10.2 min readBy Published On: December 13th, 2020Categories: News0 Comments on Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing on 12/10

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

COVID-19 cases and testing data:  

  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts today reported 5,130 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 264,454 cases. The state reported 41 new deaths, for a total of 10,963 people who have passed away due to COVID-19.
  • The City of Boston today reported 465 new cases, for a total of 31,551 cases. The City reported 2 new deaths, leaving a total of 949
  • For the week ending on December 3

    • An average of 5,437 Bostonians got tested each day, up 16% compared to the week before. That number does not include college testing.
    • The average number of daily positive tests was 408, which is up from the week before. Boston’s current community positivity rate increased to 6.9%.
    • Dorchester, East Boston, and Hyde Park remain the neighborhoods with the highest positivity.
    • The Mayor noted that the case numbers are concerning. Our hospital numbers have ticked upwards, but at a slower rate. We are staying closely connected to our hospitals to understand the situation and how we can support them. 

New statewide restrictions:

  • Earlier this week, Governor Baker announced that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would move back to Phase 3, Step 1. This means stricter limits on the size of gatherings, and more restrictions on what kinds of facilities can be open. 
  • The Mayor noted that Boston has been at these stricter levels since July, and that we never moved forward into Phase 3, step 2. 
  • Boston has taken a conservative approach to reopening, and we will continue to do so. Public health is, and will continue to be, our number one priority.
  • The City continues to monitor the data closely, and plan for every scenario. 

    • We are developing plans for how we can tighten restrictions in Boston if necessary. 
    • We are looking at the best ways to reduce the size of gatherings while maintaining essential services and programs. 
  • The Mayor said he is in regular communication with the Governor and with Mayors across the Greater Boston region. They are supporting one another’s efforts, sharing best practices, and when possible, sharing resources. They are working together, as a region, to help slow the spread of this virus and protect people. And they are preparing to coordinate on distribution of the vaccines. 

Vaccine distribution:

  • Yesterday the Governor announced that the first round of COVID-19 vaccine shipments are set to arrive in Massachusetts around December 15th.
  • The Mayor said that Boston is committed to doing our part to make sure the vaccine gets distributed equitably and efficiently.
  • The State has said that the vaccines will be available free of charge to individuals. 
  • The Boston Public Health Commission is working with hospitals, health centers, and long term care facilities to plan and support all stages of distribution.
  • In the meantime, we are already working with local community-based organizations to understand and overcome concerns and hesitations some residents have around the vaccine. 
  • We’re sharing the facts about why taking the vaccine is the right thing to do for residents, their families, and their communities.
  • As always, we’ll make sure that all decisions and planning are guided by equity, prioritizing our most vulnerable populations.

Continued vigilance and getting tested:

  • The Mayor noted that news about the vaccine has been a beacon of hope during a dark year. We are grateful to all of the scientists and medical professionals who worked tirelessly to make it happen — including many in the Boston area. It’s a reminder of how much talent exists in our community, and how when we work together, we can develop solutions to even the biggest problems.
  • He also reminded everyone that vaccines will take months to roll out to everyone. We cannot let our guards down, even a little bit, and we need to remain vigilant with mask wearing, handwashing, and avoiding crowds. 
  • He reminded everyone to get tested regularly. If you have reason to think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, get tested. If you have traveled for the holidays, or were in a gathering larger than your household, get tested.
  • We have over 30 testing sites in Boston. We continue to expand testing capacity, especially for communities with the highest rates of infection. 
  • This week, mobile testing is available at:

    • The Anna M. Cole Center in Jamaica Plain through the end of the day today, Thursday, December 10. 
    • Washington Park Mall in Roxbury through Saturday, December 12. 
    • Central Square Park in East Boston through Saturday, December 12.
  • Next week, we will introduce a new indoor, drive-thru mobile testing site in Hyde Park, in partnership with East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. It will open on Tuesday, December 15.

    • This site will have a large testing capacity of 500 per day, to serve even more people. 
    • You must make an appointment via the following link: https://app.beacontesting.com/login
  • We are continuing our work to ensure that residents have access to indoor mobile testing during the winter months. 

Update on BPS reopening:

  • The City is doing everything we can to protect public health while maintaining essential services. At the top of that list is educating our young people, especially those with the highest needs. 
  • Currently, a small number of students with complex disabilities are learning in-person at four of our schools: the Carter, the Henderson, Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the McKinley Schools.
  • Beginning Monday, December 14, an additional 28 schools will open to provide in-person learning opportunities for approximately 1,700 students. 

    • These are students with complex disabilities and language needs who were identified as having high priority for in-person learning. 
    • We have communicated directly with those families in collaboration with their school leaders to outline next steps. 
  • Plans for these schools are based on the number of families of students with high needs who selected hybrid learning. They focus on each building’s ability to safely welcome students and staff back to in-person learning.
  • On Tuesday, December 8, the School Department reached out to all BPS families. We laid out the plan, and explained the additional safety measures we’re taking in our schools. 

    • We are upgrading filters in our buildings with HVAC systems and adding free-standing air purifiers in buildings without HVAC systems. 
    • This week we received 5,000 air purifiers through a partnership with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and we have an order for additional units from our vendor. 
    • All 28 schools opening next week had air purifiers delivered for placement in instructional spaces.
  • Additional preparations include delivering medical-grade PPE to schools; continual testing of air quality; and making sure each school can follow safe distancing guidelines.
  • We are also working to increase testing access for all teachers as they return to in-person work.
  • The Mayor said the health and wellbeing of our young people continues to be our number one focus. Health experts are clear that getting students with high needs back into school is a top priority. We have to balance the need for COVID safety with the duty we have to educate high needs students. 
  • Those needs include disability and language supports, which can only be met in-person, and they include safety around trauma, mental health, and social-emotional development. For many students, school is their safety. 
  • He said the City will continue to do everything we can to bring students back as soon as it is safe to do so. Planning continues for the next group of students to return, and we will release that timeline for reopening all school buildings in early 2021.

2021 Outdoor Dining Program:

  • The Mayor noted that the 2020 outdoor dining program ended on December 1. He said it was a great team effort that helped us protect public health while helping small businesses survive. 
  • He gave a recap of the success of 2020 outdoor dining season: 

    • The City approved more than 550 requests for outdoor dining licenses with over 415 on public property. 
    • Restaurants in every single neighborhood in the City of Boston were represented. 
    • The Disabilities Commission distributed 90 portable ramps to restaurants at no cost during the 2020 outdoor dining season.
  • He said that in addition to safer dining, the City saw benefits including more vibrant streets and a fun new experience for restaurant goers. He thanked all the city staff and local business owners who made this program a success.
  • The Mayor announced an outdoor dining pilot program for the 2021 season, which will begin on April 1 and end on December 1, 2021, weather permitting.
  • He noted that restaurants who took part in the 2020 program must reapply for 2021, and we will also be accepting applications from restaurants who did not take part this year. We will also have more accessibility ramps available upon request.
  • Restaurants can start applying now at boston.gov/2021outdoordining
  • The Mayor also said we are making some changes from the 2020 program, based on feedback from the community and from small business owners.

    • We’re moving the application process to a different online platform, where you can track the status of applications.
    • We’re building more time into the process, so that restaurants have enough time to get proper materials and plan for operations.
    • We’re providing clearer guidance for outdoor dining on public and private property. It will be available in both English and Spanish, with other languages available upon request. The full guidance is available at Boston.gov/2021outdoordining.
  • We’re also offering one-on-one help for restaurant owners who require support or translation of the online application.

    • Starting next week, we are hosting virtual help sessions for restaurants that want to apply. The first session is scheduled for Wednesday, December 16 at 5pm. Registration is required. More information can be found at Boston.gov/2021outdoordining, and interpretation is available upon request.

Safety during the holiday season

  • The Mayor acknowledged that this is a very different holiday season. This is usually the time for traditions and gathering with friends and family, and many people will be hoping for some normalcy.
  • But, he said, this isn’t a normal year, and this holiday season has to look different. That means continuing to follow all the public health precautions, and limiting gatherings to only with those in your households.
  • He said that, since Thanksgiving, we’ve seen significant spikes in coronavirus cases and hospital admissions. A big source of transmission is coming from indoor, private gatherings. That is something we can all avoid, and that responsibility sits on all of our shoulders.
  • So, like we did before Thanksgiving, we are urging everyone to only celebrate with the people you live with. There should be no holiday parties. And we are strongly encouraging all Boston residents not to travel. Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. 
  • The Mayor noted people’s fatigue from living with the virus, but stressed that this isn’t the time to let our guards down. The stakes are just too high.
  • He also acknowledged that it’s hard to say no to our loved ones, and that many of us have been having difficult conversations with family members about what to expect this year, himself included. 
  • But just because you can’t gather in person, doesn’t mean you can’t come together in other ways. Consider making these connections virtually. This is a time to be creative, and keep the holiday spirit alive.
  • Over the next few weeks, we will keep reminding everyone about the importance of staying safe throughout the holidays. 
  • He encouraged everyone to think about families who are struggling to make ends meet. The need in our communities is greater than ever this year, and collecting toys will be a challenge for families who can’t afford it. 
  • As a reminder, we have Toys for Tots donation boxes at City Hall, at firehouses, at the stand-alone BCYF centers, and at City of Boston Credit Union locations. Please consider donating new, unwrapped toys to help Toys for Tots meet their goals, and help ensure every child and every family can experience the joy of the holiday season.
  • He asked that, as you are making your holiday plans this year, you will keep all of these points in mind. He said, “We are in this together. And if we all do our part to protect one another, we can get back to spending many more holidays with the people we love.”

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