News In Brief

Free Parking

In an effort to increase patronage in local businesses, all parking meters in the City of Everett will be free for the month of December! All other parking violations will be enforced as normal.

Audubon Applauds Agreement to Make Significant Investments in Nature and Climate with ARPA Plan

 As the major $4 billion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) spending bill moves toward final passage and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk for approval, Mass Audubon leaders, who have been lobbying vigorously for investments in climate change mitigation and nature, praised the legislative conference committee for coming to an agreement this week.

“This is a significant moment for Massachusetts to ensure that nature-based climate solutions are put into place in every corner of our state, across rural and suburban settings, and especially in urban communities where residents have been disproportionately impacted by COVID,” said Mass Audubon President David O’Neill.

“Not only will these funds reduce the risks of climate impacts and greenhouse gas emissions and restore critical water infrastructure, they also support investments that expand providing equitable access to nature when so many are seeking respite in the natural resources and amenities that we are so fortunate to have here. For too many years, these investments have been underfunded. This is a critical, once-in-a-generation opportunity to make progress, and we are so pleased to see state lawmakers leading us there.”

Both the House and Senate approved plans over the past few weeks to spend more than $3.82 billion in ARPA federal pandemic relief funds and state surplus money. The bill was accepted by the House on Thursday and is expected to be passed in the Senate on Friday, moving it onto Gov. Baker’s desk. Just shy of $2.5 billion of ARPA funds remain for the state legislature to debate next year.

“We are especially grateful to the members of the conference committee for their hard work over the last two weeks, and for the leadership shown by members in both branches who made a point of prioritizing nature and climate,” O’Neill said. “This is a down payment on our future. We will continue to need to commit sustained funding over time. This is an essential first step.”

“I’m deeply grateful as well for State Rep. Daniel M. Donahue (D-Worcester); State Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (D-Pittsfield); State Rep. Thomas A. Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell); and State Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Berkshire County),” O’Neill continued. “They championed specific earmarks for Mass Audubon projects that are both shovel-ready and shovel-worthy.” Those projects include repairs to storm-damaged trails and forests at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox; wetland restoration at Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester; and an open space and parks initiative in Lowell, future site of a nature center at Rollie’s Farm.

Mass Audubon Director of Legislative and Government Affairs Sam Anderson said the final law contains about $377.6 million in investments in climate and nature, including $15 million in parks and open space; $100 million for environmental infrastructure, including local resiliency measures; $100 million for clean drinking water and sewer infrastructure; $25 million for tree planting, particularly in Gateway cities; and $7.5 million for green job workforce development.  

Omicron Variant Detected in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced that genetic sequencing has identified the COVID-19 Omicron variant for the first time in a case in Massachusetts. The individual is a female in her 20s and a resident of Middlesex County who traveled out of state. She is fully vaccinated, has experienced mild disease, and did not require hospitalization. The variant was identified through sequencing performed at New England Biolabs.

While Omicron is classified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization as a Variant of Concern, scientists are still working to determine how it may compare with the predominant Delta variant in terms of transmissibility and disease severity. There is some limited evidence that Omicron could be more transmissible than other COVID-19 virus variants, including Delta. This variant is being monitored closely by public health authorities around the world, and more information about what we know about Omicron is available on the CDC website.

All three COVID-19 vaccines in use in the U.S have been shown to be highly protective against severe disease resulting in hospitalization or death due to known COVID-19 variants and remain the single best way for people to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their community from COVID-19. There are over 1,000 locations across the Commonwealth to get vaccinated or receive a booster. The vaccine is free, and no ID or insurance is required for vaccination. Visit vaxfinder.mass.gov for a list of vaccination locations.

Other public health prevention measures that help stop the spread of COVID-19 variants include: getting tested and staying home if you are sick, frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer, following masking requirements, and telling your close contacts if you test positive for COVID-19 so they can take appropriate steps. To learn more about protecting yourself from COVID-19, visit www.mass.gov/covidvaccine.

Residents are also urged to enable MassNotify on their smartphone. The service can be accessed through both Android and iPhone settings; it is NOT an application that can be obtained through an app store. This private and anonymous service notifies users of a potential exposure to COVID-19 so they may take the appropriate precautions. For more information and instructions on enabling MassNotify on your smartphone, visithttps://www.mass.gov/info-details/learn-more-about-massnotify.

The State Public Health Laboratory, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and several hospital and academic laboratories have all contributed to sequencing efforts in Massachusetts during the pandemic. This sequencing data contributes to the tracking of clusters and patterns of disease spread. This in-state laboratory capacity to sequence variants allows Massachusetts to not have to rely on out-of-state laboratories.

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