I write to you today with public health and legislative updates. Again, we appreciate your patience over the next few weeks while we explore a new format for updates. If you have suggestions, feel free to email them to us.
Table of Contents
- Public Health Updates
- State Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Public Health Updates
Biobot Analytics Will Offer Wastewater Monitoring for Norovirus
On Wednesday, a Cambridge company, Biobot Analytics, which has been providing wastewater monitoring for COVID-19 to communities both locally and across the country, is expanding its program to offer surveillance for the norovirus. According to the CDC, noroviruses are the leading cause of foodborne illness, and while outbreaks can occur at any time, they occur most often between November and April. Learn more at bit.ly/3mSugkS
Extra Spring COVID Boosters Cleared
The Pfizer and Moderna boosters contain protection against both the original coronavirus strain and omicron versions known as BA.4 and BA.5. On Tuesday, U.S. regulators cleared another COVID-19 booster dose for older adults and people with weak immune systems. The Food and Drug Administration said anyone 65 or older could also receive the booster as long as it has been at least four months since their first dose of the bivalent vaccine that targets omicron strains. Also, people who are immune-compromised can choose another bivalent booster shot at least two months later, with additional doses in the future at the discretion of their physician. Learn more at bit.ly/41zkjrF
Massachusetts Protecting Access to Medication Abortion
Following a federal court ruling in Texas that blocked the FDA's approval of the abortion medication mifepristone, Governor Healey announced that, at her request, UMass Amherst ordered a year’s supply of mifepristone. The doses will be distributed to providers across the Commonwealth. The Administration is also dedicating $1 million from the Department of Public Health’s budget to help other local health care providers buy more mifepristone. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order clarifying that the 2022 law protecting abortion providers from out-of-state legal action also applies to medication abortions and mifepristone. I am grateful that the Legislature acted so quickly last session to put those protections in place and I appreciate Governor Healey’s prompt actions to protect access to safe, effective medication abortion. Learn more at wbur.fm/3mA2Xf5
MassHealth Redetermination Underway
The MassHealth eligibility redetermination process began on April 1. Over the next 12 months, MassHealth will renew the membership of all 2.3 million members. Visit mass.gov/masshealthrenew or call (800)-841-2900 to learn more about this process.
Insurance Coverage Ending for Free COVID Tests at Pharmacies
When the public health emergency ends on May 11, insurance companies will no longer be required to provide free at-home COVID tests. As a reminder, insurers are currently required to cover up to eight free tests each month per insured person. You can get a set of free tests in April and then again during the first week of May.
Report Your At-Home COVID Test Results with Make My Test Count
Individuals who take a COVID-19 at-home test can report their test result anonymously at MakeMyTestCount.org, a new website from the National Institutes of Health. The site does not ask for personal information such as name, date of birth, or street address, only general information such as age and ZIP code. Data collected through MakeMyTestCount is de-identified and sent to the same public health systems that currently receive COVID-19 test results from laboratories and doctors’ offices. Learn more at bit.ly/3DjS46f.
House Budget Season Underway
The House Committee on Ways and Means released its Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) state budget proposal last Wednesday and House members filed over 1500 amendments before last Friday’s 5:00 p.m. deadline. I filed 22 amendments focused on public health, behavioral health, poverty, and other needs, and I will share more about them in the coming weeks. The House budget debate will take place next week and will be livestreamed at malegislature.gov.
For anyone who's been trying to reach out to us, please know that for the past few weeks, we've been working on the tax bill and preparing for the budget debate. If there is an urgent matter and you don't hear back right away, please call the office. We're trying to respond to your needs along with the hundreds of budget-related requests coming in.
Free COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics Every Wednesday
The Cambridge Public Health Department is offering free COVID-19 and flu vaccines to adults and children (age 5+) every Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. at 119 Windsor Street, second floor.
- Vaccine Clinic Dates: Every Wednesday from Feb. 8–June 14.
- Appointments are required. You can register online at bit.ly/40bMk8C. If you have questions or want help making an appointment, call 617-933-0797.
- People age 5 and older can receive their first dose, second dose, or bivalent booster of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
- Flu vaccines will be available for adults and children (age 6 months and older), while supplies last. High-dose flu vaccines will also be available.
- No ID, Social Security Number, or health insurance is needed for the free vaccines.
Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19
To speak with someone, call the confidential COVID-19 Hotline for the public health departments of Cambridge, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop at 617-933-0797. The hotline is managed by the Cambridge Public Health Department. Learn more at bit.ly/3J7FYAO
City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests
The Cambridge Public Health Department, in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance, is providing free COVID-19 rapid antigen at-home test kits. They can be picked up Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM in the CHA lobby at 119 Windsor Street. Cambridge businesses or organizations that would like free rapid tests to provide to customers can call the COVID-19 hotline at 617-933-0797 to request them.
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.
As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.