I hope that you and your families had a pleasant summer. As promised, we are resuming my weekly public health and legislative updates.
Table of Contents
- Public Health Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- Legislative Updates
- Celebrating Labor Day
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Public Health Updates
COVID Levels Rising in MA
According to Massachusetts Water Resources Authority data, coronavirus levels in wastewater began rising again last week after declining through much of August. In addition, new COVID-19 hospitalization admissions rose through August after hitting a two-year low earlier in the summer. The state Department of Public Health data on COVID levels, including wastewater reports, is online at t.ly/n-RNF.
DPH Announces Season’s First EEE-positive Mosquito Samples
On September 1, the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced that Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus has been detected in mosquitoes in Massachusetts for the first time this year. The Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory confirmed the presence of EEE in mosquito samples collected on August 30 in Douglas and Southbridge in Worcester County. No human or animal cases of EEE have been detected so far this year. For more information on EEE and how to protect yourself from illness, visit www.mass.gov/mosquito-borne-diseases.
Narcan Is Now Available for OTC Purchase at Major Retail Pharmacies
Starting this week, Narcan, a lifesaving opioid overdose reversal medication, will be available over the counter (OTC) at most major pharmacies, including Walgreens, Rite Aide, and CVS. The retail price of purchasing a two-dose pack will be $44.99, less than half the current prescription Narcan price. Those with insurance coverage may be able to get Narcan at no cost, depending on the plan. Narcan will be available for purchase both in-store and online, significantly increasing access to Narcan across the Commonwealth. This development has occurred at a crucial time, with a record-breaking 2,357 overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2022, representing a 2.5% increase from 2021. This is one step in the right direction to fight the opioid crisis and save lives across the state. To learn more about recognizing and preventing opioid overdose, visit https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/overdoseprevention.
Study Shows Increase in Out-of-State Patients Traveling to MA for Abortion Care
A new study published Wednesday led by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital examined the number of abortion procedures at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) from January 2018 to October 2022 to assess trends in abortion care use and charitable funding before and after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned the federal right to provide abortion care last year. Researchers concluded that the number of patients traveling to Massachusetts for abortion care at PPLM increased by 37.5% in the first four months after Dobbs compared to the same time period a year earlier. Increases in travelers have primarily occurred from outside New England, in states with increased abortion restrictions, and most notably, Texas. The study also observed an increased use of charitable funding covering costs for abortion among out-of-state residents.
New COVID Booster Shot Awaits FDA Approval
A new booster shot for COVID-19 could be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as early as Friday. The latest version of the COVID booster is to be a monovalent vaccine designed to target the XBB.1.5 strain of the Omicron variant, offering more protections against the strain lineage and circulating related subvariants. Most insurance companies are expected to provide coverage of COVID boosters. The CDC’s Bridge Access Program, set to launch this fall, will provide free COVID vaccines until December 2024 to ensure uninsured adults can continue free access to these vaccines. Read more information about recommendations for the 2023-24 COVID vaccines here.
CDC Recommends New Preventive RSV Shot for Infants
On August 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved a new passive immunization to protect infants from severe respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV - the leading cause of infant hospitalization in the U.S. The CDC Advisory Committee unanimously voted to recommend the new antibody shot for wide use among infants and some high-risk children against the respiratory infection. The Sanofi and AstraZeneca injection, marketed as Beyfortus, will be added to the CDC’s childhood immunization schedule, and is also recommended for a second dose to help infants aged 8 to 19 months who meet underlying health issues through the second RSV season. Studies showed the new drug reduces the risk of RSV infection between 70% and 75% among infants and children aged 2 and younger. Beyfortus is expected to be ready in the fall before the RSV season.
Preparing for the Upcoming Flu Season
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published its recommendations on the annual flu shot ahead of the flu season. The CDC recommends routine annual influenza vaccination for all persons aged ≥6 months who do not have contraindications. According to the CDC, September and October are the best times for most people to get vaccinated. The main change in the flu vaccine recommendations this year is related to people with egg allergies, which previously recommended additional safety measures for its administration for people with severe egg allergies. Now, the CDC report states that regardless of severity of previous reaction to egg, an egg allergy alone does not require additional safety measures for influenza vaccination beyond those recommended for any recipient of any vaccine. Read more about the CDC’s recommendations here.
Alice Wolf Celebration of Life and Work on Saturday, September 9th
As a reminder, the Wolf family is hosting a celebration of the life and extensive work of Alice Wolf, a former Cambridge School Committee Member, City Councilor, Mayor, and State Representative. The event will be held in the Lecture Hall at the Main Branch of the Cambridge Public Library starting at 2pm. If you have not RSVP’d, please consider doing so. Although it is not required it is helpful. Attendees are asked to wear masks and masks will be available at the celebration for those who do not bring their own. The reception will be held outside after the celebration.
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.
Hearings have begun to pick up again after the August recess, and one of the bills I filed was heard this week. An Act relative to firearm safety and harassment prevention orders (H.1454) would create greater protections surrounding firearm safety and harassment orders by allowing for an immediate suspension and surrender of firearms and firearm licenses for those who demonstrate a substantial likelihood of immediate danger or harassment.
Celebrating Labor Day
It was great to see so many friends and leaders in the Labor movement celebrating and affirming workers' rights and safety standards. I hope you had a great Labor Day imagining and organizing for a society where working people can afford safe, clean housing, access to health care, and the ability to live and retire with dignity, not steeped in poverty.
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.