News

Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing on September 15th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.

Case numbers:

  • As of today (Tuesday) in Massachusetts: 286 new confirmed cases, for a total of 123,425. There were 6 deaths, for a total of 9,016.

  • Also as of today in Boston: 65 new cases, for a total of 16,310. There were 2 deaths, for a total of 759.

Overview of COVID-19 trends in Boston:

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

  • For the week ending September 7, the 7-day average positive test rate was 1.6%, and it continues to move in the right direction.

  • The city’s cumulative positive test rate since the pandemic began is 7.9%. Emergency Room visits for COVID symptoms, as well as the number of COVID patients in Intensive Care Units, remain low.

  • The Mayor shared one illustration of how far we’ve come in our containment of COVID-19: 90% of the deaths we’ve had in the City of Boston occurred before June 7.

  • Over 2,700 Boston residents were tested every day on average last week, and that number includes college students.

  • The Mayor provided updates on neighborhood testing data:

    • As of September 7 in East Boston, the 7-day positive test rate was 6.4%, and continues to go down from 11.4% three weeks ago.

    • The City’s community outreach and expanded testing response continues. The Mobile Testing Team will remain through Saturday in Central Square Park in East Boston.

  • Also as of September 7, the combined 02121 and 02125 zip codes in Dorchester and Roxbury had a slightly elevated rate of 4.1%.

    • The City is monitoring these numbers and the COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force is discussing potential responses.

  • The City will continue to bring resources where they are needed. That includes testing access; information in multiple languages; free food and rental relief for residents; and PPE and signage for small businesses. For more information and resources, visit boston.gov/coronavirus and boston.gov/reopening.

General COVID-19 reminders:

  • The Mayor reminded people about the steps they can take to help keep themselves and their family safe, and move the City forward in an equitable and healthy recovery:

    • Stay 6 feet from other people.

    • Wear a mask when leaving the house.

    • Wash hands and surfaces.

    • If you operate a business, follow the guidelines and make sure your employees and customers can follow them as well.

    • If you’re a college student, please follow your college’s guidelines.

    • If you live in a large household, with several roommates or multiple generations, be extra cautious.

    • Avoid large gatherings.

    • And if you have been to a party or gathering of any kind, assume you have been exposed to the virus and get tested.

  • The Mayor noted that COVID-19 is still with us, and that is why we will continue to put public health first and make equity a priority in our response, to help those who are hardest hit. We are working to build back stronger than before, and come out of this pandemic a healthier and more equitable city than we entered it.

Updates on Healthy Streets Program:

  • The pandemic brought a new urgency for safe and reliable transportation, especially for our frontline and essential workers. The City took the opportunity to make progress on our plans to improve our streets and public spaces.

  • Early in the summer, we launched the Healthy Streets program. We installed pop-up bike lanes downtown that connect to neighborhood commuting routes; we began offering free 90-day passes to Blue Bikes for essential workers; and we took steps to make neighborhood bus routes safer and more reliable.

  • Today, the Mayor announced some permanent street upgrades that advance the Healthy Streets program and meet some of our City’s key planning goals.

  • Starting this fall, we will install new bus lanes on neighborhood corridors where working people rely heavily on MBTA buses.

    • On Columbus Avenue in Roxbury, we’re building bus lanes in the middle of the roadway. They will have boarding platforms for passengers, with safety and accessibility features. The Mayor noted that nearly one third of the people who travel on Columbus Ave. are on buses, and that these lanes will make a big difference in reliability and travel time, and make the street work better for everyone.

    • On North Washington St. in the North End and West End, we’re adding a bus lane that will serve up to 12,000 commuters. That includes many essential workers who have been riding buses throughout the pandemic.

    • On Washington St. in Roslindale, we’ll add an outbound evening bus lane from Forest Hills to Roslindale Square. This route is used by 19,000 daily commuters, and we’ve seen success with the morning lane.

  • The Mayor also announced that the City is making many of our pop-up bike lanes into permanent separated bike lanes this fall.

    • That includes the route around Boston Common and the Public Garden: Tremont St., Boylston St., Charles St., Beacon St., and Arlington St. This is part of the City’s Connect Downtown network, linking neighborhood routes to downtown jobs while supporting recreation and tourism.

  • The City will adjust traffic signals to increase safety, and begin redesigning intersections to work better for pedestrians.

  • And we will continue to offer free 90-day Blue Bike passes. The Mayor noted that this past Sunday, Blue Bikes riders set the all-time daily record, with 14,403 rides.

  • We’re also going to keep working with residents on solutions for American Legion Highway from Dorchester to Roslindale, to improve safety.

  • To learn more about these plans, visit boston.gov/HealthyStreets. You can talk to the City’s transportation planners directly, in both outdoor office hours and virtual office hours.

Extending outdoor dining:

  • The Mayor talked about how the City has made small business recovery a priority in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

    • So far, the Small Business Relief Fund has awarded $6.7 million to nearly 1,700 businesses in need, across every neighborhood of the City.

    • The Reopen Boston Fund has provided $2.1 million in grants to over 1,200 small businesses for PPE, safety materials, and cleaning supplies.

    • The Outdoor Dining Program has been a lifeline for restaurants, at a time when indoor dining remains limited for health reasons.

      • The City has permitted over 550 restaurants for outdoor dining.

      • We continue to make portable mobility ramps available for accessibility, and restaurants permitted for outdoor dining can request a ramp by emailing ADA@boston.gov.

  • The Mayor announced an extension of the Outdoor Dining Program beyond its original end date of October 31. Restaurants using private outdoor space can continue to do so for the duration of the public health emergency.

    • Restaurants using public space on streets and sidewalks can continue until December 1, when the City will reevaluate the COVID situation. He also noted that outdoor dining is always weather-dependent here in New England.

  • The City will also waive application fees for the use of outdoor propane heaters in dining areas. Restaurants will still need a permit from the Fire Department, and safety regulations around their use will remain in place.

  • The Mayor noted how restaurants and other small businesses have faced challenges in this pandemic, and that they are the heart and soul of our local economy. The City will continue to listen and provide whatever support and flexibility we can to help them recover. You can learn more about all of our programs, guidelines, and directories of small businesses at boston.gov/reopening.

Police Reform Task Force community conversations:

  • Last week, the Police Reform Task Force published its draft recommendations. They are available in 6 languages at boston.gov/policereform. The City is determined to move forward in all the areas they talk about—oversight; diversity; use of force policies; technology; and transparency.

  • The Task Force is holding a final community listening session on Tuesday, September 22, at 4 p.m.

  • Written comments can be submitted until Friday, September 25, before the Task Force finalizes its recommendations.

Census Day of Action and standing up for immigrants:

  • There are only 15 days left to respond to the U.S. Census. The last day to respond is September 30. At this point, every day is critical.

  • The Census determines how the federal government assigns Congressional representation and funding for programs—both those that exist and those that may be created over the next 10 years.

  • Boston is still at a 57% response rate and we need to get that number up. Our immigrant communities and communities of color historically get under-counted and under-funded. Tomorrow, the City is holding a Census Day of Action with special outreach programs to encourage more participation.

  • Residents can fill out the 2020 Census by going to my2020census.gov or calling 844-330-2020, and should encourage their friends and family to do the same.

  • The Mayor talked about two recent federal court decisions that affect immigrants and their rights. Last week, a federal court blocked the President’s attempt to remove undocumented immigrants from the count for Congressional representation. The City of Boston was proud to fight that decision, and we believe all our residents deserve representation.

  • He also talked about a different decision made yesterday, which allowed the Trump Administration to move forward with a plan to take away Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from nearly half a million people. Boston has been fighting to protect TPS since 2017, and will have more information about our continued work in the days ahead.

  • The Mayor noted that TPS holders are here lawfully and would face danger returning to their country of birth. 12,000 residents of Massachusetts have TPS status, including Bostonians who are originally from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Nepal. They have lived here lawfully for years, and have children born here. They own homes and small businesses. They are also essential workers who have saved lives and got us through this pandemic.

  • The Mayor reminded TPS holders that this change would not go into effect until next year, and they can call 311 to connect with our Office for Immigrant Advancement for support.

  • He said the City is in a constant battle with this White House to protect our immigrant communities, respect the contributions they make, and live up to our ideals as a nation of refuge and opportunity. The Census count is one powerful way to fight back.

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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.