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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing from February 25th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s press briefing on Thursday, February 25.

Comment on High Street incident:

  • The Mayor opened his press conference by saying his heart goes out to the family and loved ones of the two workers who died yesterday, in a terrible and tragic incident at a construction site on High Street.

  • The City continues to work closely with the District Attorney’s Office, the Boston Police and Fire Departments, OSHA, and other regulatory and safety agencies to determine what caused it. Until a thorough investigation is complete, the company involved will not be allowed to perform work in the city.

  • He said that as a former laborer, the safety of working people is of the utmost importance to him. No worker should ever have to worry about their safety or well-being at the job site.

  • He said we need to understand how this happened, and create safer conditions in the future.

Latest COVID numbers:

  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts today (Thursday) reported 1,928 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 545,624, and 33 new deaths bringing the total to 15,657.

  • The City of Boston today (Thursday) reported 182 new confirmed cases for a total of 58,202, and 3 new deaths for a total of 1,259.

  • The Mayor noted that the nation passed a solemn milestone this week: more than 500,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. It’s a staggering number, and a reminder, to all of us, that the virus is still with us.

  • He quoted President Biden, who said on Monday night: “While we have been fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow.”

  • The Mayor added: “We must continue to do our part to protect our fellow Americans, and prevent further loss of life. This is how we honor the memories of those we miss and love. My heart and prayers continue to be with everyone who has lost a loved one or is battling this terrible disease.”

Update on data and trends:

The latest complete data we have is for the week ending February 18:

  • An average of 3,777 people were tested each day. That’s down by 13% over the week before and does not include college testing.

  • The average number of positive tests recorded each day was 156. That’s down by about 26% from the week before, and by 35% over the previous two weeks. Daily new cases have continued to go down since January.

  • Our current community positivity rate was 3.4%. That’s the lowest positivity we’ve seen since October. The rate went down in almost every neighborhood, and every neighborhood is now below 7%, which is good news.

  • The number of COVID emergency department visits has decreased since the week before, and the percentage of available ICU and surge beds has increased. For the first time in many weeks, the daily number of occupied ICU beds is under our threshold for concern.

  • The Mayor commented that this is all good news. It means we are slowing the spread of infection in our neighborhoods, and that we are protecting our hospital capacity, so that anyone who needs critical medical help can get it.

  • However, he stressed that this is not the time to get complacent or let our guard down. We must all continue to do everything we can to protect ourselves and our communities against the virus. That includes wearing a mask with a good fit — one that is tight on the sides of your face — or wearing two masks, a disposable mask and a cloth mask on top, to achieve a tighter fit. You should also continue to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, as well as follow social distancing and avoid gatherings.

  • He said if you operate a business — or if you patronize a business — you must follow all the guidelines. The City continues to enforce these requirements.

  • The City is going to keep reminding everyone to stay focused on safety, especially as businesses and activities reopen. We all have a responsibility to do our part, to keep the process of reopening moving forward safely.

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.

Update on BPS reopening:

  • At the beginning of this month, Boston Public Schools launched a new timeline for returning students to in-person learning. To date, we’ve welcomed all students with high in-person priority status who want to be back in the classroom. These are young people who face risks to their wellbeing when they are not in school. Nearly 7,800 students have been invited to return to school buildings since November.

  • Starting next week, the week of March 1, we are inviting students in preschool and kindergarten through Grade 3 to return to in-person learning. That’s an additional 7,900 students, for a total of 15,600 total students invited to return to school buildings since November.

  • We’re making sure our classrooms and buildings are safe for students, teachers, and staff. That includes air purifiers in every occupied space and frequent air quality testing; high quality filters in all HVAC systems; medical grade PPE for all staff; and disposable masks available to students and staff.

  • The Mayor said our health and safety protocols go beyond CDC guidelines, beyond state guidelines, and beyond what the vast majority of districts are doing. We will continue to review state and federal school reopening guidance in our planning, and closely collaborate with the Boston Public Health Commission on all health and safety measures.

  • Following the timeline BPS announced in January: all students in grades 4-8 will be eligible for in person learning on March 15, and all remaining students will be eligible for in-person school on March 29. This timeline is for students who have opted into hybrid learning. Families have the choice of continuing with all-remote learning.

  • The Mayor reminded BPS families that registration for the 2021-2022 school year is open. Families can still register online and by phone.

  • In addition, BPS Welcome Centers in Dorchester, East Boston, and Roslindale will be open next Monday, March 1 for in-person appointments. Staff will be available to answer questions families have about registration. Go to BostonPublicSchools.org to make an appointment.

  • The Mayor thanked everyone for their patience and cooperation throughout this process, as we work to bring all of our students back into safe classrooms. The City and BPS are looking forward to welcoming many more of our students back into our buildings next week.

Update on vaccines:

  • The City continues to work with the State on the vaccine rollout. Right now, adults 65 and older, plus adults with two underlying health conditions, are eligible to get the vaccine.

  • 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 of public housing who are elderly and disabled.

  • 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 State also has a Vaccine Scheduling Resource line available by calling 2-1-1.

  • The Mayor said the City will continue to advocate on behalf of our residents, and increase equity in this process for any resident or community that may face barriers. He noted that Boston worked with the State to get the Reggie Lewis Center vaccine clinic up and running, which was an important step in increasing equity in the statewide vaccine rollout.

  • Today, February 25, the State is taking over operations at the Reggie Lewis Center, and it will soon become a mass vaccination site. The Mayor thanked all of the City of Boston employees and volunteers who worked tirelessly to get this clinic started, saying it was a true team effort.

  • He said the City will continue to hold appointments at the Reggie Lewis Center for outreach to organizations serving communities of color and other vulnerable populations, and, moving forward, we will continue to hold 50% of those appointments for that purpose.

  • The City will also continue to focus on access for elderly residents and those with disabilities. Boston residents 65 and older having trouble can call 3-1-1 and get connected to the City’s Age Strong Commission. We provide help in multiple languages.

  • We’re also helping other residents eligible for the vaccine through community organizations and programs.

  • As a reminder, veterans 55 or older and enrolled in the VA Healthcare System can get vaccinated at any VA healthcare facility in Boston. For more information please visit Boston.VA.gov.

  • The Mayor said 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. 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.

Community Preservation Act recommendations:

  • The Mayor mentioned that, earlier this week, the City announced the latest round of recommendations through the Community Preservation Fund. The City, along with the Community Preservation Committee, is recommending 67 projects, totaling over $25.5 million in grants. The proposals include 28 open space and recreation, 5 affordable housing, and 34 historic preservation projects.

  • He said the CPA has been a powerful tool for investing in our neighborhoods. Since voters approved the Community Preservation Act in 2016, the City will have awarded over $92 million to support nearly 200 projects across the City. Those totals include this newest funding round, pending approval from the City Council.

  • The Mayor said, thanks to the CPA, we are building more affordable housing; we are expanding and upgrading open space; and we are investing in historic preservation.

  • He said: “Over the past few years, we’ve been able to see these projects in action — from Hyde Park, to Roxbury, to Charlestown. I’ve seen the teamwork and neighborhood pride, and the benefits they will bring to the community for years to come. Investing in and protecting the past, present, and future of our communities is what the CPA is all about.”

  • He congratulated all of the organizations who were selected in this latest funding round, and thanked the Community Preservation Committee and all of our partners for their work.

28th round of the Boston Resiliency Fund:

  • The Mayor noted that, this afternoon, we are announcing the 28th round of funding for the Boston Resiliency Fund. This represents the last funding round during his time as Mayor, and also the biggest round, with $3.85 million going to 62 organizations.

  • These organizations are working to provide food, public health resources, and other basic needs for Boston residents.

  • The Mayor said the City launched the Boston Resiliency Fund almost a year ago, in March 2020. When COVID hit, we knew we were not only dealing with a public health crisis — we were also dealing with an economic crisis. People were out of work, families struggled to get food and access to other important resources, and frontline workers needed help with childcare.

  • He said these were families in trauma, and they needed direct and immediate relief. The organizations that serve them were hit hard as well.

  • At the same time, he said, we were seeing incredible acts of kindness and generosity all across our City. People wanted to help in any way they could, to ease the burden on their fellow Bostonians.

  • The City created the Fund to get donations to the grass-roots organizations that are feeding, clothing, housing, and caring for the most vulnerable residents in our city. The Boston community stepped up in a big way, and we blew past our fundraising goals.

  • To date, the Boston Resiliency Fund has funded over $34 million to 377 organizations. 55% of grantees identify as being led by a person of color, and 60% of grantees identify as woman-led.

  • He said the City has kept equity at the heart of our approach, and we’re focused on helping organizations who were working with communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

  • The Mayor gave an overview of what the impact of the Boston Resiliency Fund looks like:

    • It’s 649,000 prepared meals, and enough food for 3.7 million meals.

    • It’s 368,000 bags of groceries and produce and over 15,500 gift cards for families to use at their local grocery store.

    • It’s 55 unemployed workers hired for food distribution, and 20 local restaurants owned by people of color cooking meals.

    • It’s $1.1 million distributed to families left out of federal coronavirus relief.

    • It’s 8,000 Chromebooks purchased for BPS students.

    • It’s over 1,000 families provided with a one-month supply of diapers and formula.

    • It’s 960 emergency childcare seats for essential workers.

    • It’s 18 community health centers with COVID testing, and 21 with expanded telehealth services.

  • The Mayor said the Boston Resiliency Fund has made a difference in the lives of so many people. He thanked all the organizations who have worked with us in the Fund for their partnership, he thanked everyone who donated for their generosity, and he thanked philanthropists Jack Connors and Jeffrey Leiden for their help starting the Fund.

  • He gave a special shout out to the team at City Hall who coordinated the fund — Casey Brock-Wilson and Rachel Goldstein — and thanked them for their leadership.

  • He ended with this reflection and message of gratitude: “To everyone, from the bottom of my heart — thank you. Boston is a strong, resilient City, full of strong, resilient people. We look out for one another, and when we are faced with a challenge, we rise to the occasion, together. I know Boston will keep this spirit of generosity and compassion going — long after this pandemic is over. And we will be a better and stronger city, for it.”

  • The Mayor then asked Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez to speak more on COVID-19 and public health.

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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.