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
State Labor Department Says Boston Had the Right to Mandate Vaccines for Employees
The Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations ruled this week that Boston had the right to implement its vaccine mandate for city workers. The department found that, considering the exigent circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City’s interest in protecting its workers and the public justified the decision to require vaccinations. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3MBxW1G
New Internship Program to Give Thousands of Students Opportunities for STEM Work Experiences:
A new internship program will provide an additional 2,300 high school students with opportunities for paid work experiences in STEM fields and make it easier for companies to hire students by paying their salaries through local MassHire Career Centers and Workforce Boards. Approximately $4 million in grants will be awarded to the 16 regional Workforce Boards and 24 Career Centers across the Commonwealth, enabling them to pay students directly for the first time. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3KEfKTT
Moderna asks FDA to authorize first COVID-19 vaccine for very young children
Moderna announced Thursday that the company has asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize a low-dose version of its COVID-19 vaccine as the first vaccine for children younger than age 5. Learn more: https://wbur.fm/3Kkoe2c
Pfizer asks FDA to authorize booster shots for kids ages 5 through 11
Children ages 5 through 11 who've received two shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine may soon be eligible for a booster. That's if the Food and Drug Administration agrees to a request made Tuesday by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech to authorize their booster shot for kids ages 5 through 11. Learn more: https://wbur.fm/3rUKiKk
COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics Every Wednesday
The Cambridge Public Health Department is offering 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/
Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House Job Fair
The Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House is hosting a job fair at the Cambridge City Hall on May 12th, 2022 from 12:00pm - 3:00pm. Bring an updated resume and questions. Learn more: https://margaretfullerhouse.org/news/
Cambridge Hosts Outreach Event for Fair Housing Month
In honor of National Fair Housing Month, the City’s Housed In Cambridge Team is hosting drop-in hours on Friday, April 29, 2022, 9:30 a.m.– 11:30 a.m. at the Main Library Community Room (449 Broadway) to answer questions and provide information about housing resources in Cambridge.
CCAccess Referral and Scholarship Program
CCAccess is a scholarship and referral program run by Cambridge Camping Association for summer overnight camps throughout New England. This program is not limited to only Cambridge Residents, students entering 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grades are eligible to apply. More information at https://cambridgecamping.org/ccaccess
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:
- Monday - Friday, from 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
- Saturday & Sunday, from 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 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 will continue to be offered one day per week during the following hours
- 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/3KoefZx
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 28, 2022:
Residents who have received at least 1 dose: 103,952
Fully Vaccinated Residents: 85,795
Residents with Booster: 53,717
Daily COVID-19 Vaccination Report
Total doses administered: 14,477,963
Total booster doses administered: 2,998,111
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: 1,618,006
New Cases: 3,199
Total Deaths: 19,136
New PCR Tests: 62,472
Total Cases: 24,484
New Cases: 213
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.
I am grateful to Chair Michlewitz, Speaker Mariano, and my other House colleagues for their support of the priorities below:
- VOCA Bridge
- The House Ways and Means budget included a $20 million investment in Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) programs, which my colleagues and I had advocated for along with service providers in order to cover one year of anticipated VOCA cuts.
- I was able to secure $600K for the Massachusetts Alliance of YWCAs in the final House budget, which is close to level funding from last year.
- Cambridge Community Center
- I secured $75,000 in the final House budget to support the Cambridge Community Center’s plans to expand behavioral health programming and make capital improvements to their space. This is a 50% increase over last year’s funding.
- Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program
- I also secured level funding of $75,000 for the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program. This Food For Free program either sends students home on Friday afternoons with meals and snacks for the weekend, discreetly packed into their backpack, or provides additional funding weekly via a debit card for families for the express purpose of purchasing food items for their children.
- Public Safety and Certainty Related to Child Deaths
- This requires 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.
- It has been an incredible privilege to join Sameer Sabir and Nada Siddiqui in advocating to ensure that other families do not have to endure what they have. Some will recall that this tragedy originated in Cambridge on January 14th, 2013 when Cambridge police responded to a call regarding an unresponsive infant, Rehma Sabir. Sameer Sabir and Nada Siddiqui, Rehma’s parents, spoke with Boston Public Radio about their story earlier this week: t.ly/6P_n.
House Approves FY23 Budget
The House passed a $49.7 billion fiscal 2023 budget Wednesday evening. There were a total of 1,522 budget amendments that were split up by subject category and taken up as consolidated amendments. Highlights of the final House budget include:
- $912 million for early education and care (EEC), including $70 million in rate increases for subsidized child care providers across the Commonwealth.
- Also includes a new initiative funded at $10 million to pay for child care for early educators.
- $653 million for the University of Massachusetts system, $337 million for community colleges, and $326 million for state universities.
- $25.5 million increase in scholarship funding over the last fiscal year for a new total of $156 million, and funds the community colleges SUCCESS Fund at $14 million and the STEM Starter Academies at $4.75 million.
- $110 million for a year-long extension of universal school meals, providing immediate relief to families by saving them up to $1,200 every year from reduced grocery expenditures, according to The Feed Kids Coalition.
Health and Behavioral Health:
- $10 million to expand emergency diversion boarding programs within the Department of Mental Health;
- $188.6 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services;
- $12.5 million for behavioral health supports; and
- $48.3 million for early intervention services, with dedicated funding to help its workforce recover from the pandemic.
- $2.44 billion for the Department of Developmental Services, aimed to support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families
- $349.7 million for environmental services, which include funding increases for state parks, environmental protection, and fisheries and wildlife
- $824.6 million in the Trial Court,
- $39.5 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, and increases for Prisoners’ Legal Services and Mental Health Legal Advisors.
- $11.3 million for community-based residential reentry programs and an Employment Services Division within Probation funded at $2.2 million
- $20 million to fund phone calls free of charge to persons receiving and persons initiating phone calls and other services such as video or electronic communication
- $150 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
- $140 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)
- $100 million for homeless individuals
- $92 million for housing authority subsidies
- $59.4 million for HomeBASE
- $20 million for a loan forgiveness program within the Department of Mental Health to support their workforce
- $15 million to support teachers of color, including $7.5 million for Tomorrow’s Teachers program to provide scholarships to people committed to teaching in public schools and $7.5 million for loan repayment for teachers of color
- $10 million for loan repayment and bonuses for the homeless shelter workforce that continues to provide critical services to the most vulnerable populations
- $1 million for a public awareness campaign to ensure all communities can utilize these programs
Kids in Crisis: Calls Grow to Help Mass. Children With Mental Health Issues
Alison King, NBC10 Boston
Cambridge Rep. Marjorie Decker says it is a public health crisis. She hears similar stories every week of hospitals that are overwhelmed, schools that lack resources and parents who are desperate. "I have filed a bill and been working on it with advocates around the state for the last four years," Decker said.
The Thrives Act would take educators, mental health and public health workers out of their individual silos and put them around the same table for a holistic approach to behavioral health. Educators would receive technical assistance and professional development. For students, age-appropriate behavioral health education would be mandated.
Learn more: t.ly/KvYG
$60M Needed to Maintain Services for Victims of Crime
Jayda Leder-Luis, Patch.com
Today, the House of Representatives will debate the budget, which currently includes a $20 million investment to cover one year of anticipated VOCA cuts. That investment would positively affect service providers and those they serve. In addition to this $20 million investment, Representative Marjorie Decker has filed amendment #1317, better known as VOCA BRIDGE, to fund the program at its full potential of $60 million. This amendment would efficiently maximize grant awards to new and existing service providers and allow victim-serving programs to plan staffing most effectively to meet the needs of crime survivors.
Learn more t.ly/b3-t
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.