Friday, November 3 Public Health & Legislative Updates

Dear friends,


I am writing to you today with public health, Cambridge, and legislative updates. 


Table of Contents

  • Public Health Updates
  • Cambridge Updates
  • Legislative Updates
  • Recent Press
  • A Glimpse at the Past Week
  • Mental Health Services and Resources

Public Health Updates

American Cancer Society Updates Guidelines for Lung Cancer Screening

In an effort to reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer, the overall leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., the American Cancer Society (ACS) updated its guidelines for lung cancer screening on Wednesday. The new recommendations expand eligibility for annual screening which, according to the ACS, will lead to nearly 5 million more people becoming eligible for lung cancer screening each year to detect lung cancer early. In its updated guidelines, the ACS recommends annual lung cancer screening for current and former smokers aged 50 to 80 years and also qualifies screening for anyone with at least a 20 pack-year smoking history. Additionally, the new recommendations remove a barrier to screening for former smokers which is now updated to state that the number of years since quitting smoking is no longer a factor for starting or stopping yearly screening.


CDC Launches First Federal Campaign for Hospitals to Tackle Healthcare Worker Mental Health Crisis

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced the launch of a new program, Impact Wellbeing, aimed at addressing the growing healthcare worker mental health crisis. The initiative comes as a response to the persistent problem that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and continued in its wake, with healthcare workers facing higher rates of burnout, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. The campaign effort provides hospital leaders with solutions and resources to reduce burnout and support healthcare workers. Impact Wellbeing aims to improve workplace policies and practices through actionable steps to fine-tune quality improvements, establish new workflows, and help staff feel safe seeking help mental health among healthcare professionals, emphasizing the need to remove barriers that deter seeking mental health care. Explore Impact Wellbeing resources at


MGB Announces Its New Masking Policy

Mass General Brigham, the largest health system in Massachusetts, has unveiled their updated mask policies for the upcoming winter season. While patients and visitors will not be required, but rather, strongly encouraged, to wear masks, staff may be mandated to do so in specific circumstances if respiratory illnesses surge beyond certain thresholds. The policies, developed in response to recommendations from the Department of Public Health, aim to curb the spread of COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses. The health system will employ a phased approach and various interventions to mitigate the risk of virus transmission. These measures will be based on the percentage of patients showing respiratory illness symptoms in emergency departments or outpatient clinics. Masks and hand hygiene stations will continue to be readily accessible throughout Mass General Brigham locations.


Lagging COVID, Flu, and RSV Vaccination Rates Raise Concerns 

As peak respiratory virus season approaches, Massachusetts health officials are troubled by low vaccination rates. According to the state’s public health department data, only 9% of residents have received this year’s new COVID-19 vaccine since its roll out in September, while flu vaccination rates, at approximately 21%, are behind previous years. Additionally, the vaccination rate for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is lower than expected, and its preventive drug, nirsevimab, is in short supply nationally. However, state data shows that as of October 21, a greater percentage of older residents aged 65 to 79 years received the booster against COVID-19 compared to children under the age of 5 years at about 2%. Despite ample COVID-19 vaccine availability now due to recent supply increases, waning interest may be contributing to low vaccination rates, with experts hoping for increased uptake as winter approaches. Public health officials stress the importance of these vaccines in protecting public health, especially during the colder months when these viruses tend to peak.

Cambridge Updates

Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19

To speak with someone, call the confidential COVID-19 Hotline at 617-933-0797. Learn more here.


City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance

The tests 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. The at-home COVID test expiration date can be checked here.


Red Line Work This Weekend

Accessible shuttle bus service will replace Red Line trains between Alewife and Kendall/MIT Stations this weekend to allow crews to perform track work in order to alleviate speed restrictions.

Legislative Updates

Three of the bills I filed were heard this week. 

  • An Act to improve mental health services in places of incarceration (H.1978) would empower the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health to supervise mental health services provided to those in Department of Corrections custody. The Commissioner will review and approve any contracts with mental health service providers, set and enforce minimum standards for delivery of services, and collect data on provision of services. 
  • An Act relative to ending unnecessary hospitalizations and reducing emergency department boarding (H.1980) makes clear that involuntary hospitalization should only be sought if no less restrictive alternative exists to reduce the likelihood of serious harm by reason of mental illness.
  • An Act relative to healthy and sustainable schools (H.3691) would require energy audits for public schools, public universities, and community colleges, prioritizing schools in environmental justice communities, to examine the cost, savings, and greenhouse gas reduction from implementing energy efficiency improvements and installing renewable energy systems. It would also create a Healthy and Sustainable Schools Office that would have the authority to implement recommendations arising from the audits, and will ensure that audits and upgrades will be installed by responsible contractors providing union jobs.

Recent Press

Emergency Shelter Cap Rules Filed Amid Escalating Tensions

Chris Lisinski and Sam Drysdale, State House News Service

Though most lawmakers have been hesitant to publicly discuss the issue, Rep. Marjorie Decker joined advocates on the State House steps Tuesday, where she called on the governor to halt the changes to the shelter system.

“Whether we have a waitlist, or whether the governor tries to end a policy of a right-to-shelter, is actually not problem solving,” Decker said. “Families, and particularly those with children, are still going to be unhoused, are still going to be unsafe.”

The Cambridge Democrat said she reached out to the governor, asking her to “not end this policy of right-to-shelter.” 


Judge expected to rule on Governor Healey’s emergency shelter cap 

Jim Morelli, Fox 25 News 

Sometime this week, Massachusetts expects to reach capacity for emergency housing -- with 7,500 families placed. Three weeks ago, Governor Maura Healey indicated that number would be considered full capacity and that others needing emergency housing would have to go on a waitlist.

State Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) said part of the problem is there’s no indication how the waitlist would function. “We actually can guarantee that many families won’t get on the waitlist, and will never be contacted, because they don’t have a way of being reached.”


Judge weighs blocking shelter system cap amid crush of families 

Samantha Gross and Matt Stout, Boston Globe  

State Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) said part of the problem is there’s no indication how the waitlist would function. “We actually can guarantee that many families won’t get on the waitlist, and will never be contacted, because they don’t have a way of being reached.”

At a rally at the State House Tuesday, Representative Marjorie Decker said she has written to Healey, asking her not to end the right-to-shelter policy. The Cambridge Democrat said “being unhoused as a child is a health crisis” of its own.

“Children will continue to be unsafe,” she said. “They will continue to be in places that are not meant for human habitation, period. And that’s not a solution.”

A Glimpse at the Past Week

On Tuesday I spoke at a rally with MA Coalition for the Homeless and MLRI (Massachusetts Law Reform Institute) calling on the Healey administration not to end the right to shelter. 


I spoke at two webinars hosted by MASSPIRG in support of two bills I filed to address plastic pollution: the better bottle bill and a bill to ban polystyrene. On the second webinar I joined legisators from across the country to share how each of us are trying to move our states forward by eliminating, reducing and expanding recycling in our states.


On Thursday, I hosted a briefing with Clean Jobs Massachusetts and the AFL-CIO to highlight three important bills I filed with Senator Feeney to create good, union jobs in the clean energy sector. These three bills ensure that labor standards and workers are centered in all climate clean energy policy and regulations.  

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:

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 partner. You can find more information at or by calling 877-898-3411.

Overdose Prevention Helpline

The Massachusetts Overdose Prevention Helpline is a virtual spotting / overdose detection service for people who use drugs. Learn more at:, or access it by calling 800-972-0590.


As always, please contact me with questions or concerns at




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