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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing from July 10th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s press briefing on Friday, July 10, 2020.

Case numbers:

  • As of Friday in Massachusetts: 111,110 cases and 8,296 deaths. These numbers include both confirmed and probable cases.

  • As of Friday in Boston: 13,673 cases, 715 deaths, and 9,683 recoveries.

Update on Phase 3 of reopening:

  • The State entered Phase 3 of its reopening plan on Monday, July 6. Boston enters Phase 3 a week later, on Monday, July 13. The Mayor provided an update on the City’s strategy. He stated that the City will continue to follow the science and monitor the data to make sure Boston is moving in the right direction and will make any adjustments that are needed.

  • The City is continuing to track average new cases, which have been going down over each 14-day period.

  • We continue to stay in daily contact with hospitals. As of this week, ICU usage in Boston is at 75% of normal capacity, which is well below surge levels.

  • The cumulative positive test rate since the start of the pandemic is now down to 15.5%, from a starting point of over 35%. For the week leading up to July 4, only 1.8% of COVID tests came back positive.

  • Working with community health centers, the City will continue to make testing widely available.

  • The City is also partnering with a number of health centers on temporary mobile sites that offer free walk-up testing for people with or without symptoms. The mobile sites will focus on neighborhoods where inequities are evident in the case numbers, or where fewer people have been getting tested.

  • Residents can call 3-1-1 to connect to the Mayor’s Health Line for the latest on mobile testing in their neighborhood or anywhere in the city. A map of regular testing sites is also regularly updated at boston.gov/coronavirus.

  • The Mayor also provided an update on the Boston Public Health Commission’s robust contact tracing operation. Staff are continuing to reach out to the community in multiple languages with information on testing and self-quarantine.

Update on City services and processes:

  • City Hall is still open to the public by appointment only on Tuesdays and Fridays. Access to services at City Hall and other municipal buildings will increase when it is safe.

  • Despite State guidelines allowing larger gatherings to resume, the City will not be hosting public or private meetings in City Hall or other city buildings.

  • The Mayor discussed the City’s work to increase the services and information that is available online, including public engagement processes for projects and investments happening throughout the city.

  • One example is the community planning process for the future of Franklin Park. Franklin Park is Boston’s biggest open space and has been an important part of Boston’s social and cultural fabric for many years. The City of Boston is investing $28 million to preserve and improve the park, including $5 million for a maintenance endowment to make sure it is always kept in great shape.

  • The Mayor said that despite economic setbacks caused by the pandemic, this investment and many others are moving forward to support health equity and quality of life in Boston, and that it is critical that local voices continue to lead the way in shaping its future. On Tuesday, July 14, the Parks Department will host online community workshops at noon and 6:30 p.m. so residents can learn more about the planning process and make their voices heard. To join the workshop, go to FranklinParkActionPlan.com.

Update on other public open spaces and outdoor events:

  • The Mayor said that parks are essential to the health and wellbeing of residents in every neighborhood, and that they have been a vital resource in the pandemic.  Boston remains the number one city in the country for access to parks, and the City is working to make open spaces available and accessible this summer.

  • Playgrounds and splash pads reopened in Phase 2, with appropriate safety signage. And, on Monday July 13, permitting starts back up for low- and moderate-contact sports and other events. High contact sports like basketball, football, and lacrosse are not permitted until Step 2 of Phase 3 (date to be determined by the State), but skills practice in those sports is allowed.

  • For outdoor events attendance is limited to 50 people. This is less than the Statewide limit, which is 100. People organizing or participating in events will be required to follow all the guidelines around face coverings and physical distancing.

  • The July Drive-in Movie series hosted by the Parks Department and the Department of Tourism, Sports, and Entertainment kicked off this week with showings at the Convention Center in South Boston. Most of the shows have filled up already, but slots are available for the Age Strong Matinee next Wednesday, July 15 which will show the movie “42,” the story of American legend Jackie Robinson. This is open to Boston residents who are 55 or older. Registration is required by calling the Age Strong Commission at 617-635-3959, or 3-1-1.

Update on library services:

  • During the pandemic, the Boston Public Library has expanded the amount of content that is available online, and has created new ways for patrons to safely check out materials from the Central Library and branch locations throughout Boston’s neighborhoods.

  • Since the buildings were closed, 1.4 million online items have been checked out, 31,000 people have signed up for new library cards, and an average of 9,000 patrons have used library services each day.

  • In Phase 3, Boston is not opening physical libraries yet, out of an abundance of caution, but the BPL will continue online borrowing as well as the new BPL to Go program. In its first few weeks, patrons have put 28,000 physical items on hold, and picked up and checked out 12,000 items. As of Monday July 13, BPL to Go will be available at 16 branches across the city, with more to come soon. Patrons can use the BPL.org website; call 617-536-5400; or use the BPL to Go app, to hold items for pickup at a branch.

Update on BCYF Centers and summer programming:

  • Community centers have been closed since March for everything except meal distribution. The Mayor said that he knows how much families rely on them over the summer, and BCYF has been working to make sure that safe programming is available.

  • Teen programming started this week on a virtual basis. Today, online registration is open for day programs, both virtual and in-person, for children 7 and older. They include arts and computer activities, recreation, virtual field trips, workshops, and more. For more information or to register, go to boston.gov/BCYFsummer. As more programs and activities are finalized they will be added to the website. All of these programs will be operated in accordance with public health guidelines.

Guidance for private-sector employers:

  • The Mayor stated that a healthy and equitable reopening also depends on the actions taken by private sector organizations, and that the City is going to continue providing resources to help workplaces manage their risk and move forward safely.

  • For Phase 2, the City published guidelines for construction, office space, houses of worship, and outdoor and indoor dining. For Phase 3, the City has new sector guidelines available for indoor fitness and health clubs, outdoor events, museums, cultural and historic facilities, and guided tours. These are detailed operational guidelines that build on the state requirements.

  • To answer questions, the City will continue its webinar series for various industries. Yesterday’s webinar covered indoor fitness and on Friday, July 10, at 3 p.m. there is one on museum and cultural facilities. These resources and more are available at Boston.gov/reopening.

  • The Mayor again urged all employers to communicate clearly with workers, both in planning and execution. He called on them to use translation services for language access and comply with all ADA regulations, and said that the pandemic has made clear that an inclusive, equitable plan means a stronger and safer system.

Updates on additional City supports for residents:

  • The City has extended the moratorium on non-essential evictions at Boston Housing Authority properties through the end of 2020. This protects tens of thousands of the lowest-income residents all across the city.

  • The Mayor thanked the Winn Companies for also extending their moratorium through 2020, for residents who have lost income due to the pandemic. Winn is the largest private operator of affordable housing in the Commonwealth. The Mayor encouraged all landlords to follow their lead, saying that nobody should be losing their home at a time like this. He also encouraged tenants to contact their landlord or building manager as soon as possible if they are having difficulties, saying that they should be flexible and willing to work with tenants.

  • The City has dedicated $8 million in rental relief for residents, and will continue dispersing those funds. The Mayor thanked Governor Baker for adding to the state’s rental relief fund as well.

  • The Mayor will continue to support an extension of the statewide moratorium on evictions, but said there is a widespread issue of economic disruption that needs to be addressed. He is calling on Washington to look at what Americans are facing this summer and fall with unemployment, lost income, and lost business revenue, and take bold action.

  • In addition to relief funds, the City is drawing on the resources and expertise of the Office of Workforce Development to help those who are out of work due to COVID.

  • The Mayor discussed a new program called Project Opportunity in partnership with the Office of Public Safety. It includes a set of legal supports, job training, and job access opportunities to help residents with CORI reports.

Updates on transportation:

  • This spring, the City created the Healthy Streets initiative, to accelerate work on new bus and bike lanes and improved pedestrian spaces.

  • This week, a new bus-only lane was completed on Washington Street through Chinatown into Downtown, with a separated bike lane added for part of the route. The Mayor thanked the Transit Team within the Boston Transportation Department; the MBTA for their partnership; and business owners in Chinatown who worked with the City on new loading zones. For 24,000 daily riders, this bus lane is going to take 12 minutes off the commute from Nubian Square in Roxbury to jobs and amenities in Downtown Boston, and it will create a safer bike ride for many more people.

  • The Mayor also shared that the Blue Bikes program is offering free 90-day passes to all workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and local retail shops. This builds on their free passes for medical and frontline workers during the closures. Blue Bikes connect almost every part of the city to downtown. It is a safe and healthy way to travel, available 24/7. And all bikes and bike stations are cleaned and sanitized regularly. For more information, go to Boston.gov/bike-share.

Continued need for social distancing and personal precautions:

  • The Mayor stressed that the City is able to move forward because people have been doing the right things, and that to continue moving forward, people need to continue doing the right things. For businesses and nonprofits, that means careful planning and implementation of public health guidelines. For individuals, it means: wear a face covering whenever outside; keep six feet of distance and avoid crowds; wash hands frequently and clean surfaces.

Fireworks:

  • The Mayor closed by addressing fireworks, an issue that continues to affect quality of life throughout the City. Illegal fireworks are causing trauma, stress, and sleeplessness throughout Boston’s neighborhoods. Earlier this week, an 11-year-old was hospitalized with serious injuries, a situation that was entirely preventable. The Mayor reiterated his outrage with individuals who continue to put their neighbors at risk. He said that it is a fire hazard and a very real safety risk.

  • Earlier this summer, the Mayor created a new Fireworks Task Force to address the issue. They have begun meeting and are focused on outreach and communication about the dangers. The Mayor encouraged anyone who hears or sees fireworks in their neighborhood to call 9-1-1. People can also call the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at 1-800-494-TIPS (8477), or text the word “TIP” to the number “CRIME,” that’s 27463.

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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.