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program and $140M for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition
- In behavioral health:
- Invests $10 million in expanding emergency diversion boarding programs within the Department of Mental Health
- Invests $188.6 million in the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services
- Invests $12.5 million in behavioral health supports
- Invests $20 million in a new loan forgiveness program within the Department of Mental Health to help to develop the behavioral health workforce
Cambridge lawmaker helps lead effort to expand Mass. bottle bill
William J. Dowd, Wicked Local
State Rep. Marjorie Decker, trying to modernize the deposit law, is leading legislative efforts in the House of Representatives as the "Better Bottle Bill (H. 3289)" main sponsor.
“Reducing plastic in our environment is not just a climate issue, it is a public health issue,” said the Cambridge Democrat. “It is time for public health to win, it is time for climate and the environment to win and that’s what is going to happen when we update this bill and we pass it.”
Read more at: t.ly/uIyU.
Mental Health Services and Resources
If you or a loved one are struggling, please know that you are not alone. There are some great resources here: decker4rep.com/2021/mental-health-services-and-resources/.
Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention Helpline For MA residents
Thanks to COVID-19 relief funds from the CARES ACT, Massachusetts 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
If you are able to give to others during this time, I encourage you to look to places that are working to help those most affected by COVID-19: decker4rep.com/2021/places-that-are-working-to-help-those-most-affected-by-covid-19/.
I also encourage you to donate to the following organizations that are engaging in racial justice work: decker4rep.com/2021/organizations-that-are-engaging-in-racial-justice-work/.
As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.