I am writing to you today with Cambridge and public health updates.
Table of Contents
- Public Health Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- A Glimpse at the Past Week
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Public Health Updates
Toxic Bacterial Blooms Found in Mass. Ponds
'Blooms’ of cyanobacteria, cited by public health officials as being harmful to humans and pets, were detected in eleven Massachusetts ponds and one lake this week. While this bacteria is found naturally in all types of water, blooms signal an unbalanced growth that usually happens when they feed off nutrients from fertilizer and human and animal waste runoff. These blooms can release “cyanotoxins” that - when touched, ingested or inhaled - can cause stomach aches and other illnesses. While typically peaking between August and October, the early cyanobacteria blooms can be credited to record high temperatures due to climate change.
Tick Bites Surge in Northeast
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s online tick tracker shows that, in the Northeast, visits to the Emergency Department for tick bites are up more than 30% from last year. To reduce chances of being bitten by a tick, the CDC recommends using EPA-registered insect repellents such as DEET and checking body parts and clothing for ticks after being exposed to potentially tick infested areas, including the backyard. If you are bitten, removing it as soon as possible is key to preventing disease. For more resources, visit the CDC’s online, interactive tool that allows users to track and visualize tick-borne disease data in the United States.
AG Campbell Joins in Opposition to PFAS
Attorney General Andrea Campbell, along with twenty-one other AGs, urged a federal court Wednesday to reject a proposed $10.3 billion settlement over contamination of U.S. public drinking water systems with potentially dangerous chemicals, saying it lets manufacturer 3M Co. off too easily. The groups of AGs claim that the original settlement doesn't give individual water suppliers enough time to determine how much money they would get and whether it would cover their costs of removing the chemicals. Described as “forever chemicals” because they don’t degrade naturally in the environment, PFAS have been linked to a variety of health problems, including liver and immune-system damage and some cancers.
Biden Acts on Mental Health
On Tuesday, President Biden announced his proposal to boost the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act through a rule change. This change would require health plans to make changes when they are providing inadequate access to mental health care. It would also provide specific examples that make clear that health plans cannot use more restrictive prior authorization, other medical management techniques or narrower networks that make it harder for people to access mental health and substance use disorder benefits. Research published by the White House found that insured people are more than twice as likely to be forced to go out-of-network and pay higher fees for mental health care than for physical health care.
COVID Wastewater Levels Increasing
Coronavirus wastewater numbers have continued to rise after dropping to their lowest levels in two years earlier this summer. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority regularly tests wastewater from Boston’s Deer Island Treatment Plant for traces of the virus that causes COVID-19 (mwra.com/biobot/biobotdata.htm). The testing determines the number of coronavirus RNA copies per milliliter of wastewater, as shed by people with and without symptoms. Although elevated wastewater numbers sometimes precede increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations, experts believe the rising levels will not translate to severe cases.
Applications for Rise Up Grant Program Close on Monday, July 31
Rise Up Cambridge is a grant program funded by the City of Cambridge to provide direct cash to low-income Cambridge households with children at or under 21 years of age earning at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level. Eligible households will receive $500 per month for 18 months. The program is supported by the $22 million that Cambridge received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, and will run as a pilot program for 18 months. Applications for the program close on Monday, July 31st. Read more about the program here: www.cambridgema.gov/riseup
Sumner Tunnel Closure
The Sumner Tunnel is closed for restoration from July 5th through August 31st. Cambridge residents will experience travel disruption to Boston Logan Airport. The MBTA is adding additional routes to the SL1, the silver line route that connects South Station to the airport. Please plan for traveling to the airport, as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation encourages people to build in extra travel time.
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 Cambridge Public Health Department manages the hotline. 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.
A Glimpse at the Past Week
Visit to the MassPirg Office
On Monday, I was happy to stop by the MassPirg Office and speak to the volunteers who are canvassing the Commonwealth on behalf of bills that would address climate change, including legislation that I filed to expand the bottle bill.
FFN Legislative Briefing
On Wednesday, I was excited to join @massCLU and the Care That Works Coalition for a legislative briefing in support of my bill, An Act to expand access to family, friend, and neighbor-provided childcare (H.456). I filed this bill to ensure that families can choose the very best, trusted care providers in their friend and family network by allowing them to use state-funded vouchers to pay for care. Many parents rely on FFN care because they need care at non-traditional hours, or can’t access other child care arrangements due to transportation challenges. Access to vouchers would give parents the power to choose the provider they want to care for their kids, and — importantly — would also ensure that providers receive higher wages.
Joint Committee on Public Health Hearing
On Wednesday, I co-Chaired a Public Health Committee hearing on bills related to Vaccines, which had been rescheduled due to last week’s electrical fire. Thank you to the 100+ individuals who showed up to testify.
Meeting with Spaulding Rehab President, Dr. Zafonte
On Thursday, I was pleased to meet with Dr. Ross Zafonte, President of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, at the State House. I provided a tour of the House Chamber following our discussion in my office.
Mental Health Services and Resources
If you or a loved one are struggling, please know 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, please contact me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.