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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s press briefing from September 8th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

Case numbers:

  • As of today (Tuesday) in Massachusetts: 168 new confirmed cases, for a total of 121,382. There were eight new deaths, for a total of 8,941.

  • Also as of today (Tuesday) in Boston: 25 new cases, for a total of 15,967. No new deaths were reported yesterday, and the total remains at 754. The Mayor noted that Boston has had a full week without a death reported.

Status of COVID-19 in Boston:

  • The Mayor provided an update on the overall trends we’re seeing in Boston.

  • For the week ending September 1st, the 7-day average positive test rate was 1.7%, down from 2.3% a week earlier and 2.7% the week before that.

  • The cumulative positive test rate, since the beginning of the pandemic, is now close to 8%.

  • Emergency Room visits for COVID symptoms, as well as the number of COVID patients in Intensive Care Units, remain low.

    • As of yesterday, there are 11 COVID patients in Intensive Care in Boston hospitals, which is down from our peak in April of 571.

  • The Mayor noted that the City has come a long way, and he thanked everyone for the part they are playing in getting our community through this.

Update on testing:

  • In the week ending September 1st, Boston saw an average of nearly 3,000 people tested per day. Much of the recent increase is due to the testing that colleges are doing of students who live in the City of Boston. This will increase the testing numbers in neighborhoods where more students live, including Fenway, Back Bay, Roxbury (Mission Hill), and Allston-Brighton.

  • While colleges are testing students repeatedly, which is important for their monitoring purposes, the City only counts each person once in the numbers we collect. This will prevent the City’s numbers from appearing artificially low due to repeat testing, and we can maintain an accurate sense of the virus’s presence in Boston.

  • Outside of the work the colleges are doing, the City continues to maintain increased testing, with the capacity to conduct over 2,000 tests per day on average at health centers, hospitals, and City of Boston mobile sites, and will continue to bring additional testing capacity and other resources wherever it is needed.

  • You can find a full list and map of all the testing sites at boston.gov/coronavirus.

Update on East Boston:

  • The Mayor said that the City continues to monitor and share neighborhood data and race and ethnicity data, as guided by the work of our COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force.

  • East Boston remains the neighborhood with the highest positive rate. The City has been targeting outreach and resources there since the spring, including having conversations with dozens of community organizations to share information and respond to the community’s needs.

  • The Mayor noted that three weeks ago, the City launched an elevated outreach plan for East Boston to address the increase in case data. The BPHC is working with several City departments to distribute 2,000 COVID-19 kits with cleaning supplies and information to residents and businesses in multiple languages, across the neighborhood. The City is also partnering with local churches, and is focused on helping people in households with multiple generations learn strategies for preventing the spread of the virus.

  • With this work, we are starting to see those numbers go down in East Boston. Three weeks ago, the positive test rate was 11.4%, and as of September 1st, it’s down to 8.7%.

  • The Mayor reminded everyone that the City’s Mobile Testing Team is currently at Central Square Park in East Boston, and will remain there through at least this coming Saturday, September 12. Testing is free and open to anyone, regardless of symptoms. He also made it clear that anyone can get tested, regardless of immigration status, and that no information about status will be asked. People can call 311 or visit boston.gov/coronavirus to pre-register.

General COVID-19 reminders:

  • The City will continue to provide testing, guidance, information, and support wherever it is needed, and will continue to ask everyone to work together. The Mayor reminded people about the steps they can take to help keep themselves and their family safe, and move the City towards an equitable and healthy recovery:

    • Wash your hands.

    • Avoid large gatherings.

    • Stay 6 feet from other people.

    • Wear a mask.

    • If you operate a business, follow the guidelines and make sure your employees and customers can follow them as well.

    • If you’re a college student, please follow your college’s guidelines.

    • If you live in a large household, with multiple generations, be extra cautious.

    • If you are going to socialize, do so in small groups, keep distancing and wearing masks, and meet outdoors as much as possible.

    • And if you have been to a party or gathering of any kind, assume you have been exposed to the virus and get tested.

  • The Mayor also noted that the economic impact of COVID-19 is still with us, and will continue to make life difficult for many residents. The City will continue its work:

    • Distributing free meals to youth, families, and seniors;

    • Providing relief and protections for renters and homeowners; and

    • Advancing a range of actions on racial equity, and providing an update on this work and new announcements over the coming weeks.

 Boston Public Library resources and moratorium extension:

  • The BPL has been an essential source of support for residents. The City recently launched free outdoor Wi-Fi at nine branch locations, and reopened safe public computer access at the Copley Square Branch. The BPL-to-Go program has been popular, and since launching in June, more than 94,000 physical items have been reserved. More than 131,000 items have been circulated, including online materials. And since March, roughly 9,400 patrons are using library services every day.

  • Today, the Mayor announced an extension of the BPL’s moratorium on late fines for borrowed items through the end of the calendar year. This moratorium was first implemented in March. The extension applies to all adult library card holders at all BPL branches. The Mayor gave a reminder that all patrons under the age of 18 are already exempt from late fines.

U.S. Census reminder:

  • The Mayor continued to remind residents to fill out the 2020 Census, and that the last day to respond is September 30. As of today, only 57% of Boston’s households have self-responded, which is lower than previous counts.

  • He reminded everyone about the importance of the Census in impacting federal representation and legislative districts, as well as determining federal funding Boston receives for critical services like health care centers, schools, affordable housing, senior services, and more.

  • As a response to the Trump administration’s decision to cut the count short by a month, the City has joined a coalition led by the National Urban League opposing this decision, as well as signed an amicus brief challenging it in court. This decision, if not reversed, could lead to a significant undercount, especially for historically undercounted populations like people of color and immigrants.

  • The Mayor encouraged everyone to do their part to make sure their community is counted. It’s estimated that for every resident who doesn’t fill out the Census, the City loses $2400 in funding every year for the next ten years.

  • He asked everyone to complete the Census, if they haven’t already. If you haven’t responded, you may receive a visit from a census employee at your door to try to help you fill it out. Filling out the Census only takes a few minutes and can be done online at my2020census.gov or over the phone at 844-330-2020. The Census is available in 13 languages.

Labor Day weekend violence:

  • The Mayor addressed the shootings and incidents of violence that took place over the long weekend. While violence is unfortunately not unusual for Labor Day weekend, he stressed that one violent act, at any time, is tragic and unacceptable.

  • The City had cross-departmental planning and outreach in place to prepare for this past weekend. That included a team of agencies and dedicated individuals working together on both prevention and response: the Office of Public Safety; the SOAR Boston street workers; the Neighborhood Trauma Team at the Boston Public Health Commission; the Safety Team at Boston Public Schools; and the Boston Police Department along with partners at Boston EMS and Boston Fire.

  • The City also worked with five different hospitals this weekend to get resources to victims and their families.

  • The Mayor noted that the City needs to bring every available resource to this work. 15 new mental health clinicians on the BEST team that were funded in this year’s budget are already working to respond to mental health 911 calls with treatment and resources. The City is also dedicated to eliminating the root causes of violence, including poverty and systemic racism.

  • Police Commissioner Gross also spoke, expressing his appreciation for the community’s cooperation in responding to these incidents.

Recovery Month reminders:

  • The Mayor ended his remarks by reminding people about the importance of Recovery Month, which takes place during the month of September. This is an important time to raise awareness and help people get the help and support they need. It’s a time to celebrate the millions of Americans and thousands of Bostonians who are in recovery; remember those we have lost to this disease; and be grateful for the treatment workers who do life-saving work.

  • Every year, the City has a series of events to commemorate Recovery Month, and this year, these events are being adapted to current conditions with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

  • They include:

    • The Massachusetts Opioid Screening and Awareness Day on September 22.

    • On September 23, the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery and Friends is holding its 30th annual Recovery Month celebration.

    • And on September 29, the City is holding a virtual panel to discuss our new Project Opportunity program, to support people with CORI reports in getting employment. The Mayor noted that this work is a big part of recovery.

    • Visit boston.gov/recovery to learn more about these events.

  • The Mayor said that 2020 has been a hard year for everyone, especially for those struggling with addiction or in recovery. He said if people need help, services are available and ready for them. Our treatment professionals have remained hard at work throughout this pandemic. Our City’s programs are taking COVID precautions, have plenty of capacity, and have been successful keeping people safe.

  • People can call 311 to talk to a placement coordinator, to help get access to the care they need.

  • He told everyone to not hesitate to reach out for help, even if you are not sure if you need it, and to continue to take this difficult period one day at a time.

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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.