Apr 2, 2020
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh COVID-19 Briefing April 2
Marty Walsh: (00:00)
… everyone helping us through this crisis. I also want to remind everyone that we need your help. We’re asking you to stay at home as much as possible, only to go out for shopping and groceries, or something at the pharmacy. Keep your distance from each other when you’re out within the at least six feet. I want to thank the stores that have marked the floors around the cash registers and on the way in the store doing social distancing there. Thank you for that. We’re asking people to wash your hands throughout the day with soap and warm water. We’re asking you not to socialize in person for the next two or three weeks. This is a critical time for us, and physical distancing right now is the key to slow the spread, to limit the loss of life and for us to get through this.
Marty Walsh: (00:42)
I’ll start with some of the update of our latest numbers. As of yesterday, there’ve been 7,738 cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As of today, we have 1,233 cases in the City of Boston. That’s up 176 from yesterday. We’ve had 106 people in Boston make full recoveries. Unfortunately now we’re up to 10 Boston residents who have passed away out of 122 in the Commonwealth. That number is the hardest one to see rising. It represents neighbors that we lost, families grieving under very difficult circumstances. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you and your families.
Marty Walsh: (01:23)
I want to also say a word about our veterans who passed away in Holy Oak at the soldier’s home and in Chelsea who passed away this week, these losses are devastating. My heart goes out to those families and communities as well. I think of what those veterans gave to our country and what all veterans have given to us, how much we owe them, especially now. We have reached out to our veteran service providers and residential homes here in Boston to help them mitigate any risk to and address any concerns that they might have. I want any veteran or family member of a veteran to know that if you need support or you need anything, please reach out to our Office of Veteran Services in the City of Boston. You can do that by simply calling 311 or reaching out on email at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com. They are working remotely and we’re here for you.
Marty Walsh: (02:18)
On Monday we announced a pen pal program for veterans who may be feeling lonely or isolated. Right now we have seen an outpouring of interest. 450 people have reached out. We have so many volunteers that we’re going to be able to not just fill that program but add volunteers to our food deliveries and other programs for veterans. It’s a testament to Boston’s respect and gratitude for those who served our country.
Marty Walsh: (02:43)
I know that many people are concerned also about the capacity of our healthcare system. I’m in close contact with our hospitals about what they’re seeing and what their needs are and about how we can advocate and support them. The governor yesterday was at the DCU Center in Worcester. he mentioned that the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston has been designated as a field hospital. I can report that we have planned, going on right now into effect, at the convention center. Construction starts today for 500 beds for homeless adults, both men and women who have tested positive and need care, but do not require full hospitalization.
Marty Walsh: (03:25)
We have a request for proposal out right now for a partner organization to operate that section of the convention center. Those 500 beds will bring our total number that we have to over a thousand beds to care for our homeless population. That includes 250 beds at Boston Medical Center’s Newton Pavilion that we’re working with, with the state on. This space allows us to care for a population with complex needs and if necessary we’ll be able to open up the convention center beds for hospitals to serve subacute COVID patients from the general population.
Marty Walsh: (04:03)
Our work has also opened up space for additional capacity, but implementing state and medical partners at the convention center, so we’re working collectively together on how do we activate this space if it’s needed. Moving forward, we’ll continue to be an active partner to our medical community and securing the space and support as they need it to do their lifesaving work.
Marty Walsh: (04:22)
I also just want to remind everyone that we continue to take donations for personal protective equipment at boston.gov/coronavirus. That’s boston.gov/coronavirus, and the governor also mentioned today about the significant medical equipment that is being delivered to Massachusetts. I want to thank the governor for his hard work on that. I also want to thank the Kraft family. As we all know, helping get the supplies to the United States of America.
Marty Walsh: (04:52)
I want to update the conversation on housing. This is a national crisis, at a scale that none of us have seen in our lifetime. Many people are not able to work. Many people are or will be dealing with illnesses themselves with their families. At this stressful time, people should not have to worry about losing their home, period. It’s important to understand that the issues around rent, mortgages, property taxes, and unemployment relief are all connected. They touch every level of government and we should move things forward together as much as possible using every single available tool.
Marty Walsh: (05:29)
In city government, we started by protecting our most vulnerable workers. We worked with the Boston Housing Authority, private property owners, and The Boston Housing Court to halt evictions while the emergency goes on. We issued over a thousand rental vouchers for families with students in the Boston public schools. We’re working with banks on [inaudible 00:05:50] strategies and principles, keeping homeowners in their homes. We’re also preparing to get the new federal resources to our residents as quickly as possible.
Marty Walsh: (06:00)
Today I want to announce a new fund to help tenants who fall behind on their rent because of this crisis. We’ve identified $3 million in city and federal funds that can be repurposed quickly to help tenants who can’t make their rent. This money will be targeted to households that have lost income due to this crisis, who do not qualify for federal relief or unemployment benefits to make it up. Our Office of Housing Stability will use its network to help get this money where it’s needed quickly and fairly. If anyone has any questions, you can contact City Hall, our Office of Housing Stability by calling 311, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com to learn more.
Marty Walsh: (06:47)
Moving forward, I’d like to thank State Representative Kevin Honan from Allston-Brighton for his leadership advocating for renters and homeowners. There’s legislation, which I fully support, that will put a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures throughout this state of emergency. These protections are critical for economic reasons, also, for continuing our fight against this virus. Housing is a foundation of public health.
Marty Walsh: (07:12)
For small businesses, we know it’s a very difficult time as well. We continue to develop resources and opportunities. I like to, first of all, thank all the advocacy groups in this space. There’s a lot of them, too many to mention, but thank you for your concern around small businesses. Today I can announce a new financial resource and a new strategic resource for small businesses. To address the financial struggle, we put together a small business relief fund. It establishes $2 million in grant funding to create lifelines for hundreds of local businesses at risk of shutting down permanently due to this crisis. It will draw on a combination of city, federal and private industry contributions. Special thanks to Attorney General Maura Healey for her support and her contributions to this effort.
Marty Walsh: (07:57)
Small businesses can begin applying on Monday. Information on how to apply is posted on boston.gov/businessrelief. That’s boston.gov/businessrelief. We also stand ready to help small business owners get access to new federal and state resources as they become available. For that reason, we created a financial relief handbook for small businesses. It’s a one stop resource for navigating both public and private capital programs. It will continue to be updated as new programs come in line or evolve. You can find more at boston.gov/coronavirus under the resources for economic development.
Marty Walsh: (08:37)
You can also find updates on all of our support programs at boston.gov/coronavirus or through text alerts. We’re asking people to please send the message, send BOSCOVID, B-O-S-C-O-V-I-D to 99411. That’s B-O-S-C-O-V-I-D, BOSCOVID, to 99411, and you will be getting updates. I would say that they’re daily, but they’re more than daily. They’re are several times a day. This service is also available in Spanish, French, Haitian, Creole, Cape Verdean, Creole, and Portuguese.
Marty Walsh: (09:10)
I want to just say a word about physical distancing. I know we covered a lot today, but the need is for everyone take away in this message should be, as I said, the next two to three weeks are going to be critical. You’re hearing it from the governor, you’re hearing it from the federal government, you’re hearing it from the media. A surge right now is in motion. It’s going to be difficult and hard, but we have the ability to limit its outcome and impact, and we can do it by social and physical distancing. This is a message that we have to make a priority and that we’ve made a priority, but everyone in your home watching this or if you’re listening to it, you need to make it a priority.
Marty Walsh: (09:53)
We’ve delivered information in multiple languages to every home in the City of Boston two weeks ago, we’re sending out robocalls and text messages in English and other languages as well. We’ve closed playgrounds, put up signs in our parks. We’ve shut down our basketball hoops and street hockey nets by tying them up. Over the next week, we’re going to put additional signage up in our bus shelters, on our trash cans, on digital and print billboards all across the City of Boston. It’s my message again here today because most people are doing the right thing, but I’m concerned that not everyone is listening.
Marty Walsh: (10:30)
We’re still hearing and seeing groups of people gathering at parks and beaches this weekend. The weather is going to get warmer, for Massachusetts is going to be like a heat wave. I think we’re going to have 55 degree weather, that does not mean that you can go out and socialize. We’re seeing people still shopping in large groups making physical distancing impossible. We’re seeing people in stores other than supermarkets buying things that you don’t necessarily need to buy right now. We’re asking you to make sure that you look out for each other.
Marty Walsh: (10:58)
We’re hearing people gathering together and socializing. This needs to stop. We are responding to what we see and exploring stricter guidelines for places like parks and grocery stores, but we need people to do their part now. We need a Bostonian’s to do your part now, people from Massachusetts to do your part now. I’ve been asked several times about fines and stricter enforcement. I don’t want to issue fines and I don’t want to send police officers out, but we are prepared for those steps because if we don’t flatten the curve now through voluntary measures, these steps will be inevitable.
Marty Walsh: (11:33)
As mayor, I will do whatever it takes to protect the people of Boston. What we saw in Italy and what we’re seeing in New York doesn’t have to happen here. What we do now, right now, will make a difference. It’s a difference that could save parents and grandparents, the elderly and vulnerable neighbors. It could save you. If you think you’re immune to this illness, you’re wrong. This virus can hit anyone. We’ve seen that, so help us get the message out and hold each other accountable. Be your brother or your sister’s keeper, your parents or your grandparents protector. They depend on us. We depend on each other.
Marty Walsh: (12:15)
I want to thank all of our public employees for the work they’re doing throughout this crisis, our inspectional service staff who are out there inspecting grocery stores and restaurants and helping essential businesses run safely. Our Boston Housing Authority employees who are cleaning and disinfecting buildings to keep the residents in those buildings safe. Our public works employees, making sure that trash and recycling gets picked up and neighborhoods stay clean. The trash workers that are out there picking up our trash every day here in the city, the park employees, maintaining our open spaces, our custodians who continue to clean city hall, and every municipal building in the City of Boston.
Marty Walsh: (12:54)
You know, there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of stress going on in all of our lives and there’s moments where we think about what’s happening and sometimes it seems overwhelming, but I want to tell you a story that some of you might have read or seen in the newspaper over the last 24 hours. On Tuesday, we had a Boston police officer, Officer [Peguero 00:13:14]. He was working at detail at Star Market near the convention center. He started a woman that was outside crying. He approached her and he didn’t know what was wrong with her and to see if she was okay.
Marty Walsh: (13:25)
She’s a working single mom of three and her card didn’t work inside the store. She told them that her card wasn’t working and he said, “Let’s go pick up the items that you want and I’ll take care of them for you.” And they walked inside the store and he didn’t know what it was, but he realized he saw it to the right or the left, somewhere in the store, a carriage full of groceries, and he realized that it was hers and they walked up to the clerk and said, “I’m paying for all of these groceries.” I talked to the officer yesterday. I thanked him for his act of kindness.
Marty Walsh: (13:57)
That’s who we are in Boston. That’s who we are. And for all of us, the lesson in that story is the way that we help each other out is by making sure that we stay in our home and we stop the spread of the virus by physical, social distancing, by checking on our loved ones, by phone call or FaceTime, or sending them a text or waving across the yard. That’s our responsibility right now to do as Bostonians and as people from Massachusetts, and I ask everyone to please help me and help us with that.
Marty Walsh: (14:30)
I want to thank the officer, thank him for his compassion and thank him for what he did and what he stands for. He truly is Boston strong. He’s not a long time police officer. He’s one of our new officers on the job, so that just shows you the class and quality that we have working for us here in the City of Boston.
Marty Walsh: (14:47)
Before I take questions, I asked … The other day I suggested reporters that generally would come to the press conference if you can’t come over or you’re practicing social distance, you can send in the questions prior to our presser, so I did get a couple of questions. I’d like to start with those questions, then I’ll take questions from the press that are here today.
Marty Walsh: (15:05)
The first question is from Bill Forry from the Dorchester Reporter. His question is, is there any specific guidance that the city is issuing for city housing developments, particularly for those with senior citizens, concentrations regarding visitors? As we’ve been saying now for several weeks, the most effective way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect those in our community who are most vulnerable, is through physical distancing.
Marty Walsh: (15:31)
We urge everyone to follow the governor’s stay at home advisory. As we know, seniors are one of our most vulnerable residents and we must be extra careful not to transmit the virus to them. The only people who should be going into a senior housing right now are those who are providing essential services like food access or personal care. We do encourage you, however, to check on any older relative and friends that you may know. It’s fine to call them or use other technology to visually visit them. If they need supplies or medicines, you can drop it off at their door without interacting with them and that’s something that is really, really important for us to continue to adhere to.
Marty Walsh: (16:09)
The second question is, beyond the BCEC, is it possible for other city or state asset in places like Dorchester, example, Franklin Park White Stadium to be used? I already spoke about our plans going into effect at the convention center, we’re going to keep everyone informed on what other locations we’re looking into and we are looking into other places in case that we need them. So thank you for those questions. Now I’ll open up any questions from the press that’s here.
Speaker 2: (16:35)
Can you talk a little more about the convention center? What it’s going to look like in there? [inaudible 00:16:41].
Marty Walsh: (16:41)
Yeah, we’re still working on it. Real brief high level, what we’re envisioning is, it’ll be a thousand beds total. 500 for a homeless population and 500 for corona patients coming from hospitals. In the events that we need to turn it into … we need more capacity. We would then move, we have a backup for our homeless population that we can move our homeless population, and then move in the coronavirus full-time patients.
Marty Walsh: (17:07)
All the details will be explained later. I know that the construction side now, there’s a lot of logistics to this, and there’s a lot of people working on it so I can’t go into logistics right now because it’s still being worked out as we talk, as we say it right here. Whether it’s our homeless facility there or it’s our a spillover for additional beds, we’re hoping that we don’t need it. We’re hoping we’re building it and I’m hoping that it stays empty.
Marty Walsh: (17:29)
These are just for emergency purposes. For our homeless population, we have about 560 beds already that we will be using prior to getting to the convention center. The convention center is a backup for us, and for the hospitals, right now, from what I understand, the capacity is okay today, but as you can see just the Boston increases in the coronavirus numbers today, then we can anticipate over the next several days that number’s going to go up in the state, which is going to really strain our hospital system. [Kerry 00:17:57]?
I know you said [inaudible 00:18:06]. What does that mean?
Marty Walsh: (18:10)
Oh sorry. I’m supposed to repeat the question. The question is, the first question that was asked just so anyone out there wondering what the question was. The question was about the Boston Convention Center, and I gave the answer, so I’m going backwards. On this one, the question is, I’ll do anything for Bostonians to keep them safe, but we’re not necessarily ready to do the fines. What does that mean?
Marty Walsh: (18:29)
That means that quite honestly, that it’s incumbent upon all of us as Bostonians to do our part. We shouldn’t have to have police officers talk to groups of people to let them know that what they’re doing is irresponsible, and putting themselves in harm’s way, and putting their family in harm’s way. Quite honestly, I’m still hoping that people will listen to what we’re saying here today. The first day that we have good weather out there. We shouldn’t have to have the men and women of Boston Police or anyone for that matter, first responders, explain to people, young people or people congregating, that this is not the thing to do.
Marty Walsh: (19:05)
It’s just simply turn on the TV and watch a story. I mean last night I was watching CNN and Chris Cuomo talked about his own ordeal with the coronavirus and he was very specific about it and he was giving us warnings right there. I mean, here’s a person that we know on TV that has it. We have athletes like Marcus Smart from the Boston Celtics, and other athletes, that have told their own story through social media.
Marty Walsh: (19:27)
We’ve seen people on TV who’ve lost their family members to the coronavirus that are dead and gone that were generally healthy people. So I don’t think that we should have to go the fine route, and I think it’s something that I don’t want to do, it’d be last resort, but we will go there if people don’t pay attention and as we continue to watch this over the next couple of days, if we’re not seeing 100% adherence to these regulations or advisories, then we’ll take the next step. Anything else?
Speaker 4: (20:10)
Marty Walsh: (20:15)
Yeah. The question is, if you go outside with your family, nieces and nephews, or other family members, and they live in different places or live in different homes, people feel they’re safe because they’re your family, that’s not accurate. Anybody can be a carrier of the virus, anyone can come in contact with the virus. So really, it’s about saying hello from afar. Whether it’s me visiting my mother, which I’m not doing, if I bring her coffee, I’ll leave it at the front the house. Let her know it’s out there. That’s hard to do. The governor talked yesterday about his father. It’s hard for him to do that. I’m hearing stories of people just visiting through windows and waving. It doesn’t matter if they’re your blood. If you don’t live under the same roof social, physical home isolation means stay in your own home, and that’s really what we have to do here.
Marty Walsh: (21:11)
I mean these numbers are growing. I mean, I think we won’t see the benefit of how well we’re doing probably until sometime next week. Probably as the surge is coming with the isolation and the physical distancing. But this is a very scary virus. As we all know it’s a worldwide pandemic. It’s affecting everyone of all ages. There is no cure for it. There is no vaccine for it. But there’s one thing that we can all do to prevent from getting it, and that is physical, social distancing. If you’re not feeling well, and those of you that are going to work still in essential work, if you’re not feeling well and you have a temperature, don’t go to work. It’s that simple and it’s something that we have to continue to be very vigilant at. That doesn’t mean anyone any one of us are immune to this virus, but it really means that it’s within our control to really stop the virus.
Marty Walsh: (22:08)
Any other questions? All right. Thank you.