Walsh Provides Update on COVID-19, Vaccinations, Announces Program to Drive Customers to Local Businesses

Mayor Martin Walsh held a press conference on March 9, where he provided an update on COVID-19, vaccinations, small business assistance, and Boston Public Schools (BPS).

Walsh said that for the week ending with February 28, the seven day average positive test rate was 3.6 percent, which he said was “much better” than numbers in January. However, he said that the city has seen “a little bit of an uptick” in positive cases over the past 10 days, and is trying to “figure out what the reasoning is for that.”

Walsh also advised residents to “be careful during St. Patrick’s Day,” and reminded people that the parade has been cancelled again this year.

“Don’t out our progress as risk because people want to have a party at St. Patrick’s Day,” Walsh said, adding that there will be “plenty of opportunity to celebrate when the pandemic is over.”

Vaccines

Walsh said that as of March 3, more than 113,000 Boston residents age 16 and older have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 56,000 of Boston residents 16 and older have received both doses.

“We’re starting to see those doses moving quickly,” he said.

“We’re working to increase equity in this process for any resident or community that may face barriers,” Walsh said, adding that access is being focused on in the Black, Latino, Asian, and immigrant communities, and that work includes spreading information about the vaccine and building trust.

“We are focusing on access for the elderly right now and those with disabilities,” Walsh added. Right now, Boston has nearly 20 vaccination sites: eight community-based sites, nine pharmacy sites, and two mass vaccination sites at Fenway Park (soon to be relocated to the Hynes Convention Center on March 18) and the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury.

Walsh said that the Reggie Lewis Center will “continue to hold 50 percent of appointments for local residents of color.”

Additionally, the city launched a mobile vaccination pilot clinic at the Martin Luther King Towers in Roxbury, and this week, the mobile clinic will visit Hyde Park, and mobile clinics will also come to more Boston Housing Authority communities in the future.

“Over 100 senior buildings in Boston are providing on-site vaccinations for their residents,” Walsh said, which includes both public and private buildings.

Local Businesses

Walsh had previously announced that the city’s outdoor dining program will return on April 1, but he said he is trying to see if that can be moved to an earlier date.

He also announced a new app and program called B-Local, which will “help residents find local, Black owned, women owned, and Main Street businesses,” he said. “These are businesses in the heart of our city.”

As part of the program, “customers can collect ‘Boston Points’ and use them like cash at participating businesses,” Walsh said. The city will then “reimburse small businesses for Boston Points redeemed at their establishments.”

Walsh said that the city is looking for businesses to participate in this app, as it will help promote their businesses and bring customers to local businesses across the city.

As it’s been a tough year for small businesses, Walsh said this program was designed as part of an effort to “get them threw these next few months.”

For more information on the program, visit boston.gov/blocal.

BPS

As it nears a year since BPS has been open full time for all students, Walsh said “it’s amazing t see how far that our schools have come.”

Last week, all Pre-K through third grade students returned to in-person learning if their families chose that option. Starting next week, grades 4-8 will be joining them, and grades 9-12 beginning the week of March 29, “permitting public health data saying it’s safe,” Walsh said. “Right now, the numbers look great.”

He said that all schools have safety measures in place, with students, staff, and teachers wearing masks, staying separated, hand sanitizer stations, and air purification systems in place.

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