8.8 min readBy Published On: October 7th, 2020Categories: News0 Comments on Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing from Wednesday, October 7th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Wednesday, October 7, 2020.

Case numbers:

  • As of yesterday (Tuesday) in Massachusetts: 454 new confirmed cases, for a total of 133,359 confirmed cases. There were 8 new deaths, for a total of 9,323.

  • As of today in Boston: 62 new cases, for a total of 17,774. There were no new deaths, and the total remains at 764.

Update on COVID-19 data:

  • The Mayor invited Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez to share the latest COVID-19 data in Boston.

  • Chief Martinez said that since the beginning of the pandemic, the Administration has been committed to sharing data with residents in a timely and transparent manner, including at both boston.gov/coronavirus and bphc.org.

  • He shared the most current data, which is for the week ending on Saturday, October 3. Over those seven days, roughly 1800 Boston residents were tested each day. The average number of positive tests increased over the previous week, from 65.6 to 73.0 per day, and the average positive test rate was 4.1%, up from 3.6%.

  • He said that this increase in COVID activity is evident across many of our neighborhoods. In particular, for this last week, Hyde Park saw a significant increase in its positive rate; Dorchester, which had gone up, remained level; and East Boston, which had the highest rate for some time, came down.

  • We continue to respond to this activity with testing resources, with outreach in multiple languages, and with door-to-door and business-to-business outreach in communities seeing the biggest increases.

  • The City is monitoring a range of metrics in order to understand whether this increased activity is a sustained trend or a brief bump in the road.

  • This is the first time since early June that the citywide positive test rate has surpassed 4%, our threshold for reassessing where we stand with reopening. The Administration has been consulting with our experts at the Boston Public Health Commission and at the state about what kind of guidance this data calls for.

Update to the Boston Public Schools phased-in hybrid reopening plan:

  • Mayor Walsh discussed what this data means for our ongoing plan to reopen the Boston Public Schools for hybrid, in-person learning.

  • Throughout this pandemic, he said, we have made decisions based on science to protect Bostonians’ health and safety, with special consideration for our most vulnerable residents. That is how we are moving forward based on this latest data.

  • He noted that the latest citywide positive rate puts us just over the 4% threshold that we set for moving forward with our phased-in, hybrid learning plan in the Boston Public Schools.

  • He added that, consistent with our overall cautious approach to reopening, 4% is a conservative threshold by state, national, and global public health standards, which generally focus on staying below 5% positivity.

  • The Mayor announced that, because we surpassed our 4% threshold, we will pause the school reopening plan, and push back the earliest possible start date for Phase 3 from October 15 to October 22. That means, as of now, the K0, K1, and K2 kindergarten grades may enter schools no sooner than October 22. We will re-evaluate this date and subsequent phases based on the data we see moving forward.

  • He also announced that schools will reopen tomorrow, to continue serving the highest-needs students in the district whose families opted to begin hybrid learning last week. This decision is based on the guidance of our public health experts and in consultation with state officials in public health and education, and it is consistent with our decision to prioritize our highest needs students in this plan.

  • These include students with disabilities who require in-person support; who require English language support; who have had limited or interrupted formal education; who are experiencing homelessness; or who are in DCF care. For many of these students, not being in school presents risk that cannot be mitigated the way that the risk of COVID can be. It’s the risk of moving backward academically, socially, and physically that is very difficult to recover from.

  • The Mayor said that he has been hearing from many families, as well as advocates and experts, that their return to school has done wonders for their health and well being. He shared what it was like to witness this effect in-person at schools he visited last week.

  • He also made clear that the City and school district will continue to ensure schools are prepared to protect the health and safety of the students and adults inside them.

  • So far, about 1300 students have been in our schools each day since Thursday. With 125 schools, that’s an average of a little over 10 students per school. With the protocols we have in place, public health guidance says we can safely provide the vital in-person learning and services for all the highest needs students who have opted in.

  • The Mayor thanked everyone who is stepping up to serve those students: the teachers, therapists, and counselors; the nurses, bus drivers, food service staff, and custodians; the principals and the administrators.

  • He pledged to continue offering hybrid, in-person learning an option for the highest needs students, as long as the public health guidance supports it.

  • And he pledged to keep family choice at the heart of the plan, so that every family, of every student, in every grade, will continue to have the option of fully remote learning.

  • The Mayor reflected, “These are trying times for everyone; there are no easy choices. But we have to follow the public health guidance and we have to listen to those who are impacted. This decision came down to me realizing that, for our highest needs students, we — the district — are their choice. We are their chance to move forward. We cannot take this chance away from them so soon after they started — not when there’s an opportunity, backed by public health, to have them in schools. There’s too much at stake for these young people. Every day matters for them and they deserve our very best effort.”

  • The Mayor invited Superintendent Brenda Cassellius to speak about how the Boston Public Schools are prioritizing health and equity for their students. He invited Roxann Harvey, chair of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council, to share what in-person learning means for her children and many of the roughly 11,000 students with disabilities served by the district. And he invited City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George to discuss the need for in-person learning and support among students experiencing homelessness.

  • He added that everyone in the City must do their part by taking the precautions necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, get our numbers back down, and enable us to reopen schools for more students.

Update on protecting renter households from eviction:

  • The Mayor noted again that the statewide moratorium on evictions expires on October 17, 10 days from now. He said we must come together as a city — and as a state — to prevent an eviction crisis that would harm families and present a serious threat to public health.

  • On Monday, the Mayor filed an ordinance with the City Council called the Housing Stability Notification Act. It says that whenever a property owner sends a Notice to Quit to a tenant, they must accompany that notice with information — provided by the City — about the rights and resources available to tenants, available in multiple languages. That way, at the first step in the process of a potential eviction, tenants will have access to resources that could help them stay in their home.

  • This is an important step, he said, but it’s a step we are taking in lieu of needed legislation that has not been passed at the State House.

  • The Mayor said he will continue to advocate with both the state and the federal government for more resources, more relief, and more protections.

  • But right now, we are facing a potential crisis and as a city we must take whatever steps we can to intervene and provide assistance.

  • For example, we are sending a mailer with a message in nine different languages to 46,000 households in Boston that may be at risk of eviction. It tells them clearly that they do not have to leave their homes if they receive Notice to Quit, and it points them to information on resources.

  • We also continue to work with property owners to prevent evictions, and many are reaching out to ask what they can do.

  • In response, the Mayor invited owners and managers of low-income apartments to sign a Housing Stability Pledge. Signers agree to: abide by the CDC moratorium on evictions for renters who have lost income due to COVID-19; engage with tenants and create a workable payment plan if they are behind on rent; accept rental assistance that the City or other agencies provide; and be flexible and compassionate in specific ways with tenants who have lost income.

  • The Mayor reported that 25 property owners or managers who provide housing to low-income renters have agreed to sign our pledge so far, and he thanked them. He encourages more landlords to sign on as well.

Reminder to complete the 2020 U.S. Census

  • The Mayor noted that, despite the Trump Administration’s attempts to cut the count short, courts have ruled that it may continue until October 31.

  • He encouraged any residents who have not yet completed the Census to visit my2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020. It’s safe, takes only a few minutes, and either option is available in 13 languages.

Comment on incident in West Roxbury:

  • The Mayor concluded by commenting on a video that surfaced yesterday depicting an incident along the VFW Parkway in West Roxbury, in which officers identifying themselves as ICE agents stopped a Black man for no apparent cause.

  • The Mayor called the video “disturbing” and “unacceptable,” in particular because it appeared to show someone’s rights being violated based on the color of their skin.

  • The Mayor said he has asked the Boston Police Department to reach out to federal authorities to understand the cause of this incident and prevent it from happening in the future.

  • The Mayor also said he has spoken to the man in the video about how he is doing and what happened.

  • The Mayor concluded, “In Boston, we believe in the power of community policing and the importance of trust between law enforcement and our community, in order to ensure public safety for everyone. Incidents like this have no place in our city, and no place in our country quite honestly. It causes real pain, fear and concern.”

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