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In this Issue:
COVID Update
Upcoming Events
Community Update
Legislative Update
Statewide Updates
Office Hours

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As the New Year gets underway, we are seeing the state take more urgent action to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 variants. This week the state rolled out a program to provide free rapid test kits to school districts and childcare providers across the Commonwealth. The plan is for all students, faculty and staff to be able to self-test weekly, in addition to the pooled tests taken at school. The opportunity for immediate test results allows students to stay in school and children to remain in childcare if they test negative, thus eliminating quarantine days. 

Also this week, the Legislature passed a $55 million COVID Response Bill, which is now on its way to the Senate and then the Governor’s desk. This bill will expand testing sites; increase youth vaccination efforts in disproportionately affected areas; and provide high-quality protective masks to children and staff at K-12 public schools.  

As we navigate through the Omicron surge, hampered by the weather keeping us indoors, it’s important to keep doing everything we can to reduce spread of the disease, thereby reducing the burden on hospitals and health care professionals. If we take these measures now, we may be able to enjoy more freedom of movement this spring.


 COVID Update 

Testing

    

This week the Governor announced two new testing programs, one for our K-12 schools and one for licensed childcare programs. School districts opting in to the state’s at-home test program will receive enough at-home COVID tests to cover students and staff. Students and staff also have the option to opt in; parents must sign permission forms for their children, and learn how to administer the test at home. These tests will allow students and staff with symptoms or who are close contacts to those diagnosed with COVID to test and get results quickly; if tests are negative, they may remain at school. Positive tests must still be reported to DESE.

Childcare providers can opt in to a similar program, which allows caregivers and children to take rapid tests. If negative, they can remain in care. Rapid tests will be free, and distribution will be through Neighborhood Villages. Programs can enroll at this link. Childcare programs should enroll by January 24 to receive tests the week of Jan 31.

4 Free Tests for All Households
This week the White House rolled out an online order form for free at-home COVID-19 test kits. Families will be able to order up to four tests per household at covidtests.gov or special.usps.com/testkits.

At-Home Tests Covered by Health Insurance
Health insurers are now required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month (per individual) or you can get reimbursements from your private insurance. For the guidance, click here.

If you purchase an over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test that has been authorized, cleared or approved by the Food and Drug Administration, you will be able to have those test costs covered by your insurance. List of covered at-home tests: Abbott BinaxNOW at-home tests, iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test, Siemens Healthineers’ rapid COVID-19 antigen self test, and the Flowflex COVID-19 antigen home tests and more. See more info here.

 

Good news for local cities and towns: the state has contracted with three COVID test manufacturers for municipalities and eligible entities to bulk order at-home rapid antigen test kits at state-negotiated prices. Our towns can take advantage of this program to stock up on tests for staff, seniors, schools, and more.

Boxford purchased 500 rapid at-home COVID antigen tests from the Commonwealth.  These tests are available for residents to purchase at cost for $10 per kit. Due to the limited number of tests currently available, purchases will be limited to 2 kits per household. For more information, visit here


Local Testing Sites:

AFC Urgent Care North Andover 
129 Turnpike St. (978) 470-0800
Open 8:00am-6:00pm Monday-Sunday.
See their FAQ page for types of testing and fees, and book an appointment here. Due to the current surge in demand for testing, appointments are necessary.

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (Methuen) 
147 Pelham St, Methuen (978) 685-7663
Walk-up to the white tent in the parking lot. Testing is free.
Monday-Friday: 1:00-6:00 pm CALL FIRST ABOUT SNOW CLOSURES
Saturday: 9:00 am-1:00 pm

LGH Lawrence Community COVID-19 Testing Center
70 General Street, Lawrence  (978) 946-8409
This is primarily a drive-up testing site.
No appointment needed, but the wait can be one hour or longer
Normal Hours:* Mon-Fri 8:00am - 4:30pm, Sat & Sun 8:00 am - 1:00 pm
*Please note that the testing line may close much earlier depending on the length of the line and/or weather conditions.

See more testing sites at the end of this newsletter.


Vaccines

Last week Massachusetts rolled out its Vax Record app, allowing residents a new tool to access their COVID-19 digital vaccine card and vaccination history. Go to MyVaxRecords.Mass.Gov. Enter your name, date of birth, and cell phone number or email associated with your vaccine record. NOTE: if your email doesn’t work, try your cell phone, or vice versa. Create your own 4-digit PIN, you will receive a link to your vaccine record that will open upon re-entry of the PIN. Once you see your record, you can “Click to download COVID-19 SMART Health Card”, which will give you a QR code which you can save in your phone’s gallery.

Everyone 5 years or older is eligible to be vaccinated. People ages 5-17 years can only get the Pfizer vaccine. Updated information about COVID-19 vaccinations for people under age 18 is on this website. 

Boosters are approved for all people 12 and up who had their second Pfizer or Moderna dose more than 5 months ago, or who have had the Johnson&Johnson vaccine more than 2 months ago. For adults, CDC allows for “mixing and matching” of different COVID-19 booster doses. To view more information from the CDC, visit here.
 

Booster appointments can be made through https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/. Or call the COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line at 2-1-1 (M-F 8:30am-6:00pm, Sat/Sun 9am-2pm). The Vaccine Resource Line is available in English and Spanish and has translators available in approximately 100 additional languages.

Locally, GLFHC clinics in Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill are offering COVID vaccines for anyone 5+ and also boosters. Make your appointment here:  https://glfhc.org/covid-19-vaccine-signup-form/. I have also had success booking an appointment at Walmart.

Additional vaccine locations can be found at the end of this newsletter.

FDA authorizes antiviral pills to treat COVID-19
The FDA has authorized antiviral pills to treat COVID-19 at home. Paxlovid made by Pfizer, is taken twice per day for five days in combination with a second medicine called ritonavir, a generic antiviral. Early results from a Paxlovid study showed a 70% reduction in hospitalization risk among several hundred people at lower risk for severe disease. 


Mask Advisory
Indoor mask requirement in schools is extended until February 28, 2022. The MIAA requires that masks be worn for winter indoor sports, including basketball, hockey, cheerleading, and more. 

The Department of Public Health updated their mask advisory, recommending that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask or face covering in indoor, public spaces. DPH particularly urges this recommendation for individuals who have a weakened immune system, or are at increased risk for severe disease because of age or an underlying medical condition, or if someone in their household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.

All people in Massachusetts (regardless of vaccination status) are required to continue wearing face coverings in certain settings, including transportation and health care facilities.  Please see here for a complete list of venues where face coverings have remained mandatory.

There is an indoor mask mandate for all buildings in Boxford. Andover’s indoor mask includes all public buildings (this does not apply to businesses and restaurants). North Andover has an indoor mask mandate at all municipal buildings. Tewksbury’s Senior Center is requiring masks in the building.

Elective Surgery Guidance
On December 21, DPH released updated guidance to hospitals concerning nonessential, elective invasive procedures. To preserve health care personnel resources, all hospitals are directed to postpone or cancel all nonessential elective procedures likely to result in inpatient admission in order to maintain and increase inpatient capacity. Patients are reminded to still seek necessary care at their hospital or from their health care provider.

National Guard Activation
Governor Baker activated an additional 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to address the non-clinical support needs of hospitals and transport systems. Up to 300 of these Guard members will support 55 acute care hospitals, as well as 12 ambulance service providers across the Commonwealth. 

COVID Data
On December 21, the Department of Public Health (DPH) released COVID breakthrough data showing that 97% of COVID breakthrough cases in Massachusetts have not resulted in hospitalization or death. Unvaccinated individuals are five times more likely to contract COVID than fully vaccinated individuals and 31 times more likely to contract COVID than individuals who have a booster. To explore the state’s dashboard, updated daily, visit here.

Schools are required to report positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff members here. Over the one-week period of 1/13-1/19, school districts, education collaboratives, and special education schools across the State reported a total of 32,909 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Of those, 28,151 were students and 4,758 were staff. Cases continue to rise in our district: Andover (178 students, 25 staff), Boxford (29 students, 2 staff), North Andover (160 students, 25 staff), and Tewksbury (138 students, 15 staff).

Upcoming Events

North Parish Climate Justice Forum
Join me and Rep. Christina Minicucci on Wednesday January 26 at 7pm, for a virtual forum with the Climate Justice Group at North Parish about important climate and environmental justice bills. These bills are identified by UU Mass Action and Mass Power Forward as priority bills. For Zoom info, please RSVP to the Climate Justice Team at climatejustice@northparish.org

Boxford DTC Speaker Series
Boxford DTC’s 5th Annual Speaker series will update us in Climate Change Activism in 2022, with Guest Speakers Rob Bonney and Jim Mulloy.  Join the virtual meeting on Thursday, January 27 at 7pm. Rob Bonney and Jim Mulloy, former Boxford residents and BDTC members, will give a presentation on climate change and the action needed to make meaningful change on critical issues facing our planet. This free event is for activists, educators, legislators, students and anyone concerned about the crisis affecting our planet. RSVP here for Zoom registration.
 

Do you know about the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus?  The MWPC is a nonpartisan organization committed to increasing the number of women elected to public office and appointed to public policy positions. Caucus members are a diverse group of women that include the political, healthcare, biotech, academic, business, corporate, and non-profit communities. The MWPC offers programs to increase the interest of women in the political process and helps them to be successful in the political arena. On Tuesday, January 31, at 6pm, I’ll be speaking about running for office at their Annual Meeting. Please join me and get to know the MWPC!


Community Update 

Martin Luther King Day Event

The Andover Baptist Church held their annual MLK Day celebration virtually during their Sunday Zoom service on January 16. If you’d like to watch the service, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aafaF2KNrcM 

 

Fire Safety Grants
Congratulations to Andover, Boxford, North Andover, and Tewksbury for earning Firefighter Safety Equipment Grants from the Massachusetts Dept. of Fire Services. Each town was proactive in applying for these grants to find updated fire safety equipment for their departments. 

 

Sign up for Andover Community Trust Newsletter

Andover Community Trust (ACT) has started a monthly digital newsletter with updates for folks looking for affordable housing in Andover. It’s also helpful for those interested in updates on ACT's work. Sign up for this free newsletter here.


Tewksbury Flooding Survey
Do you live or work in Tewksbury? Do you experience flooding either in your home, business, on the roads or elsewhere? The Town of Tewksbury (Tewksbury DPW) and the Merrimack River Watershed Council would like to hear from you. Please fill out their survey and tell them about your experiences with flooding in Tewksbury: bit.ly/TewksburyFloodingSurvey


Free Rides Coming to Merrimack Valley Transit

Starting in March the MVRTA will suspend fare collection on its regular service from March 2022 until March 2024. This will be extremely important for the poor, the elderly, those with disabilities, and other vulnerable communities who rely on the MVRTA for transportation. Visit https://www.mvrta.com/ for more information and for bus routes and schedules.
 

Small Business Help

The Town of Andover is excited to partner with the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission and Mill Cities Community Investments on getting small businesses the help they need.  Merrimack Valley Strong is a FREE resource for small businesses. Get paired with local business advisors who can help you get the tools you need, at no cost to you.  Visit WeAreMV.com to get started.


Legislative Update

On Wednesday, the House voted unanimously to pass a $55 million COVID Response Bill (H4340), which will expand testing sites; increase youth vaccination efforts in disproportionately affected areas; and provide high-quality protective masks to children and staff at K-12 public schools. 

We also extended COVID-related voting accommodations, set to expire in April, through July, allowing public meetings, notary services and reverse-mortgage counseling to take place remotely. At the recommendation of the Secretary of State, the House set the date for the September primary election as September 6, which gives cities and towns enough turnaround time to prepare overseas ballots for the general election. The bill is now on its way to the Senate and then to the Governor’s desk.
 

Statewide Updates

Health Insurance Open Enrollment is NOW
2022 Open Enrollment ends on January 23! Now is the time for members to shop and compare plans for the best price. Get started at www.MAhealthconnector.org

 

SNAP Awareness Week

January 18 - 21 is SNAP Awareness Week. SNAP is our country’s most powerful nutrition program, helping families purchase healthy food and supporting low-income households. But there are tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents who may be eligible to receive SNAP but are not enrolled. To find out if you qualify, call the Project Bread hotline 800-645-8333 or visit GettingSNAP.org.

 

MASSCAP Tax Prep
The Massachusetts Association for Community Action is offering a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. The Statewide Kickoff and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day is January 28 at 12 noon.  Zoom link is here.


Minimum Wage is now $14.25

Your employer must pay you at least $14.25 per hour. Tipped workers must make a minimum of $6.15 per hour provided that tips bring them to at least $14.25. If not, employers make up the difference.

 


Resources for Behavioral Health
Worried about your child’s mental health? Not sure where to start or who can help? Visit HandholdMA.org, a new family-friendly website with mental health tips, tools, and resources created especially for parents. 

 

3G Phaseout
If your cell phone is an older model, it may not work when 3G Cellular networks are shut down.  Please plan ahead, and upgrade your phone to a more recent model.  See this alert on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website

AT&T will retire 3G service in February 2022.
T-Mobile Sprint will finalize 3G shutdown on March 31, 2022.
Verizon will sunset 3G by the end of 2022.

According to the FCC, the transition will also impact many other industries and technologies. A failure to upgrade technology in advance of the shutdown may affect home and commercial security systems, monitored fire alarms, personal emergency alert devices, and vehicle SOS systems, among other advanced technologies. Visit the FCC website for more information about the 3G phase out, suggested next steps for consumers, and resources to help stay connected.
 

Home Energy Help
Home energy prices are rising this winter due to global demand. The Massachusetts Attorney General's office just released information to help out customers who may be struggling to pay. Visit the Massachusetts Attorney General’s website for more information: www.mass.gov/ago/fuelassistance

Don't delay in applying for income-eligible assistance--contact your utility to apply for an income-eligible rate for a discount on your bill. You may also qualify for the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP eligibility is evaluated by your gross household income for the past four weeks. Contact your local community action agency for more details on how to apply to LIHEAP. www.masscap.org/heatinghelpma  
www.mass.gov/hed/fuel  

Cold Relief Hotline: 800-632-8175

If you don't qualify for income-based assistance, you still may be eligible for other funds. If your household income is 60-80 percent of the state median income, you could be able to receive help from the Good Neighbor Energy Fund: www.magoodneighbor.org/assistance  

 

Office Hours

 

Given the spike in COVID cases, we will continue to hold virtual office hours on the first Friday of the month 10-11am, and the third Tuesday 5-6pm. Make an appointment at https://calendly.com/teamtram/officehours and we’ll send you a Zoom link.  The next office hours are coming up on Friday, February 4; be sure to sign up by noon on Thursday 2/3. Looking forward to discussing the issues that are important to you!

Remember, you can always reach me by emailing me at Tram.Nguyen@mahouse.gov, or call my office at (617) 722-2060 x5.

We post new information daily on social media; follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Sincerely,

 

 

Tram T. Nguyen, Esq.
State Representative, 18th Essex District

 

 

COVID Testing/Vaccine Locations

Vaccine Locations:

Mass.gov Vaxfinder site: https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/

Appointments can be booked by visiting vaxfinder.mass.gov with walk ins also accepted. Language translation services will be available on site. Transformative Healthcare will serve as the provider for this clinic.

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (GLFHC) locations in Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence: https://glfhc.org/covid-19-vaccine-signup-form/

Lawrence General Hospital: https://home.color.com/vaccine/register/lawrencegeneral

Lowell General Hospital: https://www.lowellgeneralvaccine.com/

CVS Booking Site: https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine

Walgreens Booking site: https://www.walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19


COVID Testing Sites

https://www.lowellma.gov/1513/COVID-19-Testing-in-Lowell (Open 7 days/week-drive up; Appointments need to be made:  http://lowellma.gov/covidtesting)

Lawrence Community COVID-19 Testing Center (Open 7 days/week; drive up. Cannot register ahead of time)

https://www.circle-health.org/care-and-services/urgent-care/covid-19-testing-and-treatment (Sites in Billerica, Tewksbury, Dracut and Westford)

COVID-19 Rapid Testing at Our Urgent Care Centers | AFC Urgent Care (Several different sites)

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-test-search-results (Complete list of sites including CVS and Walgreen’s)

Pentucket Medical ExpressCare

370 Merrimack St, Lawrence, MA 01843

617-724-7000

8:00am-5:00pm Mon-Fri

8:30am-2:00pm Sat-Sun

 

AFC Urgent Care North Andover

129 Turnpike St, North Andover, MA 01845

978-470-0800

8:00am-8:00pm Monday- Sunday (walkin 2-6pm)

https://afcurgentcarenorthandover.com/telemedicine-urgent-care/ 

 

CVS - Main Street North Andover Covid-19 Testing Site

109 Main St, North Andover, MA 01845

978) 682-0941

By appointment only MinuteClinic  

 

Walgreens - Waverley Road - North Andover

800 Waverly Rd, North Andover, MA 01845

978-681-1530

By appointment only COVID-19 Testing | Select Location 

 

Lawrence Community COVID-19 Testing Center - All Drive-through and Walk-up Testing

70 General St, Lawrence, MA 01840

978-946-8409

Hours vary - Visit Website https://www.lawrencegeneral.org/about-us/covid-19-testing 

 

Circle Health Urgent Care - Tewksbury

1574 Main St, Tewksbury, MA 01876

978-323-5945

8:00am-8:00pm Mon-Sun 

Book an Appointment to Urgent Care

 

CareWell Urgent Care Tewksbury

345 Main St, Tewksbury, MA 01876

978-851-4683

8:00am-8:00pm Mon-Sun 

Tewksbury

 

CVS - Tewksbury - Main St Poct Covid - 19 Testing

1900 Main St, Tewksbury, MA 01876

978-851-6856

By appointment only MinuteClinic 

 

Walgreens - Main Street - Tewksbury

2341 Main St, Tewksbury, MA 01876

978-988-5534

By Appointment Only

 

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (Methuen site)

147 Pelham St, Methuen, MA 01844

978-685-7663

3:00pm-6:00pm Mon-Fri / 9:00am-12:00pm Sat

 

AFC Urgent Care Methuen

380 Merrimack St, Methuen, MA 01844

978-975-0700

8:00am-8:00pm Mon-Sun

 

CVS - Wilmington - Main St Poct Covid-19 Testing Site

222 Main St, Wilmington, MA 01887

978-658-3377

By appointment only MinuteClinic 

 

Middleton Family Medicine

147 S Main St, Middleton, MA 01949

978-774-2555

Hours vary - Visit Website

 

CVS - Maple Street Middleton Covid-19 Testing Site

220 Maple Street, Middleton, MA 01949

978-774-1061 

By appointment only

 

Walgreens - S Main Street - Middleton

235 S Main Street, Middleton, MA 01949

978-762-8522

By appointment only

 
 

For more information, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/about-covid-19-testing#should-i-be-tested?-

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