COVID-19 End of Week Update + 10 Point Plan & Reopening Phase 2, Part 1 6/7/20
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Our hearts are broken by the murders of our brothers and sisters who should be alive today.
I will continue to listen and live what I believe. And I do - every day - in my work to fight for state funding for vital community and youth violence prevention programs that support groups like Project R.I.G.H.T. (Rebuild and Improve Grove Hall Together) who work on the ground through dedicated and trained staff to wrap around, protect, uplift, and empower the lives our young people in Grove Hall and other nearby neighborhoods in Boston. This year, the fight will be that much harder given the economic state of our city, commonwealth and country. We're now hearing estimates of a $2.5-$6 billion shortfall in state revenue, with the start of the new fiscal year just around the corner. I will dig in and fight like hell for the residents of the 11th Suffolk district.
Everything shifted and we now have COVID immediate response work to do on a daily basis (food, housing, unemployment, health care). We must, however, simultaneously continue to be persistent in our advocacy around our pre-COVID policy aspirations that we've all been eyeing since the beginning of this session, if not last -- specifically those proposals that seek to strengthen protections for our immigrant neighbors, for our environment, for our young people accessing health care -- and much more. In the coming weeks, my work will center around the legislative agenda my colleagues of color at all three levels of government from around the state powerfully outlined this week, as well as continuing to push for additional CORI reforms and the necessary funding for the technology to make automatic record sealing possible. In our own backyards, instead of incarcerating people with mental illness, let's provide them with supportive housing and treatment. It’s the morally right thing to do, will save public dollars and improve everyone’s quality of life.
We ended the week by kicking off Boston Pride's 50th Celebration in 2020 with a virtual flag raising ceremony. Watch the video, featuring yours truly, here:
Finally, starting tomorrow 6/8, as we enter Part 1 of Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan, please continue to respect each other and the virus by doing your part. Be safe and continue to follow the guidance around physical distancing, facial coverings, and the City's curfew (9 PM - 6 AM).
Still with a heavy and hopeful heart,
State Representative, 11th Suffolk
6/6 - Governor Baker announced that phase II of reopening will begin this Monday, June 8.
The following businesses will be eligible to reopen:
Retail, with occupancy limits
Childcare facilities and day camps, with detailed guidance
Restaurants, outdoor table service only
Hotels and other lodgings, with no events, functions or meetings
Warehouses and distribution centers
Personal services without close physical contact
Post-secondary, higher education, vocational-tech and occupation schools for the purpose of completing graduation requirements
Youth and adult amateur sports, with detailed guidance
Outdoor recreation facilities
Professional sports practices, with no games or public admissions
Non-athletic youth instructional classes in arts, education or life skills in groups of less than 10
Driving and flight schools
Outdoor historical spaces, with no functions, gatherings or guided tours
Funeral homes, with occupancy limits
Indoor table service at restaurants and close-contact personal services will reopen in step two of phase II. The date for step two has not yet been determined.
6/5 - The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs provided guidance for the operation of public and semi-public swimming pools during phase II. Outdoor pool facilities may reopen, and indoor swimming pools may reopen for supervised youth sports leagues and youth summer sports camps for participants under 18. Hot tubs and whirlpools must stay closed during phase II. Learn more here.
6/5 - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released guidance to school districts on summer school re-opening which is focused on the health and safety of students, staff, and the educational community. The Department also sent guidance to school districts on key safety supplies that it recommends districts have on hand before schools re-open. School districts can apply for grants to fund the cost of supplies here. More detailed guidance on special education summer programs will be released no later than Tuesday, June 9.
6/4 - The MA House of Representatives passed H.4768 An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19. This legislation provides expanded options for early in-person and mail-in voting for the primary and general, local, state, and federal elections and changes deadlines for applying for mail in voting. The bill now goes to the Senate.
6/4 - Today, the Department of Correction announced that it has met its goal of conducting universal COVID-19 testing. According to DOC, 390 inmates have tested positive, for a positivity rate of 5.07 percent. The Department confirmed that there have been 8 deaths due to COVID-19.
6/4 - The Department of Revenue's Division of Local Services announced that cities and towns will have an extra week to apply for fiscal year 2020 coronavirus relief funds. The application deadline is now Friday, June 12.
6/4 - Governor Baker did not hold a press conference today.
6/3 - The P-EBT program has been implemented, and families whose students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch have been issued cards for grocery purchases. Some families have been having difficulty activating their P-EBT cards. If you have received a P-EBT card and are having this difficulty, you can find activation instructions here.
6/3 - Starting today, individuals are allowed to visit friends and families in long-term care facilities, as long as certain rules are adhered to by visitors and facility staff. Long-term care facilities may limit the length of stays and the days and times at which they are allowed. You can learn more about this guidance here.
6/3 - The MA House of Representatives passed H.4767 An Act addressing challenges faced by food and beverage establishments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation would allow municipalities to temporarily modify licenses and permits to allow for outdoor table space, allow restaurants to sell mixed drinks in a sealed container for take out and delivery, cap third-party delivery service fees, and waive interest fees on late meals tax payments. The bill now goes to the Senate.
6/3 - Attorney General Maura Healey joined 11 other Attorneys General in sending a letter to corporate leadership at Walmart to strengthen its protections for workers. You can read the full letter here.
6/3 - Governor Baker stated he will announce a date for Phase 2 of reopening on 6/6.
6/2 - The MA Black and Latino Caucus and elected officials of color from across the state held a press conference on the front steps of the State House to advocate for reforms in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others, and growing protests across the country. At the press conference, a ten-point plan to address police violence and advance racial justice was presented. You can view a recording of the press conference here.
6/2 - The Supreme Judicial Court denied an effort to reduce the state prison population due to the COVID-19 pandemic and sent the case back to Suffolk Superior Court to be examined as an "emergency matter." You can learn more here.
6/2 - The Governor did not hold a press conference today.
6/1 - Governor Baker issued an Executive Order which includes a detailed list of businesses and activities that can resume in phases II, III and IV of reopening. Phase II businesses are now allowed to reopen their physical workplaces to employees in order to conduct preparations for the start of phase II. You can learn more here.
6/1 - The Governor also announced day camps and child care facilities can open during phase II of reopening. Day camps and child care facilities will have to meet minimum health and safety requirements developed by the Department of Early Education and Care, the Department for Public Health, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Department for Children and Families and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. You can learn more about these minimum health and safety guidelines here.
6/1 - Massachusetts Cultural Council is launching a COVID-19 recovery survey, which will be used to help inform efforts on the specific cultural economic needs in the state. Cultural organizations can complete this survey here.
Mayor's Update 6/4
As of today in Massachusetts: 102,063 cases and 7,201 deaths.
In Boston: 12,906 cases, 658 deaths, and 7,377 recoveries.
Overall trends toward recovery:
The Mayor discussed some of the data that the City is watching as it moves forward with a phased reopening.
During the surge in April, Boston hospitals were treating ICU patients at over 120% of their combined normal capacity. The City set a benchmark of getting to below 85% and, as of today, it’s down to 81%.
On Tuesday of this week, the last patients were discharged from Boston Hope Medical Center, but it will remain available in case it is needed again.
The City has reached its goal of expanding testing capacity to 1,500 tests per day by June 1. The Mayor attributed this success to increasing support and funding for Boston’s Community Health Centers and creating mobile testing for highly impacted and vulnerable populations. The City has also begun testing in public housing and senior buildings. In some Community Health Centers, testing is now available for people who are asymptomatic, but whose work or medical status may put them at risk. A complete list and map of testing locations in Boston is available at Boston.gov/coronavirus.
In all, as of this week, the cumulative positive rate for people tested in Boston, including all data since the pandemic began, is down to just below 23%. And the positive rate for the most recent week analyzed, which ended on Saturday, was 7.5%. Both of those numbers are new lows since the crisis began.
The City will continue to monitor key Boston-based metrics to determine when it is safe and responsible to move forward with the next phases of reopening. For more details on the reopening timeline, visit boston.gov/reopening.
Small business supports:
The Mayor provided an update on the supports the City is providing to small businesses.
So far, the City has dedicated more than $13.5 million to small businesses impacted by COVID. That includes $5.6 million in grants distributed to over 1500 small businesses through the Small Business Relief Fund.
The City has also designated $6 million for grants to help small businesses secure PPE and other materials for a healthy reopening. 1,000 applications for that new program have been submitted, and it is moving forward.
Information about all these resources is available at Boston.gov/small-business.
The Mayor thanked the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz for his leadership in passing a Restaurant Relief bill yesterday, which will help with the City’s efforts to support outdoor dining and create new revenue opportunities for restaurants.
The Mayor provided an update on the supports the City is providing to renter households impacted by the pandemic.
In April, the City created a Rental Relief Fund to get money to renters who lost their incomes and are not eligible for unemployment benefits or other relief. Since the Fund was launched, more than $720,000 has been distributed to 215 households, across 17 neighborhoods, to cover rent for April and May. The City’s partner agencies are currently processing over 550 more applications and will continue to get help to households in need. Yesterday, the City added $5 million more to that fund, for a total of $8 million. Screening for a second round of applications begins at noon on Friday, June 5 and runs for 2 weeks. Information and telephone support are available in 7 different languages. Residents can go to boston.gov/rental-relief or call 617-635-4200 to get started. The Mayor notes that anyone can get access to it without fear or barriers. Applicants will not be asked about their immigration status and no information will be shared with anyone else.
The Mayor also provided an update on the rental vouchers that were set aside to lift school children and their families out of homelessness. So far, the Boston Housing Authority is working with 400 families who have children in the Boston Public Schools. 167 of those families have vouchers in hand and 86 are already in permanent affordable housing.
Since the construction ban ended, work has resumed on 21 city-sponsored affordable housing developments, representing 1067 housing units and $425 million of total investment. Over 900 more income-restricted units, created through the Inclusionary Development Policy, are also back in construction. The Boston Housing Authority has resumed construction on 880 new apartments in Roxbury, the South End, Jamaica Plain, South Boston, and East Boston. These will allow public housing residents to relocate into brand new, energy efficient homes and allow new families to come out of shelter and move into the existing units. In total, that’s nearly 3,000 affordable homes under construction right now. An additional 1,000 or more affordable units, that were approved this year by the BPDA board, are expected to move forward as well.
Racial justice demonstrations:
The Mayor spoke about the murder of George Floyd which happened on Memorial Day and has inspired demonstrations across the country and in Boston.
After the press conference, at 3:45 p.m., Mayor Walsh led a moment of silence at City Hall that lasted for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The NAACP had called for people nationwide to participate.
The Mayor also affirmed his commitment to eradicating injustice, thanking the thousands of people who demonstrated peacefully on Boston Common yesterday, in Franklin Park on Tuesday, and across the city over the last few days.
He also thanked everyone who contributed to the clean up and recovery efforts after the events of Sunday night. Crews from the Parks Department, Property Management, the Public Works Department, and the Boston Transportation Department were out cleaning up and repairing the parks and streets of downtown and Back Bay. They were joined by the Friends of the Public Garden, by the Richard Family, and by local residents who wanted to lend a hand.
The City is also working with small business owners who were affected. Information on resources, including steps to take if your business was damaged, is at boston.gov/smallbusiness.
The Mayor thanked other City staff and agencies who are playing an important role, including the Boston Public Health Commission, which is helping the rallies be as safe as possible, providing face coverings and health resources.
The Neighborhood Trauma Teams have been on the ground, providing support for people who are dealing with trauma and violence in their own lives.
SOAR Boston street workers have been out to engage young people and help them use the rallies as positive outlets for their frustrations.
The Office of Public Safety has been engaging the community and helping to keep people safe.
And Neighborhood coordinators from the Office of Neighborhood Services participated in the rallies and marches and helped organizers with a range of issues.
The Mayor also thanked the 311 operators and ONS team members who have been answering the phones at City Hall. Unfortunately, some of the calls they have been taking are laden with racism and profanity. The Mayor commended the call takers for their professionalism. The Mayor said that it’s a reminder that our public employees are human and they are diverse residents of Boston, and he called on them to be treated with respect. The City is providing mental health resources through its Employee Assistance Program.
The importance of listening to and amplifying the Black community:
The Mayor stressed the importance of having empathy for Black Americans who have endured gross injustices for far too long, and addressing the systemic issues that allow these injustices to continue.
He closed with this reflection: “When I first got into recovery, I learned recovery is about changing the human being. It’s not just simply about stopping drinking. I heard the Serenity Prayer a million times prior to that, but the Serenity Prayer kept me sober because the Serenity Prayer says it all: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.' What we’re dealing with in Boston is about wisdom. Wisdom to listen; wisdom to understand. If you don’t understand right now, just listen. I’ve had many conversations in the last three days with the employees from the City of Boston. Some are cabinet positions; some are entry-level positions. We created a space where we can have a conversation... They opened up, and I watched the reaction of their white colleagues. Some people honestly said -- Department heads and Cabinet-level -- ‘I don’t know what to do right now. I don’t know how to respond right now.’ The response is: let’s just listen for a while. Let’s not give opinions. Let’s not criticize. Let’s not judge. Let’s listen. Because if we listen, we’ll be a stronger city for it. When I say this, I’m not lecturing anyone, I’m talking to myself; I’m talking to the press that’s here; I’m talking to everyone.”
Find the full text of the Mayor's remarks from each press conference on his Medium page.