10.1 min readBy Published On: August 27th, 2020Categories: News0 Comments on Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing from August 26th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Wednesday, August 26, 2020.

Case numbers: 

  • As of today (Wednesday) in Massachusetts: 315 new confirmed cases, for a total of 117,085. There were 26 new deaths, for a total of 8,755.

  • As of today (Wednesday) in Boston: 57 new cases, for a total of 15,320. No new deaths were reported yesterday, and the total remains at 752. 

Status of COVID-19 in Boston:

  • The Mayor provided an update on the overall trends we’re seeing in Boston.

  • For the week ending August 22, the 7-day average positive test rate was 2.3%, down from 2.7% a week earlier.

  • The cumulative positive test rate, since the beginning of the pandemic, is down to about 10%.

  • Emergency Room visits for COVID symptoms, as well as the number of COVID patients in Intensive Care Units, both remain low. 

  • Average daily new cases in Boston remain in the 40-49 range. 

  • Higher new case numbers in recent weeks are due in part to a significant increase in testing.

Update on testing:

  • Last week, the number of tests given in Boston went up again, to an average of 2,028 per day. That’s another 10% increase week over week, and more than double what we were doing earlier in the summer. 

  • Citywide, we have more than 20 testing sites, including mobile sites that move to areas with the greatest need. At many sites, testing is available at no cost to the patient. 

  • The City’s mobile testing team is currently at Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan, through Saturday, August 29. It’s free and open to anyone, regardless of symptoms. 

  • You can find a full list and map of all the testing sites at boston.gov/coronavirus

Response to increased case numbers in East Boston:

  • The Mayor said that the Administration remains committed to monitoring and sharing neighborhood data and race and ethnicity data, and responding to any anticipated or emerging disparities. 

  • This equity focus has been guided by our COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force, and is the focus of outreach partnerships including with the Greater Boston Latino Network and the members of the Boston Immigrant COVID-19 Collaborative, all supported by the Boston Resiliency Fund. 

  • Last week, every neighborhood except one had a positive test rate at or below 3.5%. 

  • The exception was East Boston, whose rate has been consistently higher than the City average, and last week took a turn upwards to 11.4%. 

  • The Mayor said these numbers are concerning and the City is addressing them. 

    • The Boston Public Health Commission is examining the data and contact tracing to see where new cases are emerging, who is impacted, and how we can intervene. 

    • We are moving our mobile testing team to East Boston, starting on Tuesday, September 1. This is in addition to the testing site at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, which will continue to offer tests to anyone who wants one, regardless of symptoms, and at no cost.  

    • We are working with the State to identify temporary isolation housing, so that people can quarantine away from their families if they test positive. 

    • We are working collaboratively on strategies and solutions with East Boston elected officials; cross-departmental City teams; medical and social service providers in the neighborhood; union leaders who represent East Boston residents and workers; and clergy who have been helping to share messages at services. 

  • The Mayor announced that an action plan has been launched to work with the East Boston community on strategies to reduce the spread of the virus.

  • The Boston Public Health Commission has mobilized teams to provide safety materials and education to residents and businesses in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, and Arabic. 

  • They have been out at MBTA stations and key intersections, and will be expanding into neighborhood parks at times when people gather and play sports. 

  • They are distributing COVID care kits, sharing information about safety precautions, and answering questions that people may have about COVID-19.

  • We are making clear that anyone can get tested, regardless of immigration status. No information about your status will be asked. 

  • And we are making clear that residents can file a confidential complaint with the BPHC if employers or businesses aren’t following safety guidelines. 

  • In addition, business outreach began today in multiple languages, to make sure management and staff know the regulations; have access to PPE, signage, and prevention efforts like social distancing and hygiene; and know that they need to report to BPHC when they have an employee test positive. 

  • The Mayor said that if case numbers don’t come down, the City will look at tightening regulations around gatherings and public spaces, but he hopes that it doesn’t come to that. The City will prioritize working collaboratively with residents to  get the message out that COVID-19 is still with us and all the precautions we’ve been taking are still necessary. 

  • The Mayor pointed out that economic conditions impact COVID numbers, and that East Boston has high rates of multi-generational housing, overcrowded housing, and breadwinners who can only work outside the home. 

  • He said bringing resources to those families and supporting them when workers need to stay home is a big part of the solution.

New updates on food access:

  • The Mayor recounted the extensive collaborative efforts that have gone into feeding vulnerable residents since March and he pledged to continue this work through the fall and winter.

  • He noted that the USDA extended the youth meal site waiver to Sept. 18, so the Boston Public Schools and partners can continue to feed young people safely. 

  • He is joining other city leaders to ask the USDA to extend it further, to support remote and hybrid learning school plans through the end of the year.  

  • He said we still need Congress and the White House to bring more relief to Americans hit hard by this pandemic, but that in Boston we are not waiting for help. We’re using all the resources and partnerships we have to make sure hungry residents have food. 

  • One vital access point is the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), which houses 58,000 residents including nearly 9% of Boston’s population. 

  • He announced a new partnership between the BHA and local businesses and nonprofits to get hundreds of thousands of meals to vulnerable residents through the end of the year. 

  • The plan is to leverage $2.5 million in federal aid still available through the CARES Act, to provide up to 230,000 meals to around 4,100 low-income households through December. 

  • Nearly $1.7 million will support BHA’s family meal sites in partnership with City Fresh Foods in Roxbury, Dorchester-based Commonwealth Kitchen, Haley House in Nubian Square, Roxbury, and the Greater Boston YMCA. 

  • Another $730,000 will support door-to-door meal delivery to seniors and people with disabilities facing food insecurity. The City’s partner in that work is Ethos, a nonprofit in Jamaica Plain that helps over 3,000 seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes. 

  • In addition, the Boston Resiliency Fund is providing a grant of $500,000 so that Ethos can continue to serve over 850 caregivers who support their clients. This funding builds on an earlier grant of $559,000 to meet daily nutritional needs and make sure homebound residents have a trusted person each day to check in with, connect them to services and supports, and help reduce isolation. 

New updates on digital access:

  • The Mayor said that bridging the digital divide is a vital equity goal that has become even more clear under COVID-19. 

  • The City advances this work on a number of fronts:

    • An Office of Broadband and Digital Equity and a Digital Equity Fund that provides grants to community organizations that expand access to technology and the internet. 

    • Our Wicked Free Wi-Fi system that brings free internet access at over 100 points across the city in our Main Streets districts. 

    • The work of the Boston Public Schools and its partners in providing technology and internet access to support both remote and in-school learning. 

    • And steps currently being taken to understand the technology needs of seniors and public housing residents.

  • The Mayor announced two new initiatives from the Boston Public Library to help bridge the digital divide in Boston. 

  • This week BPL launched free Outdoor Wi-Fi at a number of branches. 

    • It provides free, socially distanced internet access 24 hours a day in the public space around nine BPL branches, chosen based on data reflecting at-home broadband access, household income, and the availability of outdoor seating. 

    • The branches are Mattapan, Hyde Park, East Boston, South End, Codman Square, Parker Hill, Grove Hall, Egleston Square, and the Honan-Allston branch.

  • The other new BPL program is public computer access. 

    • Residents can now sign up to use computers at no cost in a socially distanced space within the Central Library in Copley Square. 

    • Two-hour slots are available, Monday through Thursday, at apps.bpl.org/computers or by phone at (617) 536-5400. 

  • The Mayor reminded residents that BPL buildings remain closed to the public for other indoor uses, but digital borrowing of online items has been expanded since the start of the pandemic, and the BPL To Go service allows residents to reserve and pick up physical books and other items at every branch citywide. Visit bpl.org to learn more. 

Election deadlines and voting updates: 

  • The Mayor reminded residents that the state primary election is on Tuesday September 1, and he detailed a number of ways to cast your vote. 

  • Early voting is underway and runs through Friday,  August 28. 

  • You can vote at City Hall, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Thursday, August 27, City Hall will stay open for voting until 8 p.m. 

  • Tomorrow (August 27) you can vote at four neighborhood locations: 

    • The BCYF Perkins Community Center in Dorchester; 

    • Mildred Ave. Middle School in Mattapan; 

    • St. Nectarios Greek Orthodox Church in Roslindale; 

    • Margarita Muniz Academy in Jamaica Plain. 

  • All voting locations are using extensive safety and cleaning protocols, and are accessible to voters with disabilities. 

  • The City is also working to ensure that voting by mail is available as a safe way to exercise your right to vote.   

    • Today (August 26) is the deadline for requesting a vote-by-mail ballot. 

  • The City’s Elections Department has received about 90,000 requests for mail-in ballots and is processing all the requests that arrive by today. 

  • The Mayor encouraged anyone who has a mail-in ballot to complete and return it as soon as possible.  

  • You can also hand-deliver your mail-in ballot at Early Voting locations and at two drop boxes at City Hall, one inside the main, third-floor entrance, and another outside the second-floor Congress St. entrance. 

    • If you are at City Hall you can also simply cast your ballot during the Early Voting period. 

  • So far, the City has received 24,600 completed ballots, including more than 6000 from Early Voting and over 18,500 mail-in ballots.  

The Mayor concluded with a reflection on the ongoing psychological impact  of  COVID-19: 

“Let’s remember what people are going through. People are experiencing illness in themselves and loved ones; fear of COVID that many have anxiety around; financial stress around lost income, struggling small businesses, and people in fear of losing their home. And then there’s the toll of systemic racism. Many residents experience it personally and they also see continual footage of violence against Black and Brown people on social media. All of it together is taking a tremendous toll. It’s showing up in mental health concerns and physical health concerns. It’s playing a role in domestic violence and street violence. And people are struggling with substance use. For anyone in recovery or interested in recovery, recovery meetings are online and now some meetings are happening in person, outdoors. You can reach out to AA or NA to find a meeting, or contact our Office of Recovery Services by calling 311. 

I would just ask everyone to remember that these are not normal times. A tendency toward conflict will not serve us well in every situation right now. I ask everyone to work together in a spirit of unity and I urge everyone to be kind to yourself and others. Let’s take it a day at a time.”


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