I write to you this evening with relevant COVID-19 updates and resources as well as recent legislative news. Thank you to the constituents who came to office hours on Tuesday.
It was a tremendous honor to be invited to the White House this past Monday to commemorate the signing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant federal gun safety bill in nearly 30 years. While it was an honor to be present, it was also heavy knowing that so many of those in attendance were there because they have lost a loved one to gun violence. I would especially like to thank Stop Handgun Violence and John Rosenthal for their incredible leadership at the national and state level. While this bill doesn’t have the teeth that many of us would like, the fact that it received a bipartisan vote is a critical start. A step forward is progress in the right direction.
Table of Contents
- State Updates
- National Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- COVID-19 Testing Information
- MA Vaccination Updates
- Vaccination Appointment Resources
- Today’s Case Count
- Infant Formula Shortage Updates
- Legislative Updates
- Mental Health Services and Resources
- Where to Give
DPH Now Reporting COVID-19 Data Weekly
As of July 8th, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is publishing the COVID-19 Interactive Data Dashboard on a weekly basis rather than five days per week. Data will be uploaded to the dashboard on Thursdays, the Contact Tracing and Clusters tabs under COVID-19 Cases will be removed since they are no longer representative of the current situation, and Higher Education data will be removed due to the decrease in surveillance testing being conducted in those settings. DPH continues to closely monitor COVID-19 in Massachusetts and maintains the ability to increase the type and frequency of data publication in the future if there is a need. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3z9Sevq.
FDA authorizes Novavax's Covid-19 vaccine
On July 13th, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. Novavax’s vaccine was developed through a traditional approach that has been used for decades. Instead of prompting the body to make its own version of the spike proteins found on COVID, as is the case with mRNA vaccines, the Novavax vaccine contains COVID proteins that are made in a lab and then delivered directly upon injection. Vaccines that help fend off the flu, shingles, and hepatitis B use this strategy too. Before the Novavax vaccine will be made widely available, it must also be recommended by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That recommendation will likely follow a July 19th meeting of an expert committee convened by the CDC.
988 Behavioral Health Hotline Launches Tomorrow
Starting Saturday, July 16th, the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be accessible by the simple, easy to remember number, 988. Dialing 988 will allow individuals in crisis to access local emergency behavioral health resources. This number is a direct connection to compassionate, confidential, 24/7 support for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress, from thoughts of suicide to a substance use crisis. The existing ten-digit number will not go away, but dialing 988 will now direct you to the same lifeline faster and more easily. The lifeline is also available via text message and online chat (988lifeline.org).
Cambridge COVID-19 Data Reporting Changes
Changes in COVID-19 data reporting at the state level (see above) will affect some data reported in the Cambridge COVID-19 Data Center, including the way vaccination information is displayed. The data center will no longer report the number of residents who are partially vaccinated, and will add a category indicating how many residents have received a second dose. Learn more: bit.ly/3aFj70G
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 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.
- The City's walk-in testing sites are no longer available.
State COVID-19 Testing
Please visit mass.gov/GetTested.
Home PCR Tests for Adults
Please visit t.ly/vL4j for details and to request a test kit.
MA Vaccination Updates
Vaccines and Boosters for Children
As a reminder, children aged 6 months and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and children ages 5 years and older are eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose.
- 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.
Residents who have received at least 1 dose: 105,912
Fully Vaccinated Residents: 86,410
Residents with Booster: 56,555
Total doses administered: 15,079,749
Total booster doses administered: 3,133,949
Total second booster doses administered: 597,809
DPH Resources on COVID-19 and Monkeypox
COVID-19 FAQs: https://bit.ly/3aLrW99
Monkeypox information: mass.gov/monkeypox
Today’s COVID-19 Case Count
Please note that these are only the reported cases. The actual case counts are underreported due to people using rapid tests at home. According to the CDC, the COVID-19 community level in Middlesex County has risen to Medium.
Total Cases: 1,783,187
New Cases: 7,096
Total Deaths: 19,818
New PCR Tests: 96,456
Total Cases: 30,903
New Cases: 80
Total Deaths: 167
State interactive data dashboard: bit.ly/3Pe3hJk
Harvard COVID dashboard: bit.ly/3z8sa3C.
Infant Formula Shortage Updates:
FDA Provides Educational Resources for Parents and Caregivers to Support Confidence for Imported Infant Formula Products
Learn more: https://bit.ly/3O6Vz2p. By July 17, Operation Fly Formula will have transported more than 55 million 8-ounce bottle equivalents of formula to the U.S.
Massachusetts House Passes $4.2 Billion Economic Development Bill
This week, the MA House of Representatives passed an economic development bill, which utilizes the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) surplus funds, and bonds to make significant investments across several vital sectors of the economy and to give back to low and middle-income residents by providing one-time rebates and significant tax relief beginning in 2023. $4.2 billion will be funded to address the disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic through one-time investments in health and human services, the environment and climate mitigation, economic development, housing, and food insecurity.
The bill makes significant changes to the Massachusetts tax code to provide structural relief to millions of residents across all income levels. These include:
- Increasing the Child and Dependent Care Credit from $180 per child to $310 per child, as well as eliminating the current cap of $360 for two or more children. This is expected to impact over 700,000 families.
- Increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 30 percent to 40 percent of the federal credit. This is expected to impact about 396,000 taxpayers with incomes under $57,000. I have been working to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit for years and am grateful that we have progressively increased the state’s match rate from 15% to 23% to 30%, and now 40%.
- Increasing the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit from $750 to $1,755. Currently, the Department of Revenue caps this credit at $1,170 due to cost-of-living adjustments over the $750 set in statute. Increasing it to $1,755 in statute is expected to impact over 100,000 taxpayers who own or rent residential property in Massachusetts as their principal residence.
- Increasing the rental deduction cap from $3,000 to $4,000. This is expected to impact about 881,000 taxpayers.
- Increasing the estate tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million and eliminating the “cliff” effect which would tax just the value of the estate that exceeds $2 million, not the entire estate. This is expected to impact about 2,500 taxpayers.
Since learning last December that organizations across the state which work with victims of violence were facing a loss of $60 million in federal funds over the next 3 years, I’ve been working closely with the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance to find a solution. I was able to secure an initial $20 million in the FY23 House budget and yesterday my amendment to secure $40 million for the following two years was adopted in the economic development bill. I am grateful to House leadership for recognizing the urgency of this issue and to MOVA, organizations like the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, and my colleague Representative Natalie Higgins for their incredible advocacy.
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
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.