News

Recap of Mayor Walsh’s press briefing on Thursday, September 17th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J.Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday, September 17, 2020.

Remembering Regina Phillips:

  • The Mayor opened his press conference by acknowledging the passing of active-duty Boston EMT Regina Phillips on Wednesday.

  • EMT Phillips was a 12-year veteran of Boston EMS, where she was assigned to Ambulance 19. She was a lifelong Boston resident, a mother, a daughter, and a friend to many.

  • The Mayor said that our EMTs and paramedics have shown incredible courage and devotion in this pandemic, and that Regina Phillips exemplified those qualities. He said that EMT Phillips “cared for countless patients and bettered the lives of everyone she touched. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and with her brothers and sisters in Boston EMS.”

Case numbers:

  • As of today (Thursday) in Massachusetts: 419 new confirmed cases, for a total of 124,139. There were 15 deaths, for a total of 9,051.

  • Also as of today (Thursday) in Boston: 60 new cases, for a total of 16,430. No new deaths were reported, and the total remains at 759.

Overview of COVID-19 trends in Boston:

  • The Mayor provided an update on the overall COVID-19 trends we’re seeing in Boston.

  • For the week ending September 12, the positive test rate was 2.8%, up from 1.5% the week before. Some of that increase in the positive rate was due to fewer tests happening over Labor Day weekend.

  • The number of tests conducted went down dramatically, from around 3,300 per day the week ending September 5 to 1,800 per day in the week ending September 12. The number of positive tests during that same time period changed from an average of 49 per day to an average of 52 per day.

  • The Mayor said that it’s possible that as testing has ramped up again, the positive rate will have come back down, but that any increase in numbers is a concern and the City is looking very closely at it.

  • The Mayor highlighted one notable trend: 48% of new cases in the last two weeks of data are in people under the age of 30. He stressed that young people must be especially cautious, in order to protect themselves and the rest of the community as well, including older populations who tend to experience more severe symptoms if they contract the virus.

  • The Mayor also offered an overview of COVID-19 trends at the neighborhood level. East Boston was down to a positive test rate of 5.2%, which is good progress after a recent high of 11.4%. Mobile testing remains in East Boston through this Saturday and our multilingual outreach continues.

  • Several other neighborhoods saw an increase in the positive test rate, moving up to a level between 4% and 5%, including Allston-Brighton, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and West Roxbury. The other neighborhoods were all at or below 2.5%: Roxbury, South Boston, Jamaica Plain, Back Bay, South End, Fenway, Charlestown, Mattapan.

  • The City is looking at responses for the neighborhoods with higher positive rates or lower testing numbers. That will include a new location for our mobile testing unit in the Dorchester-Roxbury area.

  • The Mayor encouraged everyone to get tested, especially if you are going out to work, you live in a household where people are working, or you have been around other people in gatherings of any kind. The City has made testing available across the city, through investments and partnerships with community health centers. You can find testing locations and contact information at boston.gov/coronavirus.

Expansion of the City’s testing partnership with CVS:

  • In July, CVS began drive-thru testing at the pharmacy on Centre Street in West Roxbury.

  • Starting tomorrow, that service will be expanded to three more pharmacy locations: 4600 Washington Street in Roslindale, 207 Market Street in Brighton, and 181 Brighton Ave. in Allston. All three of these neighborhoods had higher positive rates last week.

  • The service runs seven days a week, by online appointment. The test is available at no cost to you, regardless of insurance. It’s open to anyone who has symptoms, a known exposure, has been to public gatherings, lives in certain group settings, or works in a high risk field. The minimum age has been reduced from 18 to 12. People under the age of 16 need to be with a parent or guardian.

  • The Mayor thanked CVS and their workers for their partnership on this effort.

Continuation of youth meal program during the school year:

  • The Boston Public Schools begins the school year with all-remote learning this Monday, September 21. The hybrid learning plan does not begin to phase in until October, first with the highest need and youngest students; and then with additional grade levels into November. All of these phases depend on the public health data being in a good place. We will not move forward unless the scientists and public health experts say it is safe.

  • There will be no interruption in food access for students, no matter what kind of school your child goes to, and no matter what learning model they are in. The City has been providing free meals at 66 sites: schools, BCYF centers, Boston Housing Authority buildings, YMCAs, and community organizations. The USDA waiver was extended to December 31, so we can continue the grab-and-go system at all these locations and more. See boston.gov/FoodResourcesMap. It doesn’t matter where your child goes to school: whether it’s at BPS; a charter, parochial, or private school; or home. No ID or registration is required to pick up meals, and your children do not need to be with you.

  • In addition, the Boston Public Schools will provide every single BPS student with free breakfast and lunch every school day, as we do every year. Starting next week, there will be 21 BPS sites where you can pick up five days of meals in one trip. Those sites will be open Tuesdays and Wednesdays for families to pick up a week’s worth of meals. When students enter schools for hybrid learning, they will be served meals safely in school. At the end of their two days in a school building, students in hybrid learning will be given three days of meals to take home for the rest of the week. For students who continue learning all remotely, the meal sites will continue to provide five days of meals. For special needs students having meals delivered to their homes, those deliveries will continue until they return to in-person learning.

Jobs available in the Boston Public Schools:

  • The City has job openings for bus monitors and several other positions. The Mayor encouraged any Boston residents to take a look at the postings, especially if you are out of work due to COVID and in need of opportunity. Go to bostonpublicschools.org/ohc.

An update on other citywide food resources and new partnership with Fair Foods:

  • The City of Boston also continues to support food distribution by grassroots organizations in the community. In the past month, the Boston Resiliency Fund has provided new grants totaling over half a million dollars to 25 local organizations. Since launching the fund, we’ve invested more than $26 million to meet the vital needs of our residents. About half of those funds have gone to feed children, families, and seniors.

  • The Mayor announced that the City will launch a new partnership this week to expand food access in our immigrant communities, with a local nonprofit called Fair Foods that gets nutritious food and produce to families who need it. Using a Resiliency Fund grant, Fair Foods will partner with over a dozen grassroots organizations that serve immigrant communities, where many do not qualify for state or federal assistance. They’ll provide fresh produce and food vouchers to families in need, regardless of their immigration status.  We’ve added the Fair Foods sites to our map at boston.gov/FoodResourcesMap.

Fighting to protect immigrants and refugees after new attacks from the White House:

  • The Mayor discussed what a difficult time this is for immigrant communities. They have been disproportionately hurt by the pandemic, and many have worked on the front lines. They’re also dealing with attacks and stigmatization from the White House, so the City’s support for them is more important than ever.

  • Today is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day in the United States. It’s a day that marks the signing of the Constitution in 1787, and it’s a day we celebrate the idea of citizenship and access to citizenship for new Americans. For the past seven years, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement partners with Project Citizenship, a Boston nonprofit supported by the legal community and other donors, dedicated to helping people become American citizens. Together, we hold the largest annual citizenship workshop in New England, helping hundreds of immigrants with their citizenship applications for free. Because of the pandemic, Citizenship Day must be held virtually this year.

  • Right now, immigrants are facing additional challenges. Starting on October 2, the federal government is raising the cost of the application fee for citizenship from $725 to $1200, and eliminating the fee waiver for most low-income residents. It is also increasing the green card application fee, and it’s imposing an asylum application fee, making the United States one of only four countries in the world to do so.

  • The Mayor expressed his outrage at these actions, saying, “These steps are not fair. They are not what our country stands for. Think about who an asylum seeker is: someone fleeing persecution, desperate for the freedom America promises. They’ve already paid a heavy, heavy price to leave their country and get to the United States. And they won’t even get a fair hearing, if they can’t pay. That’s a betrayal of what this country is all about. It’s the same with the citizenship fee.  American citizenship is about what you believe, not what you can pay. If you qualify to be a citizen, a financial barrier should not be what stands in your way.”

  • When the fee increase was proposed in 2019, the Mayor submitted a public comment opposing it. But as of now, the rule is moving forward in October. The Mayor continues to urge anyone who is ready to apply for citizenship to do so now, before the fee increases and the waivers are removed.

  • The City is taking other steps to support people who could be impacted by this rule change, as well. Project Citizenship has sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to block this change, and the Mayor’s administration and the City of Boston is leading the charge to back this fight.

  • Today, at the federal court here in Boston, the City of Boston submitted an amicus brief in support of Project Citizenship’s lawsuit. 33 American cities and counties, the United States Conference of Mayors, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council have signed onto our brief.

  • The Mayor said that he is calling on the courts to stop this new rule because it harms our city and it goes against the values America was founded on.

  • He invited Melanie Torres, the Executive Director of Project Citizenship, to speak. He then offered this reflection:

“We are lucky to have a community in Boston that sticks together and fights for American principles. We are a city that’s 29% foreign-born. We are a city where 30,000 people are right now eligible to apply for citizenship. When people make the commitment to be citizens, it helps our city and our country. Naturalized citizens earn more money and are able to invest more in the community.

But it’s deeper than the economic impact—it’s the idea that our country, at its best, represents. I’ve seen the naturalization process up close, in my family. I know that it can be intimidating. And I also know how emotional it is when you finally complete the process. It is not a bipartisan issue; it’s the American Dream.

This is something that all patriotic Americans believe. It’s the idea of a country built by everyone who believes in it, no matter their race, gender, place of birth—or how much money they have. It’s an idea worth fighting for. And we will never give up that fight.”

Reminder to respond to the 2020 U.S. Census:

  • The Mayor closed his press conference with another reminder to complete the 2020 U.S. Census before the Sept. 30 deadline.

  • The Federal government cut the response period short by a month as part of an attempt to under-count immigrants, and people of color, and underfund diverse cities like Boston.

  • The City of Boston is fighting this arbitrary deadline, and at the same time urging everyone to respond as soon as possible.

  • The Mayor reiterated that responding to the Census is completely safe to do, and it’s a way to make sure that the taxes you pay come back to your community in the form of local investments, programming, and resources.

  • Go to my2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020.

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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.