I write to you this evening with relevant COVID-19 updates and resources as well as recent legislative news.
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
- Mental Health Services and Resources
- Where to Give
As mask mandates disappear, COVID is on the rise in Massachusetts
At the same time that mask requirements are being dropped aboard public transit, in rideshares and in other public spaces across Massachusetts, COVID-19 cases are rising. It’s a disconnect that’s causing concern among local public health experts. Wastewater levels and COVID-19 cases have risen significantly in recent weeks. COVID levels detected in wastewater have been increasing across the state — in Middlesex County, for instance, the levels are now 11 times higher than two months ago. Learn more at t.ly/WuaC.
Unemployment Overpayment Relief Plans Provide Additional Relief Following Federal Government’s Partial Approval Of Blanket Waiver:
Unemployment Overpayment Relief plans will provide expanded relief to unemployment claimants with overpayment obligations. The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) has approved in part the Commonwealth’s request to provide certain Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimants with relief from overpayments that resulted from a mid-program change in Federal rules. The blanket waiver approved by USDOL covers approximately $349 million and provides partial relief to 53,487 claimants with outstanding overpayments. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3L6hqGu
Mask advisory and guidance for Massachusetts residents:
Effective April 18, 2022, as a result of a change in federal policy, masks are no longer required on public transportation including on the MBTA (except on The Ride), commuter rail, buses, ferries, and airplanes, or while in rideshares (Uber and Lyft), taxis, and livery vehicles. Face coverings are also no longer required inside or outside of transportation hubs, including train stations, bus stops, and airports.
The Department of Public Health advises that individuals should wear a mask or face covering when indoors (and not in your own home) if you have a weakened immune system, or if you are at increased risk for severe disease because of your age or an underlying medical condition, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease or is unvaccinated. Learn more: https: //bit.ly/385BhHj
DOJ appealing federal judge’s ruling on mask mandate
The U.S. Justice Department is appealing the ruling that a federal judge made on Monday to void the mask mandate for public transportation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked the DOJ to appeal. The CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in all indoor public transportation settings and says “wearing masks is most beneficial in crowded or poorly ventilated locations, such as the transportation corridor.” Read more at t.ly/2XKU.
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/
Virtual Affordable Housing Information Session Monday
The Cambridge Development Department will be hosting a Zoom info session on Monday 4/25. Learn more about the City’s Affordable Rental and Home Ownership Programs presented by the Housing Division of the CDDt. They will cover rental programs from 12:00pm to 1:00pm & affordable homeownership opportunities from 1:00pm to 2:00pm. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3ODrmJY
Mayor and City Manager will give the State of the City Address on April 27, 6pm
On Wednesday, April 27 at 6pm, the Mayor and City Manager will give remarks on the State of the City, marking over two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mayor and City Manager will speak about important accomplishments and about the work that is ongoing in Cambridge. Refreshments will be served in the Mayor’s Parlor at 5:30pm before remarks begin in the Sullivan Chamber at 6pm. Learn more: https://bit.ly/390LBRf
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 21, 2022:
Residents who have received at least 1 dose: 103,922
Fully Vaccinated Residents: 85,729
Residents with Booster: 53,470
Daily COVID-19 Vaccination Report
Total doses administered: 14,395,263
Total booster doses administered: 2,983,226
Total cumulative doses shipped to MA: 16,604,470
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: 1,600,844
New Cases: 2,303
Total Deaths: 19,100
New PCR Tests: 55,877
Total Cases: 23,724
New Cases: 35
Total Deaths: 163
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 Budget Debate Next Week
The House will be in session next week debating the FY23 Budget. These are the amendments I have filed this session. I am also cosponsoring many of my colleagues’ amendments — thank you to those of you who have contacted me about signing on to amendments that are important to you.
- Amendment #181 Lift Kids Out of Deep Poverty FY23
- Lifts TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and EAEDC (Emergency Aid for the Elders, Disabled and Children) grants by 20% over FY22 levels.
- Amendment #182 Ending Deep Poverty
- Would increase TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and EAEDC (Emergency Aid for the Elders, Disabled and Children) by 20% each fiscal year until the payment standard is equal to 50% of the federal poverty level, then would require the payment standard to be no less than 50% of the federal poverty level every fiscal year after.
- Amendment #489 Affordable Accessible Housing Grants
- This amendment would reinstate $2.5 million that was in last year’s budget for Affordable Accessible Housing Grants. It would create 25 accessible units so that AHVP voucher holders are able to find units that meet their accessibility needs.
- Amendment #1371 Improvements to the RAFT Homelessness Prevention Program:
- This amendment would increase RAFT access to all otherwise eligible households with incomes up to 60% of the area median income; affirmatively ensure upstream access to RAFT benefits; and direct the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to authorize 4 months of forward rent payments and stipends to otherwise eligible applicants.
- Amendment #1385 Improvements to Emergency Assistance for Children and Families:
- This amendment would increase the income eligibility limits for EA to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines (FPG) for families upon application and 285% FPG for families already in EA shelter; restore the FY22 language to establish an ombudsperson unit; and improve tracking and reporting language.
- Amendment #194 Promote public safety and certainty related to child deaths:
- This amendment would require the chief medical examiner to review and approve the findings and report of the medical examiner performing the autopsy of a child under age 2 and any change to the autopsy report. This addresses recent cases in which the Chief Medical Examiner’s office changed the cause of death for deaths of children under two, creating serious implications for ongoing court cases and for the families of those children.
- Amendment #518 Crime Gun Data:
- This amendment would require EOPSS to develop a biennial report analyzing the firearms trace data collected and non-identifying gun sales transaction data held by the firearms records bureau and supply this data to a university or non-profit researcher for analysis to help determine their source.
- Amendment #1317 VOCA Bridge
- Increases line item by $40 million and ensures that leftover funding rolls over to FY24 and FY25. This will stabilize and support counseling, advocacy, and intervention services for victims of crime through FY25 until federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) resources are restored.
- Amendment #354 Cambridge District Court:
- This amendment will require the court administrator of the executive office of the trial court to, not later than December 31, 2023, relocate the Cambridge district court, also known as the Third district court of eastern Middlesex, from the city of Medford to the city of Cambridge.
- Amendment #362 Cradles to Crayons:
- Earmarks $400,000 to the Cradles to Crayons’ Clothing Insecurity relief and essentials distribution service
- Amendment #364 Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program:
- Earmarks $400,000 to the Cradles to Crayons’ Clothing Insecurity relief and essentials distribution service
- Amendment #1147 Cambridge Community Center:
- Earmarks $250K for the Cambridge Community Center for continued capital improvements and BH programming
- Amendment #479: Ensuring Resources for Patients While they Board:
- This amendment would require commercial health plans, MassHealth, and Group Insurance Commission health plans to provide reimbursement for each day that a patient boards in an ED, on a medical surgical floor, or in an observation unit for behavioral health admission. Given the current boarding environment, reimbursement for behavioral health boarding is critical to ensure patient care and workforce needs are met.
- Amendment #731 Behavioral Health Trust Fund and Payor Surcharge:
- This amendment establishes both the Behavioral Health Access and Crisis Intervention Trust Fund to receive and expend certain revenue from behavioral health surcharge payments and a behavioral health payor surcharge to be assessed by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and deposited into the Behavioral Health Access and Crisis Intervention Trust Fund.
- Amendment #733 MassHealth Indemnity/TPL Funding:
- This amendment restores funding for MassHealth indemnity/TPL to H.2 levels (as adjusted for July public health emergency extension) to support the costs of the 24-7 Behavioral Health Help Line and community-based mobile crisis intervention services.
- Amendment #734 MassHealth Senior Care Funding:
- This amendment restores funding for MassHealth senior care to H.2 levels (as adjusted for July public health emergency extension) to support the costs of the 24-7 Behavioral Health Help Line and community-based mobile crisis intervention services..
- Amendment #821 DMH Continuing Care Beds:
- Earmarks $5,000,000 for an additional 60 beds (30 of which would be in DMH which plan to open this spring; and 30 by contract in one of the acute psychiatric facilities with excess capacity).
- Amendment #1129 THRIVES Act TA Center:
- Earmarks $150,000 to the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, Inc. and the BIRCh Center to continue collaborating on the establishment of a school based behavioral health technical assistance center.
- Amendment #1201 Enhancing, expanding and disseminating best ED boarding practices:
- Earmarks $250,000 to be expended to any free-standing pediatric teaching hospital with an inpatient psychiatric care unit, a community-based acute treatment unit, an embedded psychiatric consult service, and an emergency psychiatric service to enhance, expand and disseminate best practice clinical models associated with treatment provided to children and adolescents while they are awaiting higher levels of psychiatric car.
- Amendment #1362 Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Review Committee:
- This amendment will establish a maternal mortality and morbidity review committee of no more than 20 members within the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to review maternal deaths, study the incidence of pregnancy complications, make recommendations to improve maternal outcomes, and eliminate preventable maternal death.
- Amendment #1497 Medical Assistance Trust Fund
- Technical amendment to the Medical Assistance Trust Fund (MATF) necessary to implement the current and new payment types under the future Massachusetts Medicaid Waiver (effective in 2023 and forward). Amendment also removes the reference to specific fiscal years, since there are certain performance-based components for multiple fiscal years that remain open for settlement and payment transactions in following years.
- Amendment #1499 Behavioral Health Innovation:
- This amendment Increases earmark to address emergency department mental and behavioral health boarding by $7.5 million and changes earmark language to grants provided by EOHHS to support BH acute care and intensive community based treatment beds to enable individuals to be diverted from hospitals or those boarding in hospitals to be discharged.
- Amendment #672 YWCA Funding:
- Earmarks $1,503,000 to YWCA organizations, which shall be distributed equally between the Alliance of YWCAs member organizations.
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.