News

Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing from August 12th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Wednesday, August 12, 2020.

Case numbers:

  • As of yesterday (Wednesday) in Massachusetts: 113,198 confirmed cases and 8,547 deaths.

  • As of today (Wednesday) in Boston: 14,657 confirmed cases and 743 deaths.

Status of COVID-19 in Boston:

  • The Mayor discussed the overall situation in Boston, including where the City stands with key metrics.

  • There has been a slight uptick in COVID-19 activity over the last few weeks.

  • The positive test rate increased from 2.1% to 2.8%. However, for the most recent 7 days analyzed, it’s back down to 2.5%.

  • There have been similar patterns in daily new cases and emergency room visits for COVID-like illnesses.

  • These numbers remain far below the levels we saw during the surge in April, and they have not reached a level that would cause the City to look at rolling back reopening.

  • The Mayor said that this is an uptick, not an established trend, but the City is monitoring the data very closely, working to understand this activity, and providing resources to residents to protect their health and slow the spread.

Continued expansion of testing in Boston:

  • The Mayor provided an overview of testing availability throughout the city.

  • Last week, an average of 1,552 tests were administered each day in Boston.

  • That was up by over 10% from the previous week, and up by over 50% from earlier in the summer.

  • The City’s mobile testing team is out in Boston’s neighborhoods, offering testing to anyone who wants it.

  • The mobile team is currently at Moakley Park in South Boston through Saturday, August 15. This mobile team will continue to serve different neighborhoods throughout the City, responding to areas with the highest need.

  • Information about all testing sites, including mobile sites, drive-thru, and community health centers, can be found at boston.gov/coronavirus.

A call for continued diligence and precaution throughout the community:

  • The Mayor stressed that everyone in the community must continue to follow guidelines, and outlined some of the supports the City is providing to individuals, businesses, and organizations.

  • He discussed what a difficult year this has been for businesses, especially restaurants, and reiterated how important it is that all local businesses continue to follow all safety guidelines, emphasizing that another surge in cases would be even worse for business. He issued a reminder that any Boston business with fewer than 25 employees can apply for City-funded reopening grants, which help small businesses put safety measures in place, including buying personal protective equipment (PPE); installing safety partitions for customers and employees; and managing outdoor space approved for business use. More information is available at Boston.gov/ReopenFund.

  • The Mayor said that people who travel from out of state need to comply with the requirements on testing and quarantining, and said that he is concerned about colleges bringing students back to campus from high-risk states. His administration has asked colleges to share their plans for testing, quarantine, and safety protocols, and is asking to see that they are developing mechanisms to implement and enforce these requirements.

  • The Mayor also addressed the responsibilities of individuals, saying that everyone has the ability and the obligation to protect themselves and help prevent an outbreak through hand washing, face coverings, social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings.

    • He recognized that people need recreation and social connection, but said there are safer ways to go about it. He said, “I understand that people want to get together. Young people want to go out. Families want to celebrate milestones. These are human needs, and people are frustrated. But we have to be clear: it’s not time to let up. The virus is still here. That’s our reality. We can meet our need for social connection in ways that are safe. You can meet people in parks, in small groups. You can go to a beach, and sit where it’s not crowded. You can go for walks, bike rides, and car rides. You can patronize a restaurant, wearing your mask. You can check in on an elderly relative or neighbor. You can have fun. But we have to minimize the risk.”

  • The Mayor said he supports the Governor’s recent decision to reduce outdoor gathering limits from 100 to 50, a new policy that went into effect on Tuesday, August 11. The City of Boston had already limited outdoor events to 50 people since the beginning of Phase 3, and the City is still not allowing public or private meetings in City buildings.

Update on planning for the Boston Public Schools 2020-2021 school year:

  • The Mayor discussed the ongoing planning for BPS’s fall semester, recognizing that parents, teachers, and students are anxious for a decision. He said that keeping everyone safe is the top priority, including children and their families, teachers and staff, and the community at large.

  • The Mayor said that BPS will not start the year with all in-person learning, because it’s not safe. The district will start with either a hybrid model or a period of all-remote learning. Whichever route the city takes in September, BPS and the City of Boston are doing the necessary work now to make both remote learning and in-person school as safe and as effective as they can possibly be.

  • The City of Boston and BPS are working with school leaders and facilities professionals to make sure every school is safe, including:

    • Providing plexiglass and vinyl separators;

    • Providing nurses’ rooms with properly ventilated isolation spaces;

    • Making sure all HVAC systems are in working order and have new filters;

    • Adjusting windows so learning spaces have fresh air;

    • Buying electro-static sprayers to disinfect surfaces;

    • Installing sanitizing stations at entrances and exits;

    • Making sure foot traffic is properly marked for spacing and safety signage is prevalent;

    • Requiring every school to receive a Certificate of Inspection by the City’s Inspectional Services Department before opening.

  • BPS is also working to strengthen remote learning:

    • Expanding technology and internet access;

    • Creating new outreach and support plans for families;

    • Developing solutions for Special Ed students and English learners;

    • Talking with childcare providers about the role that they will be playing; and more.

    • The spring was a crisis-response; this fall will be more planned and more supported.

  • Equity is at the core of all BPS planning efforts, and the City and BPS are planning and preparing with the needs of the most vulnerable students in mind. The Mayor said that Boston has two public health crises: the COVID pandemic and a crisis of race and equity. He said that we’ve seen those crises intersect, in the COVID numbers, and we’ve also seen the equity crisis play out, over many years, in our schools. That’s why the Mayor increased the BPS budget by $80 million this year, with a targeted focus on closing opportunity and achievement gaps. He said that for the safety and wellbeing of our students, Boston must start the year with that same focus on equity, and that’s why there must be a comprehensive plan in place for in-person learning, as soon as it is safe.

  • The Mayor discussed some examples of how the highest need students and families depend on in-person learning:

    • Families where the adults are working can’t always help children stay engaged.

    • Students learning English and students with disabilities depend on in-person support.

    • Children living in shelters need a place to go.

  • The Mayor said that these are safety issues for many of Boston’s students, and we have to meet those needs from the first day school begins, or those students will suffer.

Ensuring that all students have access to nutritious food:

  • The Mayor said that one of the City’s top priorities, since COVID-19 arrived, has been feeding children. The USDA granted a waiver to allow Summer Meals to be served in safe ways, including Grab and Go sites and direct delivery to students’ homes. With the help of this waiver program, BPS is feeding tens of thousands of children, and needs to continue feeding them. However, the USDA waiver is set to expire on August 31.

  • If the waiver is not extended, BPS will have to stop deliveries to students with disabilities and homeless families. The safe grab-and-go setup would have to change. Sites would no longer be open to all children. This would present a major logistical challenge and put families’ food security at risk during a time when many are already struggling to make ends meet.

  • The Mayor called on the federal government to extend this benefit so that the City of Boston can continue to feed children safely.

An update on affordable housing production:

  • Building on his commitment to preserve and create affordable housing throughout Boston’s neighborhoods, the Mayor announced that the City is making an additional $30 million available for affordable housing.

  • Requests for proposals went out this week and the city will be awarding projects in September. $4 million is set aside for formerly homeless tenants. Winning projects have to demonstrate diversity in the development team, and they must advance Boston’s goal of being a carbon-neutral city.

  • Since construction restarted in June, 26 projects have resumed, representing nearly 1200 affordable homes. This new funding will create many more.

A reminder to respond to the 2020 Census:

  • The Mayor concluded with a reminder for all Boston residents to complete the 2020 Census. He said that the Trump Administration continues to undermine this Constitutional requirement, in an effort to undercount people of color, immigrants, and cities, and that the best way to fight back is to respond now.

  • People can respond to the Census at my2020census.gov or do it over the phone. It’s quick, confidential, and safe. To learn more, or to help with the City’s outreach efforts, visit the Boston Counts 2020 website.

  • The Mayor said, “This is important for our city. This is how we get fair representation in Congress. And it’s how we get our fair share of federal investment. Everyone counts equally in our democracy, so everyone deserves to be counted and represented.”

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About the Author

Maureen Dahill

Maureen Dahill is the editor of Caught in Southie and Caught in Dot and a lifelong resident of South Boston sometimes mistaken for a yuppie. Hockey mom, yoga enthusiast, lover of red wine and binge watching TV series. Mrs. Peter G. Follow her @MaureenCaught.