9.9 min readBy Published On: February 19th, 2021Categories: News0 Comments

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s press briefing on Thursday, February 18.

Comments on Thursday’s snowstorm:

  • The Mayor began by noting that a Winter Weather Advisory is in effect through 7 pm Friday evening. The National Weather Service is forecasting 6-8 inches of snow in Boston, starting early this evening.

  • He said it will impact travel conditions this evening, as well as tomorrow morning’s commute. The Public Works Department will have 100 pieces of equipment on the road this evening, with more ready to go if necessary, as well as 30,000 tons of salt on hand. However, he urged people to avoid the roads if possible and to use caution while traveling.

  • He reminded residents and business owners to shovel sidewalks, clear crosswalks and fire hydrants, and check on your neighbors who may need help.

  • For more information on winter weather preparedness, visit Boston.gov/Snow.

  • He also said, as we deal with winter weather, our thoughts are with the people in Texas facing severe cold and power outages.

Latest COVID numbers:

  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts today (Thursday) reported 1,803 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 534,827, and 61 new deaths bringing the total to 15,373.

  • The City of Boston today (Thursday) reported 201 new confirmed cases for a total of 57,031, and 5 new deaths for a total of 1,241.

The latest complete data we have is for the week ending February 11:

  • The average number of positive tests recorded each day was 209. That’s down by about 13% from the week before, and daily new cases have continued to go down since early January.

  • Our current community positivity rate was 4.2%. That’s below our 5% threshold, and the lowest positivity we’ve seen since October. The rate went down in every neighborhood, and every neighborhood is now below 8%, which is good news.

  • An average of 4,263 people were tested each day. That’s up by 3% over the week before and does not include college testing.

Update on COVID-19 testing:

  • The Mayor said that the City continues to make COVID-19 testing widely available. We have over 25 testing sites including mobile sites that are free and open to all, regardless of symptoms. Currently they are:

    • In Jamaica Plain, at the Anna Cole Community Center. This is a walk-up site and no appointment or registration are required.

    • In Hyde Park, at Boston Renaissance Charter School. This is a drive-thru only site and requires an appointment.

    • In Dorchester, at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Grove Hall. This is a walk-up site with on-site registration.

    • In Dorchester, at The Strand Theatre. This is a walk-up with on-site registration.

  • For more information about all testing sites in the City of Boston, visit Boston.gov or call 3-1-1.

  • The Mayor said that, as more people get vaccinated, it’s critical that we don’t let our guard down.

  • He reminded people to continue to get tested regularly, wear a mask (and if possible wear two masks), practice social distancing, wash your hands and disinfect surfaces, and avoid gatherings. This is how we’ll continue to reduce infections, and it’s how we’ll continue to reopen our businesses, our cultural institutions, and especially our schools.

Restaurant safety enforcement:

  • The Mayor said we need everyone to stay focused on safety as businesses and activities reopen. He said if you operate a business or patronize a business, you must follow all the guidelines.

  • We are enforcing these requirements in the City of Boston. We continue to hold a Licensing Board hearing every Monday morning to address any violations that come up over the weekend. We are addressing issues that arise in restaurants and hotels, and we are also doing outreach ahead of St. Patrick’s Day. We are reminding everyone that safety is the key to reopening and recovery.

  • If residents have concerns about a property, they can call 3-1-1 or the BPD’s party line at 617-343-5500.

Update on vaccines:

  • Boston continues to work with the State on the vaccine rollout. Yesterday, the Governor announced that, as of February 18, anyone 65 or older, or who has two or more qualifying medical conditions, is now eligible for the vaccine.

  • The Mayor noted that moderate and severe asthma are now included in that list of conditions, which is a good thing. This was an important decision, to ensure that more residents of color who face elevated risk are eligible sooner.

  • He is also pleased that both residents and staff of senior and disabled housing buildings are eligible for on-site vaccination. The Boston Housing Authority is working with the city and state to set up on-site clinics for residents in elderly and disabled public housing. Dates will be announced as soon as they are ready.

  • In addition, everyone in Phase 1 continues to be eligible if you have not been vaccinated yet — including health care workers, first responders, and residents and staff in long-term care and congregate care settings. The full updated schedule is at Mass.gov/CovidVaccine.

  • The Mayor noted that the state appointment website and call center were down earlier today, and the City stands ready to help in any way we can.

  • He said the City of Boston will continue to advocate on behalf of Boston residents, and increase equity in this process for any resident or community that may face barriers. He said the City is focusing on access in the Black community; the Latino community; the Asian community; and our immigrant communities. We’re focusing on access for elderly residents and those with disabilities. We’re doing targeted outreach to these communities through City departments, Community Health Centers, and nonprofit partners.

  • Anyone 65 and older having trouble can call 311 and get connected to the City’s Age Strong Commission. We provide help in multiple languages.

  • The State also has a Vaccine Scheduling Resource line for older adults, by calling 211.

  • The City is also focusing on access for veterans. The Mayor thanked VA Boston Healthcare and Commissioner Rob Santiago of the Office of Veterans’ Services for the vaccination clinic that was held last Saturday, February 13, at VFW Post 1018 in Dorchester. Every veteran who came to the clinic was given the opportunity to get vaccinated.

    • Currently, veterans 55 or older can get vaccinated at VA healthcare facilities in Boston. For more information please visit Boston.VA.gov.

  • The Mayor noted that supply of the vaccine will continue to be the major factor in determining access, but we do have multiple vaccination sites operating across the City of Boston. 10 sites are taking registrations from any eligible Boston resident, and that includes the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury, Fenway Park, several sites operated by Community Health Centers, and in partnership with Boston Medical Center.

  • There are another 14 sites, operated by Community Health Centers and hospitals, that are reaching out to their own patients who are eligible.

  • And there are also 8 pharmacy locations, including Walgreens and CVS in various neighborhoods.

  • He also said the weather may affect some sites tomorrow. Providers will be working to reschedule any appointments that get cancelled.

  • For information about vaccine access in Boston, including a map of sites, visit Boston.gov/Covid19Vaccine. For more information on vaccine sites and to register, visit Mass.gov/CovidVaccine.

[EQUITY IN CITY CONTRACTING ANNOUNCEMENT]

  • The Mayor concluded his remarks by announcing the completion of Disparity Study and an Executive Order designed to support equitable procurement policies.

  • He noted that, since his Administration began, Boston has made equity and inclusion a central focus of all our work. We have worked to root out systemic barriers that, over many years, created deep economic inequities. An essential part of that work has been to increase business opportunities for people of color and women. We have been committed to setting the standard at City Hall, by tackling the issue of supplier diversity with transparency and urgency.

  • He talked about the important work that has been done these past few years, to move us forward:

    • We created our Office of Economic Development, by putting diverse local businesses at the heart of our vision for growth. We created a new Office of Small Business and an Equity and Inclusion Unit to drive this work.

    • We expanded everything from technical assistance to capital access, in services tailored to the diverse cultures in our city.

    • We created an Economic Development Center to bring small business resources and training to our neighborhoods and ethnic communities.

    • On City contracting:

      • We established equitable procurement plans for every department.

      • And we trained City of Boston employees to do proactive marketing and outreach.

      • We created a Pathways to City Contracting series, to help residents learn about opportunities to do business with the City.

      • And over the past year, our City spending with minority and women owned businesses increased dramatically.

  • At the same time, he said, we have been working toward deep structural change. In 2018, we launched a comprehensive Disparity Study to compile the data and the community input needed to understand the structural gaps, and achieve that change. That study is now complete.

  • He noted that its findings are not surprising; we knew that deep inequities exist. But the study gives us a detailed roadmap — and a legal tool — to attack those inequities at the root.

  • This afternoon, he signed an Executive Order to turn that data and those community voices into city policy.

    • The Order sets new goals for diversity in contracting and procurement. Given the conditions and recommendations set out in the Study, the City is aiming for 25% of City spending to be with businesses owned by people of color and women, including: 15% from women-owned businesses and 10% from businesses owned by people of color.

    • It builds reporting requirements into our annual budget process, to measure our progress and hold us accountable.

    • And, importantly, it creates a Supplier Diversity Program to oversee and advance this work, funded by a $2 million investment.

  • The Mayor said this is the most important structural reform to city contracting in a generation. He acknowledged that a complaint was filed based on the findings of our Disparity Study, and that will require further conversation. But he made it clear that the City launched the study, and is using the study as a powerful tool to make the needed changes, and to make them effective and sustainable.

  • He said his Administration has never run away from these numbers, or this challenge, and in fact has embraced it. He said that reversing decades of inequity requires thoughtful, collaborative, and rigorous work.

  • He noted that the last Disparity Study was in 2003, and that study led to the closing of a diversity program, a step backward. Our Disparity Study is having the opposite impact, and we are using it to create a Supplier Diversity Program.

  • He said: “We all agree, our city still has a lot of work to do. In equitable access to city contracting. In growing business opportunities in the Black community, the Latino community, the Asian community, and for women. We have not shied away from this challenge. We’ve tackled it head on, and worked with the affected communities every step of the way. We are working to eliminate the root causes of inequity, wherever they exist. And the steps we take today will unlock more opportunities for positive change as our City moves forward.”

  • He thanked the many partners who have advanced this work, including the members of our Supplier Diversity Council — who are leaders and advocates of color in the business community that we have worked with closely at every step. He thanked all the business owners, advocates, and community members who made their voices heard during this process, saying this was a true community project. He also thanked Chief of Economic Development John Barros and his team.

  • The Mayor then invited Celina Barrios-Millner, Director of Equity and Inclusion for the Office of Economic Development, to say more about the Disparity Study process. After she spoke, he asked Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez to speak more on COVID-19 and public health.

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