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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Conference on April 29th

Did you miss the mayor’s press briefing on Wednesday? Don’t worry! You can still be informed. Here’s a recap of the facts, information and data shared during the COVID-19 press conference on April 29th. 

Case numbers as of Wednesday, April 29:

  • Massachusetts: 60,265 cases and 3,405 deaths.

  • Boston: 9,055 cases, 340 deaths, and 1,986 recoveries.

Extension of the Statewide stay-at-home advisory and essential services order:

  • The Mayor voiced his support for the Governor’s decision to extend the stay-at-home order, the ban on non-essential businesses operating physical locations, and the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people until May 18.

  • The Governor has also created a Reopening Advisory Board, comprised of public health, state and local government, and private industry leaders. As a member of the 17-person board, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Kathryn Burton will be the point person for coordinating the state and city reopening framework.

  • The Boston Public Health Commission’s Public Health Emergency remains in effect until further notice. The curfew advisory has been extended to May 18. All measures taken by the City of Boston will continue to be guided by local public health data and expert advice.

Expanding access to testing

  • This week, with support from the Boston Resiliency Fund, three more community health centers will start offering COVID-19 testing: Fenway Health in the Fenway neighborhood; Driscoll-Neponset Health Center in Dorchester; and Charles River Community Health in Brighton.

  • When they are up and running, there will be a total of 19 testing sites operating in the City of Boston.

  • Locations, hours, and contact information for all open sites are available at boston.gov/coronavirus.

  • The City continues to conduct universal testing for Boston’s homeless population in both city-run and nonprofit shelters.

  • Antibody testing of 1000 residents is also underway, and should be completed by the end of this week. Participants will be tested for the presence of antibodies as well as for the COVID virus itself. The data from the antibody testing program will provide a snapshot of how prevalent the outbreak is in certain zip codes, and provide important insights into how the virus spreads. The mayor thanked residents participating and noted that testing empowers them with knowledge about their own status.

New Boston Resiliency Fund grantees announced:

  • Today, 18 organizations were awarded a total of $1.4 million.

  • Grantees include community health centers, the Greater Boston Food Bank, local food providers in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan; organizations serving seniors; organizations serving unsheltered homeless people; and organizations serving immigrant communities that provide culturally specific food and services.

  • So far, including today’s awardees, the Boston Resiliency Fund has raised a total of $27.4 million from nearly 5000 donors, and distributed $15.2 million to 165 organizations.

Financial assistance for individuals:

  • The Mayor announced that the City has secured over $10 million in Federal funding to re-supply rental relief and small business relief programs and meet other essential needs.

  • The Mayor issued a reminder that the State passed legislation to ban evictions and foreclosures during the public health emergency.

  • Anyone struggling to pay their rent or mortgage should reach out to their landlord or bank and ask what options are available.

  • The City is working with its non-profit partners to process 800 applications for the Rental Relief Fund; and it’s working with the State and Federal governments to identify additional resources for this program.

  • Today the Mayor announced that two additional banks, Leader Bank and Berkshire Bank, have signed on to the City’s Foreclosure Prevention Plan, bringing the total to 17 lenders. Participating lenders agree to defer mortgage payments for at least three months, and more if necessary; to not report late payments to credit rating agencies; and to provide scheduled repayment plans.

  • Other recent signees include the Boston Firefighters Credit Union, and the lenders that work with Mass Housing and the Mass Housing Partnership on first-time homeowner programs.

  • The Mayor reminded residents that if they are having a difficult time paying their mortgage, they should reach out to their lender. The Boston Home Center is also available to provide additional assistance at 617-635-HOME.

Update on food access:

  • The City and its partners have served more than half a million meals at 65 youth-oriented meal pickup sites across the city since the school closure went into effect.

  • Seven of these meal sites are now serving adults, focusing on the neighborhoods with the greatest needs. The newest one opened today at the East Boston Social Center. Tomorrow, an eighth site will come online at the BHA’s Alice Taylor apartments in Roxbury.

  • A map of meal sites and information about other food resources are available at boston.gov/coronavirus.

Resources for small businesses:

  • By the end of this week, the City’s Small Business Relief Fund, which started with $2 million, will have distributed 83% of those funds to over 500 businesses in the City of Boston.

  • New federal funding will allow the City to fulfill all eligible and approved grant requests for small businesses in the industries most impacted by the COVID-19 response.

Expanding internet access

  • So far, the City has distributed over 30,000 free Chromebook laptops and 2,400 free WiFi hotspots to get families online. The City will continue to provide these resources, which are important as the next phase of distance learning is introduced by BPS in the coming week. To request a Chromebook, go to bostonpublicschools.org or call 3-1-1. And to request WiFi, contact your child’s school directly.

  • For those who already have service, Boston’s internet and wireless providers agreed to suspend service cut-offs and late fees through March and April. Verizon, Comcast, and RCN have extended their pledge through June 30.

Precautions individual residents should continue to take during the outbreak:

  • Distancing and hygiene remains critical to flattening the curve and saving lives.

  • The Mayor urged residents to stay home and avoid contact with others; respect the recommended curfew from 9pm to 6am; wear a face covering whenever they leave home; stay at least six feet from other people at all times; wash their hands and clean and sanitize surfaces frequently.

  • The Mayor made a specific plea to runners and cyclists. He said that they need to wear a face covering when exercising in order to protect themselves and others. He reminded residents that many people who are infected with COVID do not show symptoms, and may not be aware that they are passing it along when they run or bike near others.

  • The Mayor repeated his call for people to not hesitate to seek medical help if they are experiencing a medical emergency. If residents are having mild or moderate symptoms consistent with the coronavirus, they should call their doctor or the 3-1-1 Health Line. But if they are having a medical emergency of any kind, including difficulty breathing, chest pains, or signs of stroke, they should call 9-1-1 immediately. That also applies to anyone who feels threatened by violence in the home, or is aware of abuse going on.

  • The City of Boston is asking City and community leaders, local organizations, and non-profit partners to push these messages out to their networks.

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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.