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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing from October 29th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday, October 29, 2020.

Case numbers:

  • As of today (Thursday) in Massachusetts: 1,243 new confirmed cases, for a total of 151,741 confirmed cases. There were 27 new deaths, for a total of 9,727.

  • As of today (Thursday) in Boston: 184 new cases, for a total of 20,170. There were 4 new deaths, bringing the total to 782. The Mayor noted that the City has passed the 20,000 case mark, or 2.9% of Boston’s population, a clear indicator of the reach of the virus and the work needed to prevent further spread.

Update on COVID-19 data:

  • For the week ending on Saturday, October 24, the average number of Boston residents who tested positive each day was 121, up from 95. The positive test rate was 7.8% up from 6.2%.

  • This data shows a continued increase in COVID activity in Boston, similar to what we are seeing statewide.

  • It is not close to the levels we saw in April. Hospital admissions for COVID are less than 10% of what we saw at our peak.

  • But the focus, by all of us, must be to stop the spread and turn this trend around.

Targeted outreach to impacted communities:

  • Neighborhoods with positivity over 10% last week were Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and East Boston.

  • In the last two months, we’ve visited hundreds of businesses and distributed over 2,000 COVID care kits to residents and businesses, with information in several languages. That work continues.

Adjusting reopening plans:

  • The Mayor said the health and safety of our students and school communities are a top priority, and last week, the Boston Public Schools went to fully remote learning.

  • We’re going to keep the reopening plan paused, until we see consistently lower positivity rates.

  • BPS continues to work hard to make remote learning the best it can possibly be, and the attendance numbers remain strong.

  • They are working to make sure students with the highest needs can get their services and supports.

  • We continue to have free meals available to all youth and families at 98 sites citywide. That includes 26 BPS schools where you can pick up a week’s worth of meals in a single visit. You can find them all at boston.gov/BostonEats.

Halloween guidance and opportunities:

  • The Mayor said that Halloween must be very different this year.

  • If you want to place individually wrapped candies on a tray in front of your house, you can do that.

  • But there should be no knocking on doors to keep face-to-face contact as minimal as possible.

  • Families should go out only with your own household, not larger groups.

  • There should always be at least six feet of distance between people.

  • We all must wear proper face coverings. A Halloween costume is not PPE. It does not protect you.

  • He also needed to remind adults: there should be no parties this weekend.

  • The City is suggesting a range of safe alternatives, including City-sponsored activities like a virtual pumpkin carving contest, and a Dia de Muertos altar in Franklin Park.

  • Safety guidelines and activities are available at boston.gov/halloween.

Re-emphasizing safety for businesses and organizations:

  • The Mayor noted that the Boston Athletic Association has postponed the 2021 Boston Marathon. It will not take place as it normally does in April, and they are seeking an alternate date in fall 2021 at the earliest. He thanked the BAA for this example of proactive caution.

  • The Mayor urged all employers to follow the State and City safety guidelines for their industry posted at boston.gov/reopening.

  • He noted that, in addition to parties, workplaces are a likely site for viral transmission, and urged employers to provide a safe work environment for their employees.

Get the Test, Boston” pledge, campaign, and social media toolkit:

  • The Mayor announced a new initiative to encourage everyone to get tested regularly for COVID-19.

  • He discussed the importance of getting tested as part of keeping yourself and your family safe, and helping the City track the presence of the virus and respond effectively.

  • He noted that the City has greatly expanded access to testing since the spring, with now more than 30 active testing sites across Boston. You can find them at boston.gov/covid19-testing-map.

  • The City is currently investing in more testing resources, more contact tracing capacity, and more ability to support people who need to quarantine.

  • But, despite increased access, we’ve seen our daily testing numbers fall off in recent weeks.

  • The Mayor said we need to get more people tested, and asked for everyone’s help.

  • Reasons to get tested immediately include having COVID-like symptoms, having been exposed to someone with a confirmed case, having been part of a large gathering, or having recently traveled.

  • In addition, he said, the virus is spreading among people who don’t have symptoms who may not know they’ve been exposed. So we want everyone to be proactive and get tested if you are leaving your house for any reason.

  • Recognizing that asymptomatic testing is not always covered by insurance, the City has created mobile testing units that test anyone for free, regardless of criteria. Currently, our mobile units are in Central Square in East Boston, and Nubian Square in Roxbury. For other sites, such as community health centers, you should call ahead to find out what the criteria are.

  • The Mayor noted that he gets tested regularly and that it’s a quick and painless experience. He also called it an opportunity to arm yourself with knowledge and be part of our community’s defense against this virus.

  • We will soon have stickers available at our mobile testing sites that say “I got the test” to help raise awareness and show there is no stigma to getting tested.

  • We also have a social media toolkit available and we’re asking everyone to promote the importance of getting tested throughout their networks.

Employer testing pledge:

  • The Mayor recognized that work hours can make it harder to find time to get tested, so he is asking employers to make it easier for workers to get tested.

  • The “Get the Test, Boston” Pledge is a commitment that employers and individuals can make to support testing access. It keeps your workforce healthy and productive, it prevents an outbreak that could hurt business, and it’s a way to help our city avoid having to roll back reopening.

  • The City of Boston is taking the Pledge and offering eligible City employees one paid hour every 14 days to get tested during work hours. Employees will receive regular compensation for their time spent testing, and will not be required to use sick or personal time for that hour.

  • Other employers can fulfill the Pledge in ways that work for them and their industry. All you have to do is encourage your employees to get tested and provide them with information about how and where to get tested. You can also consider giving paid time off, or other forms of flexibility, for workers to get tested during work hours.

  • The Mayor thanked the more than 20 employers who have already taken the Pledge, including the Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics; Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College, and the Benjamin Franklin Institute; MassChallenge, Rapid 7, and Wayfair; Stop and Shop and the Local 26 UNITE HERE hotel workers union.

Continued support for residents facing COVID-related challenges:

  • For older Bostonians:

    • The Mayor asked seniors to take precautions and stay home as much as possible.

    • He said the City can provide access to food and medication deliveries, and also care and connection to help overcome loneliness.

    • He also highlighted the Seniors Save home repair program, which currently has 80 projects underway.

    • He urged seniors with concerns to call 311 to talk to our Age Strong Commission.

  • For those struggling with housing costs:

    • The City’s Rental Relief Fund is open again, with $5 million available to help pay rent. If you are a tenant who needs Rental Relief or a landlord who wants to learn more, visit boston.gov/HousingStability.

    • And if you are a homeowner concerned about paying your mortgage, reach out to your lender as soon as possible to find out what flexibility they offer. You can also check in with the Boston Home Center about the programs they have available to prevent foreclosure.

    • The Mayor said we need to keep everyone safely housed as winter approaches and this pandemic continues.

  • For small businesses:

    • The Mayor said the City remains dedicated to helping small businesses make it through this difficult time.

    • So far we’ve distributed over $9 million in relief and reopening funds, and we still have grants available through the Reopen Boston Fund.

    • Business owners with questions or concerns can reach out to our Small Business office by emailing SmallBiz@boston.gov.

    • The Mayor also thanks larger businesses who are helping small businesses in our city.

    • He cited a partnership with SimpliSafe, a national leader in security based in downtown Boston, to donate 250 security systems and 12 months of professional monitoring to small businesses Boston.

  • For vulnerable residents:

    • The City and its nonprofit partners continue the work of the Boston Resiliency Fund.

    • This week we invested in community organizations that are caring for neighbors in Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, South End, Chinatown, and Charlestown. They include:

      • A free COVID-19 testing site in Grove Hall at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge on Washington Street.

      • The work of churches in the Black Ministerial Alliance to provide food and basic needs to seniors and families in the community.

      • The work of the Asian American Civic Association to help seniors and the disabled.

    • In total through the Resiliency Fund we have brought $28.4 million in resources to our communities. The Mayor thanked the nonprofits doing this selfless work and everyone who has donated to the Resiliency Fund, and said we will continue to be there for our most vulnerable neighbors for as long as it takes.

Election update:

  • The Mayor noted that this is a historic election and there is tremendous interest in voting. He said the Administration is committed to making sure voting is safe and accessible for all.

  • He acknowledged concern about the incident in Copley Square on Sunday in which a dropbox and several ballots were damaged by fire. He thanked the Boston Fire Department, Boston Police Department, and Elections Department for their quick response, along with state and federal partners.

  • He assured voters that there is no known threat to our voting system, and we are doing whatever it takes to protect safe access to the ballot box.

  • So far, between mail-in voting and in-person voting, the early turnout is record-setting. As of October 28, more than 138,000 Bostonians have cast their ballot — that’s over 32% of registered voters in Boston.

  • By comparison, in the 2016 presidential election, we had just over 277,000 votes cast for the entire November election, at a 67% turnout rate.

  • He thanked the Elections Department and all the workers and volunteers for the hard work they are doing.

  • The Mayor encouraged everyone, whatever method you use, to make a plan now and vote as soon as possible.

  • Early, in-person voting continues through tomorrow, and our 17 drop boxes will be available to deposit your mail-in ballot through 8 p.m. on November 3.

  • He noted that, per state directive, on Halloween, drop boxes will be emptied and locked from 5 p.m. Saturday until Sunday morning, due to security concerns.

  • If you put your ballot in the mail, it must be postmarked by November 3 and arrive at the Election Department by November 6.

  • For in-person voting, every site is COVID safe, and every site is wheelchair accessible, with an AutoMark machine for those with low vision or limited dexterity.

  • For more information, visit boston.gov/elections. Or call 311 if you have any questions or concerns.

  • The Mayor closed his remarks with the following comment: “I know that many are experiencing anxiety around this election, and it’s heightened by the pandemic and everything that’s at stake. I encourage you to take care of your mental health. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone or ask for help. You can reach out to a health provider or trusted community organization, or you can call 311 and we’ll connect you to resources. And I encourage everyone worried about national events to look to the unity and the compassion we have here in Boston. Whoever you are, whatever your identity, whatever your struggles — we respect you, we support you, and we will continue to support you. As a city, we are doing what we need to do. We will keep doing the right thing, we will keep moving forward, and we will keep being here for each other, no matter what.”

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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.