December 14 Legislative & COVID-19 Update

News from the office of Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante

December 14 Legislative & COVID-19 UpdateNews from the office of Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante
Dear Joey,

Last week, the Commonwealth announced allocation and distribution plans for the first round of COVID-19 vaccine shipments to Massachusetts set to begin around December 15. The state’s first shipment of 59,475 doses of the Pfizer vaccine was ordered from the federal government this past Friday and will be delivered directly to 21 hospitals across 8 counties, as well as to the Department of Public Health Immunization lab.

Doses will then be redistributed for access to 74 hospitals across all 14 counties for front line medical workers. The next 40,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine will be allocated to the Federal Pharmacy Program to begin vaccinating staff and residents of skilled nursing facilities, rest homes and assisted living residences.

Vaccine is being prioritized for these groups to maximize life preservation and to support the health care system. Based on information at this time, Massachusetts is expecting 300,000 first doses of the vaccine to be delivered by the end of December. The first vaccines, manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer, will require two doses administered three to four weeks apart.

While all delivery dates and quantities are subject to change due to ongoing federal approval and allocation, the Commonwealth plans to receive and distribute over 2 million doses to priority population groups by the end of March.

In collaboration with the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, the Commonwealth designated groups of medical workers, first responders and residents most at risk for serious illness to receive the vaccine before the general population. The Vaccine Advisory Group is made up of leading medical, infectious disease and public health experts as well as representatives from communities of color and representatives of high-risk populations.   

Communities of color and at-risk populations are prioritized throughout the process to maximize life preservation and to prevent serious complications from COVID-19 related illnesses. 

Anticipated Vaccination Phases and Timeline:

Phase One (December 2020 through February 2021), in order of priority:Clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers doing direct and COVID-19 facing careLong term care facilities, rest homes and assisted living facilitiesPolice, Fire and Emergency Medical ServicesCongregate care settings (including shelters and corrections)Home-based healthcare workersHealthcare workers doing non-COVID-19 facing carePhase Two (February 2021 through April 2021), in order of priority:Individuals with 2+ comorbidities (high risk for COVID-19 complications)Early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works and public health workersAdults 65+Individuals with one comorbidityVaccine available to general publicPhase Three (April 2021 and forward):The first shipments of the vaccine are expected to contain doses manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna. While both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are pending FDA emergency use authorization, Massachusetts will not distribute the COVID-19 vaccine until it receives this authorization.

Vaccines go through extensive testing, more than any pharmaceuticals, including extensive testing in clinical trials. The FDA, which approves the vaccine, and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which will make its recommendation for use, must ensure any vaccine is both safe and effective for the public before approval and distribution.

The infectious disease experts in the state’s academic medical centers have pledged to review the EUA data and provide an independent opinion about their safety and efficacy.

All residents should visit www.mass.gov/COVIDVaccine to learn more or contact their medical provider for questions about their vaccination plans. 

Please read on below for new, updated, and important legislative updates and information surrounding the COVID-19 crisis and see our past newsletters if you haven’t had a chance to read them already for more relevant guidance and directives following Governor Baker’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 10th. Visit Mass.gov for complete information, check the municipal websites for GloucesterRockport, and Essex for local guidance, and text “COVIDMA” to 888-777 to receive COVID-19 text message alerts straight to your phone.#MaskUpMA
Housing Insecurity Resources Webinar
MassSupport is hosting a webinar tomorrow, December 15th at 7:00 PM, addressing housing insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, with guest speaker Lorena Leza, program assistant of Attorney General Maura Healey’s Community Engagement Division.

The webinar will provide a program overview of MassSupport, protections under the law, statewide services for renters, landlords, and homeowners, and how to remain resilient during these unprecedented times.

Register for the webinar online ahead of attending.

This webinar is being held by MassSupport, a Crisis Counseling Program funded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration and managed in partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and Riverside Trauma Center, a program of Riverside Community Care.
Commuter Rail to Temporarily Operate on Reduced Service Schedule
Beginning Monday, December 14th, the Commuter Rail will temporarily operate on a Reduced Service Schedule due to low employee availability because of COVID-19 absences. Regular train service includes 541 daily trains, but as of December 14, Commuter Rail will operate 246 daily trains. Weekend trains will continue to operate on a regular schedule.

Since March, Keolis and the MBTA have introduced new technologies like electrostatic sprayers to help sanitize passenger areas quickly and thoroughly. As part of this enhanced sanitization, added attention is given to touched surfaces, employee areas and air filtration systems. Passengers are reminded that all coach cars on every train remain open so they may spread out and maintain social distance.

Schedules are posted on MBTA.com and more information on Reduced Service Schedules can be found here
Health Connector Open Enrollment and Webinar
The open enrollment period for the Massachusetts Health Connector runs through January 23rd. Now is the time individuals and families can apply and enroll in health and dental coverage and see if they qualify for free or lower cost coverage like MassHealth, ConnectorCare plans, or a tax credit.

This Thursday, December 17th at 1:00 PM, the Health Connector will be hosting a webinar on shopping and signing up for health insurance plans through the Connector. You can find more information and register to attend on the webinar’s Eventbrite page.

Important Dates & Deadlines for the Health Connector:November 1, 2020: Open Enrollment beginsNovember 23, 2020: Deadline to enroll in health and dental plans that start December 1, 2020December 23, 2020: Deadline to enroll in health and dental plans that start January 1, 2021January 23, 2021: Open Enrollment ends for Massachusetts residents. This is the deadline to enroll in health and dental plans that start February 1, 2021. If you are already enrolled, this is the last day to change your plan for any reason.Visit the Health Connector website for more information and to apply for coverage online.

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