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Recap of Mayor Walsh’s Press Briefing on October 15th

Please see below for updates from Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday, October 15, 2020.

Case numbers:

  • As of today (Thursday) in Massachusetts: 568 new confirmed cases, for a total of 138,651 confirmed cases. There were 23 new deaths, for a total of 9,452. 

  • As of today (Thursday) in Boston: 108 new cases, for a total of 18,446. There was 1 new death, for a total of 769. 

Update on COVID-19 data:

  • The Mayor said that for the week ending October 10 around 1,800 Boston residents were tested every day. The citywide positive test rate increased to 4.4%.

  • Among neighborhoods, the 02121 and 02125 zip codes of Dorchester, as well as Hyde Park and Mattapan, were the neighborhoods with the highest positive rates.

  • East Boston and the 02122 and 02124 zip codes of Dorchester saw their rates go down, but remain above the citywide average. Roxbury remains above the citywide average as well. 

  • The Mayor said that, overall, the numbers we are seeing in positive tests and hospital admissions are numbers we haven’t seen since June, when Boston was coming down from the peak of COVID-19 cases. In response, we are strengthening our focus on prevention, community outreach, and support while also developing enforcement strategies for COVID guidelines. 

Reminder on paused reopening for BPS:

  • The Mayor reminded everyone that the City paused our phased-in reopening plan for Boston Public Schools due to the recent uptick of COVID-19 activity.

  • We pushed Phase 3 back a week, which means half of the students in kindergarten through third grade whose families opted in are due to begin hybrid learning next Thursday, October 22. We will be monitoring the data closely over the coming days to determine if it is safe for Phase 3 to move forward. 

  • We continue to ensure that all of our schools are safe environments. We continue to serve our highest needs students, who depend for their health and safety on in-person services. And we will not increase the number of students in schools unless public health authorities approve. 

New testing resources:

  • As the City monitors the data, we continue to support residents with outreach and testing access. We have two mobile testing teams in operation: one in Central Square, East Boston and one in Nubian Square, Roxbury. Both sites are testing at no cost to you, and you do not have to have symptoms to get tested. Overall, Boston has nearly 30 active testing sites across the city, which can be found on the testing map

  • The Mayor urged everyone to get tested, especially if you have been out of the house, at a gathering, or have any concern at all about your exposure. He said there is no cost to get tested, it doesn’t hurt, and it is a quick process. It’s very important for both your personal health and our city’s progress. 

Strengthening enforcement of COVID restrictions:

  • The Mayor said the City has a team of officials from across departments meeting and working together on enforcement measures for COVID restrictions. They include the Boston Public Health Commission, the Health and Human Services cabinet, Inspectional Services, the Parks Department, Neighborhood Services, and the Boston Police Department. 

  • We are discussing efforts to tighten enforcement on gathering limits, restrictions on unpermitted public events, and unsanctioned activities in parks. 

  • We are working to help restaurants follow restrictions on table size, distancing, and masks. We will be conducting spot checks and visits with businesses to ensure regulations are being followed. And we will continue our prevention efforts to remind everyone of the risks and guidelines. 

  • The Mayor said he understands the stresses that small businesses are under, and that the City wants to provide support. If you own or manage a restaurant, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Small Business team at boston.gov/SmallBusiness. We have guidance and we still have funds available to help you implement the steps you need to take. 

  • Our team is giving special attention to gatherings and house parties that are putting people at risk. We continue to get reports of house parties in South Boston as well as other neighborhoods. We are in conversation with elected officials who have expressed their concerns. We are tracking locations where parties continue to happen, and will be working through Inspectional Services to curtail these events. If you are concerned about a party, call 9-1-1. 

  • The Mayor spoke directly to people who have been going to parties. He said he understands the need to socialize, but right now, we need to focus on activities that don’t cause the virus to spread. 

  • Roughly half of our new cases continue to be people under the age of 30 years old, and that is a trend happening nationally. A study was published recently on COVID hotspots around the U.S. It found that, a month before an area sees major activity, you see elevated rates in young adults. They are more active, many are taking fewer precautions, and the virus takes hold. Then, a month later, the virus is spreading throughout the community. Older people are getting it, more people are in the hospital, and more people die. The City has talked about that concern, and there is science behind it. 

  • The Mayor said the following: “If you are thinking about going to a party, don’t just think about the people at that party. Think about all the people that everyone at that party has been in contact with, and will be in contact with. Think about the person a month later who gets sick or loses their life, and their family can’t visit them. And think about our need as a city to prevent another surge and avoid shutting down. That’s what’s at stake when you go to a party. Not going is a small sacrifice you can make.  This time will pass, we will have parties again; but, right now, it’s up to all of us to keep each other safe. So I thank everyone who is taking precautions, and I would appreciate everyone’s cooperation. We can’t do this without everyone’s help.“

Last day to fill out the 2020 Census:

  • On Tuesday, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump Administration to end the 2020 Census count. They had been trying to cut it short for months, to avoid counting until the planned Oct. 31 deadline. 

  • The Mayor gave context for the Census: it happens once every 10 years, and is required by the Constitution. The Census is how our country determines Congressional representation, and it’s how billions of dollars in federal funding gets allocated for things like childcare, education, food, and community health centers.  

  • The Mayor said it’s very important to get a complete count. This is something Boston has spent a lot of time preparing for and working on in City government. We worked even harder to do outreach that is safe during a pandemic. 

  • He said that the Trump Administration should have been our partner in that effort, instead of trying to undermine it. He said the following: “The only reason to stop the count early is because you don’t actually want everyone counted —  and because you know that immigrant communities and low-income communities take longer to count. If you don’t count everyone, resources and representation are denied to those communities, which are the same communities that have lost out in the past. So what they did was the opposite of equity. It’s targeting the vulnerable for further neglect.”

  • As a result of the Administration’s actions, today (October 15) is the final day of Census counting. The Mayor asked people to respond to the Census if they haven’t already. It only takes a few minutes and can be done in 13 languages. You can go to either go to my2020census.gov or call 844-303-2020. 

  • The Mayor wants all residents to know — no matter who you are — that here in Boston, you are valued and you are represented. We will not stop fighting to make your voice heard. 

Reminder on preparations for the November 3rd election:

  • Early voting begins this Saturday, October 17 and runs through Friday, October 30. Boston has 27 unique early voting locations around the city, including Fenway Park and City Hall.

  • You can also vote by mail. The City has received more than 130,000 requests for mail-in ballots, and we have sent out 84% of these ballots so far. We will send out the remainder of these ballots by the end of this week, and continue to process requests. The last day to request a mail-in ballot is Wednesday, October 28.

    • The Mayor encourages you to mail your completed ballot as soon as possible and follow all instructions. That includes signing where your signature is required, and returning it with the indicated envelope. 

  • You can also deposit your ballot at one of the 17 drop boxes we are installing today around the city. Drop boxes will be available through 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3. These are under surveillance to ensure the integrity of the election, and the ballots will be taken out and brought to City Hall every day.

  • In-person voting on Election Day will be similar to the primary election. The same polling locations have been changed to avoid bringing people into senior buildings — so please double-check your location. Every location will be prepared with spacing guidelines, cleaning protocols, and PPE. 

  • As a reminder: if you are registering to vote for the first time in Boston, the registration deadline is October 24. You can find more information at boston.gov/elections.

Reminder on housing supports:

  • The Mayor reminded everyone that the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures expires on October 17, this coming Saturday. The City is continuing our preparations to help renters and property owners who may be struggling due to income loss. 

    • Our Boston Housing Authority moratorium remains in place until the end of the year. 

    • We have a Housing Stability Pledge. 32 large landlords have signed an agreement to avoid evictions.

    • On Monday, October 19, we will reopen our Rental Relief Fund to new applications. This will be our third round of funding and we are making $5 million available. 

    • Our ordinance to provide the most at-risk tenants with information about their rights and resources remains before the City Council, and the Mayor continues to urge its passage. 

  • If you are a renter concerned about missing rent payments, please reach out to our Office of Housing Stability at boston.gov/HousingStability. If you are a landlord who would like to access those resources on behalf of your tenant, please reach out as well. 

  • If you are a homeowner concerned about paying your mortgage or making repairs, please contact our Boston Home Center. The Mayor said the Home Center helped prevent 900 foreclosures last year. He said nobody should lose their home during a pandemic — it’s not fair and not good for public health. So we will keep working to support anyone who is struggling. 

Halloween announcements:

  • Next week (week of October 19), the Mayor will give an update on COVID-19 precautions the City is putting in place for Halloween. In the meantime, he gave a couple updates about upcoming events and opportunities for children, families, and seniors.

  • The Parks Department is hosting a virtual pumpkin carving contest. After you carve your jack-o-lantern, you can submit a photo any time between now and October 31. Three winners will receive iPads provided by Xfinity. Winners will be chosen in the categories: Most creative; Scariest; and Boston park themed. Visit boston.gov/pumpkins to learn more or submit your photo.

  • Building on the success of our Summer Drive-In Movie series, the City is launching a Fall Drive-In Movie Series starting next Thursday, October 22. Movies include Halloweentown, Scream, Hocus Pocus, Get Out, The Addams Family, and Psycho. Please note that some films are family-friendly and some are 18+. Admission is free for Boston residents, but you have to register online at boston.gov/DriveInMovies

    • We will be having double features on several nights, as well as a special matinee show for seniors in partnership with the Age Strong Commission. If you are 55 or older and want to attend the matinee, you must register directly with the Age Strong Commission by calling 617-635-3959 or emailing Marybeth.Kelly@boston.gov

    • Drive-In Movies are organized by our Parks Department and our Office of Tourism, Sports, and Entertainment. The Mayor thanked the Highland Street Foundation and Xfinity for their support, as well as the Convention Center for hosting.

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About the Author

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.