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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing on Tuesday, May 19th.

Did you miss Mayor Walsh’s presser today? Don’t worry! Here’s a recap of Mayor Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing from this afternoon. 

Case numbers:

  • As of Monday, May 18, in Massachusetts: 87,052 cases and 5,862 deaths. 

  • As of Tuesday, May 19, in Boston: 12,050 cases, 588 deaths, and 5,121 recoveries.

Updates on testing:

  • The Mayor provided an update on Boston’s COVID-19 testing progress, to provide context for how the City moves forward.

  • Last week, the citywide positive test rate was 13.9%. This was a new low and brings the city’s cumulative positive test rate to 27%, down 2 percentage points from the week before. The City has continued targeted outreach and testing in neighborhoods seeing the most cases, and as a result, those communities’ positive rates continue to go down.

  • The City also continues to build a citywide strategy for increased testing, which includes an effort that starts next week to test all first responders. 

  • Overall, the data tells us that we have been moving in the right direction on new cases, positive test rates, and hospitalization for about 3 weeks. 

  • He also said every data trend gives a reason for caution, in terms of how gradual our progress is, how necessary our precautions have been, and how much potential there is for new outbreaks if we don’t keep doing the right things. 

  • He urged everyone to continue:

    • Staying home and working from home as much as possible—especially older residents and those at high risk for illness.  

    • Washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces.

    • Covering your face when outside the home.

Implementing Phase 1 of the State’s Reopening Plan in Boston:

  • On Monday, May 18, the Governor launched Phase 1 of a statewide reopening plan.

  • The Mayor stressed that reopening does not mean “back to normal”—it means bringing caution and a commitment to stopping the spread of COVID-19 into workplaces and community spaces.

  • Boston will continue to meet the needs of families, seniors, and small businesses, as well as continue to follow the science and public health guidance, while monitoring the data at the city and state levels.

  • The Public Health Emergency declared on March 15 in the City of Boston remains in place until further notice. The same applies to the guidelines for physical distancing and face coverings, as well as the citywide recommended curfew of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. 

  • The Mayor noted that Boston is one of the most densely populated cities in the country, which is home to a very diverse population, and doubles in size as a regional workforce enters its workplaces every weekday. Special precautions unique to Boston will need to be taken into account. 

  • The City will continue to focus on equity and meeting the needs of vulnerable communities, families with children, seniors, and small businesses. 

  • The Mayor thanked the Governor, his Administration, and the Reopening Advisory Board for their work on the statewide reopening plan, and noted that the City had input into the plan and made sure Boston’s economy was understood and our communities were represented. 

  • He also noted that the City submitted a letter from Boston’s COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force articulating the need for a recovery that addresses the greater impacts felt in communities of color and low-income communities. 

Reopening construction:

  • Under the statewide plan: Construction can start the week of May 18.

  • Boston’s approach: Boston has a phased-in approach with comprehensive health and safety requirements. 

    • Starting this week (May 18): Work on schools, hospitals, smaller residential projects, and open-air construction can restart.

    • Starting on May 26: Other work allowed by the state may resume.

  • Contractors must submit a COVID-19 Safety Plan before returning to work. To help sites meet this requirement, the City has hosted virtual safety planning, as well as safety training for inspectors, and produced a video guide along with other reference materials. 

  • Already, nearly 2,300 safety plans have been submitted, and the City has trained all our inspectional staff and supplied them personal protective equipment.

Reopening office spaces:

  • Under the statewide plan: Office spaces will be allowed to open with 25% capacity starting on May 25. 

  • Boston’s approach: The City will take this step on June 1.

  • This timeline allows the City to work in collaboration with building owners and employers on safety plans that meet robust public health standards.

  • Every employer must create and implement plans for workplaces to minimize the spread of the virus, as outlined by the State.

  • The City is creating guidelines for offices to follow, based on national best practices and expert input.

    • These guidelines include shift scheduling, work-from-home policies, physical spacing, PPE, cleaning protocols, ventilation, employee communication, and more. These guidelines will be shared next week (week of May 25).

Reopening small businesses:

  • Under the statewide plan: Retail stores are allowed to open for curbside pickup on May 25, as well as some services, including hair care and car washes. 

  • Boston’s approach: The City is ready to help small businesses create plans that not only meet state guidelines, but go beyond them. However, we are also urging caution. 

  • The Boston Transportation Department has helped facilitate safe curbside pickup for essential businesses, and will expand that work as needed. The City is also developing creative public space solutions for pedestrians in business districts.

  • If businesses don’t feel comfortable opening, the City will back them in that decision and continue to make services and resources available to them. 

  • The City will provide more information in the days and weeks ahead to help employers and community organizations stay safe and connected. Small business owners can reach out to our Office of Small Business

Reopening houses of worship:

  • Under the statewide plan: Places of worship are allowed to open starting this week, at 40% capacity and with strict distancing practices and face coverings.

  • Boston’s approach: Places of worship must take a very cautious approach and are urged to not reopen if they have doubts about being able to plan, implement, and monitor strict safety guidelines. 

  • The Statewide “Safer at Home” policy remains in place, which advises against people 65 and older leaving home unless absolutely necessary. The Mayor urged seniors to adhere to the advisory and hold off on going back to places of worship, even if services restart. He also asked faith leaders to reach out to their elderly parishioners, to guide them and support them in putting safety first, and keep them connected in other ways.

  • The City has been getting questions about church choirs and hymns. The Mayor says they shouldn’t happen yet, given the added risk of virus transmission from singing in addition to speaking. Face coverings must be worn at all times.

National EMS Week:

  • The Mayor recognized this week as the 46th annual National EMS Week, a time to thank and honor the men and women of Boston EMS and its partner agencies.

  • He noted that in the last 2 months, Boston EMTs have cared for and transported nearly 7,000 patients with COVID-19 symptoms—and over 2,000 of those were confirmed positive. That work is on top of all the typical emergencies they respond to. Every call they take must be treated as a possible COVID case, with additional caution and care. Through it all, they act with compassion and professionalism, while demonstrating true courage in a crisis. 

  • He reminded everyone that if they are having a medical emergency of any kind, to call 911. The City’s EMTs and paramedics will respond and provide people with the care they need, and get them to the hospital if they need it. 

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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.