11.2 min readBy Published On: December 14th, 2020Categories: News0 Comments on Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing from 12/14

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s press briefing on Tuesday, December 14, 2020.

COVID-19 cases and testing data:

  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts yesterday reported 4,677 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 279,574 cases. The state reported 41 new deaths, for a total of 11,098 people who have passed away due to COVID-19.

  • The City of Boston today reported 374 new cases, for a total of 33,323 cases. The City reported 1 new death, bringing the total to 953.

Updates on testing:

  • For the week ending on December 6: we had an average of 5,552 people tested each day, which is up nearly 38% compared to the week before.

  • Testing activity increased since Thanksgiving, and we continue to work on expanding access.

  • This week, mobile testing units are at these locations:

    • in Jamaica Plain at the Mildred Hailey Apartments on Heath Street, from today (Monday) through Thursday.

    • In Roxbury, at Washington Park Mall on Warren St. from Tuesday through Saturday.

    • And our new, high-capacity site in Hyde Park, at Boston Renaissance Charter School on Hyde Park Ave., also from Tuesday through Saturday.

    • Please call ahead before visiting these sites.

  • For information on hours and over 30 testing sites citywide, visit Boston.gov/Coronavirus or call 311.

Updates on positivity:

  • For the week ending December 6, the average number of positive tests each day for Boston residents was 438. That number spiked after Thanksgiving, and has stayed at that elevated level for most of December so far.

  • Our community positivity rate for the week ending December 6 was 7.2%. That is up from 5.2% the week before.

  • Dorchester, East Boston, and Hyde Park remain the neighborhoods with the highest positivity, between 10% and 12%. Roxbury, Roslindale, and South Boston were also over 8%. And we saw increased positivity in every single neighborhood of our city. So wherever you live or work in Boston, the COVID virus has been spreading.

Updates on hospital capacity:

  • In addition to the elevated case data, activity in Boston hospitals also continues to increase.

  • On each of the key metrics that we track, the data is moving closer to our thresholds for concern. Those include: Daily Emergency Room visits for COVID-19; availability of adult medical and surgical beds; and total occupancy of Intensive Care Units. We are also seeing this increased activity in our Boston EMS calls.

  • The Mayor said that he and his team are in contact with local hospitals. They have surge plans ready, to be able to expand capacity and treat everyone who needs it. They are not in danger, at the moment, of being overwhelmed.

  • But, what they are seeing confirms the continued spread of the virus, and shows that more people are getting very sick.

  • The Mayor said that if we don’t stop these trends, we will be in for a very difficult winter. So, our public health experts have been analyzing this data closely and developing a plan. Rather than wait until the situation gets worse, the City of Boston is taking action now.

Temporary return to modified Phase Two, Step Two of reopening plan:

  • Today the Boston Public Health Commission issued a supplemental order adjusting COVID-19 restrictions in the City of Boston. Starting this Wednesday, December 16, Boston will move back into a modified Phase 2, Step 2 of reopening, for at least three weeks.

  • The goal of this three-week pause is to slow the spread now, so we can avoid a more severe shutdown later on.

  • The Mayor said that he continues to prioritize essential activities, like getting more high-needs children back into schools, as we are doing today.

  • The Mayor has been in close contact with communities across Greater Boston and we are taking a regional approach, for maximum effectiveness. Several cities and towns are taking steps this week, with modifications fitted to their particular needs, including Newton, Somerville, Brockton, Winthrop, and Arlington.

  • The Mayor emphasized that this is not about targeting specific sectors as the cause of viral spread. This is an effort to reduce overall activity outside the home, using the mechanisms afforded by the state reopening plan. We want to minimize the negative impact on working people and small businesses.

  • After three weeks, we will re-evaluate the situation. If the metrics have moved in the right direction, we’ll lift these restrictions.

  • Some of the changes that go into effect on Wednesday, December 16 include:

    • Museums, movie theaters, aquariums, and indoor event spaces will temporarily close to in-person use.

    • Fitness centers, health clubs, and gyms close to general use. One-on-one personal training can continue, with space restrictions. Outdoor gym activities can operate with fewer than 25 people, following Phase 2 guidelines.

    • Indoor recreational and athletic facilities will close for general use. Consistent with Phase 2, structured youth programs at community centers may continue.

    • Indoor facilities for lower contact activities will also temporarily close, including bowling alleys, batting cages, driving ranges, and rock climbing gyms.

    • The Mayor thanked these businesses and cultural institutions for their cooperation and support, saying that the vast majority have worked hard to be in full compliance at every stage, and they will have the City’s full support in reopening and recovery.

  • Activities that can continue as part of Phase 2 include:

    • Retail stores and personal services like hair salons and barber shops can remain open.

    • Outdoor theaters and performance venues at the 25-person limit.

    • Office space will remain limited to 40% capacity. The Mayor urged all employers to make sure that anyone who can work from home, is working from home.

    • In addition: indoor dining at restaurants and bars may continue, with strict adherence to guidelines. Those include six-foot spacing, six guests per table, 90-minute time limits, and the 9:30 p.m. closing time. One change: during this pause, bar seating will not be allowed, except with special approval granted by the Boston Licensing Board. This is to ensure materials are in place to protect both staff and customers.

  • You can find more details about how this order affects each sector at boston.gov/reopening.

Additional details and resources for restaurants:

  • The Mayor recognized that people have concerns about indoor dining.

  • He said: “There are concerns about the possibility of viral transmission. There are concerns about the ability of restaurants to survive closures and restrictions. I hear both of these concerns and we are responding to both of those concerns. Our approach is to follow the Phase 2 guidance, with additional restrictions. We’re restricting bar seating to special approvals, as I mentioned. And we are increasing enforcement of all the guidelines, for all licensed businesses. We will have an emergency Licensing Board meeting every Monday to address violations.”

  • The Mayor also appealed to restaurant patrons and small business customers to be part of the solution. The City has heard from owners that it can be very difficult to police customers who keep their masks off or ignore distancing guidelines. He asked everyone who dines in a restaurant or visits a store to do your part and follow the guidelines, and whenever possible, use take-out and delivery services.

  • The City of Boston will be hosting webinars on Tuesday, December 15 to provide guidance and answer questions from business owners. All of the webinars will be available live on the Office of Economic Development’s Facebook page. They will cover a variety of topics:

  • You can also join our weekly small business conference call tomorrow (Tuesday December 15) at 3 p.m. Visit boston.gov/SmallBusiness or the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development’s Facebook page. 

  • Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese simultaneous interpretation will be available for all of the webinars and small business conference call.

  • The Mayor also issued a reminder that The Reopen Boston Fund is still accepting applications to help small businesses with debt-free grant support.

Update on in-person learning:

  • A month ago, on November 16, we opened four schools for 200 high needs students. And today, 28 Boston Public schools are reopening with in-person learning for roughly 1,700 of our highest needs students.

  • These are young people who face risks to their wellbeing when they are not in school. And, they are students whose families have opted in to in-person learning.

  • The Mayor said that the City has been doing everything we can to get them back in school, and that’s part of what today’s actions are about: we reduce non-essential activities, so we can prioritize education.

  • The School Department, with the support of the entire Administration, has thoroughly prepared these 28 schools for COVID safety:

    • Air purifiers in every occupied space and frequent air quality testing.

    • Best possible filters in all HVAC systems.

    • Medical grade PPE for all staff.

    • Disposable masks available to students and staff.

    • This week, we are also launching a new COVID testing pilot for teachers, staff, and students.

  • This is a level of protection that goes beyond CDC guidelines, beyond state guidelines, and beyond what the vast majority of districts are doing.

  • The Mayor credited Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and her team for doing this work and prioritizing the students who most need our support.

  • The Mayor addressed the vote that the teachers union took yesterday that criticized the district and the superintendent.

    • He said: “That action doesn’t help our collective efforts at a critical time. I value deeply the work that our teachers are doing and have done, all year, under very difficult circumstances. I am sympathetic to their concerns about COVID safety. These are all of our concerns and we are responding to those concerns. 100% of the safety measures that the teachers union requested, are implemented in all the schools we have opened. The result is that, today, many more high needs students and their dedicated teachers and support staff are in school, working together, being safe, and learning. That’s a great accomplishment by all involved. We’re going to continue to support our teachers and school staff in that work. And we’re going to keep our promise to the families of our city to do everything we can to get kids safely back in school, where they belong. I have absolute confidence in the Superintendent and her team’s commitment to these values and this work.”

The need for Federal support:

  • The Mayor said that a national relief and stimulus package is long overdue, and that the actions we take today would be much more straightforward with federal backing for the workers and businesses affected.

  • He said that the Biden-Harris administration plans to act immediately to bring comprehensive support, but the American people can’t wait until the Inauguration on January 20, 2021.

  • The emergency unemployment benefit is set to expire on the last day this year. The CDC moratorium on evictions is set to expire on the same day. That’s a little over two weeks from now, which could be the worst period in the entire pandemic.

  • The Mayor said that since the beginning of the pandemic, he has advocated to the Federal Government to do the right thing and help individuals, small businesses, cities, and states, and sent letters and made phone calls on every essential issue, including: food benefits, childcare, small business relief, immigration protections, low income housing and homeless supports, and supports for arts and culture organizations.

  • He said that mayors and governors shouldn’t have to be begging for help; Congress and the sitting Administration should do their jobs.

  • He said: “The American people need help now. Small businesses need help. Nonprofit organizations need help. Cities and states need help. Much of the essential work that we do depends on federal funding. I know there are differences in what the parties want to prioritize, but something has to get done, and the partisanship must be put aside. We will continue to press and move forward however we can.”

Vigilance during the holiday season:

  • The Mayor said that this is, and must be, a collective effort. We need everyone to be part of this. We cannot let our guards down, even a little bit. Everyone must keep wearing masks, handwashing, and avoiding crowds. When you go out, only go out for essential needs; and please follow this guidance while visiting any business.

  • He also asked everyone to make a decision, today, to commit to safety over the holidays. We are living with what happened over Thanksgiving right now, and we can’t let that happen again. People should not be traveling for Christmas or hosting or attending parties of any kind. Everyone must limit gatherings to their current households.

  • The Mayor said: “Today’s rollback is about making individual sacrifices for the greater good. And that’s how we have to approach the holidays as well. The holidays are a time of collective renewal during the dark winter months. That’s what we’re focused on this year, more than ever before, only in a different way.”

Update on vaccine distribution:

  • This morning, the first shipments of vaccines began arriving at Boston hospitals.  And this week, each of our hospitals is going to begin vaccinating healthcare workers in our city.

  • The Mayor asked everyone to follow the lead of our health care heroes and medical experts and take the vaccine when your time comes. It’s another act that we can all take as individuals to protect ourselves and our families, and bring our community safely through this crisis.

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