Briefs

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine on Hold

In response to today’s recommendation from the FDA and CDC to pause J&J vaccines due to an extremely rare condition reported in six individuals nationwide, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has directed all providers to immediately pause administration of the J&J vaccine until federal health experts investigate this matter.

This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution as the FDA and CDC review these six cases, none of which are known to be linked to Massachusetts. The FDA has reported over 6.8 million doses of J&J have been administered nationwide. Individuals who have received a J&J vaccine should contact their physician if they have concerns.

•The FDA has reported that as ofApril 12, 6.8m+ doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S. CDC & FDA are reviewing data involving 6 reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the vaccine. Right now, these conditions appear to be extremely rare.

•As of April 12, 181,034 doses of J&J have been administered in Massachusetts.

•CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these

•Individuals that have appointments scheduled for a J&J vaccine that have questions about their upcoming appointment should contact the provider they booked with directly.

•Individuals are encouraged to contact their physician if they have received the J&J vaccine and have concerns.

Testing Site Change

The Norwood St. Parking Lot COVID-19 testing site will NOT be available this week. Residents can still get tested at the Samuel Gentile Rec. Center on 71 Elm St. daily Mon.-Thurs. (7 AM-7 PM; 1 hour break 1-2 PM), Fri. & Sat (12-6 PM). The City apologizes for the inconvenience.

Temporary Daytime Lane Closures on Route 16 Eastbound (Revere Beach Parkway)

Closures will begin on Monday April 12, and are scheduled to continue through Friday, April 23

Work will take place weekly, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is announcing that it will be implementing temporary daytime lane closures on a section of Route 16 eastbound, between the intersections of Vine Street and Everett Avenue, in Everett.  The lane closures will begin on Monday April 12, 2021, and are scheduled to continue through Friday, April 23, 2021. The closures will take place weekly, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and are needed to allow crews to safely and effectively conduct drainage structure and drainage line cleaning operations.

 Standard traffic management operations will be in place including Variable Message Signs and police details, as needed.  Message boards have been placed in advance of next week’s scheduled work.  

The schedule for this work is weather dependent and subject to change without notice.

Drivers who are traveling through the area should reduce speed and use caution.

Appropriate signage, law enforcement details, and advanced message boards will be in place to guide drivers through the work area.

HUD Allocate Funds for Affordable Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the allocation of more than $16.9 million to Massachusetts through the nation’s Housing Trust Fund (HTF) for affordable housing, this funding is part of $689,565,492.92 being allocated nationally. The Housing Trust Fund was launched in 2008 as an affordable housing production program that complements existing federal, state, and local efforts to increase and preserve the supply of decent, safe, and sanity affordable housing for low- and extremely low-income households, including families experiencing homelessness. 

“This past year has reminded us just how important it is to have access to safe and stable housing. But too many Americans are struggling to keep or find an affordable home,” said Secretary Marcia L. Fudge “We are excited to announce this historic funding allocation, which will enable states to expand and preserve affordable housing for our neighbors who need our support the most.” 

The Housing Trust Fund is capitalized through the contributions made by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This year’s allocation is a significant increase in funding from last year’s allocation of $322,564,267.66. This program is specifically focused on housing for some of our most vulnerable populations. HUD annually allocates HTF funds by formula. A state must use at least 80 percent of each annual grant for rental housing; up to 10 percent for homeownership; and up to 10 percent for the grantee’s reasonable administrative and planning costs. HTF funds may be used for the production or preservation of affordable housing through the acquisition, new construction, reconstruction, and/or rehabilitation of non-luxury housing with suitable amenities. All HTF-assisted units will be required to have a minimum affordability period of 30 years. The Housing Trust Fund has supported the construction or rehabilitation of 775 rental units nationally since the first were allocated in 2017. There are currently 480 additional projects under construction. This year’s funding is expected to produce more than 5,400 additional affordable units.

National Grid Reminds Customers to Call 8-1-1 Before Digging

April is designated as National Safe Digging Month, and National Grid urges anyone who is planning on digging to call 811 to prevent serious personal injury, property damage and service interruptions caused by accidentally digging into electric, gas, telephone, water, sewer or cable facilities.

Nationally every nine minutes, an underground utility line is damaged because someone didn’t contact 811 before digging. Knowing where underground utility lines are buried before you dig will help protect you and your family from injury. With more people staying home and relying on their utilities to work and communicate, inconvenient outages are important to avoid. 

“This year, it’s critically important to call 811 before you start digging to ensure all utility lines are marked. Even when digging only a few inches or taking on a small outdoor project, the risk of striking an underground utility is high,” said Mark Prewitt, VP Gas Pipeline Safety and Compliance. “This is a big responsibility that we all need to take a small part in.  By spreading the word to call 811 we can decrease damages, service interruptions, and injury—or even save a life.”

Striking a single underground utility line can cause injury, repair costs, fines, and inconvenient outages. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants contacting 811. Whether you’re planting a tree or shrub, or installing a deck or pool, every job requires a call to 811 to know what’s below before digging.

The depth of utility lines can vary for several reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches or digging in a location that’s previously been marked, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists. A call to 811 is the best safeguard and the first line of defense to preventing strikes on underground utility lines.

A quick phone call to 811 several days before digging connects callers to their local one call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional locators then arrive at the digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint or both. The service is easy to use and free of charge.

State laws mandate that 811 must be contacted a few days in advance of beginning projects that require excavation. Failure to call 811 may be punishable by fines, which in some states can be as high as $1,000 for a first offense and $10,000 for subsequent offenses.

National Grid works closely with local fire and police departments and, with their strong support, people are calling before they dig. Calling 811 can potentially avoid an incident that requires police and fire response.

Pressley, Warren Applaud CDC’s Declaration of Racism

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a statement last week applauding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) commitment to address centuries of structural racism and discrimination in the U.S. public health system.

In February, the lawmakers reintroduced the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, a bicameral bill to declare structural racism a public health crisis and confront its public health impacts by creating a National Center for Anti-Racism and a Law Enforcement Violence Prevention Program within the CDC.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to over 500,000 deaths and tens of millions infected, has made it impossible to ignore the legacy of structural racism and how it has created deep disparities in health outcomes for Black, Brown, AAPI, and Indigenous communities. Black and Brown people are nearly three times more likely than white people to contract COVID-19 and one to two times more likely to die from the disease.

“As the sponsors of the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, we welcome the actions by the CDC to acknowledge racism as a serious public health threat and to invest in health equity measures to combat these challenges. In addition to the threat of COVID-19, people of color are also disproportionately affected by chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, hepatitis, and hypertension; infant mortality; maternal mortality and morbidity; and police brutality—not to mention the lasting impacts racism has on mental health for Black and Brown communities.

“We will continue pushing in Congress to pass this important legislation, and look forward to working with the CDC to tackle these challenges and ensure health equity across this nation. This is a great step in the right direction, but we must now fight to confront these forces head on so that Black and Brown communities no longer disproportionately suffer from systemic racism and inequality in our health system and beyond.”

Red Cross Aiming to Make More than 600 Homes Safer by May 8

The American Red Cross of Massachusetts is on a mission to make more than 600 homes across the state safer between now and May 8.

Volunteers will meet with residents by appointment – either virtually or socially-distanced outside their homes – to share crucial fire safety information, help create an escape plan, and practice a two-minute drill. This information is free and available to anyone who makes an appointment. In some communities, the Red Cross is working with partner fire departments to offer free smoke alarm installations when it becomes safe to do so.

“Home fires remain the most frequent disaster during COVID-19, yet most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to safely escape,” said Holly Grant, CEO of the Red Cross of Massachusetts. “We’re still spending more time than ever inside during the pandemic, so it’s critical that we help our neighbors protect themselves from these everyday disasters.”

This effort comes as part of a larger national push to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety in high-risk communities. Here in Massachusetts, focus cities include Worcester, Brockton and Quincy, although individuals in any city or town (owner or renter) may participate.

To sign up for free home fire safety education, please visit SoundTheAlarm.org/Massachusetts. The Red Cross is also looking for additional volunteers to train as home fire safety educators and offer this training in their own community.

The Red Cross of Massachusetts is grateful for the support of our sponsors, National Grid and Harvard Pilgrim. This effort would not be possible without the support of the focus cities, with special thanks to Mayor Joseph Petty of Worcester, Mayor Robert Sullivan of Brockton and the Quincy, Worcester and Brockton fire departments and emergency management teams.

Pressley and Clark Secure COBRA Subsidies

Massachusetts Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Katherine Clark, and some of their colleagues, applauded the U.S. Department of Labor’s recently-released guidance confirming that striking workers are eligible for COBRA subsidies under the American Rescue Plan, a victory for striking workers nationwide.

The expanded guidance, which marks a major reversal from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, comes after Pressley, Courtney, McGovern and Clark sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, IRS Commissioner Charles Retting, and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, requesting that any guidance issued to implement the American Rescue Plan clarify that workers exercising their right to strike under the National Labor Relations Act are covered by the COBRA subsidies.

The American Rescue Plan does not explicitly address the issue of striking workers, but the letter requested that any guidance issued regarding eligibility of workers to receive subsidized COBRA coverage explicitly clarify that these workers are eligible in order to ensure that striking workers are not unintentionally harmed. This decision will prevent striking workers from having to pay the extremely high cost of COBRA out of pocket, lose their providers, or become disconnected from their providers during expensive and complicated treatments in the middle of a pandemic.

“I’m glad we were able to secure these subsidies for workers in Massachusetts and across the country exercising their right to organize and collectively bargain,” Rep. Pressley said. “Health care is a human right. And when workers choose to withhold their labor to demand and secure safer working conditions, better wages or better benefits, that choice shouldn’t come at the expense of their health care.”

“This is an important victory for workers,” said Rep. Clark. “This guidance ensures that workers exercising their legal right to organize can receive the COBRA subsidies they need to maintain their health care coverage during the global pandemic. I applaud the Biden Administration for this important step to protect our workers’ rights.”

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