Walsh Gives COVID-19 Update on BPL, Testing, Biz. Assistance

Mayor Walsh held a press conference on June 18, where he gave an update on COVID-19 as well as the reopening plan.

He said that as of last week, the overall positive test rate is down 19.6 percent, the “first time our positive test rate in the city has fallen below 20 percent.”

Last week, pop up testing sites were opened for those who attended large gatherings such as recent protests. Walsh said that nearly 1300 people were tested, and the positive test rate was one percent.

“Any time that I see a protest, I’ve seen a high rate of face covering,” Walsh said. He also thanked the Boston Public Health Commission for handing out masks and sanitizer at many of the protests.

He said that while these positive numbers are encouraging, he still “encourages everyone to continue being safe as you make your voices heard,” and more test sites will continue to open, including at Brookside Community Health Center in Jamaica Plain for those who have attended large gatherings.

Walsh also said that the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021 includes an additional $13 million for the Boston Public Health Commission to fight COVID-19, health inequalities, and mental health issues throughout the city. “That focus on public health is essential in Phase Two of the reopening plan,” Walsh said.

“I want to urge everyone to remain cautious,” he said. “If you don’t take this virus seriously enough, we can and will get spikes.” He said that this means to continue wearing face coverings, washing your hands, and cleaning surfaces.

Walsh also recently announced a $41.million increase in funding to provide 8,000 youth jobs and other opportunities this summer, and the jobs have been modified to fit the guidelines set forth for the virus to ensure that teens are able to gain experience safely.

The Boston Public Library (BPL) is now offering “BPL to Go” at select locations, which began on June 22. BPL cardholders, including e-card holders, will be allowed to pick up physical materials that are reserved ahead of time online. There will be return bins outside of the libraries where the materials can be returned. The program will first be offered at the Copley branch, the Codman Square Branch, the East Boston Branch, the Jamaica Plain Branch, and the Mattapan Branch, and will slowly roll out at other locations.

Walsh also said that more than $13.5 million has been provided to small businesses during the pandemic, and $5.9 million has been distributed by the Small Business Relief Fund to more than 1600 businesses such as restaurants, retail stores, hair and nail salons, gyms, childcare providers, home health aids, and more. The Reopening Boston Fund has also provided money for things like PPE, partitions, and cleaning supplies for businesses, he said.

Walsh also said that there is a list of resources at boston.gov/reopneing such as a directory of open businesses and restaurants as well as guidance for different types of businesses.

The City Council has introduced a home rule petition for 184 new liquor licenses for restaurants across the city, as well as 15 set aside exclusively for minority owned businesses. The state must approve the introduction of new liquor licenses.

“We need to continue to give our restaurants every opportunity to recover and succeed,” Walsh said.

On the housing front, Walsh said that the Boston Housing Authority is “working with hundreds of families of children on permanent rental vouchers to lift them out of homelessness.”

He said that construction has resumed on 3,000 affordable homes and last week launched the ONE+ Boston Mortgage Fund using CPA funds. The fund offers low interest rates and helps families buy their first home to build their own wealth.

Walsh also said that several public art projects are moving forward, including 24 new projects which have received grants. He said that 61 artists will be painting utility boxes as part of the PaintBox program. New murals will also be worked on this summer.

“When you see the artists, please be respectful,” Walsh said, and “maintain physical distance.”

He added that “we look forward to seeing these projects…revitalize our neighborhoods.”

Walsh also said that the Boston Resiliency Fund “continues to get resources to communities in need.” More than $32 million has be raised, and a little over $20 million has been distributed into the communities in the form of COVID-19 testing expansion, meals to Greater Boston Food Bank and Lovin’ Spoonfuls, gift cards for families to buy groceries, 20 minority owned restaurants paid to cook meals for distribution, and various nonprofits.

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