COVID-19 End of Week Update + Face Covering Order 5/3/20
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
I hope this finds you and those you love well on this first sunny weekend of May.
Our hospitals have somewhat stabilized for now and our testing capacity has increased some, but we're not out of the thick of this yet, and we must continue to prevent the virus from spreading.
On Friday, the Baker-Polito Administration ordered all residents over the age of two to use a face covering or mask in public places where maintaining proper social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is not possible. This statewide order goes into effect on this coming Wednesday, May 6, and supersedes previously issued guidance relative to mask use. Of course, I encourage you to begin this practice of covering your face, if you haven't already.
*This order applies to all workers and customers of businesses and other organizations that are currently open to the public and permitted to operate as COVID-19. Essential Businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail stores. Residents are also required to wear a mask or face covering at all times when using any means of transportation service or public mass transit.*
Click HERE or see below to WATCH new DPH PSA on How to Safely Cover Your Face Outside of Home.
A face covering may include anything that covers the nose and mouth, including a mask, scarf, or bandana. Health care masks (such as surgical or N-95 masks) should not be used and should be preserved for health care workers and first responders. Cloth masks should not be worn by young children under the age of two, persons with difficulty breathing, or those who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
Instructions on how to make a cloth mask are available from the CDC.
In times of despair and difficulty, I believe it is still within us to feel joy. Towards this end, usually, assisting others helps a lot. And we know taking action can also help to lower anxiety levels, so consider taking breaks from t.v. and the news, and making a mask for yourself and maybe others, too.
If you don't know where to start, please consider requesting a mask or volunteering to make masks through the Boston Area Mask Initiative, a Boston based grassroots organization of makers and volunteers who provide handmade fabric masks to medical and essential workers and at-risk populations affected by the COVID-19 crisis. They’re helping to generate and distribute reusable, nonmedical face coverings and holding their first town hall (via Zoom) this Thursday, May 7, 7-8 PM.
SAVE THE DATE - This Friday, May 8 at 9 AM, just like we typically would on the 2nd Friday of the month, we're going to attempt our first virtual office hours for residents of the 11th Suffolk District (Ward 11, Ward 12: Precincts 7, 9, Ward 14: Precinct 3, Ward 19: Precincts 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13).
This is a pilot test run and we appreciate your patience in advance as we shift our ongoing casework assistance dialogue with you to online platforms. If you know folks who cannot participate due to lack of access to technology, as always, we can communicate via phone 617-722-2380, x2 or email email@example.com. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR MORE INFO. LATER THIS WEEK.
Finally, for those of you who've lost someone to the virus, my heart and prayers are with you. If you are or know someone who is struggling to access available services, please reach out to my office. Additionally, let us know if you need assistance with unemployment, health care enrollment, or housing.
MA State Representative, 11th Suffolk
To read Commonwealth’s Command Center daily updates (and my previous updates): www.replizmalia.org
Helpful Legal Resources
If you or someone you know is at risk for sexual and domestic violence, service providers are still accessible. You can also call SafeLink, the statewide domestic violence hotline, at 1-877-785-2020. SafeLink can provide resources and support services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
To file an unemployment claim, visit here. If you have trouble filing a claim, please contact my office for assistance.
To receive, your federal economic impact payment: check out the tool kit for congressional offices.
To apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits call Project Bread’s Food Source Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 (M-F from 8am-7pm & Saturday from 10am-2pm.)
The WIC (Women, Infants, & Children Nutrition) program provides families with healthy foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to healthcare and other services for families.
Anyone feeling overwhelmed with sadness, anxiety, or stress, or who wants to harm themselves or others, can access the mental health, emotional support, and suicide prevention program Call2Talk by dialing 2-1-1. Call2Talk is also available by calling 508-532-2255 or by texting C2T to 741741.
Text COVIDMA to 888-777 to receive daily text updates from MA Dept. of Public Health.
US Census - Boston Counts 2020
Boston depends on your household to respond so that our communities get their fair share of federal funding and representation for the resources we need.
Much of the funding that comes from the Census count helps the most vulnerable among us. It provides, for instance, health care (Medicare and Medicaid), public education (grants for special education and Boston Public Schools), food and nutrition programs (SNAP and free school breakfast/lunch programs), affordable housing (Section 8 vouchers), and child care (Head Start) for low-income families.
The Census has never been more accessible. You can respond to the 2020 Census online (my2020census.gov), over the phone, or by mail. You can respond to the 2020 Census online or over the phone in 13 different languages.
Responses to the 2020 Census are safe, secure, and protected by federal law. Your answers can only be used to produce statistics and cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. The Census Bureau can’t share your personal information with DHS, law enforcement, or your landlord until 72 years have passed. It won’t affect any public benefits you receive.
Whether you rent or you own your home, whether you were born here or you just got here, whether you are a senior citizen or a newborn baby, you count equally in our democracy and we need to make sure you and everyone in your household is counted in the 2020 Census.
The 2020 Census is a way to directly increase community power. It will impact our daily lives for the next 10 years. Many of Boston’s communities are at risk of an undercount. We need a complete and accurate count because all of Boston deserves to be seen, heard, and invested in.
City Guides for Small Business
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) became live Monday 4/20, 10 days ahead of schedule. See Mayor's Office of Economic Development FAQ for Job Seekers and Unemployment Insurance
The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) continues to offer virtual town halls that provide information on how to apply for unemployment assistance. These town halls take place every day and will take you through the step by step process of applying for unemployment.
If you're expecting a call from the DUA, PLEASE ANSWER calls from 617-626-6800 up until 8 PM 7 days/week.
Residents with a valid resident permit sticker will be allowed to park in a metered or two-hour parking space, without having to adhere to the time limit or pay a meter fee, within their specific neighborhood.
For cars without the relevant resident permit parking sticker, standard time limit and meter requirements remain in place.
BTD has not been ticketing and towing for street cleaning, given challenges to finding alternative places to park in neighborhoods.
Inspection Stickers and Registration
BTD will not ticket for expired inspection stickers or registrations, given potential challenges for people to renew inspections and registrations at this time.
To support the medical community, BTD has identified facilities offering free, reduced rate or reserved parking for medical professionals. To receive discounted parking, medical staff will need to present a hospital ID. See the list of participating facilities.
4/27 - The Administration will be increasing funding by $44 million for residential congregate care service providers. This funding builds on $95 million in funding announced in March and will be used to support increased staffing costs (such as hazard pay), infection control, and personal protective equipment for the 238 residential service providers that serve over 20,500 individuals
4/27 - The Administration announced an additional $130 million in funding for nursing facilities to support COVID-19 response efforts over the next two months. This funding will support staff costs, infection control, and personal protective equipment if facilities are able to demonstrate adherence to accountability measures.
4/27 - The Commonwealth will also offer temporary staffing assistance for all nursing home needs. This includes clinical response teams of nurses and CNAs deployed in groups of 10 during emergency situations. These efforts will be supported by a centralized infection control performance improvement center established by the Massachusetts Senior Care Association. I heard from nursing homes in the 11th Suffolk, advocated on their behalf, am grateful this is the state’s response so far, and recognize more needs to be done.
4/27 - Attorney General's office released guidance on protecting the rights of people with disabilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
4/28 - Governor Baker extended his emergency order requiring non-essential businesses to keep their physical workplaces and facilities closed until May 18. This order also extends the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people until May 18.
4/28 - The Department of Public Health announced that the stay-at-home advisory will continue to remain in effect. Residents are encouraged to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel. Those that are considered high risk should limit social interactions with others as much as possible.
4/28 - The Governor announced the formation of the Reopening Advisory Board, which will be co-chaired by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kenneally. This board, which is composed of public health officials, members of the business community, and municipal officials from across Massachusetts, is charged with advising the Administration on strategies and developing a plan to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics.
4/28 - Following the Legislature’s action to allow for the modification of high school graduation requirements, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to temporarily modify the competency determination requirement for current high school seniors during the COVID-19 emergency. Read more here.
4/28 - The Small Business Administration resumed accepting applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). ***If you're a small business or non-profit, you can apply for free legal technical assistance to help navigate the relief available to you: https://www.covidreliefcoalition.com/en/sources-of-relief
4/28 - The Children’s Trust of Massachusetts is now providing free parenting resources during the COVID-19 outbreak, including its digital, evidence-based parenting resource, All Babies Cry.
4/28 - Comcast announced they’ll extend their comprehensive COVID-19 response policies to June 30, 2020. This includes no disconnects and waiving late fees, Xfinity WiFi free for everyone, pausing their data plan and extending their internet essentials offer.
4/29 - Partners Healthcare announced that they will be running a COVID-19 diagnostic test on every admitted patient at its acute care hospitals. Partners will also be testing for emergency room admissions and patient transfers. Those that have been tested can expect results within one to three hours. Following the Legislature’s action to allow for the modification of high school graduation requirements, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to temporarily modify the competency determination requirement for current high school seniors during the COVID-19 emergency.
4/30 - The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is hiring temporary employees to assist with disaster relief efforts. Many positions are virtual and bilingual language skills are a plus. Jobs include call center customer service representative, document preparation/legal review/loan closing, and loan processing/credit analysis/mortgage underwriting.
5/1 - Quest Diagnostics and the Mass League of Community Health Centers announced they will expand their COVID-19 testing at additional centers throughout the Commonwealth, bringing the total to 18 community health centers, including: Lynn Community Health Center, North Shore Community Health Center, South Boston Community Health Center, Holyoke Health Center, and Community Health Center of Franklin County.
4/29 - Governor Baker stated that assessments that the total death toll of COVID-19 are undercounted in the state are likely correct and that the Administration is working to correct this. This is in response to CDC data that shows overall death rates have been higher in MA.
4/29 - Starting today, the COVID-19 Command Center is making its raw data, used to create its daily COVID-19 dashboard, available. You can download this data in a zip file here.
4/30 - About 5,000 people have been contacted by the state's Community Tracing Collaborative program. The state and Partners in Health are conducting contact tracing to identify people who have come into contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive. If you have been in contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive, you will receive a call from a number with an 857 or 833 area code, and the caller ID will say "MA COVID Team." Learn more about the Community Tracing Collaborative here.
4/30 - The Attorney General reminded us all regardless of your immigration status, you should not hesitate to seek medical care if you are injured, sick, need routine care, develop COVID-19 related symptoms, or have been exposed to the virus. Call your doctor or community health center. They are open and here for you. For those of us who want to help, there are many great organizations in MA stepping up to support the most vulnerable during this crisis, including our immigrant communities. If you are able, please consider making a contribution to support their efforts. You can find a list of organizations and how to contribute here.
5/1 - The RMV announced it extended its cancellation of passenger and motorcycle road tests through Monday, May 18, 2020, as per the Governor’s stay-at-home order.
5/1 - Governor Baker signed an executive order requiring residents over the age of 2 to use face coverings in public places where they cannot socially distance. This order will go into effect May 6.
5/1 - The Attorney General's office created flyers with information on access to healthcare, financial assistance, and other protections. Thousands of these flyers will be distributed in communities that are disparately impacted and in need of immediate assistance and information about their rights. You can also find it online in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean Creole, French, Arabic, and Russian here.
An Act Relative to Strengthening the Local and Regional Public Health System, builds off the House’s work through the Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health established in 2016. The Commission released a 2019 report identifying ways for municipalities to overcome barriers and provide quality public health services to residents in MA. Last week, the House finalized passage of legislation to improve municipal public health services to help coordinate local and regional public health services including disease control and emergency preparedness, which first passed in the House on Feb. 26 thanks to the work of Representatives Garlick (D-Needham) and Kane (R-Shrewsbury). On 4/29, the Governor signed the SAPHE Act into law.
With the ongoing strain on municipal and regional public health systems as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, this legislation is particularly timely. It supports collaboration between local boards of health and neighboring municipal public health departments to deliver high-quality and efficient public health services such as disease control, emergency preparedness, restaurant inspection, sanitary code enforcement, suicide prevention, and substance use disorder outreach. The new law also establishes a competitive grant program for public health departments, sets new statewide public health standards, and provides access to training for local public health workers.
This week, the House attempted to pass a bond bill the Governor filed to enable the state to manage deferred revenue by borrowing and then repaying the debt by June 30, 2021. This action is needed to protect the state's budgetary and cash balances during the ongoing emergency and to relieve pressure on the taxpayers of MA.
Tuesday's House Democratic Caucus Teleconference featured a discussion of the proposed temporary emergency rules that will govern the operation of the House during the COVID-19 public health emergency. After hearing concerns from many of you about the proposed threshold (25%) of members required for a recorded vote, House leadership amended the proposal back to the current requirement of 10% or 16 votes.
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, the House Republicans objected to the temporary proposed rules to govern the House of Reps ONLY during the state of emergency. As of Friday evening, negotiation conversations sounded promising. The House will try again to pass temporary emergency rules on Monday, so that we can pass the bond bill, which requires a recorded vote in both chambers.
According to the Council of State Governments, MA is only 1 of 7 other states where the Legislature has continued to meet in some capacity during the pandemic, whereas 23 states, including New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut, have temporarily halted their sessions or adjourned early due to the pandemic.
State Budget Process Going Forward
Given our public health emergency needs and the fallout in revenues, frankly, this year and the years to come will likely be very difficult (much worse than 2008 decline, which took at least 6 years for state line-item funding levels to return to "level funding" in 2008 dollars).
In mid-April, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston projected revenue losses in FY20 to be between $3.8-4.5B and $3.4-7.2B in FY21. That said, while we normally would have debated the House FY21 budget this past week, this public health crisis is causing us to return to the economic drawing board.
While we don't yet have a clear revenue picture, or a new figure upon which to build, I trust individuals and organizations who typically depend on state dollars to leverage other dollars, will understand the position the state is in. Per the state constitution, the commonwealth can only spend out what it takes in, unlike the federal government, which can deficit spend - hence what you see as relief packages.
We’re grateful to our federal elected representatives who are working fiercely to try to secure more federal relief dollars for the state. I wish them much success as our state's response to this crisis heavily depends on receiving federal assistance. When it comes to food security, housing, unemployment, health care, and physical and mental health, I am committed to ensuring racial and economic equity in our state's response to COVID-19 and will continue to work with my colleagues toward those ends.
In the end, it's not clear yet if we'll be taking up 1/12 budgets (month by month). To date, the best suggestion I can offer to any organization or program seeking state dollars in this economy at this time: have a robust policy paper to support your ask.
Mayor’s 5/1/20 Update
Please see below for updates from Mayor Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on May 1, 2020.
Case numbers as of Thursday, April 30:
Massachusetts: 62,205 cases and 3,562 deaths.
Boston: 9,271 cases, 357 deaths, and 2102 recoveries.
Expansion of testing availability
This week, testing in Boston increased over 44% from the previous week.
So far, nearly 28,000 Boston residents have been tested.
Of those total tests, 32% have tested positive, a slight decrease from the 33% reported last week.
The Mayor provided some updates on testing availability and results in different neighborhoods.
East Boston had 86% more testing than it had the previous week. This was the biggest increase in testing of any neighborhood. The percentage of people testing positive in East Boston went down, but East Boston still has the highest positive rates in the city.
Mattapan, Roxbury, West Roxbury and Hyde Park had the largest decreases in positives comparing this week with previous data.
South Boston and Fenway experienced higher positive rates during the past week compared to previous data. The City is working to increase testing in these neighborhoods.
The City is working to open new testing sites in Jamaica Plain and Charlestown.
Importance of wearing face coverings and physical distancing:
The Mayor continued to stress the importance of wearing face coverings in public. Everyone should wear a face covering over their nose and mouth anytime they leave their home and are around other people. This includes while running, cycling, entering essential businesses, or other buildings.
The City has been working with the State to strengthen the guidance on face coverings. On Friday afternoon, Governor Baker issued an executive order requiring all MA residents over the age of 2 to wear masks in public, including at grocery stores, retail stores, and on transit. The order goes into effect on Wednesday, May 6.
The Mayor also reminded people not to gather in groups of any kind, including this weekend, when the forecast calls for pleasant weather.
Importance of safe driving:
During the public health emergency, there have been fewer cars on the road, and there have been fewer crashes.
However, the BPD has reported more speeding and hospitals are reporting more severe injuries from crashes. Injuries are more severe and death more likely when speeds are higher at impact, even just by a few miles per hour.
All drivers should respect speed limits, and to pay attention to how fast they are going on the roads, and be aware of their surroundings.
In Boston, all roads have a default speed limit of 25 miles per hour unless otherwise posted.
The Mayor stated that over the past five years, traffic fatalities have gone down by more than half in Boston, and that this is not the time to go backwards.
The Mayor discussed the City’s efforts to keep all residents informed about the coronavirus in a transparent and timely manner.
The City has more than 200 print and digital billboards displaying critical public health information throughout the city.
Nearly 65,000 people have signed up for the City’s text alert system, which is available in 11 languages. Sign up by texting BOSCOVID to 888-777.
Boston.gov/coronavirus has all the latest information and resources, available in 11 languages, including English.
Residents can also call the 3-1-1 helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In March, 1,000 volunteers delivered printed information in multiple languages to every home in the city.
The City has deployed sound trucks to neighborhoods with higher rates of coronavirus, including Mattapan, Dorchester, Hyde Park, East Boston, Roslindale, and Roxbury.
Robocalls with new information in multiple languages go out to more than 70,000 seniors multiple times per week.
Today the Mayor announced that the City will be distributing community care kits to areas that our Health Inequities Task Force identified as having the greatest need. These kits will contain things like resources and supplies to help residents stay healthy and safe. The City is partnering with a local vendor, Dorchester-based College Hype, to distribute these items.
The City has also printed new booklets with critical information on how to stay safe during the coronavirus outbreak, including how to make a face covering, how to practice physical distancing, what to do if you get sick, and more. Neighborhood liaisons will distribute nearly 100,000 of these booklets this weekend.
The City is putting up new signage in high-traffic areas. These signs will include information in 7 languages, and they will start going up this weekend.
The City is also producing posters which will be displayed in the windows of neighborhood businesses.
Mental health resources:
May is Mental Health Month, and the Mayor acknowledged the additional stress that people are facing this year due to the global pandemic.
He reminded residents that it is normal to feel sad, scared, lonely, or overwhelmed, and that there are resources available to them.
He encouraged residents to call their health care provider to get set up with telehealth counseling.
People can also call the City’s 24-hour helpline at 3-1-1 to get connected to anonymous counseling over the phone.
The City of Boston is reaching out to City employees to make them aware of mental health resources that are available to them through the Employee Assistance Program. The Mayor encouraged other employers to make the mental health of their employees a top priority.
The City also has resources for students who are struggling. BPS School psychologists, social workers, and counselors are reaching out to families to plan and support students while schools are closed. If parents have concerns, and their child does not already see a counselor, they should reach out to their school.
The Mayor reminded residents that if they are dealing with a health or safety emergency, they should call 9-1-1 right away.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call or text The Samaritans at 877-870-4673. You can also reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Anyone facing domestic abuse, child abuse, or suspects abuse should call 9-1-1. They can also call SafeLink, the State’s 24/7 toll-free hotline at 877-785-2020. It now also includes resources and support for survivors of sexual assault.
All of the City's recovery services are still open. We have online resources including links to online meetings at Boston.gov/Recovery. You can also call 3-1-1.
Precautions individual residents should continue to take during the outbreak:
Distancing and hygiene remains critical to flattening the curve and saving lives.
The Mayor urged residents to stay home and avoid contact with others; respect the recommended curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.; wear a face covering whenever they leave home; stay at least six feet from other people at all times; wash their hands and clean and sanitize surfaces frequently.
Mayor’s 4/29 Update
Case numbers as of Wednesday, April 29:
Massachusetts: 60,265 cases and 3,405 deaths.
Boston: 9,055 cases, 340 deaths, and 1,986 recoveries.
Extension of the Statewide stay-at-home advisory and essential services order:
The Mayor voiced his support for the Governor’s decision to extend the stay-at-home order, the ban on non-essential businesses operating physical locations, and the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people until May 18.
The Governor has also created a Reopening Advisory Board, comprised of public health, state and local government, and private industry leaders. As a member of the 17-person board, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Kathryn Burton will be the point person for coordinating the state and city reopening framework.
The Boston Public Health Commission’s Public Health Emergency remains in effect until further notice. The curfew advisory has been extended to May 18. All measures taken by the City of Boston will continue to be guided by local public health data and expert advice.
Expanding access to testing
This week, with support from the Boston Resiliency Fund, three more community health centers will start offering COVID-19 testing: Fenway Health in the Fenway neighborhood; Driscoll-Neponset Health Center in Dorchester; and Charles River Community Health in Brighton.
When they are up and running, there will be a total of 19 testing sites operating in the City of Boston.
Locations, hours, and contact information for all open sites are available at boston.gov/coronavirus.
The City continues to conduct universal testing for Boston’s homeless population in both city-run and nonprofit shelters.
Antibody testing of 1000 residents is also underway, and should be completed by the end of this week. Participants will be tested for the presence of antibodies as well as for the COVID virus itself. The data from the antibody testing program will provide a snapshot of how prevalent the outbreak is in certain zip codes, and provide important insights into how the virus spreads. The mayor thanked residents participating and noted that testing empowers them with knowledge about their own status.
New Boston Resiliency Fund grantees announced:
Today, 18 organizations were awarded a total of $1.4 million.
Grantees include community health centers, the Greater Boston Food Bank, local food providers in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan; organizations serving seniors; organizations serving unsheltered homeless people; and organizations serving immigrant communities that provide culturally specific food and services.
So far, including today’s awardees, the Boston Resiliency Fund has raised a total of $27.4 million from nearly 5000 donors, and distributed $15.2 million to 165 organizations.
Financial assistance for individuals:
The Mayor announced that the City has secured over $10 million in Federal funding to re-supply rental relief and small business relief programs and meet other essential needs.
The Mayor issued a reminder that the State passed legislation to ban evictions and foreclosures during the public health emergency.
Anyone struggling to pay their rent or mortgage should reach out to their landlord or bank and ask what options are available.
The City is working with its non-profit partners to process 800 applications for the Rental Relief Fund; and it’s working with the State and Federal governments to identify additional resources for this program.
Today the Mayor announced that two additional banks, Leader Bank and Berkshire Bank, have signed on to the City’s Foreclosure Prevention Plan, bringing the total to 17 lenders. Participating lenders agree to defer mortgage payments for at least three months, and more if necessary; to not report late payments to credit rating agencies; and to provide scheduled repayment plans.
Other recent signees include the Boston Firefighters Credit Union, and the lenders that work with Mass Housing and the Mass Housing Partnership on first-time homeowner programs.
The Mayor reminded residents that if they are having a difficult time paying their mortgage, they should reach out to their lender. The Boston Home Center is also available to provide additional assistance at 617-635-HOME.
Update on food access:
The City and its partners have served more than half a million meals at 65 youth-oriented meal pickup sites across the city since the school closure went into effect.
Seven of these meal sites are now serving adults, focusing on the neighborhoods with the greatest needs. The newest one opened today at the East Boston Social Center. Tomorrow, an eighth site will come online at the BHA’s Alice Taylor apartments in Roxbury.
A map of meal sites and information about other food resources are available at boston.gov/coronavirus.
Resources for small businesses:
By the end of this week, the City’s Small Business Relief Fund, which started with $2 million, will have distributed 83% of those funds to over 500 businesses in the City of Boston.
New federal funding will allow the City to fulfill all eligible and approved grant requests for small businesses in the industries most impacted by the COVID-19 response.
Expanding internet access
So far, the City has distributed over 30,000 free Chromebook laptops and 2,400 free WiFi hotspots to get families online. The City will continue to provide these resources, which are important as the next phase of distance learning is introduced by BPS in the coming week. To request a Chromebook, go to bostonpublicschools.org or call 3-1-1. And to request WiFi, contact your child’s school directly.
For those who already have service, Boston’s internet and wireless providers agreed to suspend service cut-offs and late fees through March and April. Verizon, Comcast, and RCN have extended their pledge through June 30.
Precautions individual residents should continue to take during the outbreak:
Distancing and hygiene remains critical to flattening the curve and saving lives.
The Mayor urged residents to stay home and avoid contact with others; respect the recommended curfew from 9pm to 6am; wear a face covering whenever they leave home; stay at least six feet from other people at all times; wash their hands and clean and sanitize surfaces frequently.
The Mayor made a specific plea to runners and cyclists. He said that they need to wear a face covering when exercising in order to protect themselves and others. He reminded residents that many people who are infected with COVID do not show symptoms, and may not be aware that they are passing it along when they run or bike near others.
The Mayor repeated his call for people to not hesitate to seek medical help if they are experiencing a medical emergency. If residents are having mild or moderate symptoms consistent with the coronavirus, they should call their doctor or the 3-1-1 Health Line. But if they are having a medical emergency of any kind, including difficulty breathing, chest pains, or signs of stroke, they should call 9-1-1 immediately. That also applies to anyone who feels threatened by violence in the home, or is aware of abuse going on.
Mayor’s 4/27 Update
Please see below for updates from Mayor Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on April 27, 2020.
Massachusetts: 54,938 cases and 2,899 deaths (as of Sunday, April 26).
Boston: 8,421 cases, 315 deaths, 1,724 recoveries (as of Monday, April 27).
The Mayor shared a story about an older gentleman who had been hospitalized at MGH with COVID-19. He proposed to his partner from his hospital bed, and the team at City Hall rushed to get them their marriage license. They were able to spend a few days together before he passed away last Saturday.
The Mayor urged everyone to take time to reflect on those we have lost, and to send love and support to people mourning loved ones.
Moment of silence for Bobby Joe Leaster:
The Mayor opened his press conference by honoring Bobby Joe Leaster, a streetworker at BCYF who passed away yesterday.
For almost 30 years, he mentored young people, helping them build confidence and find purpose. He was a trusted adult to many young people who had major challenges in their lives, and connected system-involved and gang-involved youth with jobs and education.
A few weeks ago, he was caught in a house fire and, despite heroic efforts by the Boston Fire Department and healthcare professionals, yesterday he passed away due to burns sustained. The Mayor expressed his deepest condolences to Bobby Joe’s family, friends, fellow streetworkers, and the BCYF community.
Update on BPS remote learning:
The next phase of learning from home starts on Monday, May 4. Families will receive additional information from the Superintendent later this week about attendance, grading, and schedules.
Schools will be creating individualized learning plans for students with the highest needs, to make sure no one falls behind. These expectations may continue to evolve as the City gets further guidance from the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the US Department of Education.
The Mayor reiterated the City’s efforts to support remote learning, including setting up more than 2,000 wifi hotspots, distributing more than 30,000 laptops, and serving free breakfast and lunch every single weekday to youth and children at 65 locations. To date, the City has served more than half a million meals at youth meal sites. The City also operates six adult meal sites for grab-and-go meals. A map of Boston’s food resources can be found here.
The City is also focused on students’ social and emotional health. Going forward, every school will have a Student Support Team to monitor students’ well-being, engagement, and progress.
The City will continue to share more details about our plans for the Boston Public Schools throughout this week.
Antibody testing initiative:
Today, the City is launching an antibody testing initiative.
In partnership with Mass General Hospital, the City will test 1,000 residents of East Boston, Roslindale and the 02121 and 02125 zip codes of Dorchester. These neighborhoods reflect the diversity of our City and will give us important information about how different populations are being impacted.
Residents who agree to participate will be tested for both the COVID-19 virus and COVID-19 antibodies. This information should help the City understand and contain the virus more effectively, and chart the path to recovery.
Regular testing detects the presence of the virus and shows whether someone is currently infected. Antibody testing helps show how many people have already recovered from the virus.
Testing in the community will give a better idea of how widespread the outbreak really is in Boston, and give an estimate of how many more people will likely be infected. It will help the City plan and use resources in a smart way, and target areas that are the most vulnerable.
The Mayor gave an overview of the City’s expanded testing efforts, including:
Setting up 15 testing sites across Boston’s neighborhoods.
Creating a map which shows the locations, hours, and contact information for all testing sites in Boston.
Collecting and and sharing data on testing, including race, ethnicity, and neighborhood information.
Increasing testing by over 30% in the last week, with increases as big as 57% in some areas.
And doing universal testing for our homeless population after securing 1,000 additional tests last week.
Reminder to seek medical help:
The Mayor reminded everyone that if they are feeling sick, they should call their doctor or the 3-1-1 Health Line before going to the hospital. But if they are having a medical emergency of any kind, they should call 9-1-1 immediately.
That includes difficulty breathing or pain in your chest, as well as anyone facing domestic violence or abuse. The City has the capacity to treat everyone who needs care. No one should be afraid to call 9-1-1.
The Mayor asked for everyone’s help in getting that message to people who need it.
Comments on the upcoming May 4 expiration of the state’s stay-at-home advisory and emergency order closing non-essential businesses:
The Mayor stated that May 4 will be too early to relax any of the local or state measures in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
He acknowledged the financial hardships that people are going through and pledged to continue providing support.
The City is building a recovery framework that will give us a flexible guide for short, medium and long-term recovery steps, based on data-driven public health benchmarks and including public health guidelines for how to re-open.
He promised continued transparency about the reasoning and the timeline for every decision.
General social distancing reminder:
The City of Boston is still experiencing a surge in cases. Please continue to stay home whenever possible, practice distancing and wear face coverings outside the house, wash your hands, and clean and disinfect surfaces.
The City of Boston is asking City and community leaders, local organizations, and non-profit partners to push this message out to their networks.
Lastly, Mayor Walsh joined the Boston Globe last week for a town hall discussion on Boston's response to COVID-19. If interested, the link to the recording can be found here.