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Recap of Mayor Marty Walsh’s press briefing from September 23rd

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Wednesday, September 23, 2020.

Development in the Breonna Taylor case:

  • The Mayor began his press conference by acknowledging the news from Kentucky that the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor were not indicted by the grand jury. 
  • The Mayor expressed his outrage, saying that Breonna was a young woman with an entire life ahead of her, and that was taken away far too early. He said he stands with those who demand justice for Breonna, and that we must demand justice for every precious Black life that has been cut short by systemic racism in our country. 
  • He said his thoughts and prayers are with Breonna’s family, the people of Kentucky, and every single person across our country—including here in Boston—who is experiencing pain right now. He said there needs to be more transparency when incidents like this occur, and that justice demands it. 

Remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

  • The Mayor acknowledged the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, and offered the City’s respect as she lies in repose at the Supreme Court today. 
  • He said she was a champion for equality, and that in Boston, we are devoted to upholding her legacy. We fight for the rights she fought for, and we will have more to say about how we are doing that in the coming days.

Case numbers: 

  • As of today (Wednesday) in Massachusetts: 542 new confirmed cases, for a total of 126,408. There were 17 deaths, for a total of 9,135.
  • Also as of today (Wednesday) in Boston: 63 new cases, for a total of 16,766. Two additional deaths were recorded over the past three days, and the total remains at 761.
  • The Mayor also acknowledged that the United States had marked 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 yesterday, and extended his thoughts and prayers. 

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 Saturday, September 19, the positive test rate was 2.7%, which was roughly level with the week before. The cumulative positive test rate since March is now 7.3%.
  • We have seen a slight increase in our hospitalization numbers, so there is an uptick in COVID-19 activity. It has not crossed the threshold for major concern, but we will continue to monitor it carefully. The City will continue to bring resources where they are needed, and urge everyone to take this virus as seriously as ever. 
  • As far as the State metrics go, the Mayor also said that Boston is very close to moving into the “red” category on their map. That could happen today or next week. That means we are seeing eight new cases per day, per 100,000 people. 

    • The City will keep monitoring all our metrics and responding with targeted strategies. We’ll bring testing and resources where they are needed and address health inequities, as well as keep working with employers, colleges and universities, and with the community to keep taking precautions. And we will continue our cautious approach to reopening. 

New state guidance on restaurants and special events:

  • The State announced that restaurants can now seat up to 10 people at a table, starting September 28. In Boston, the seating guidelines will remain at a six person maximum. 
  • The other new steps outlined by State, regarding bar seating, menus, and self-serve drink stations, will move forward in Boston. Preview the new guidelines here
  • The Mayor said this decision is in line with the cautious approach to reopening that we’ve taken all along. It also responds to the specific conditions in Boston, which include high density, less space around restaurants, and the COVID-19 data, which we continue to watch closely. We’ll continue to be guided by our public health experts on how to move forward. 
  • He said the City will continue to support restaurants through relief and reopening funds; streamlined outdoor seating; customer engagement resources like online directories and free signage; and technical assistance for delivery services. Visit boston.gov/reopening, or contact the Office of Small Business, to learn more. 

An update on neighborhood trends:

  • The Mayor also gave an update on neighborhood trends. In the week ending September 19, most of our neighborhoods are under a 3% positive test rate.

    • East Boston’s rate was 6%, where it has been for a couple of weeks now. We’ve made strong progress and we’re working with the community to bring it down more.
    • Hyde Park and Roslindale were just over 4%
    • Dorchester was around 5%, and we are focused on bringing that rate down. That’s why, this week, the City’s mobile testing team is in Grove Hall in Dorchester. 

      • It’s at 40 Geneva Ave., across from Grove Hall branch library, through Saturday, October 3. 
      • Testing is available at no cost, and is available for people with and without symptoms. 
      • A map of testing sites can be found at boston.gov/coronavirus.
  • The Mayor continues to ask every single person in the City of Boston to be part of the solution and protect their communities by:

    • Staying six feet from other people;
    • Wearing a mask when you leave the house;
    • Washing your hands and cleaning surfaces;
    • And avoiding large gatherings. 
  • He especially stressed that young adults need to do their part to keep their families, friends, and communities safe. We need them to avoid parties as well as gathering indoors or in close groups outside. He asked them to talk to their friends about why they are making these choices: because they care about their community and about helping our city move forward in recovery. 

BPS back to school update:

  • The Mayor said Boston Public Schools opened the year remotely and successfully on Monday, and that it was a positive experience by many accounts. He thanked and congratulated everyone involved: teachers and principals; parents and guardians; and our courageous and resilient students. He also thanked the BPS leadership team for their incredible and ongoing hard work.
  • Teachers, school leaders, and families are reporting strong advances in remote learning since the spring, thanks to the extensive preparation by our school district, teachers, and principals.  

    • We have distributed over 40,000 Chromebooks to students, and that work continues.
    • We continue to expand access to the internet. 
    • We are committed to supporting students in whatever they need to succeed. 
  • The Mayor reminded everyone that our plan for hybrid learning is a phased-in plan. 

    • The highest needs students will begin in-person learning no sooner than October 1. 
    • Then, starting with kindergarten, each successive age group will begin two days per week in school, starting no sooner than October 15, October 22, November 5, and November 16. 
  • Moving forward on those dates depends on public health data and public health guidance. It’s important to note: we look at trends over time, not just one week of data. The Boston Public Health Commission is monitoring and studying the situation closely every single day, and we will adjust those dates if necessary.  
  • In the meantime, we continue comprehensive safety preparations in our school buildings. Operations and custodial staff are working hard, with support from City departments. In all 125 of our schools we are providing:

    • Dividers and distancing materials; 
    • Tools and strategies for ventilation and air flow; 
    • Sanitation stations and hygiene materials;
    • Daily cleaning and electrostatic foggers. 
  • We are focused on classrooms and hallways; offices and bathrooms; nurses stations, entrances and exits — every inch of space is being thoughtfully prepared. We are getting continual feedback from principals, teachers, staff. And we are committed to the protocols we have developed for students and staff. 

Testing partnership with the Boston Red Sox:

  • The Mayor said the City reached an agreement with teachers to provide COVID-19 testing and support. To implement this work, he announced a new partnership with the Red Sox and Major League Baseball to help us provide COVID-19 testing for Boston teachers. 
  • The testing program will begin at a location near Fenway Park and later move into other neighborhoods. 
  • Starting this week, 5% of Boston Teachers Union members will be invited to get tested each week through the end of 2020. A random sample of teachers will be tested from across the city, weighted toward teachers working in neighborhoods with higher positivity rates. 
  • This testing program is an important way to support our teachers and keep our schools safe, as we prepare for hybrid, in-person learning. 
  • The Mayor thanked President Sam Kennedy and the Red Sox for their support, and the Boston Public Health Commission for organizing and implementing this weekly testing plan. 
  • In addition, the Red Sox and JetBlue, in collaboration with Boston Pride, have donated more than 60,000 reusable masks to BPS students and teachers.

    • Students who return for in-person learning will receive a mask when they return to school this fall. 

Reminder to complete the 2020 U.S. Census:

  • Right now, the current deadline to respond to the U.S. Census is September 30, or seven days from today. As a reminder, the Trump administration cut the count short by a month, in a blatant attempt to undercount and underfund diverse communities like Boston.
  • While the City continues to urge the federal courts to change the timeline back to normal, we need every Bostonian to assume there are only seven days left to help determine our City’s future. 
  • The City has been working with every community in the city to get the message out, in every language. Recently we sent a mailer to over 300,000 addresses which tells people what they need to know about how to respond, and he asked everyone to share that message. 
  • The Mayor said that, since the passing of Justice Ginsburg, we’ve seen again how important representation is. It’s our voice in democracy and how we fight for our rights. 
  • To respond to the Census, go to my2020Census.gov.

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About the Author

Maureen Dahill

Maureen Dahill is the editor of Caught in Southie and a lifelong resident of South Boston sometimes mistaken for a yuppie. Co-host of Caught Up, storyteller, lover of red wine and binge watching TV series. Mrs. Peter G. Follow her @MaureenCaught.