Friday, January 7 COVID-19 & Legislative Updates

Dear all,

 

I write to you this evening with relevant COVID-19 updates and resources as well as recent legislative news. 

 

Updates to booster recommendations: 

This week, the CDC updated Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine booster recommendations

    • People ages 5 years and older with moderately to severely weakened immune systems should get an additional dose of vaccine 28 days after their 2nd shot.
    • People who received a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for their primary series can now get an mRNA booster shot 5 months after they complete their series.
  • Everyone ages 12 years and older should now get a booster shot. 

Learn more: bit.ly/3mrK4Z5. 

 

I am preparing a “Frequently Asked Questions” resource on rapid antigen tests and PCR tests that I will send out soon. As a reminder, a negative rapid test only indicates that you don’t have enough of the virus to be considered infectious at the moment that the test was taken, while a positive PCR tells you that you have the virus in your system but may not be actively infectious. Confused? Sadly there is not enough strong public health messaging about the known differences between tests, including when and why to use them. 

 

Unfortunately, non-public health issues are mucking up the messaging from the CDC all the way down to local officials, which has created conflicting messages. When people ask me about my opinion or preference on testing — keeping in mind I am not an epidemiologist or infectious disease doctor — I respond by highlighting that rapid testing has become my gold standard. This information is based on the frequent conversations I have been engaging in with experts in the field. The goal is that, collectively, everyone knows if they can infect someone or if someone in the room has enough virus to infect them. This goal is the same for every indoor gathering. We need to use all the tools available to us at this time to ensure that kids, educators, and school staff can go to school safely and that when people need to or want to gather inside that they know whether someone is likely to be contagious. 

 

I know that there’s a lot of confusion about various interpretations of studies comparing rapid tests and PCR tests. These are conversations that I’ve been deeply steeped in at both the state and the local level. I hope to provide more information in a separate email next week. Stay tuned for more information and updates.  

 

Table of Contents

  • COVID-19 Testing Information
  • State Updates
  • National Updates
  • Cambridge Updates
  • MA Vaccination Updates
  • Vaccination Appointment Resources
  • Today’s Case Count
  • Legislative Updates
  • Recent Press
  • Mental Health Services and Resources
  • Where to Give

 

COVID-19 Testing Information

 

Cambridge Offering Testing 7 Days Per Week in January

As of Monday, Jan. 3, Cambridge is expanding its free COVID-19 testing program. People who live or work in Cambridge can now book an appointment and be tested for free at CIC Health’s 295 Third Street location in Cambridge any day of the week during the month of January. Visit camb.ma/3HrBq4p to learn more. 

 

Walk-In Cambridge COVID-19 Testing Sites

  • 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

 

As of November 1, the testing site at the CambridgeSide mall has returned to walk-in testing inside the mall. Learn more at cambridgema.gov/covid19/testing.

 

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.

 

State Updates

 

More state COVID testing coming for childcare providers, children, and parents

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care announced this week that it plans to expand COVID-19 testing in January for childcare providers and parents. It will distribute free weekly rapid antigen tests to licensed centers and increase drive-through PCR testing. Learn more: wbur.fm/331K6PS. 

 

Education Commissioner issuing mask mandate decision next week

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley will announce a decision about extending the public school mask mandate next week. The current mask mandate was extended through January 15 in October. Learn more: bit.ly/3zAiDkw. 

 

DPH changing how it reports COVID-19 hospitalizations next week

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will begin distinguishing between patients who were admitted to hospitals because of COVID-19 infections and those who were admitted for a reason other than COVID-19 but tested positive at the hospital. Hospital admissions will be categorized as either “primary or incidental to COVID-19.” Learn more: bit.ly/3FhtnFT.  

 

National Updates

 

CDC updates Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine booster recommendations

This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated several recommendations for people who received Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.

  1. People ages 5 years and older with moderately to severely weakened immune systems should get an additional dose of vaccine 28 days after their 2nd shot.
  2. People who received a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for their primary series can now get an mRNA booster shot 5 months after they complete their series.
  3. Everyone ages 12 years and older should now get a booster shot. 

Learn more: bit.ly/3mrK4Z5.

 

White House working with USPS to ship rapid tests

The White House and the United States Postal Service are finalizing plans to deliver 500 million COVID-19 rapid test kits to households nationwide. There will be a website where people can request the tests, which will be shipped beginning mid-January. Learn more: bit.ly/3JSeehJ. 

 

CDC updates guidance on COVID-19 isolation, still no testing requirement

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its isolation guidelines for people with COVID-19 this week, but did not add a testing requirement for ending isolation after five days. Instead, the CDC recommends that if an individual wants to test, the best approach would be to use a rapid antigen test toward the end of their five-day isolation period. Learn more: n.pr/3t01S0I.

 

Please note that many public health, infectious disease doctors and epidemiologists are surprised that the five day shortened quarantine period does not include a verification of a negative test. Many of them believe that the CDC stopped short of that requirement based on concerns regarding the availability and accessibility of rapid tests. While most people will have moved beyond the transmissible contagious stage, not everyone will, which is why the absence of a negative test has caused great concern. *Note that in the U.K., there is still a seven day isolation period, and individuals must test negative on days six and seven in order to no longer self-isolate. 

 

Cambridge Updates

 

Cambridge Mask Order Extended to Common Areas of Certain Buildings

The City of Cambridge has amended its mask order to include common areas of residential, office, and laboratory buildings, effective January 7. Additionally, the City has issued temporary restrictions on City public meetings and indoor City events. Learn more: camb.ma/3pSUuSZ.

 

Cambridge Public Health Dept. Issues Advisory on Omicron

The Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD) has issued an advisory on protecting yourself from the Omicron variant. Given the very high transmissibility of Omicron, the CPHD urges residents to observe these recommendations:

  • Get your vaccine and booster
  • Wear your mask as much as possible. Higher quality “medical style” masks provide the best protection.
  • Carefully consider holiday celebrations and social gatherings
  • Take precautions if traveling
  • Get tested
  • If infected with or exposed to COVID-19, follow public health guidance

Learn more: t.ly/azY0. 

 

I have been in communication with the City Manager, the Mayor and our Board of Health encouraging them to follow in the steps of Boston and join them in creating a regional approach to indoor vaccine mandates in public spaces along with a mandate for municipal employees in an effort to protect public facing staff and the public from transmission.

 

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 (Appointments required)
    • 176 Somerville Ave, Somerville
    • Mon & Tues: 11:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.   
    • Wed, Thu, & Fri: 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    • To pre-register: 
  • CVS (Appointments required)
  • Star Market (Walk-ins or appointments)
    • 699 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge 
    • Schedule here: bit.ly/3uujXTv

MLK Day Celebration of Service

Many Helping Hands 365 is partnering with My Brother’s Keeper and the Cambridge YWCA to produce the 2022 Cambridge MLK Day Celebration of Service & Learning program. This year’s events include a community walk, Zoom conversations on racial justice, and Many Helping Hands 365’s traditional hands-on and self-led volunteer projects. Learn more and register at manyhelpinghands365.org/mlk-day/

 

MA Vaccination Updates

 

High-Capacity Vaccination Sites in Boston, Roxbury, Lynn, Taunton

Eligible residents aged 5 and older can receive their primary series of COVID-19 vaccinations and residents age 12+ can receive their booster shots at these locations:

  • Fenway Park,  4 Jersey Street, Boston, MA
  • Roxbury: Melnea Cass Recreation Complex, 120 MLK Jr Blvd, Boston, MA
  • Roxbury: Whittier Street Health Center, 1290 Tremont Street, Roxbury, MA
  • Lynn: North Shore Community College, Modular Building at 300 Broad Street, Lynn, MA
  • Taunton: Taunton COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic, 2005 Bay Street, Taunton, MA

Walk-ins are accepted and appointments are available at vaxfinder.mass.gov. 

 

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 through MyHealth 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, January 6, 2022:

 

Residents who have received at least 1 dose: 99,183

Fully Vaccinated Residents: 83,074

 

 

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 Friday, January 7, 2022:

 

Total doses administered: 12,947,220

Total cumulative doses shipped to MA: 15,031,530

 

 

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.

 

FAQs

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 

 

Massachusetts

Total Cases: 1,186,137

New Cases: 26,187

Total Deaths: 20,106

New PCR Tests: 116,244

 

Cambridge

Total Cases: 13,538

New Cases: 464

Total Deaths: 128

 

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

 

Legislative Updates

 

Bills I have filed that are being heard next week

One of my bills has been scheduled for a legislative hearing next week: H2869, An Act relative to the electronic deposit of tax refunds. The hearing schedule is available at malegislature.gov, where hearings will be livestreamed and available for viewing after they conclude.  

 

Recent Press

 

“Red Flag” gun bill used just six times last year

Shira Schoenberg, Commonwealth Magazine

Rep. Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge Democrat who was one of the bill’s lead sponsors, said the pandemic likely impacted the numbers because people are delaying all sorts of things. “I think people are trying to balance a hierarchy of needs from dealing with sickness, loss of job or income, dealing with housing insecurity, and dealing with overall panic and exhaustion of the pandemic over the last two years,” she said. Read more: bit.ly/3JTi2Px

 

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.

 

Sincerely,  

Marjorie

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