8.5 min readBy Published On: November 18th, 2020Categories: News0 Comments on Recap of Mayor Walsh’s press briefing on Tuesday 11/17

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s press briefing on Tuesday, November 17, 2020.

COVID-19 cases and testing data:

  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts on Tuesday reported 2,263 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 186,774 cases. The state reported 20 new deaths, for a total of 10,130 people who have passed away due to COVID-19.

  • The City of Boston on Tuesday reported 234 new cases, for a total of 24,393 cases. The City reported 1 new death, for a total of 889.

  • For the week ending on November 12:

    • An average of 2,340 new Bostonians got tested each day, and the average number of daily positive tests went up to 224.

    • The result was a positive test rate among unique individuals of 9.6% on our existing metric.

    • Seven neighborhoods had positive rates over 10%, with East Boston, Dorchester, and Hyde Park experiencing the highest rates.

    • Our free mobile testing sites remain this week in East Boston, at Central Square Park; and Mattapan, at Jubilee Christian Church. In all, we have over 30 testing sites in Boston. Information about all the testing sites is at boston.gov/coronavirus, or you can call 311.

Updating and expanding our COVID metrics:

  • The Mayor reiterated the City’s priority in this crisis: to keep people safe and contain this virus, we have to follow the science and we have to follow the data.

  • What that means, he explained, is that our public health experts collect comprehensive testing data and hospital data. They analyze it to understand how and where the virus is spreading, and the impact it is having. We shape our responses and our guidance based on what the data indicates. And, we share the data with the public, so you can be armed with knowledge to help keep yourself, your family, and your community safe.

  • That’s a process of continual feedback and learning because, just as this epidemic evolves and its impact on our neighborhoods evolves, our knowledge about it must evolve as well. We need to adapt and update our understanding of COVID spread in the community.

  • The Mayor announced that, starting this week, the City will be publishing a total of six key metrics relating to test results and hospital usage. The goal, he said, is to give you the most current and comprehensive picture of the virus as we can. “The more we know, and the more you know, the better informed and prepared we can all be.”

  • Health and Human Services Chief Marty Martinez elaborated on the new metrics and the reasoning behind them.

Responding to the continued increase in COVID-19 activity:

  • The Mayor emphasized that every metric right now is telling us that we are in the midst of a significant and concerning increase in COVID activity in our city. The daily case increases we are seeing are starting to look like numbers that we saw near our peak, in April and May. Hospital admissions are not at that level, but they have increased over time. We all must be focused on turning this trend around.

  • The Mayor said that the City is looking closely at what steps we can take to further limit the risk of transmission.

  • We have taken a cautious approach throughout this pandemic, making safety our priority.

    • We pulled back on in-person learning in the Boston Public Schools. This week we were able to bring back 150 students with the highest needs, who desperately need in-person services. The Mayor thanked the families and teachers for making that possible.

    • We have kept our limits on gathering sizes low. Private, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, and private outdoor gatherings to 25 people. For events in public spaces, the limit is 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.

    • We’ve worked with the state to limit restaurant hours and retail hours, and put in place a Stay-at-home advisory for the hours between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

  • But, the Mayor cautioned, if these case numbers continue to go up, we’ll have to go further.

  • He said he is mindful of the impact that restrictions have on our economy and small businesses. But we must put the health of our community first because, in the end, there is no economic recovery without public health.

Expanding support for small businesses:

  • The Mayor pledged to support small businesses through whatever measures are necessary.

  • He noted that we have distributed close to $10 million so far, and the Reopen Boston Fund is still available to pay for safety materials and PPE.

  • This week, we launched three new funds making a total of $6.3 million available. These new funds are targeted to the hardest-hit businesses in the hardest-hit industries and each provides grants of up to $15,000.

    • One is for help paying commercial rent.

    • One is for restaurants, to help them commit to paying a living wage to their workers. It’s a partnership with some innovative national nonprofits, as well as the City Council.

    • And another is for businesses certified as minority, women-owned, or veteran owned enterprises.

  • We held webinars yesterday about how to apply, and those webinars are posted online. You can email [email protected], or call 311 and ask for our Office of Small Business, to learn more.

Strengthening our precautions against viral transmission:

  • The Mayor said that the City is prepared to support our small businesses, our residents who need food access or rent relief, our communities that suffer from health care inequities and racism, and our essential and frontline workers who care for the sick, with whatever it takes to get through another surge.

  • But, he urged, “we don’t have to go down that road.” We are one of the places in America that went through a major surge already, and we know we have what it takes, to rapidly bring our numbers down.

  • He urged everyone to wear a mask at all times outside the house; wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water; wipe down frequently touched surfaces; and avoid gathering with people from outside your household.

  • The Mayor said that Boston’s contact tracing is showing two main locations where the virus is spreading: workplaces and gatherings in people’s homes.

  • In the workplace, he said, people are letting their guard down, forgetting that each of our colleagues interacts with numerous people outside of work.

  • He reminded individuals to practice all the essential COVID precautions in the workplace. He urged employers to follow all the guidelines for ventilation, spacing, and capacity, and continue to permit and promote working from home wherever possible.

Practicing COVID safety on Thanksgiving:

  • With in-home gatherings a major source of transmission, the Mayor urged everyone to plan carefully for a safe Thanksgiving.

  • He urged all Bostonians to spend Thanksgiving day in person with only members of their current household.

  • Larger gatherings with extended family present a big risk factor and the odds of outbreaks go up dramatically.

  • He urged people to make those connections virtually and to focus on the gratitude at the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday rather than the in-person traditions this year.

  • Those who do gather with family he urged to limit the number of guests. In Boston, indoor gatherings should be 10 people or less, and there are no exceptions for holidays.

    • Everyone should wear a mask when they are not eating or drinking, and everyone should stay six feet apart as much as possible.

    • Look at your ventilation, open windows if needed, and consider spending time outdoors, weather permitting.

    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.

    • Anyone who travels out of state should follow the state guidelines on quarantine and testing when you return. And everyone who participates in any kind of gathering should get tested before and after Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving guidance for colleges and universities:

  • The Mayor noted that normally, many students travel to their hometown for Thanksgiving and then return to campus for the rest of the term. The Administration has asked colleges and students not to do that this year. If you go home for Thanksgiving, the Mayor emphasized, you should not be returning to Boston this semester.

  • The Mayor thanked Emerson College and Suffolk University for simplifying the issue by going fully remote after Thanksgiving. He thanked Boston University and Harvard University for instructing students not to return if they go home. He thanked others who are taking some version of this approach, and he asked all colleges and universities to take similar steps, to help us contain the spread of this virus at a critical time.

Leading the work on climate action and resilience:

  • The Mayor closed his remarks by addressing the King Tide coastal flooding we saw again yesterday. He noted that this phenomenon is a product of sea level rise that we know is being accelerated by climate change, and called it a reminder of the urgency we need to bring to this issue.

    • This is why we’re implementing a Climate Ready Boston plan, to build a resilient shoreline that protects our homes and businesses from flooding.

    • It’s why we’re spending at least 10% of our capital budget on resilience projects like Resilient Boston Harbor, that also create new open space.

    • It’s why we have a goal of being a 100% carbon neutral city by 2050, and a roadmap to get there. The Mayor noted that this goal requires investing in public transit, not making cuts to the MBTA.

  • The Mayor said he is honored and grateful to have been named the new Chair of U.S. Climate Mayors, a national coalition of 450 cities who never wavered in their commitment to the Paris Agreement, or to protecting residents from the impacts of climate change.

  • He shared that on Tuesday afternoon, he would be leading a national discussion of the U.S. Climate Mayors, focused on how climate action will help our country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • A recording of that conversation is available here.

  • He closed with the following reflection:

“We face considerable challenges, but we have more reason for hope and optimism right now than we’ve had in a long time. We have an opportunity moving forward to partner with Washington in this environmental work, and I will continue to take action in Boston while advocating for federal progress. In Boston, we will fight for our safety today and lead forward for a better tomorrow.”

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