Jun 3, 2021
Top COVID-19 News
Amid the pandemic, news is fast-moving – and sometimes confusing. Coverage is here to help. Our new series provides a clear, fact-based digest of the top news for health consumers.
National Month of Action
The Biden administration has announced a “National Month of Action” aimed at getting 70% of U.S. adults at least 1 vaccine shot by July 4. Businesses are pitching in: YMCA, KinderCare, Learning Care Group and Bright Horizons locations are offering free child care for people getting vaccinated or recovering from vaccination from now until July 4. Many pharmacies will stay open late every Friday in June to help ensure availability. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is providing $1 million to community health centers to help with transportation to vaccination sites, as well as sponsoring free BlueBikes rides. Other companies are offering sweepstakes and other incentives.
How can I help? The White House is asking every American to take at least 5 actions to help others get vaccinated – whether that’s driving a friend to a vaccination site, providing information, or registering a neighbor for an appointment online.
Paid time off for vaccination
Under a new Massachusetts law aimed at bolstering vaccine access and support for workers, employees in Massachusetts can get an additional week of paid time off for COVID vaccination, or to get diagnosed or treated for COVID, or to care for a family member who has COVID. The time off can be used anytime between June 7-Sept. 30, and is available to all full-time and part-time employees in the state. Eligible employers may seek reimbursement from the state for the special time-off payouts to employees, up to an $850 per week cap.
Is it retroactive? No, workers cannot seek payment for time off taken in the past.
How to get vaccinated at home
The state’s Homebound Vaccination Program, formerly targeted to the elderly or disabled, is now accessible to any resident unable to travel to a vaccine site. Free single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines are given to most homebound recipients, with free Pfizer vaccines available for kids 12-17 years old. The program is part of the state’s broad effort to increase vaccine equity and access.
How can I make an appointment? Bay Staters can call 833-983-0485 to register for an in-home vaccination Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After registering, individuals will be called within five business days by the state’s Homebound Vaccine Provider, Commonwealth Care Alliance, to schedule an appointment.
Massachusetts vaccination rates soar and infection rates plunge
More than 70% of Bay State adults are fully vaccinated, among the highest rates in the country. Infection rates have plummeted to record lows as a result. That mirrors encouraging national trends, as vaccination allows the country to begin to reopen. However, infection rates remain high among the unvaccinated in some states as dangerous variants continue to spread.
How can I get vaccinated? Vaccines are free and widely available to anyone 12 or over at retail locations, pharmacies, and mass vaccination sites, as well as popup and mobile sites. To make an appointment or find a walk-up site, visit https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/.
Full reopening for Mass. schools in fall
Massachusetts schools will fully reopen in the fall, with in-person learning required five days a week and all COVID-related restrictions lifted, including distancing. State education and public health leaders will determine this summer whether masks will be required indoors for elementary school students, who are not currently eligible for coronavirus vaccines.
Are schools safe? COVID cases in schools have plunged in recent weeks, even as classrooms have filled. Just 117 new coronavirus cases among students were reported last week, and only 13 among staff members -- a record low.
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