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Vaccine call-in lines, new artist spaces, and Laura’s Law.

Welcome to the Somerville Wire’s first Weekly Roundup—a fast look at local news published every Tuesday at Readers with Somerville-focused news tips or press releases or calendar items or letter and opinion submissions can send them to Wire staff at Or call us at (617) 209-9511.  


City launches vaccine call-in lines

The City of Somerville launched a series of call-in lines for coronavirus vaccine information, where residents can listen to recorded updates, on January 28. The lines currently come in five different languages and provide background on subjects such as who is eligible for the vaccine and where to register online. Mayor Joe Curtatone has explained that the system will make it easier to disseminate news to a diverse population, maintaining that accessibility is key.

“Information about vaccines is changing quickly and we want to make sure we’re getting those updates to as many people as possible,” wrote Curtatone in a statement. “Not everyone has access to the same information sources, so we are using many avenues to share this information with residents. We don’t want someone left out because they weren’t able to get the information they needed.”

Vaccine info line numbers are available here:

English Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3251

Spanish Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3252

Portuguese Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3253

Haitian Creole Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3254

Nepali Vaccine Info Line: 617-591-3255

City government will be opening a small, daytime vaccine clinic for Somerville residents on February 10. The space will be operating in East Somerville and will have a capacity for 200 people eligible under Phase 1 and 2A of the State’s rollout plan, which includes people who are 75 and older, healthcare workers, and first responders. It is by appointment only and is intended to be for people with barriers to accessing the vaccine through other means. According to spokespeople, the city expects that this will be the first of many clinics.

Somerville eases into reopening plan

Beginning on February 1, certain businesses, now entering Phase 3, Step 1, began reopening again, as announced by Mayor Joe Curtatone. Those eligible include fitness facilities and health clubs, motion picture and television streaming productions, martial arts and dance facilities, and programs with arts, music, and language classes. The decision to reopen comes at a time when the city has seen a slight decrease in coronavirus cases: in January, cases dipped down to 1,068, a slight improvement since December’s 1,137.

“This statewide and local easing of restrictions is informed by declining case and hospitalization rates in the Commonwealth and region,” said Doug Kress, director of health and human services, in a press release. “The COVID-19 threat however remains concerning. All community members are still urged to keep sticking with the safety measures. Always wear a facemask, made of two or more layers, when in public over both your nose and mouth. Stay at least six feet away from others. Don’t share your air: avoid crowded indoor spaces, and always wash or sanitize your hands often, don’t touch your face, and if you feel unwell, stay home and ask your healthcare provider if you should be tested for COVID-19.”

Assembly Row aims to partner with Somerville Arts Council, convert spaces

The Somerville Arts Council (SAC) is in the process of exploring a project in partnership with Assembly Row that would make temporary vacant spaces in the shopping complex available to artists. For artists who are eligible, these expansive units could be used for rehearsals, possible performances, or other cultural endeavors. According to SAC executive director Greg Jenkins, they would most likely be available to artists or groups at a very low rate or practical fee. The SAC, so far, has identified two potential spaces, formerly used for retail: one of them is about 5,000 square feet.

Rachel Strutt, cultural director of the SAC, said that pandemic conditions have made it harder for artists to find places where they can work, and this initiative is an attempt to activate unused building spaces. The city has continually heard from the Somerville artist community that there is a strong need for facilities.

“Artists in general are having a tough time in the Boston area and getting pushed out,” said Strutt.  “Space needs, overall, are a huge issue.  … It’s rent prices. Artists don’t always make a lot of money, and they can’t afford to stay in Somerville.” She added, “So many Somerville artists have moved to Medford, to Everett. People just can’t afford it anymore.”

Interested artists can fill out the survey below:

Barber reflects on passage of “Laura’s Law”

Rep. Christine Barber highlighted the passage of the bill known as “Laura’s Law,” in a conversation with the Somerville Media Center. Gov. Charlie Baker signed the legislation on January 14 in response to the death of Laura Levis outside Somerville Hospital in 2016.

Levis had been having an asthma attack, when she brought herself to the hospital and found the door locked. The hospital had not had a basic emergency room sign over any door, leading Levis to try the wrong one. She died outside of the hospital, a tragedy that led her husband, Peter DeMarco, to advocate for change. The new bill demands safe patient access—which includes signage and lighting—the installation of panic buttons, and the monitoring of emergency department access points. Barber spoke to DeMarco’s persistence.

“He himself got hundreds and hundreds of people to make phone calls and to write letters, to help me make sure that bill was at the top of people’s agenda,” said Barber. “That’s what we needed to pass it.”

The video can be found below:

Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and a staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.

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