7.9 min readBy Published On: August 19th, 2020Categories: News0 Comments

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Tuesday, August 18, 2020.

Case numbers:

  • As of today, in Massachusetts: 175 new cases, for a total of 114,786, and 6 new deaths, for a total of 8,617.

  • Also as of today, in Boston: 24 new cases, for a total of 14,940. There were no new deaths reported, and the total remains at 746.

Status of COVID-19 in Boston:

  • The Mayor provided an update on the overall trends we’re seeing in Boston. The uptick seen in the second half of July has levelled off, but the City is still watching the data closely, expanding testing, and continuing contact tracing.

  • The positive test rate for the week ending August 10 was 2.6%, down from 2.8%.

  • Visits to Boston Emergency Rooms for COVID-like illness are down somewhat and stable over time.

  • ICU usage at Boston hospitals is down to 74% from 82% of normal capacity.

  • The daily average number of positive tests has stayed up around 40 cases. Some of that increase is a result of increased testing.

Update on testing:

  • The City continues to increase testing access across Boston, maintaining more than 20 active testing sites.

  • For the last full week analyzed, there was an average of more than 1,600 tests conducted per day, up 8.6% compared to the previous week. The amount of testing increased in every neighborhood except Alllston/Brighton, which had hosted a pop-up site the week before.

  • The Mobile Testing Team has played a key role increasing both capacity and access to testing. At Moakley Park in South Boston, over the last two weeks, the Mobile Team performed more than 3,000 tests. Starting this Thursday, August 20, they will be at Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan. At this site the City offers testing to anyone who wants it, at no cost, and regardless of symptoms. The site will have walk-through testing and parking for those arriving by car. The Mattapan pop-up site will run this week from Thursday, August 20 to Saturday, August 22; and next week from Tuesday, August 25 to Saturday, August 29.

  • The Mayor said that the City will bring testing wherever it is needed, and that he encourages everyone to get tested regularly. You can find information, including hours for all the testing sites in the City, at boston.gov/coronavirus.

Preventing the spread in Boston:

  • The Mayor said that the entire Boston community needs to stay focused and vigilant to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He reminded everyone to continue frequent handwashing, avoiding large gatherings, staying 6 feet away from other people, and wearing masks.

  • The Mayor compared masks to seatbelts, reminding people that years ago, seatbelts were unpopular and people found them uncomfortable and restrictive, but now people understand their value and using them is the norm.

Update on the Boston Public Schools:

  • The Mayor discussed the ongoing planning for the start of the school year in Boston.

  • On Friday, BPS submitted plans to DESE that meet all State public health guidelines. This latest draft of the plan is available online to the public at bostonpublicschools.org/reopening.

  • Boston has asked the State for permission to push the first day of school back from September 10 to September 21 for most students, and to September 23 for pre-K and kindergarten students. This would give teachers and administrators more time to plan, and give the City more time to monitor the data.

  • The Mayor said that soon, the City will make a decision on whether to open with all-remote learning or a hybrid model. He reiterated that every family has the choice to begin the year remotely if they want.

  • The Mayor said that BPS’s fall planning is focused on safety, quality, and equity. The City’s decision making will be guided by science and data, just like it has been throughout the pandemic, and Boston will not bring students or staff into buildings that are not safe.

  • The City is working every day to make school buildings safe and in-line with all public health guidance. So far, BPS has implemented extensive health and safety precautions, which include inspecting 27,500 windows and repairing 7,300 windows, inspecting 35 HVAC systems, and buying 3,000 new fans. All BPS protocols meet the requirements of the State, and the guidance of the Boston Public Health Commission, an agency that has set high standards for COVID safety.

  • BPS is putting the needs of the most vulnerable students at the center of all planning efforts, particularly students experiencing poverty, hunger, and homelessness; students learning English; students with disabilities; and students suffering the impacts of systemic racism, which leads to significant opportunity and achievement gaps.

  • The Superintendent, school leaders, and teachers have been working together to make sure all learning options are high-quality.

  • Community input has shaped every step of the planning process. BPS held 30 virtual public meetings, with over 2,000 participants. They have administered surveys and held community conversations, taken feedback and answered questions.

  • For the latest draft of the fall plan, BPS worked with the Boston Teachers Union in task forces made up of teachers, school leaders, and central office leaders. They worked together on key issues like connecting with families using home visits and technology; making up for lost time in school; addressing social and emotional struggles; and making sure the school day is age-appropriate for all students. They will continue working closely together. The City will also continue to coordinate with childcare and afterschool programs.

Preparations for this year’s elections:

  • The Mayor discussed the unique challenges associated with this year’s elections, and outlined some of the City of Boston’s efforts to ensure full and fair voting access for everyone.

  • The State Primary Election is September 1, and the General Election is November 3. The registration deadline for the primary is this Saturday, August 22. Residents can look up their voting status at boston.gov/election.

  • The Mayor said that this year, the nation faces unprecedented challenges to the election process: a pandemic, and now, efforts by the White House to suppress voter access.

  • He outlined some of the City’s efforts to ensure full and fair voter access.

    • Boston will have in-person voting for all elections with safety protocols and PPE.

    • Some polling locations have been moved out of senior buildings for residents’ safety. The City is notifying registered voters if they have been impacted by polling location changes.

    • Boston is also holding Early Voting again this year, and it begins this coming weekend. For the Primary: Early Voting is August 22 – 28 at a total of 18 locations across the City, including City Hall. For the General Election, it will be October 17 – 30. For information about elections, including early voting locations, visit boston.gov/election or call 311.

    • The City of Boston has also worked to make voting by mail widely and easily available. In July, the State sent applications for mail-in ballots to every registered voter in Boston. The Boston Election Department has received over 75,000 requests for ballots. The City has sent out over 60,000 ballots to registered voters and continues to process those requests. The Mayor urged everyone who wants one to send in their application right away, if they haven’t done so already. For the Primary, applications for a mail-in ballot must be received by Wednesday, August 26. The City will process every request received by that date. Everyone can track their ballot request at trackmyballotMA.com.

    • Today the Mayor announced another voting access point. The City has placed a ballot drop-box in the lobby of City Hall. It is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. No appointment is needed, but voters will be screened for COVID symptoms upon entering the building. You can drop off either your ballot request (by August 26) or your completed mail-in ballot by September 1. You can also drop off your mail-in ballot at Early Voting locations during the Early Voting period. The City asks everyone to turn in their completed ballot as soon as possible.

  • The Mayor addressed the White House’s threats to undermine operations of the U.S. Postal Service.

    • The Mayor’s administration has been in contact with Secretary of State Bill Galvin, with Attorney General Maura Healey, and members of Congress about this.

    • Congressman Stephen Lynch and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley are on the Oversight and Reform Committee, and they acted quickly to launch hearings. The Mayor thanked the Massachusetts Congressional delegation for their swift response.

    • News broke this afternoon that the Postmaster General is suspending the operational changes that were causing great concern. The Mayor said that the City of Boston will continue to monitor the situation closely.

  • The Mayor closed with this reflection:

“As a local government, we are doing all we can to make voting safe and accessible. We call on the federal government to protect and support the Postal Service at this critical time. Postal workers have been a lifeline for many residents in this crisis, and now they are helping to protect our democracy.  I thank them. Elections are a cornerstone of our democracy, and access to voting is a fundamental right. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It made women’s right to vote the law of the land. Boston women led that movement, including Black women who had to keep fighting for decades to make that right a reality. We take voting rights and voting access seriously in Boston. We have fought for it, and we’ll fight for it today. I can assure you that we will do everything within our power to make sure your vote is counted.”

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