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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing from Wednesday, November 25th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s press briefing on Wednesday, November 25, 2020.

COVID-19 cases and testing data:

  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts on Tuesday reported 2,225 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 204,060 cases. The state reported 20 new deaths, for a total of 10,319 people who have passed away due to COVID-19.

  • The City of Boston today reported 198 new cases, for a total of 26,160 cases. The City reported 3 new deaths, for a total of 906.

  • For the week ending on November 20:

    • An average of nearly 4,800 Bostonians got tested each day, up from 4,000 the week before. That number does not include college testing.

    • The average number of daily positive tests was 215, down from 245 the previous week.

    • Boston’s current community positivity rate was 4%, down from 5.6%.

    • No neighborhoods had community positivity over 8%, but 7 neighborhoods were over 5%. Every neighborhood saw positivity go down except Mattapan, which had a small uptick.

  • The Mayor noted that tests were up and new cases were down for the first time in several weeks. That’s good news, he said, but it’s just one week. We need to keep taking precautions to keep bringing the numbers down.

  • For that reason, Boston will not move into Step 2 of Phase 3 in the state reopening plan, despite spending three weeks out of the “red” zone on the state map. We need to continue taking a cautious approach and work to contain the spread.

Expanding testing capacity:

  • The City continues to work on expanding testing capacity, with the goal of creating a third mobile testing unit. Free mobile testing sites are open today (Wednesday, November 25) and this Saturday (November 28) at Central Square Park in East Boston and Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan.

  • Currently, we have over 30 testing sites in Boston. You can find them listed and mapped at boston.gov/coronavirus, or you can call 311.

Celebrating Thanksgiving safely:

  • The Mayor acknowledged that many people sought to get tested before Thanksgiving. He thanked them for getting tested, but warned that a negative test result does not allow you to have a normal Thanksgiving. You must still take all the precautions.

  • Thanksgiving should be spent in person only with the members of your current household. He urged anyone planning to gather in a larger group to reconsider those plans.

  • Those who are gathering should take steps to minimize the risk of viral transmission. The Mayor advised having this conversation now, with your family, if you haven’t already, so everyone knows what to expect.

    • Keep the group small. Ten people is the limit for indoor gatherings.

    • Wear masks when you are not eating. Maintain physical distance. Wash your hands frequently and clean your surfaces.

    • Eat outdoors if possible, or open windows and doors.

    • Have one person serve the food, wearing a mask and gloves. Do not share food, drink, or utensils.

  • The Mayor urged special consideration for older relatives, or anyone with a medical condition. It would be a terrible tragedy, he said, if outbreaks driven by family gatherings caused people to get sick and even lose their life.

Supporting small businesses:

  • The Mayor acknowledged that small businesses have been struggling, and we must do all we can to help them recover. This weekend is Small Business Saturday, when we make a special push to highlight our neighborhood commercial districts. We won’t be doing those events in person this year, he noted, but we are doing more than ever to help our small businesses get through a very difficult time.

  • So far, the City’s Small Business Relief Fund distributed $6.7 million to nearly 1,900 businesses.

  • The Reopen Boston Fund, which provides grants for safety materials, has distributed $3 million in grants to over 1500 businesses. That fund continues to take applications.

  • Last week, our three new relief funds took in over 1600 applications for grants. 1,000 of those were for commercial rent relief, and so far we’ve had 330 landlords complete their part of the application, which closes on Monday. The Mayor thanked businesses and landlords for working with each other and working with the City, and encouraged others to do the same.

  • The Mayor asked everyone, as the holiday season begins, to look for ways you can safely support our local small businesses. He announced new transportation opportunities designed to help.

  • Starting this weekend, the City will have free, two-hour parking on Saturdays at all parking meters across the City, as a way to encourage more people to visit and patronize local businesses.

  • We also have holiday discounts for the Blue Bikes bike-sharing program. This coming “Cyber Monday,” we’re offering a 30% discount on annual membership. We still have free 90-day passes available for front-line and essential workers.

  • For restaurants, we have plans to continue our outdoor dining option. The public space program ends on December 1, next week. But, outdoor dining may continue on private property indefinitely. In addition, we are working on an outdoor dining program for the spring.

  • The Mayor noted that our small business support is designed to build a recovery that makes us a more equitable city than before. During the pandemic, 54% of the small businesses we have supported are owned by people of color, reflecting the diversity of our city. This Monday, we launched a process to re-imagine our Main Streets program as a vehicle of recovery that helps close racial wealth gaps.

Continuing the work of the Boston Resiliency Fund:

  • The Mayor said we must continue to be there for our neighbors in need, with health care, food, housing support, and all the essentials people need to stay safe. That’s work the Resiliency Fund has made possible. So far the Fund has raised over $33 million and we continue to get those resources into our hardest-hit communities and into the hands of our most vulnerable residents.

  • This week, we are distributing nearly $1.8 million to 17 nonprofit organizations, 70% of which are led by a person of color and 76% by a woman.

  • This week we are funding a support system for students in remote learning, led by Boston After School and Beyond. This is a network of safe, trusted child-care programs that reaches 6,250 students in our highest needs communities, including Chinatown, East Boston, Roxbury, and Dorchester. They allow students to learn remotely from school, in a safe and supportive setting, while parents and guardians go out to work. This is made possible by community partners including the Greater Boston YMCA, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the East Boston Social Center, and more.

  • Other grants this week support telehealth for seniors; mental health support for immigrants; testing, health care access, and wellness checks for seniors and others in the Black community, led by the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition; and, as always, fresh food and produce for families and seniors across our city.

  • The Fund has now distributed $29.4 million to over 360 local nonprofit organizations in Boston. Overall, 56% of grantees are led by a person of color, 58% are led by women, and 29% of all grants have gone to immigrant-serving organizations. We are still taking donations, and you can learn more at boston.gov/ResiliencyFund.

Helping the homeless on Thanksgiving and all year round:

  • The Mayor said that the annual tradition of serving Thanksgiving dinner inside shelters will be limited to outdoor events this year, including one that he’ll be participating in at Pine Street Inn. He thanked people for their time and generosity at food access events this week, under challenging circumstances.

  • The onset of winter brings additional safety concerns, compounded this year by COVID. So the City has a plan in place to make sure that our homeless neighbors are safe this winter.

  • This year we brought on additional sites, to de-densify our existing shelters during the pandemic. As we head into winter, we anticipate that we will need more capacity in the system. So, we have secured capacity for an additional 200 beds of emergency shelter, including beds for women, men, and young adults.

  • The Mayor thanked City staff, as well as our partners at St. Francis House, the Boston Rescue Mission, Pine Street Inn, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and the New England Center for Homeless Veterans.

  • He reminded everyone to call 911 whenever you see someone in distress who may be without a home or outdoors for any reason.

Ending and preventing homelessness:

  • The Mayor noted that during the pandemic the City, working with various partners, has provided permanent rental vouchers to nearly 1,000 families with children in the Boston Public Schools; has provided permanent housing for over 200 individuals who were homeless; and has helped more than 100 young adults who had previously been homeless, secure housing.

  • The City has also distributed $4.1 million in rental relief to nearly 1200 households that were at risk of eviction. We have $8 million more available and we are processing hundreds of applications. This work is keeping many people in their homes, but the need remains great.

  • With Housing Court operating again, the Mayor shared important information with those who may be facing eviction.

  • Using funds from this summer’s anti-racism investment, the City has funded an attorney from Greater Boston Legal Services to work with tenants, free of charge, at Boston Housing Court. When you are summoned to court, we are asking you to request access to that service.

  • In addition, the Federal CDC moratorium on evictions remains in place, for those impacted by COVID-19, until December 31. To access that protection, you need to present a declaration of need in Housing Court. We created a simple template that you can print and sign, at boston.gov/HousingStability.

Urging national action to prevent homelessness:

  • The Mayor noted that housing insecurity is a national issue, as the pandemic hits communities coast to coast harder than ever. On January 1, when the CDC moratorium ends, he warned that we could see a spike in homelessness in addition to widespread economic distress.

  • Congress must act, and act decisively, he said, to prevent yet another public health disaster from devastating the American people. Political distractions are no excuse, he added, and there is nothing to stop Congress and the outgoing president from taking action.

  • The Mayor participated in a virtual event on Tuesday night that featured Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. It was hosted by Rev. Liz Walker of Roxbury Presbyterian Church and Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond of Bethel AME Church, with the goal of bringing health awareness and information to the community.

  • The Mayor concluded:

“It was a wonderful conversation, and Dr. Fauci showed why he is so respected. He said that what allowed him to do his job in the midst of so much political noise, was to focus on his primary purpose and responsibility: to protect the health and safety of the American people. Everything else was secondary. That’s a great reminder to all of us, including Congress, of the focus we should have, and the way we should move forward.”

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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.