The following is an update I sent to Senate colleagues on May 4 as Senate Chair of Public Health. I wanted to make sure to share it with you:
On Friday, I attended a very informative panel on ‘where we are with COVID,’ hosted by the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. The recording is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvMPJ7yCwRw.
As I’m sure you are aware, there is news of additional Omicron variants and I would imagine many of you are fielding questions so I thought I’d amass some additional resources that I have found helpful:
- All Massachusetts insurance companies now will pay for eight rapid tests per person per month. Earlier in the month, Medicare also announced that it would cover the rapid tests.
- Free high-quality masks are available in some pharmacies, often with a per person limit. This CDC site offers a mask locator: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/free-masks.html.
- Treatment options are evolving. I find this CDC link helpful: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html.
- This link will take you to where COVID treatments can be located in the Commonwealth: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/information-for-providers-about-therapeutic-treatments-for-covid-19#covid-19-therapeutic-locator-.
- There is a new free telehealth program to help residents more easily access COVID-19 treatment. Through this program, residents 18 years and older who have tested positive for COVID-19 and who are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms are able to undergo a video consultation with a trained health care clinician to determine if they are eligible for Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment pill taken orally that can reduce the risk for severe symptoms and hospitalization by nearly 90 percent. This program can be accessed at www.mass.gov/covidtelehealth and is available in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole and Portuguese.
- I find waste water monitoring data very useful, especially since PCR testing is decreasing. The third chart on this page lets you see virus levels by state, including county-level data for Berkshire, Essex, Hampshire, Middlesex, Suffolk and Nantucket counties: https://biobot.io/data/. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) wastewater data, which is divided into a north region and a south region covering Metro Boston waste water, is here: https://www.mwra.com/biobot/biobotdata.htm.
- As a reminder, the state is still collecting COVID data, which can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-response-reporting.
- COVID-19 vaccinations, including booster shots (for ages five years and up), are available free for all residents, workers, and students in Massachusetts ages five years and up. Massachusetts Vaccine Locator: https://vaxfinder.mass.gov.
- The Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management approved omnibus COVID response legislation in April. The bill is H. 4714, An Act for a Better Prepared Massachusetts. The bill includes provisions to create a mask stockpile, expanded wastewater monitoring, reporting of at-home tests, and indoor air ventilation standards. The bill also directs agencies to prepare for a possible new infection surge this winter and creates a gubernatorial-level coordinator for vaccine administration. A summary of the bill is here: Better Prepared Mass bill summary
I find the Public Health Institute an incredibly useful resource. Dr. Frank Robinson (who was a Senate appointee to the Health Equity Task Force) is the founder. Should you want to get updates like the one below, you can sign up here: https://www.publichealthwm.org/contact-us.