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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s COVID-19 Press Briefing on June 4th

Did you miss the mayor’s press conference yesterday? Don’t worry! Here’s a recap from Mayor Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday, June 4, 2020.

Case numbers:

  • As of today in Massachusetts: 102,063 cases and 7,201 deaths.

  • In Boston: 12,906 cases, 658 deaths, and 7,377 recoveries.

Overall trends toward recovery:

  • The Mayor discussed some of the data that the City is watching as it moves forward with a phased reopening.

  • During the surge in April, Boston hospitals were treating ICU patients at over 120% of their combined normal capacity. The City set a benchmark of getting to below 85% and, as of today, it’s down to 81%.

  • On Tuesday of this week, the last patients were discharged from Boston Hope Medical Center, but it will remain available in case it is needed again.

  • The City has reached its goal of expanding testing capacity to 1,500 tests per day by June 1. The Mayor attributed this success to increasing support and funding for Boston’s Community Health Centers and creating mobile testing for highly impacted and vulnerable populations. The City has also begun testing in public housing and senior buildings. In some Community Health Centers, testing is now available for people who are asymptomatic, but whose work or medical status may put them at risk. A complete list and map of testing locations in Boston is available at Boston.gov/coronavirus.

  • In all, as of this week, the cumulative positive rate for people tested in Boston, including all data since the pandemic began, is down to just below 23%. And the positive rate for the most recent week analyzed, which ended on Saturday, was 7.5%. Both of those numbers are new lows since the crisis began.

  • The City will continue to monitor key Boston-based metrics to determine when it is safe and responsible to move forward with the next phases of reopening. For more details on the reopening timeline, visit boston.gov/reopening.

Small business supports:

  • The Mayor provided an update on the supports the City is providing to small businesses.

  • So far, the City has dedicated more than $13.5 million to small businesses impacted by COVID. That includes $5.6 million in grants distributed to over 1500 small businesses through the Small Business Relief Fund.

  • The City has also designated $6 million for grants to help small businesses secure PPE and other materials for a healthy reopening. 1,000 applications for that new program have been submitted, and it is moving forward.

  • Information about all these resources is available at Boston.gov/small-business.

  • The Mayor thanked the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz for his leadership in passing a Restaurant Relief bill yesterday, which will help with the City’s efforts to support outdoor dining and create new revenue opportunities for restaurants.

Housing supports:

  • The Mayor provided an update on the supports the City is providing to renter households impacted by the pandemic.

  • In April, the City created a Rental Relief Fund to get money to renters who lost their incomes and are not eligible for unemployment benefits or other relief. Since the Fund was launched, more than $720,000 has been distributed to 215 households, across 17 neighborhoods, to cover rent for April and May. The City’s partner agencies are currently processing over 550 more applications and will continue to get help to households in need. Yesterday, the City added $5 million more to that fund, for a total of $8 million. Screening for a second round of applications begins at noon on Friday, June 5 and runs for 2 weeks. Information and telephone support are available in 7 different languages. Residents can go to boston.gov/rental-relief or call 617-635-4200 to get started. The Mayor notes that anyone can get access to it without fear or barriers. Applicants will not be asked about their immigration status and no information will be shared with anyone else.

  • The Mayor also provided an update on the rental vouchers that were set aside to lift school children and their families out of homelessness. So far, the Boston Housing Authority is working with 400 families who have children in the Boston Public Schools. 167 of those families have vouchers in hand and 86 are already in permanent affordable housing.

  • Since the construction ban ended, work has resumed on 21 city-sponsored affordable housing developments, representing 1067 housing units and $425 million of total investment. Over 900 more income-restricted units, created through the Inclusionary Development Policy, are also back in construction. The Boston Housing Authority has resumed construction on 880 new apartments in Roxbury, the South End, Jamaica Plain, South Boston, and East Boston. These will allow public housing residents to relocate into brand new, energy efficient homes and allow new families to come out of shelter and move into the existing units. In total, that’s nearly 3,000 affordable homes under construction right now. An additional 1,000 or more affordable units, that were approved this year by the BPDA board, are expected to move forward as well.

Racial justice demonstrations:

  • The Mayor spoke about the murder of George Floyd which happened on Memorial Day and has inspired demonstrations across the country and in Boston.

  • After the press conference, at 3:45 p.m., Mayor Walsh led a moment of silence at City Hall that lasted for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The NAACP had called for people nationwide to participate.

  • The Mayor also affirmed his commitment to eradicating injustice, thanking the thousands of people who demonstrated peacefully on Boston Common yesterday, in Franklin Park on Tuesday, and across the city over the last few days.

  • He also thanked everyone who contributed to the clean up and recovery efforts after the events of Sunday night. Crews from the Parks Department, Property Management, the Public Works Department, and the Boston Transportation Department were out cleaning up and repairing the parks and streets of downtown and Back Bay. They were joined by the Friends of the Public Garden, by the Richard Family, and by local residents who wanted to lend a hand.

  • The City is also working with small business owners who were affected. Information on resources, including steps to take if your business was damaged, is at boston.gov/smallbusiness.

  • The Mayor thanked other City staff and agencies who are playing an important role, including the Boston Public Health Commission, which is helping the rallies be as safe as possible, providing face coverings and health resources.

  • The Neighborhood Trauma Teams have been on the ground, providing support for people who are dealing with trauma and violence in their own lives.

  • SOAR Boston street workers have been out to engage young people and help them use the rallies as positive outlets for their frustrations.

  • The Office of Public Safety has been engaging the community and helping to keep people safe.

  • And Neighborhood coordinators from the Office of Neighborhood Services participated in the rallies and marches and helped organizers with a range of issues.

  • The Mayor also thanked the 311 operators and ONS team members who have been answering the phones at City Hall. Unfortunately, some of the calls they have been taking are laden with racism and profanity. The Mayor commended the call takers for their professionalism. The Mayor said that it’s a reminder that our public employees are human and they are diverse residents of Boston, and he called on them to be treated with respect. The City is providing mental health resources through its Employee Assistance Program.

The importance of listening to and amplifying the Black community:

  • The Mayor stressed the importance of having empathy for Black Americans who have endured gross injustices for far too long, and addressing the systemic issues that allow these injustices to continue.

  • He closed with this reflection:

    “When I first got into recovery, I learned recovery is about changing the human being. It’s not just simply about stopping drinking. I heard the Serenity Prayer a million times prior to that, but the Serenity Prayer kept me sober because the Serenity Prayer says it all: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.’

What we’re dealing with in Boston is about wisdom. Wisdom to listen; wisdom to understand. If you don’t understand right now, just listen.

I’ve had many conversations in the last three days with the employees from the City of Boston. Some are cabinet positions; some are entry-level positions. We created a space where we can have a conversation… They opened up, and I watched the reaction of their white colleagues. Some people honestly said — Department heads and Cabinet-level — ‘I don’t know what to do right now. I don’t know how to respond right now.’

The response is: let’s just listen for a while. Let’s not give opinions. Let’s not criticize. Let’s not judge. Let’s listen. Because if we listen, we’ll be a stronger city for it. When I say this, I’m not lecturing anyone, I’m talking to myself; I’m talking to the press that’s here; I’m talking to everyone.”

As a reminder, you can also find the full text of the Mayor’s remarks from each press conference on his Medium page.

 

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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.