I write to you today with relevant COVID-19 updates and resources as well as recent legislative news.
Table of Contents
- Recent Press
- State Updates
- National Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- COVID-19 Testing Information
- MA Vaccination Updates
- This Week’s Case Count
- Mental Health Services and Resources
- Where to Give
DCF Kids ‘Stuck’ in Hospitals with No Place Else to Go
By Kerry Kavanaugh, Boston 25 News
The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association and the Massachusetts Association for Behavioral Health Systems surveyed 29 hospitals and five freestanding psychiatric facilities in Massachusetts in December 2022. They found there were 69 ‘stuck’ patients. 57 were involved with DCF, or 83%.
“Let’s not think about who’s who, what agency provides what. Let’s just look at this child and say, what does this child need and how do we make it happen,” says Massachusetts State Representative Marjorie Decker.
Decker, a Cambridge Democrat, says that’s the crux of her new legislation, an ‘Act to Ensure Access to Behavioral Health Services for Children Involved with State Agencies.’ She says it will ensure kids involved with state agencies, like DCF, have access to the care they need and a place to go to receive it.
“Too often, children and adolescents lose their place in a group home.” Decker says in some cases the state is closing out their placements, in a group home or foster home, once the child leaves them seeking medical care.
“We’re also going to presume that the child or the adolescent is going to go back to that home and that care, as long as it’s still safe,” Decker said.
Learn more and watch the segment at bit.ly/3JsJFRw.
Last Of State-Run Free Covid Testing Sites To Close
Roughly three years after concerns first started growing about COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, the state is getting ready to close its remaining “Stop the Spread” free testing sites. The “Stop the Spread” program launched in July 2020 and has since provided more than 4.3 million PCR tests to Massachusetts residents, a spokesperson for the state Department of Public Health confirmed by email. The department acknowledged that large-scale, state-funded PCR testing is no longer the best use of resources due to the drop in demand. Instead, officials recommend that people continue to access rapid at-home antigen tests, as well as PCR tests as needed, at retail pharmacies, urgent care facilities, and primary care settings.
Learn more at bit.ly/3LdCa1S.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 boosted.
- 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: 117,127
Fully Vaccinated Residents: 92,978
Residents with 1 Booster: 64,037
Residents with 2 Boosters: 34,521
Total doses administered: 17,600,125
Total first booster doses administered: 3,516,867
Total second booster doses administered: 1,647,538
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: 2,024,403
New Cases: 2,703
Total Deaths: 22,365
New PCR Tests: 57,662
Total Cases: 35,377
New Cases: 6
Total Deaths: 188
State interactive data dashboard: bit.ly/3Pe3hJk
Harvard COVID dashboard: bit.ly/3z8sa3C.
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.