9.9 min readBy Published On: March 20th, 2021Categories: News0 Comments

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s press briefing on Friday, March 19.

Comment on the murders in Georgia on Tuesday and their impact in the Boston community:

  • The Mayor called these crimes racist attacks that victimized Asian women, following on a trend of increased hate crimes against Asian Americans over the past year.

  • He said: “I know this is an emotional and frightening time for many of our Asian neighbors and friends. I want to say that I stand with you and your City stands with you. We will not tolerate hate of any kind in Boston. I encourage victims of crimes, regardless of your immigration status, to report them to the police. Police will investigate and arrest offenders. And I encourage everyone to show your support and concern for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Reach out to friends and neighbors, support AAPI-owned businesses, and don’t tolerate hateful comments or stereotypes — speak up whenever you hear them. We all need to be intentional about eradicating racism from our communities.”

  • He said that City staff are working with local nonprofits to see how we can best support our Asian communities. In addition, our Health Inequities Task Force has drafted a letter condemning anti-Asian hate, and urging all our elected and community leaders to combat this trend. Anyone who needs help can reach out to the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement.

  • He then held a moment of silence for the victims in Atlanta and victims of racist hate crimes everywhere.

Daily COVID-19 numbers:

  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts on Friday reported 1,887 new confirmed cases for a total of 576,022; and 43 new deaths for a total of 16,469.

  • The City of Boston on Friday reported 237 new cases for a total of 61,746; and 2 new deaths for a total of 1,322.

The latest complete testing data is for the week ending March 11:

  • An average of 3,831 Boston residents were tested for COVID each day.

  • The 7-day average for daily positive tests was 153.

  • The average daily positive rate was 3.5%.

  • ICU occupancy has continued to go down.

  • The Mayor said that the case numbers have stayed below our thresholds of concern for about a month now, so we are ready to move forward in our reopening. But, he added, the trend has been flat for several weeks, so we still have work to do.

Boston’s reopening steps on Monday, March 22:

  • On Monday, March 22, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will move to Phase 4 Step 1 of the statewide reopening plan. This means that more activities and industries will be allowed to be open, and capacity limits for event venues and public settings will be expanded.

  • Mayor Walsh said that in Boston, we will move into a modified Phase 4 Step 1, consistent with the cautious approach we have taken throughout the pandemic.

  • He emphasized that we need to continue to prioritize public health while advancing our economic recovery.

  • He outlined where the City will align with the state and where it will deviate.

  • Starting on March 22, the State will allow indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas, and ballparks to open with a strict 12% capacity limit in place, after they submit a plan to the Department of Public Health.

    • The City of Boston will align with this step. But, moving forward, we will only allow these venues to go above 12% capacity if the State allows it AND if Boston’s positivity rate stays under 2.75%, for two consecutive weeks, as calculated by the City. We are also requiring these venues to submit their safety plan to the City’s Licensing Board.

  • On March 22, the State will expand gathering limits for event venues and public settings to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors.

    • The City of Boston will also increase gathering limits for event venues and public settings, but they will not be as high as the State’s limits. Boston will allow up to 60 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

    • Again: Boston will only increase those limits to the state’s levels if the positivity rate remains under 2.75% for two full weeks.

  • Under the State’s guidance, outdoor gathering limits at private residences will remain at a maximum of 25 people, and limits for indoor house gatherings will remain at 10 people. The same goes for the City of Boston.

  • The State is allowing dance floors only at weddings and certain other structured events, and overnight summer camps will be allowed to operate this summer. The same goes for the City of Boston.

  • Exhibition and convention halls may also begin to operate, following gathering limits and protocols. The same goes for the City of Boston.

  • In late February, when the State moved into Phase 3 step 2, the City of Boston held back on some aspects. Starting on Monday, March 22, Boston will move those activities up to Phase 3, Step 2 levels.

    • That means indoor performance venues, such as concert halls and theaters, will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, with no more than 500 people. To be clear: this only applies to venues where audience members stay in designated seating.

    • Indoor recreational activities, like laser tag, roller skating, trampolines, obstacle courses, and escape rooms, will be allowed to open at 50% capacity.

    • Live musical performances will be allowed at restaurants in Boston. This includes all live entertainment except singing. Singing is still not allowed indoors because of the risk of spreading respiratory droplets.

  • All of this information will be posted in detail at Boston.gov/coronavirus.

  • The Mayor urged everyone to do their part to bring our case numbers down and keep our reopening moving forward.

  • Businesses and event venues must enforce all safety protocols and prepare safety plans. More information will be available at Boston.gov/Licensing.

  • Individuals must follow the safety rules in place at businesses and event venues, and be respectful of staff requests.

  • Everyone should still be wearing a mask and washing hands frequently.

  • If you’re gathering with people, do it safely, and follow the public health guidance.

  • Please keep up the precautions around St. Patrick’s Day this weekend.

  • If you’ve been vaccinated, follow CDC guidance on activities you can do safely, at CDC.gov.

  • And get tested frequently. We have over 25 testing sites in Boston, including free mobile testing sites in Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, and Dorchester. For information, visit Boston.gov or call 311.

Vaccine update:

  • The Mayor outlined the State’s recently released schedule for vaccine eligibility.

  • Eligible right now are:

    • Those 65 and older;

    • Those with two medical conditions;

    • Residents and staff in long-term and congregate care settings;

    • Healthcare workers and first responders;

    • Residents and staff of low-income senior housing;

    • Teachers, school staff, and childcare workers.

  • Becoming eligible this Monday, March 22 are:

    • Everyone 60 and older;

    • Certain frontline workers, including:

      • Restaurant, grocery, and food pantry workers;

      • Retail store workers;

      • Transit and transportation workers;

      • Public works, sanitation, and utility workers;

      • Public health and vaccine development workers;

      • Court workers and funeral home staff.

  • Starting April 5, all adults 55 and older, and all adults with one medical condition, are eligible.

  • And on April 19, all individuals 16 and older become eligible.

  • Complete information is available at Mass.gov.

  • The Mayor said the new schedule is good news, but it’s important to remember that access to an appointment depends on the supply of vaccines from the federal  government.

  • He said in Boston we are focused on access for our most highly impacted residents, including seniors and those in hard-hit communities. We are going to keep putting equity at the heart of our local efforts here in Boston.

  • We have vaccination sites all across the city that are open to all eligible residents, and we have resources to help you access them. You can visit Boston.gov/Covid19Vaccine for a map of sites and more information.

  • Boston residents 65 and older can call 311 and get connected to the City’s Age Strong Commission for help in multiple languages.

  • We continue to hold mobile vaccine clinics at affordable housing developments for seniors and those with disabilities.

  • And we continue to hold 50% of the slots at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury for people of color.

    • The Mayor announced that we have created new web and phone supports for accessing those appointments. You can visit Boston.gov/GetVaccinated to request an appointment, or call 617-635-5555.

  • For immigrant communities, we’re hosting a series of webinars on vaccination. The next one is on Thursday in Cabo Verdean Creole.

  • Veterans of all ages enrolled in VA Healthcare can get vaccinated at any VA Healthcare facility. Tomorrow, March 20, the City is partnering with the VA on a clinic at Urban Edge on Columbus Ave. in Roxbury from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free transportation is available, but please call ahead. Visit Boston.gov/Veterans or call 3-1-1 for more information.

Update on the Boston Public Schools:

  • The Mayor noted that he has visited over a dozen BPS schools in recent weeks,  to welcome students returning to in-person learning on the hybrid schedule. He credited teachers, school leaders, and staff for their work implementing this model.

  • BPS continues to work toward the state’s directive of full-time in-person learning in April. BPS sent out learning model selection forms earlier this week, and families are asked to complete them by Monday, March 22.

  • The Mayor acknowledged that it has been a tough year for students and a stressful one for many families. But there is good news to share.

  • Yesterday, the state released data showing that the Boston Public Schools, for the 2020 school year, had its highest four-year graduation rate ever recorded.

    • The rate went up from 73.2% in 2019 to 75.4% in 2020.

    • And the graduation rate has gone up by nearly nine percentage points since 2014.

    • Black, Latino, and white students, as well as both male and female students, all increased their graduate rates.

    • The dropout rate also went down across most student groups, including English Language Learners.

  • The Mayor expressed how proud he is of the class of 2020. “In their senior year they faced something no class has faced for 100 years, a global pandemic. It was frightening and it impacted their communities and their families, but they adapted and moved forward. I want to congratulate our students, and thank everyone who supported them, including teachers, school leaders and staff, district staff, coaches and counselors, and families. There is still a lot of work to do in our schools as we reopen and recover. But these numbers show that our students are resilient, our community is committed to supporting them, and we can continue to make progress.”

Expanded Paid Parental Leave benefit for City employees:

  • The Mayor described Paid Parental Leave as an important economic issue, highlighted during the pandemic when child care has been harder to access.

  • We depend on working parents and families, he said, and we have to support them, because if they can’t make things work, then our economy won’t work.

  • He recalled being a lead sponsor of the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act, which made paid leave available for all couples for the first time. And in 2015, the Mayor signed the City of Boston’s first-ever Paid Parental Leave policy for eligible employees.

  • The Mayor announced the expansion of that benefit. Eligible employees can now take up to 12 weeks of Paid Parental Leave during the first year after the birth or adoption of a child. This doubles the current benefit for employees. It will now provide 100% of income for 4 weeks; 75% for weeks 5 through 8; and 50% for weeks 9 through 12. If both parents are eligible City workers, each of them are entitled to the full benefit.

  • The Mayor said this policy improves the employee experience, modernizes our workplace, and supports our ability to attract and retain talent. It’s good for the quality of City government, and sets a good example for other employers. By helping working parents, we can help our economy come back stronger than before.

  • 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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