COVID-19 End of Week Update + Protests 5/31/20
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Once again, Bostonians are in the streets demanding an end to racism and police brutality. George Floyd's murder probably feels personal to you; if you see your own brother, cousin, uncle or father in Floyd's final pleas, I am sorry for the additional trauma during an already extremely difficult time.
Many of us are weeping with you, and those who can are in the streets in at least 75 cities to say that enough is enough. The world is rarely ready for a movement to blossom. I hope that this one succeeds in bending our nation's arc, and that the combined cry of voices raised for equity and justice continues to center the experiences, wisdom and needs of Black, Latino and Native people as we rebuild our broken systems.
Regarding reopening, the decision that will determine if and when we enter the next phase of the state's plan, which includes retail stores, restaurants and nail salons inviting customers back, and public pools and lodging, is dependent on the public health data collected over the next 5 days between 6/1-6/6. The earliest phase 2 of the state's restart plan could possibly begin is Monday 6/8. The Administration will announce next Sat. 6/6 when phase 2 will be allowed to begin. Please be safe and continue to follow the guidance around physical distancing, facial coverings, and the City's curfew 9PM-6AM).
With a heavy and hopeful heart,
State Representative, 11th Suffolk
5/29 - On Monday 6/1, Governor Baker will issue an executive order with a detailed list of sectors that fall into each phase of reopening and will allow phase II businesses to bring back employees to prepare for reopening.
5/29 - Starting today, MA residents who receive SNAP benefits can use their EBT card to buy food online from Walmart and Amazon. Read more here.
5/29 - MassDEP and the Attorney General's Office will resume the enforcement of beverage container redemption requirements. Enforcement will resume at retailers using reverse vending machines on 6/5 and at retailers accepting containers over the counter on 6/19. Learn more here.
5/29 - Guidance was issued for the restaurant and lodging industries. Outdoor dining at restaurants will begin at the start of Phase II and indoor dining will begin later within Phase II. Tables will be spaced at least 6 feet apart, and the use of bars, except for spaced table seating, will not be permitted. You can find full restaurant guidance here.
5/29 - Hotels, motels, and other lodging businesses can expand operations in Phase II. Event spaces must remain closed. Guests must be notified of the state's policy urging travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days when arriving from out of the state. You can find the full lodging guidance here.
5/28 - Legislature sent a bill to Governor Baker's desk that would increase COVID-19 reporting requirements for the Department of Public Health, extend data collection, and establish a COVID-19 disparities task force to identify initial recommendations and issues requiring further study around health disparities for underserved and underrepresented populations.
5/28 - The 2020 Boston Marathon, which had been rescheduled from Patriots' Day to September 14, has been cancelled.
5/27 - The RMV is currently working on a solution to offer online Learner's Permit tests starting in mid-June. More information will become available in the coming weeks. Learn more and find other COVID-19 related RMV updates here.
5/27 - The Department of Unemployment Assistance announced that criminal enterprises using stolen information have been attempting to file fraudulent unemployment claims through the DUA system. If you believe someone has fraudulently applied for benefits using your information, report it here.
5/27 - Thanks to the advocacy of many of my colleagues, the Unemployment Insurance application is now available in Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole, in addition to Spanish and English. You can find the application here.
5/26 - Governor Baker signed legislation that expands the maximum allowable claims period for unemployment insurance from 26 weeks to 30 weeks for any week in which claims exceed 100,000, lifts the 50% cap on dependency benefits, and exempts employers' experience ratings from the impacts of COVID-19.
5/26 - The MA House passed legislation to provide municipal governments greater flexibility by granting the ability to host town meeting remotely and allowing for a reduction in quorum requirement. The legislation also makes a concerted effort to address the challenges facing school districts throughout the Commonwealth in dealing with existing vendor contracts and allows new teachers to receive emergency educator licenses in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
5/26 - Governor Baker announced that the Boston Hope Medical Center, the COVID-19 field hospital in Boston, will be suspending the admission of new patients. All patients currently receiving care will continue to be cared for until they are safely discharged.
5/26 - The Supreme Judicial Court ordered all court business (in-person criminal and civil bench trials) will be conducted virtually until at least 7/1/20, except for certain emergency matters that must be handled in-person, and jury trials will not resume until at least 9/8/20.
5/26 - Attorney General Maura Healey released guidance to protect people living in hotels and motels from being removed from their housing during COVID-19.
5/25 - The state hosted a virtual Memorial Day ceremony with remarks from Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito and Legislative leaders. The Massachusetts National Guard provided a special "Tribute to the Fallen." Watch the recorded ceremony here.
5/25 - Reopening Phase 1, Part 1 - Lab space, office space outside of Boston, hair salons and barber shops, pet groomers, car washes, and retail remote fulfillment and curbside pickup allowed to reopen with restrictions, some capacity limitations, and staggered start.
Mayor's Update 5/28
As of today in Massachusetts: 94,895 cases and 6,640 deaths.
As of today in Boston: 12,634 cases, 627 deaths, and 6,272 recoveries.
The Mayor also acknowledged that 100,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19 so far. He said our City’s prayers are with their families, and we think of them every day as we work to contain this cruel virus and prevent as many future deaths as possible.
Update on the 124th Boston Marathon:
The Boston Athletic Association, with the City’s input and support, has determined that the traditional, one-day running of the Boston Marathon is not feasible this year for public health reasons. There is no way to hold the usual race format without bringing large numbers of people into close contact.
The City is supporting the BAA in an alternative approach to the Marathon that allows runners to participate remotely, and allows everyone to celebrate the meaning this race has for Boston’s spirit, for charities, and for the local economy.
The Mayor acknowledged that this is a difficult adjustment, and he is grateful for the work of everyone involved—including the cities and towns along the route, the Governor and the legislature, and sponsor John Hancock. He then asked BAA President Tom Grilk to give more details about the new Marathon event, and what registered runners need to know.
Guidelines for reopening office workplaces:
This coming Monday, June 1, is when office workplaces can begin to reopen in Boston, under Phase 1 of the state’s reopening framework.
The Mayor noted that this is a date the City of Boston asked for, because of the size of the City’s commercial sector and the unique role Boston plays in the region’s working and commuting patterns.
Today, the City published guidelines for offices on how to keep workers, clients, and customers as safe as possible during a gradual and limited reopening. These guidelines use the state Safety Standards for this sector as a starting point, and are supplemented with recommendations from the CDC, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and industry associations, as well as input from local building owners, property managers, and workers.
The Mayor noted that these guidelines are not mandated, but serve as a detailed and usable best practices framework. The framework, which covers social distancing, hygiene, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfection, can be found at boston.gov/reopening.
The Mayor also urged office workplaces to be cautious about reopening, and protect their workforce. He talked about the guiding principles that apply to the entire reopening process:
First, going back to work brings risk. Even with a limited reopening, workplaces must be ready to manage the ongoing risk, and all plans must include mechanisms for scaling back if COVID-19 cases and deaths begin to spike.
Second, everyone who can should continue to work from home. He reminded everyone that nothing close to an old normal will be possible until a vaccine or effective treatment is developed.
Third, equity is essential for effective risk management. He warned that if workplaces don’t plan at every step for the needs of those who are disproportionately impacted, they will see disproportionate impacts that affect the entire workplace. Workplaces must take a complete view of who the workers are that make their offices run, from the front desk staff and custodians up to the CEO.
The Mayor strongly urges all employers, landlords, and property managers to make use of these best practices and guidelines. The City will be taking feedback and adapting it to conditions moving forward, and can help answer any questions about how to implement them. He also encouraged offices outside of Boston to download and use these guidelines as well.
The City will also be consulting with the new Boston Reopening Advisory Board on safety and recovery needs in offices and other sectors of the economy. This is a diverse group of leaders from business, health care, education, labor, arts, and faith communities.
Update on City Hall hours and City resources:
Boston City Hall will be open this coming Monday, June 1st to accommodate the extended June 1st property tax deadline the City put in place to provide flexibility for homeowners. Staff will be available on a walk-in basis to answer questions and process payments. However, the Mayor encouraged residents to make their payments at boston.gov or by calling 311.
This is a one-time change, and City Hall will remain open to the public, by appointment, on Tuesdays and Fridays only. You must wear a face covering when entering the building and will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
The Mayor also reminded small businesses that Phase 1 applications for the first round of the Boston Reopen Fund go live this afternoon at 5 pm. More information can be found at boston.gov/reopenfund. The $6 million Fund is a new resource to help small businesses minimize risk and manage economic recovery during reopening.
New steps to improve health and safety in public spaces:
The Mayor announced “Healthy Streets”, a package of changes to improve social-physical spacing in Boston’s neighborhoods, help workers and small businesses recover, and continue the work the City was doing before the crisis to make public space in Boston more safe, accessible, and healthy. These measures are “quick-build” projects that can be adapted and adjusted based on their success and community feedback. Details can be found at boston.gov/healthystreets.
Expanding bus stops and bus lanes: Working with the MBTA, the City is increasing space at bus stops on busy routes used by workers—including in East Boston, Mattapan, Roxbury, South Boston, and downtown. We’re also putting in a new bus lane on Washington St. and upgrading the bus lane on Essex Street, for the Silver Line through Chinatown.
Building dedicated bike lanes: The first phase will connect downtown job centers to our existing citywide bike lane network. We’re starting with at least 8 sections of road, connecting downtown, Back Bay, and the South End. These are dedicated lanes that are comfortable for new bike riders, families, essential workers, and commuters. We also continue to study opportunities for opening up lanes to pedestrians on some neighborhood streets, and more details are forthcoming.
Outdoor seating for restaurants: The Mayor noted that, as of this morning, 264 establishments in Boston have expressed interest in seating on the sidewalk or parking lane, and we are reviewing the requests. As the State continues to develop a timeline and framework for restaurant reopening, the City is ready to help, where it can, to make those expansions safe when the time comes.
New round of funding from the Boston Resiliency Fund:
The Mayor announced the latest round of grants from Boston Resiliency Fund. This week, the Fund is giving grants to 20 organizations totalling over $780,000. In keeping with the City’s commitment to equity, 60% of these organizations are led by a person of color and 45% are led by women.
These grants will help:
Bring food to seniors and homebound families, with groceries and meals that are fresh, nutritious, and culturally appropriate.
Expand COVID-19 testing in the South End with the South End Community Health Center.
Fund organizations that support people experiencing homelessness, like Project Place and Circle of Hope.
In total, the Fund has given out over $19 million to more than 230 organizations so far, and continues to accept donations.
New funding to support Boston’s immigrant communities:
The Mayor also announced new contributions totalling $1.75 million to the Boston Immigrant COVID-19 Collaborative.
Major donations are from the Klarman Family Foundation and the Open Society Foundation—as part of its global initiative to combat the effects of COVID-19 in vulnerable communities around the world. Additional support is coming from the United Way, Cradle to Career Grants, the Fireman Family, and Tomfohrde Foundation.
The Collaborative was launched with $650,000 from the Resiliency Fund and partnerships with the Brazilian Workers Center, Agencia ALPHA, and Rian Immigrant Center, and has grown to include 13 organizations that have been able to serve 20,000 families.
The Mayor described the impact of the Collaborative, and the support it’s been able to provide. He gave examples of immigrants who came here asking for nothing more than a chance to work hard, and COVID took that from them. He said providing some support, to help them get through a hard time, is the least our City can do.
The Mayor expressed his anger about reports of discrimination, especially against Asian Americans, during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He said Boston won’t stand for that, and it’s not how a strong community reacts to hard times. The Boston community stands together as a proud city of immigrants.
A special tribute to Billy Boyle:
The Mayor recognized Billy Boyle, a veteran and a retired firefighter from Charlestown, as today’s unsung hero. He passed away 5/27/20, and the City’s thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
He noted that May is national Older Americans Month, and the theme for 2020 is "Make Your Mark." It’s a way to celebrate the contributions that older adults made, and continue to make, in our communities, and Billy embodied that spirit.
He said Billy made a positive impact everywhere, including as a charter member of the Bunker Hill Associates and a founder of Charlestown Against Drugs.
He acknowledged that Bunker Hill Day in Charlestown will be different this year, but Billy’s legacy will help keep that fighting Charlestown spirit alive for generations to come.
Boston Fire Department Update regarding permits:
Due to the harsh economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses, the Boston Fire Department is extending the expiration date on all existing Place of Assembly and Annual Permits from June 30, 2020 to September 30, 2020.
Any issued Place of Assembly Permit or Annual Permit stating an expiration date of June 30, 2020 will now automatically be valid in the City of Boston until September 30, 2020.
The invoices for renewal will be mailed out in mid-August, and the permitting cycle for both Place of Assembly and Annual Permits will become October 1 to September 30 of the following year from this point forward.
Mayor's Update 5/26
As of Tuesday, May 26 in Massachusetts: 93,693 cases and 6,473 deaths.
As of Tuesday, May 26 in Boston: 12,521 cases, 622 deaths, and 6,019 recoveries.
Vandalism of the Puerto Rican Veterans’ Memorial:
The Mayor condemned the vandalization of the South End memorial which happened over the weekend. He discussed its importance to the City and affirmed his commitment to making sure it is fully restored as a powerful tribute to the many Puerto Rican veterans who have served our country.
For their quick response to this incident, the Mayor thanked Commissioner Rob Santiago and his team at the Office of Veterans Services, Ken Ryan and Stephen Pascantilli from the Property Management Department, the Parks Department, and the Boston Police Department who are investigating.
Update on Boston Hope Medical Center:
As the number of new coronavirus cases have continued to decline, and capacity at local hospitals has returned to near-normal levels, the Boston Hope Medical Center at the BCEC stopped taking new patients this morning.
The facility will continue operating until the last patient has been discharged to a safe place, and it will stay in place as a ready resource should it be needed again.
The Mayor thanked everyone who played a role in making the 1,000 bed facility ready for patients in under a week, including healthcare professionals, led by Mass General Brigham; service providers, guided by Boston Healthcare for the Homeless and Ascension Recovery Services; BCEC leadership, city government, and state government; military service members, Boston Police, EMS, and State Police; construction companies and the labor community; and countless staff and volunteers.
In total, Boston Hope has treated more than 700 patients since it opened in early April.
Exercising caution during the State’s reopening plan:
Phase 1 of the State’s reopening plan began last Monday, May 18, with some construction sites, manufacturing facilities, and houses of worship resuming activities. Some office spaces will resume in-person activities this week in Massachusetts, and next week in Boston. The Mayor stressed the importance of continuing to stop the spread of the virus even as the State gradually reopens to regular activities.
He issued a reminder that there is about a two-week time lag between infections and positive test results, as people develop symptoms and get tested. Therefore, the numbers we’re seeing now are based on what we were doing two weeks ago and earlier. If we want the numbers to keep going in the right direction, everyone must continue doing their part to minimize the risk of another surge, by maintaining at least six feet of distance between individuals; continuing to wash hands and clean surfaces frequently; and wearing a face covering when in public.
The Mayor asked people to continue to work from home if possible, and for older adults and medically vulnerable people to follow the Safer at Home advisory and stay home as much as possible.
New supports for small businesses and workers:
The Mayor announced a $6 million Reopen Boston Fund, a new resource to help small businesses minimize risk and manage economic recovery as we move forward.
This is a grant program to help small businesses put safety measures in place, including buying personal protective equipment (PPE); installing safety partitions for customers and employees; and managing outdoor space approved for business use. The grants will be distributed to brick-and-mortar businesses, with fewer than 15 employees, where people work close to each other or to customers. That includes salons and barber shops, retail stores and restaurants, gyms and event spaces, and more.
The funds will be released in three rounds, corresponding to the phases of the state’s reopening plan. Phase 1 applications will open this Thursday, May 28, at 5 p.m. Information is available in multiple languages at boston.gov/reopen-fund.
The grants will also create more opportunities for local, and minority- and women- owned contractors to provide and install safety materials.
This new fund builds on previously existing supports for small businesses, including the Small Business Relief Fund, which has already distributed $4 million to more than 1,100 small businesses, and a new online resource to help small businesses procure PPE, which has already seen 4,500 visitors since Friday.
The Mayor reiterated a point he has made several times: that when business owners are allowed to open under the State’s plan, that doesn’t mean they have to open. If they decide not to open, they will continue to have access to all the resources and support that the City provides.
He also reminded workers, in any size organization, that they have options if they feel they are being pressured into an unsafe situation. Attorney General Maura Healey created resources for workers to report safety concerns during reopening. They include an online form at the Attorney General’s website and a dedicated Fair Labor hotline at 617-727-3465. People can also find those resources by calling 311.
Remembering Keith Love:
The Mayor closed his press conference with a tribute to a well-loved member of the Boston community who passed away from cancer Tuesday morning.
Keith Love was the co-headmaster of TechBoston Academy, in Dorchester. Keith was there for 16 years, and a school leader since 2013.
The Mayor said, “No one had more pride in the Tech Boston Bears, especially when the boys basketball team won back-to-back state championships in 2018 and 2019. This month there were two different car parades to show Keith how much he meant to his community. Superintendent Cassellius started the second parade by presenting commendations from myself and the Boston School Committee, honoring his service to BPS children, families and the entire community. Keith Love was someone who lived to empower and inspire young people. His legacy is a good reminder of the people and the values we’re fighting for. Keith Love is also a good reminder of the strength, the courage, and the role models in our community that we can draw on to win this fight. Our prayers are with his family.”