The Bay Village Neighborhood Association met virtually via Zoom for the first time on April 6, where there was no set agenda. Rather, Mayor Walsh, State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, Boston Police Captain Kenneth Fong, and City Councilors Annissa Essaibi George and Ed Flynn spoke and answered questions from neighbors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Walsh said that while he cannot predict what will happen for sure, the stay at home order could possibly be extended until mid-June. He also said that wearing a mask outdoors is “something that’s really important.”
Walsh also spoke about the homeless population, saying that there are about 1800 homeless individuals in Boston right now. About 1500 of them go into shelters at night, and about 300 remain on the street.
He said that there has not been an increase in crime, and that about 20 Boston Police officers have tested positive for COVID-19. The Mayor said that if need be, specialty units will be put in the street.
Captain Fong said that extra officers are already on the street, they have plenty of personal protection equipment, and “we’re doing great for staffing.” He also said that the Boston Police Department is doing outdoor meetings and roll calls, and people can file police reports by phone now.
Mayor Walsh also said that he wants Boston to get to the point to where every Boston resident who wants to get tested will get tested.
Additionally, there are spaces in hotels and dormitories available for first responders and medical workers who do not want to go home to their families and put them at risk.
The Mayor suggested that people do not have any physical contact with older residents. People can still bring them food, but it should be left on a doorstep and communication should take place over the phone or other technology.
Walsh called City Hall a “ghost town,” as most City Hall employees are working from home. “It’s a very desolate, sad place,” he said.
State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, also the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, reported that the State House is empty, too. He thanked Mayor Walsh for his leadership before delving into some of the legislation he’s been working on.
Michlewitz said one bill that has gotten to the governor’s desk for a signature is one that moves the income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15, which will “give people some time to figure things out,” he said. Also, cities and towns in the Commonwealth will have the power to change the date for filing property taxes as well.
Additionally, restaurants are now allowed to sell beer and wine for takeout and delivery, which is “unprecedented” in Massachusetts, Michlewitz said. “It provides another tool in the toolbox,” allowing restaurants to garner more revenue. There are caps on how much they can sell and it cannot be sold after midnight.
There is also a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, which extends for 30 days after the state of emergency has been lifted. “Things are certainly going to get crazy and difficult for folks in terms of paying rent,” he said. “We don’t know when this emergency will end.”
Landlords do still have the ability to evict for criminal reasons, Michlewitz said.
Councilor Annissa Essaibi George
City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George gave an update from her sewing room, where she is making masks for healthcare workers. All of the masks are washable; most are fabric, and some have a pocket for a filter, she said.
“Almost all of them are in healthcare facilities, not typically in critical care settings,” she said, where the N95 masks are typically used.
“I can’t believe I’m making masks; I can’t beleive I’ll be making masks for the next couple of weeks,” she said.
She said she spends the first half of her day on Council business and the second half making masks. “From the Council perspective, it’s all COVID-19, all the time,” she said. However, the City Council is about to begin its annual city budget process, which comes with its own challenges this year since the Council cannot meet in person.
“The process will look a little different this year,” she said. “We still have three plus billion dollars of your money to figure out how it needs to be spend to make sure the resources are where they need to be.”
Councilor Ed Flynn
City Councilor Ed Flynn said that one aspect of spreading information about the pandemic that he is specifically focused on is language access—“making sure residents in my district are updated, educated, and aware of the coronavirus and steps that they need to take,” he said. He has distributed information in Cantonese, Mandarin, and Spanish, he said. “We are working closely with our immigrant neighbors across the state,” he added.
Also, Councilor Flynn has gathered volunteers to call 10,000 seniors across the district to check up on them and let them know that the City is there for them. He said they are about a third of the way done now.
“It’s really a team effort and it’s about working together, treating everybody fairly, and treating everybody with respect,” Flynn said.
“Social media has a major part in this outreach,” he said. He said that while his office is “reaching a lot of people about the Coronavirus,” there are still a lot of people who are not following the guidelines. He is also making sure that neighborhood associations like BVNA aware of what’s happening so they can also spread the message to their members.
Flynn also reported that the Josiah Quincy School in partnership with Tufts Medical Center is now a testing site for first responders and people within the neighborhood.
“It’s about coming together as a country,” Flynn said, “making sure we treat everyone fairly especially our immigrant neighbors; our Asian American brothers and sisters.”
BVNA President Bethany Patten reminded neighbors that the BVNA and the City is here for everybody: “if anybody needs anything, please reach out.”