I write to you this evening with relevant COVID-19 updates and resources as well as recent legislative news.
I am grateful to have been sworn into office representing the people of Cambridge in the 25th Middlesex District. I am feeling energized, inspired, and ready to start a new session after listening to Speaker Mariano talk about the importance of continuing our work on childcare and workforce development, common sense gun safety, renewable energy, affordable housing, and strengthening our community hospitals.
I am glad that we could come together in the State House this week, not only to celebrate newly elected officials but also to recognize decades of leadership, from former Governors to former Speakers to the first woman Senate President. I am also very excited that we were able to elect the Speaker on the first vote.
Congratulations to Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. It was an honor to witness this historic swearing-in and I look forward to the leadership you will bring to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. On Wednesday, former Governor Charlie Baker took the “lone walk” out of the Massachusetts State House and exited via the front doors of the building — this is one of the rare occasions when those doors are open. Thank you, Charlie Baker, for your years of service.
Table of Contents
- State Updates
- National Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- COVID-19 Testing Information
- MA Vaccination Updates
- DPH Resources on COVID-19
- This Week’s Case Count
- Legislative Updates
- Mental Health Services and Resources
- Where to Give
MA Still Offering Gift Cards at Family-Friendly Vaccine Clinics
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is still offering a $75 gift card at any of the clinics listed at bit.ly/3ZhgTt1. Gift cards will now be offered through March 31, 2023 to any Massachusetts resident (adult or child) who gets vaccinated (first dose, second dose, or booster) while supplies last. You do not need an appointment, but some clinics may encourage pre-registration.
State Public Awareness Campaign on Extra Pandemic SNAP Benefits Ending
The state has launched a new website, Mass.gov/ExtraCOVIDSNAP, to help residents plan for the end of extra temporary SNAP benefits. The SNAP Emergency Allotments were made available in March 2020 under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act and will end as of February 2023 following recent federal legislation. Over the next several months, individuals and families should explore any optional expenses that may increase their regular SNAP benefits. Also, Massachusetts households who get SNAP benefits automatically can participate in the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP).
New US International Travel Requirements
Starting January 5, all passengers flying to the United States from China, Hong Kong, or Macau must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than two days before travel or show documentation of recent recovery. For more information, visit bit.ly/3WSNJhZ.
XBB is Dominant COVID Variant in New England
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the XBB subvariant of Omicron — a combination of two pre-existing Omicron subvariants — is now the dominant iteration of the virus in the New England region. Experts say the current evidence indicates that existing vaccines, tests, and medication treatments appear effective against the new subvariant, but the rapid spread suggests that XBB is more contagious than other strains. For more information, visit bit.ly/3QgIWoe.
Free COVID-19 Tests Available by Mail
Households are now able to order free rapid at-home COVID-19 tests again from http://COVIDTests.gov as part of a broader White House winter COVID preparedness plan. Most Massachusetts residents can also show their insurance card to get free rapid antigen tests at the pharmacy desk of stores like CVS and Walgreens every 30 days. The government is urging people to test themselves when they have symptoms, and before visiting with family. Learn more: wbur.fm/3PtNPty.
Middlesex County at High COVID-19 Community Level
As of January 5, 2023, the CDC reports that Middlesex County has entered the High COVID-19 Community Level. Community Levels are determined by a combination of reported COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Learn more at bit.ly/3GIE5Jk
COVID-19 Testing Information
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, everyone ages 6 months or older is eligible to be vaccinated and everyone ages 5 years or older is eligible to be boosted. Children who have received a two-dose primary series of any vaccine and those who have received boosters are eligible to get the updated bivalent booster as long as two months have passed since their last 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: 117,398
Fully Vaccinated Residents: 92,452
Residents with 1 Booster: 62,792
Residents with 2 Boosters: 32,263
Total doses administered: 17,372,322
Total first booster doses administered: 3,460,187
Total second booster doses administered: 1,538,604
DPH Resources on COVID-19
COVID-19 FAQs: bit.ly/3aLrW99
This Week’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.
Total Cases: 1,978,312
New Cases: 10,075
Total Deaths: 21,391
New PCR Tests: 80,921
Total Cases: 34,738
New Cases: 28
Total Deaths: 180
State interactive data dashboard: bit.ly/3Pe3hJk
Harvard COVID dashboard: bit.ly/3z8sa3C.
An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities Signed into Law
On Monday, An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities was signed into law. This important road safety legislation includes provisions from a bill that I filed following a tragic death in Cambridge to require large state vehicles to have backup cameras. The new law also requires drivers to stay at least four feet away from “vulnerable users” of the road when passing them, requires cyclists to use rear red lights at night, and gives municipalities the ability to petition to change speed limits on state-owned roads. Learn more at bit.ly/3X8qU9X.
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
Thanks to everyone who has generously contributed to many organizations serving vulnerable people locally, nationally, and globally. If you are able to donate, please visit https://bit.ly/3fyEWkw for places serving those most affected by COVID-19 and https://bit.ly/3SMFeCU for 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.