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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing on 1/5

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s press briefing on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

COVID-19 cases and testing data:

  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts yesterday reported 4,358 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 375,455 cases. The state reported 60 new deaths, for a total of 12,401 people who have passed away due to COVID-19.

  • The City of Boston today reported 348 new cases, for a total of 42,195 cases. The City reported 5 new deaths, bringing the total to 1,025.

Our latest complete test data is for the week ending December 30:

  • An average of 4,561 people were tested each day. That’s down compared to the week before. That does not include college testing.

  • The average number of positive tests each day for Boston residents was 413.  That’s up slightly compared to the week before.

  • Our current community positivity rate was 8.8%. That is up from the week before. Dorchester, Hyde Park, East Boston, and Roxbury are the neighborhoods with the highest positivity.

  • Our case numbers are concerning, and our hospital numbers are higher than we’d like. 93% of adult Non-Surge ICU Beds are occupied, the highest we’ve seen in a long time.

  • The Mayor said that he and his team are in constant contact with local hospitals, and that he needs everyone to do their part. This is one of the most serious points of the pandemic so far, he said, and if numbers don’t improve, we’ll have to look at more restrictions. So everyone needs to wear a mask, avoid crowds, and stay six feet apart.

  • He said: “Every time you do these things, you could be saving a life. We will beat this thing, if everyone buckles down.”

Extending the pause to Phase 3 and staying in a modified Phase 2, Step 2 in the City of Boston:

  • In mid-December the Mayor announced that Boston would temporarily pause our reopening, and move back into a modified Phase 2, Step 2 for at least three weeks. This is an effort to slow the spread of the virus, protect hospital capacity, and avoid a more severe shutdown later on. The Mayor said that we are taking a cautious approach, and doing what’s right for Boston.

  • Given the high COVID-19 numbers we’re experiencing, Boston is extending this pause for at least another three weeks, until January 27.

  • That means that indoor gatherings will stay limited to 10 people, and outdoor gatherings will stay limited to 25 people. These numbers apply to both public and private spaces.

  • The following activities will remain closed for at least three more weeks:

    • Gyms, indoor fitness centers, and health clubs will stay closed for general use. One-on-one personal training sessions are allowed.

    • Movie theaters, museums, and aquariums will stay closed.

    • Indoor athletic facilities will stay closed, except for youth 18 and under.

      • This does not apply to college or pro sports.

    • Indoor pools may remain open with safety protocols in place.

    • Batting cages, driving ranges, bowling alleys, and rock-climbing will stay closed.

    • Sightseeing and organized tours will stay closed.

    • Indoor historical sites will stay closed.

    • Indoor event spaces will stay closed.

    • Indoor and outdoor gaming arcades will stay closed.

The following industries and activities are allowed to stay open:

    • Indoor instructional classes for youth can continue, within the 10-person limit.

    • Outdoor event spaces can continue within the 25-person limit.

    • Outdoor theaters and performance venues can continue to operate, within the 25-person limit.

    • Movie and TV production can continue to operate.

  • Per State guidance that went into effect on December 26, these activities can continue with the following restrictions in place:

  • Office spaces can stay open at 25% capacity.

    • The Mayor urged employers to allow employees to work from home.

  • Indoor dining can continue at 25% capacity, with a 90-minute limit on seatings. In Boston, Bar seating is prohibited without approval from Boston’s Licensing Board.

  • Salons, barbers, and other close contact personal services can stay open at 25% capacity.

  • Places of worship can stay open at 25% capacity.

  • Retail businesses can stay open at 25% capacity.

  • Golf facilities can stay open at 25% capacity.

  • The complete list can be found  at Boston.gov/reopening.

  • The Mayor reiterated that this pause is not about targeting specific sectors as the cause of viral spread; this is an effort to reduce overall activity happening outside people’s homes.

  • He said that in another three weeks, the City of Boston will re-evaluate the situation. If the metrics have moved in the right direction, the City will lift these restrictions. If the metrics get worse, the City will have to put in place more restrictions.

Safety while dining:

  • The Mayor discussed the need for personal safety while indoor dining. He said that the City of Boston continues to monitor the data closely and limit indoor dining capacity to levels the public health experts say are safe.

  • He thanked local restaurants for following safety protocols, saying that they have been very cooperative. The City continues to support them with small business relief funds, technical support, and outdoor dining programs, and making it easier for them to offer safe pickup and delivery. But, the Mayor said, we need patrons to do their part, too.

  • Local contact tracing efforts make it clear: even though indoor dining itself isn’t a high risk factor, too many people are going out to dinner with people outside their bubbles, increasing the risk for COVID-19 transmission. He said that sometimes they see other people they know and “table hop,” which has to stop.

  • He said: “We can keep local restaurants open… but only if people follow the public health guidance. So, if you’re indoor dining: only go with people in your bubble; keep your mask on when you’re not eating; and don’t mingle with other tables. It’s not just about your safety… It’s about our hardworking waiters and waitresses, hosts, and busboys who are working hard so that you can have a good time.  Be respectful and help us spread the word about this.

Testing:

  • The Mayor reiterated that testing is one of the City’s best tools to slow the spread of COVID-19. There are more than 30 testing sites throughout the city, including mobile sites which are free and open to all, regardless of symptoms. This week they are:

    • In Hyde Park, at Boston Renaissance Charter School. This is a drive-thru only site and you must make an appointment.

    • In Roxbury, at Washington Park Mall. This is a walk-up site and registration is required.

    • In Jamaica Plain, at the Anna Cole Community Center. This is a walk-up site and no appointment or registration are required.

    • For more info visit Boston.gov or call 3-1-1.

  • The Mayor said “If you think may have been exposed– get tested. If you traveled for the holidays– get tested. If it’s been a while since your last test– get tested.  Get tested regularly. Make it a New Year’s Resolution.”

Vaccines:

  • The CDC came out with guidelines for the vaccination plan, and each state adapted that plan. Massachusetts created a distribution schedule, prioritizing highest-risk residents. The full schedule is available at Mass.gov. The City of Boston is following the State’s lead and supporting an equitable distribution of vaccines.

  • Last week, Boston EMT’s and residents and staff at longterm care facilities started getting vaccinated. Yesterday (Monday) the Governor announced that all first responders throughout Massachusetts will begin getting the COVID vaccines starting on January 11, including EMT’s, firefighters, and police officers. There will be about 1,500 slots for Boston’s first responders to get vaccinated next week in partnership with Tufts Medical Center. The Mayor said that he urges everyone to get the vaccine, when your time comes, because it’s safe, free, and it’s the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.

2021 State of the City:

  • The Mayor reflected on how ever since the pandemic began, the Boston community has gotten creative to keep our favorite traditions alive.

  • Next Tuesday January 12, he will give his annual State of the City address. This year’s event will be entirely virtual. He plans to discuss how our city came together to face the challenges of the past year, and he’ll lay out our plans for a strong and equitable recovery.

  • He said that more than ever, this year’s State of the City is about the people of Boston. It’s about our shared hopes for the future, and he encourages everyone to tune in.

  • The 2021 State of the City will begin at 7:30 pm. It will be broadcast live on our local TV stations and via livestream at Boston.gov.

The Mayor closed with this reflection:

“We’ve worked incredibly hard over the past year: to care for the sick and the struggling, and to launch a strong recovery. The steps we take in this new year will be pivotal. So let’s keep standing strong. There are many reasons to be hopeful, but that doesn’t mean that any of us should let our guard down. If anything, now is a time to double down. 2020 was one of the hardest years in Boston’s history, and I believe that 2021 will be our proudest. I thank everyone for doing their part.”

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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.