In Newsletters, The People's Blog, Updates from Jo

It’s a new day.

Yesterday, all eyes were on Washington, D.C. as President Biden and Vice President Harris were sworn into office — elected by a people determined to make this nation a place where everyone can thrive.

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman spoke to the promise and urgency of this moment — to its perils and pain — in her breathtaking address, The Hill We Climb.

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover

and every known nook of our nation and

every corner called our country,

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,

battered and beautiful

When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it

Today, my team and I are with you, as the urgent and purposeful work begins anew at the local, state, and national levels to build back better. To move forward together, justly, equitably.

We have a great deal of news around climate legislation, vaccine delivery in our region, and bills like flag and seal and healthy soils. Read on.

Climate

As you likely know, Governor Baker vetoed the Legislature’s landmark omnibus climate/environmental justice bill. In response, we had assurances from the Senate President and the Speaker of the House that they would work together to pass the very same bill early this session.

One of the contested pieces cited by the Governor in his veto letter was “net zero” building construction — a bill I filed at the start of the session that was incorporated into the omnibus legislation. As you can imagine, the last days have been full as our team has engaged to push back in support of an ambitious climate bill, urged on by so many of you.

On Tuesday, House and Senate leadership kept their promise and refiled the climate bill. I will work for a swift passage of this legislation and a quick resolve of outstanding issues. Our climate, our children, and our future cannot wait.

The COVID-19 vaccine

Currently, there are few issues more acute than vaccine distribution. I’ve heard from constituents who are afraid, angry, confused, anxious — and I get it. Completely. The information you’re receiving is complex, changing, and incomplete.

Our team was made for this moment to support you, answer your questions, and to advocate on your behalf with the state’s COVID-19 headquarters which is overseeing the plan.

Contact us here: senatorjocomerford.org/contact, jo.comerford@masenate.gov, 413-367-4656, or 617-722-1532.

Here are EIGHT things to know:

  1. The Biden-Harris Administration has promised a much-needed increase in both production and distribution of vaccines as well as requisite funding. This is critical. The full measure of our work at the state level must be to ensure an equitable, rapid rollout. My team and I are engaged deeply in this work at the state and regional levels. Experts suggest that the Commonwealth must scale to a rate of 30,000 to 40,000 daily vaccinations, or about 5x as many as we’re administering now. While state numbers are ticking up daily, we must do better as mass vaccination sites open and as the amount of vaccine coming into the Commonwealth increases.
  2. The Commonwealth adopted a phased approach to vaccine distribution with Phase 1 (where we are presently) focused largely on frontline medical providers and individuals who are among those at greatest risk. We’re close to the end of Phase 1 with the last two remaining cohorts in Phase 1, home-based health care workers and health care workers doing non-COVID facing care (including dentists), now eligible to make appointments to receive the vaccine. Here is the general vaccine website: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-covid-19-vaccine-information.
  3. Some of you have written with concerns as you compare Massachusetts to other states. What’s true is that the Massachusetts plan is more methodical than other states and launched a week later than some of our New England neighbors making an apples-to-apples comparison more difficult. But that aside, all plans need oversight and to be accountable which is why your outreach to me or to the Administration directly is critical. As your advocate, I convey your urgency, questions, and concerns (and my own) to state leadership every chance I get, which is most days of the week. There are three phases and priorities within phases which are continually under review. Many constituents have asked to have their positions reviewed as a specific cohort or considered for re-categorization. If you’re following closely, you will see some necessary movement among the phases thanks, in part, to your advocacy: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccine-distribution-timeline-phase-overview.
  4. Here’s the state’s vaccine FAQ: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccine-frequently-asked-questions.
  5. Perhaps the most vexing part of the rollout is the lack of general understanding about where, when, and how people will be notified. This is a good place to go for updates: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccine-locations-for-individuals-currently-eligible-to-be-vaccinated#find-a-location-to-get-vaccinated-if-eligible-. And here’s what’s true: Officials are making the plans as they roll out. There aren’t yet complete answers or pathways for all categories of people, which is why you should let us know if you need questions answered.
  6. The state’s COVID-19 headquarters publishes a COVID-19 vaccine report weekly, here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccination-program#weekly-covid-19-vaccination-report-.
  7. CDC comorbidity conditions (which Massachusetts is following and will apply in the Phase 2 rollout) are here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html.
  8. Here is one way to sign up for alerts regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine in the Commonwealth: https://member.everbridge.net/index/406686158291020/#/signup.

Here are THREE important western Massachusetts updates: 

  1. UMass Amherst’s vaccine program will remain open as a mass vaccination site and will vaccinate in coordination with the Phases as defined by the Commonwealth’s vaccine distribution plan. This is good news for our region. Here’s the link to UMass Amherst’s vaccine clinic: https://www.umass.edu/coronavirus/vaccine.
  2. What’s more: CVS and Walgreens will begin to do mass vaccinations with the first site in our region in Greenfield: When can you get the vaccine? https://www.mass.gov/info-details/when-can-i-get-the-covid-19-vaccine. Pharmacies will also vaccinate in coordination with the state’s plan.
  3. UMass and pharmacies are not the only places to receive vaccines. For example, hospitals are vaccinating specific cohorts. The links above will help you get connected to the information you need with regard to when you’ll be eligible, how you’ll know it’s your turn, and where you’ll go to be vaccinated. Remember: The plans are still rolling out, so some of this information is still way too general to be considered complete.
Timely updates

After 36+ years, legislation to change the Massachusetts flag and seal is signed into law. This was a priority for me and my team. Much more about this people-powered win here.

At the beginning of session, I filed a bill to increase the health of our Commonwealth’s soil and increase the amount of carbon it stores. It’s now law. Much more about the significance of this win here.

January 5 was the last day of the 191st session and lasted until 4:30 a.m. A great many bills were passed. Read here for a summary.

The Legislature has extended its bill filing deadline from January 15 to February 19. This means that my Town Hall, originally scheduled for February 9, needs to be moved to a later date so we can offer the promised comprehensive overview of our filed legislation. Keep an eye on my website events calendar. We’ll post information there about the rescheduled Town Hall once it’s available.

Out and about

Thank you for giving me the honor of serving the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district for a second term. I was sworn in with colleagues (virtually) for a second term on January 6.

As Amanda Gorman reminded us, in a hat tip to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton — “while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us” — as we meet this crisis moment together.

Sending our love to you,

Jo, Jared, Brian, Elena, Cameron, and Sam

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