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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s press briefing from Friday, October 2nd

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Friday, October 2, 2020.

Case numbers:

  • As of today (Friday) in Massachusetts: 753 new confirmed cases, for a total of 131,214 confirmed cases. There were 10 new deaths, for a total of 9,275.

  • As of today (Friday) in Boston: 98 new cases, for a total of 17,427. There were no new deaths, and the total remains at 764.

  • The Mayor began his remarks by wishing the President, the First Lady, and members of their staff a speedy recovery, along with everyone who is dealing with the coronavirus. He said it goes to show that this virus can impact anyone. It is affecting every community and everyone is vulnerable, and we all must keep taking precautions.

Update on COVID-19 data and trends in Boston:

  • The Mayor said that Boston has entered the red category on the state map on Wednesday, September 30. That means Boston is seeing eight or more daily cases per 100,000 population. He said this move was expected, but to note that this map is based on one metric (raw number of cases per day), out of several kinds of data the City is looking at. We’re also looking at the positive test rate and the hospital data and trends over time.

  • He said the map helps raise awareness and get people’s attention, and that it is a useful tool. Boston has seen an uptick in COVID-19 activity over the past few weeks. Everyone must focus on what we can do to keep the activity down, and that is part of living with the virus.

  • The City is continuing its outreach in East Boston and Dorchester, where the positive rates are the highest.

    • The Mobile Testing team is at 40 Geneva Avenue in Grove Hall to provide testing and access to care, and will remain through Saturday, October 10.

    • We have testing at the Community Health Centers in Dorchester, and we are looking to extend mobile testing in the neighborhood further into October.

    • We are working on expanding testing access in East Boston, and we continue to do bilingual outreach in all of our Latino communities.

  • The Mayor said that most of Boston’s neighborhoods saw increases last week, so this uptick in activity is something that impacts everyone. While the City is bringing resources and information to where it’s needed, we also need everyone’s help. That especially includes our young adults, among whom we continue to see the most cases.

  • If you have to go to work, if you live in a large household, or if you’re running a business, the City has resources and information that can help you stay safe. He said that every single person, in every neighborhood, must continue to follow the guidelines the City has laid out, because they’ve been proven to work. Those include:

    • Wearing a mask.

    • Washing your hands.

    • Keeping six feet of distance as much as possible, and having your mask on if you’re unsure if you’re keeping that distance.

    • Following all the guidelines for your industry, or your college or workplace.

  • The Mayor also urged people to not go to gatherings, especially not to house parties or cookouts where people are mingling. This is where we are seeing most of the transmission right now.

    • He said he can’t stress enough that it is within our power to change the trend and bring our case numbers down again, if we all avoid these types of gatherings. We must all make smart choices to protect our health, our family’s health, and the health of our community.

Protecting renters from eviction:

  • The Mayor said we are approaching a critical time this month — not only with this uptick in cases, but with a potential housing crisis that could make it worse. The state eviction moratorium is set to end on October 17, just 15 days from now.

  • The unemployment numbers say that a very large number of tenants, both statewide and in Boston, are having trouble paying rent because of income loss, and we’re seeing evidence of that.

  • The City created the Office of Housing Stability to help people stay in their homes. The Mayor said they are getting calls for help at four times the rate they were in 2019. He also said we’re hearing from landlords who are worried, and saying they would like to help their tenants find the resources to pay rent.

  • After October 17, thousands of tenants could be receiving notices to quit, followed by eviction filings.

    • The Mayor warned that if people get evicted, or if they leave their housing because they think they are going to get evicted, they often end up in shelter or doubling up with family and friends. That has harmful impacts, especially for children.

    • He said this can create conditions where the virus can much more easily spread. This issue impacts communities of color and immigrant communities at much higher rates. It’s an equity crisis and a potential public health crisis.

  • The Mayor said we have to come together as a city, and as a state, to prevent these harms and protect public health. That is how we stay on the road to recovery and make sure that no one is left behind. This is something the City has been addressing since the beginning of the pandemic.

    • We made sure the Boston Housing Authority moratorium on evictions is in place through the end of the year. The BHA is our largest landlord for low-income families.

    • We created a Rental Relief Fund that has helped 900 families pay their rent so far, and we’re going to expand that resource.

    • And we’ve been working with members of the State Legislature to advance a Right to Counsel program that would provide families impacted by COVID legal representation in eviction proceedings. That is a policy proven to bring positive outcomes for both tenants and landlords.

  • Moving forward, as October 17 approaches, the need to protect renters is growing more urgent. The Mayor said that the first thing we have to do is make sure that tenants understand their rights, understand the protections that are in place, and understand the resources that we have available.

    • For example, there is a national eviction moratorium order issued by the Centers for Disease Control, but people have to fill out a form to access it. He said the City is going to be helping tenants with that, and that we have to get this information to the people who need it the most.

  • On Monday, October 5, the Mayor is going to file an ordinance at the City Council. This ordinance will require that a property owner sending a Notice to Quit to a tenant must accompany that notice with information that the City will provide about the rights and resources available to tenants.

    • That includes contact information for our Office of Housing Stability, state offices, City and state rental relief funds, as well as providers of legal counsel, dispute mediation, fair payment agreements, and other supports.  It also includes a list of rights that tenants have in relation to eviction, in multiple languages.

    • At the first step in the process of a potential eviction, this will help tenants access resources that can help them stay in their home, and help their landlord receive their rent.

    • The Mayor said he hopes he and members of the Council can work together next week to get this ordinance passed as quickly as possible.

    • This measure was part of the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act to prevent evictions, which the City passed in 2017. While the Legislature did not pass it as a Home Rule Petition at the State House, this ordinance is a part of this Act that does not require action by the State Legislature.

  • The Mayor also made it clear that the City is listening to property owners and working with them on solutions to the challenges they face.

    • For example, rental relief goes directly to landlords to cover a tenant’s rent.

    • We also have homeowner resources that many small landlords qualify for.

    • Last week, the Mayor announced that the City has more than doubled the size of the Seniors Save program that pays for heater replacements for senior homeowners. Seniors can get up to $8,000 if they are over the age of 60 and income eligible.

    • We’ve also increased the loan limit on the Lead Safe Program from $8,000 to $10,000 per unit, which is a deferred forgivable loan to help people remove lead from their homes.

    • We’ve merged the 3D program for three-deckers with the Homeworks program, so now any three-unit home can be eligible for up to $30,000 in a deferred forgivable loan.

    • The Mayor encourages property owners to look into these resources and others we have available. They can call the Boston Home Center at 617-635-HOME (4663).

  • In addition, the City has an agreement with many banks to prevent foreclosures. Any property owner having trouble paying their mortgage should reach out to their bank or lender and find out what flexibility is available.

  • The Mayor said that the majority of landlords want to do the right thing and keep people in their homes. He thanks those landlords who are reaching out already to work with their tenants. The City wants to help by connecting them to resources, and will continue to develop resources in the coming weeks.

  • He said anyone with concerns, whether tenants or landlords, can reach out to our Office of Housing Stability. He said we must all work together to protect public health at a very difficult time and preserve the communities that are the fabric of the city of Boston.

  • The Mayor gave an overview about how the City has been working to create affordable housing in our city. This work hasn’t stopped, even during a pandemic.

    • The City has more than 1,300 affordable homes in construction.

    • Since August, we have approved hundreds of more units to move forward, including over 1,000 subsidized homes in East Boston at Suffolk Downs.

    • On Monday, we will begin accepting applications for $25 million in Community Preservation Act funding for affordable housing, open space and recreation, and historic preservation. Eligibility forms can be found at boston.gov/cpa.

    • He said that Boston is moving forward to meet the long-term challenge of being an affordable city for every family. We need to make sure that, in a pandemic, we don’t go backwards on housing stability right now for thousands of families.

Update on planning for the November 3 election:

  • The Mayor reminded everyone that the voter registration deadline for the Nov. 3 election is October 24.

  • Early voting in Boston runs from October 17 – October 30.

  • This week, the City expanded the days of operation at sites in East Boston and Roxbury. We also added new sites in Dorchester, Roxbury, Hyde Park, Mattapan and West Roxbury.

  • We now have 27 unique sites across the city where you can vote early, in person (including City Hall). All of these locations, during the early voting period, are open to all registered voters in Boston. You can vote at any one of them.

  • Every voting site will be prepared for health and safety, with social distancing, cleaning, and PPE.

  • If you would like to vote by mail, and you haven’t submitted your ballot application yet, you can do so until October 28. You can now apply online at the Secretary of State’s website. The Mayor encourages everyone to do that as soon as possible.

  • The Election Department has started mailing out the first vote-by-mail ballots to those who requested one this week, and will continue to do so as applications are received. When you get your ballot, you should complete it, sign it, and return it with the envelope as soon as possible. It’s important to follow the instructions, step by step. You can mail it in as long as it is postmarked by November 3 and received by the Election Department by November 6.

  • You can also deposit it at any early voting location while it is open for voting; or at one of 17 drop boxes we will have across the city. Visit boston.gov/elections or call 311 to learn more about all these options.

Reminder to fill out the Census

  • The Mayor reminded everyone to fill out the Census, so that our City’s votes will continue to represent Boston fairly.

  • The courts have said that the count can continue until October 31.

  • Go to my2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020. Either option is available in 13 languages.

Mask donation from Kentucky:

  • The Mayor ended his remarks by talking about a package he received yesterday, addressed from Kentucky. It was a collection of hand-sewn face masks, made by members of a church in Robertson County, Kentucky.

  • He said it was a nice reminder that the things we are concerned about here in Boston, from COVID to economic recovery to elections, are things that people across the country are concerned about.

  • He read a letter included in the package, from a church member named Jeanne. It said:

“Dear Mayor Walsh, I know you can find some people who need and can use these masks. We are sorry that we all are having so much sickness and trouble. Just know that you all are in our prayers and that we in Kentucky care about our fellow Americans. We are all in this together and with God’s help we will get through this together.”

  • He thanked Jeanne and her friends, and said Boston thanks them too. He said they are in our prayers as well, and that the City will get these masks to people who need them.

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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.