Mayor Marty Walsh was a special guest at the April 28 virtual Zoom meeting of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC), where he provided updates and answered questions from the Jamaica Plain community.
Walsh said as the City continues to fight COVID-19 and prepare for a phased reopening, he is “grateful for the people who work at City Hall.” He also said that the City is making strides in increasing testing across the city, but “we’re on out own search to buy tests in the City of Boston,” he said. The City is not relying on the federal government to get testing kits.
He also said that “we’re about 18 months away” from a vaccine, and about four or five months from some type of medicine to treat the virus. “We’re in this for the long run,” he said.
JPNC member Gert Thorn brought to the attention of the Mayor that in public areas like Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum, “the problem is people who walk seem to wear the masks and some runners don’t.”
The next day, Walsh addressed runners specifically in his press conference, telling them that while he acknowledges wearing a mask can be uncomfortable, it is necessary to protect yourself and others from the virus, especially if heavy breathing is involved.
JPNC member Max Glikman Brough up some concerns about the difficulties caused by pausing non-essential construction, especially affordable housing construction, and how some financing for these projects is “difficult to pause.”
Walsh said he recognizes the hardships this places on this type of construction, but he said that it is “probably one of the first industries to go back,” and is working with the industry on a phased plan to do so safely.
JPNC member Michael Reiskind, who praised the city’s Good Neighbors program— a partnership between the City and Nesterly to pair volunteers with older people in need—asked the Mayor how a phased reopening might work, especially for restaurants and other small businesses.
“I think for restaurants,” Walsh said, there will be several safety protocols in place once the time comes for them to reopen. He said the City was also considering some type of promotion program advertising that it is safe for people to resume eating at restaurants to ease some of the wariness that might be prevalent for a while. People will also have to be aware of and abide by the safety protocols once they become available.
Additionally, Walsh said that the City will probably “ease some of the requirements for outdoor dining,” and that “restaurants need to be a part of the conversation” about reopening, so they can be prepared and ready to serve the public in a more normal capacity than they have been during the stay at home order.
Fiscally, Walsh said that “I think the state is going to have a bad year,” as it is losing a lot of revenue. “That rolls down the hill and comes down to the City of Boston’s budget,” he said.
“I think we’ll be okay with the capital budget,” he said. “As of right now, I don’t see a big difference on the CPA funding or the capital side.” Where he does see impacts is on the social service side. He said that he doesn’t currently see the need to furlough anyone in social services, but a hiring freeze might be necessary. “It’s a very fluid situation,” he said.
Reiskind also asked about mental health resources for first responders, as many of them have been severely impacted mentally by this virus. Walsh said that the City is rolling out support for front line workers, food service employees, teachers, and other essential workers in the form of resource numbers, emails, guides, and videos to get them the resources they need.
Also on the Zoom call were City Councilor Matt O’Malley and Natalie Kaufman, Staff Director for State Rep. Liz Malia.
O’Malley briefly thanked the Jamaica Plain community for all it has done to help call seniors in JP and West Roxbury. He said that he had 40 volunteers “right off the bat,” and since then, 150 volunteers have made two rounds of calls to older residents in those two neighborhoods.
Kaufman said that Rep. Malia’s office is “here to help,” whether it be providing help with filing unemployment or listening to concerns that the Rep. can advocate for at the State House. “We can reach out on people’s behalf,” she said, if they have run out of money and have tried applying through available avenues.
JPNC member David Baron also thanked Rep. Malia and Rep. Elugardo, and several members thanked neighborhood liaison Lindsey Santana for her updates to the community regarding the virus.