Walsh Provides COVID-19; Vaccination Update as City’s Positivity Rate Declines

Mayor Marty Walsh on Wednesday provided a COVID-19 update as well as talked about how people can continue to keep themselves and other safe as more vaccine rolls out.

Walsh said that as of Feb. 9, there were 168 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Boston, and two more people have died.

For the week ending with Feb. 4, he said that testing was down 16 percent from the week before, and the average positivity rate citywide was five percent, down from 6.2 percent the week before.

He said that he would like to see the testing numbers increase and if the positive tests continue to go down, that is reassuring.

As of February 8, the state has allowed businesses allowed to open in Step One of Phase Three of the reopening plan to up their capacity from 25 percent maximum to 40 percent. Walsh said that Boston is “aligning with the state on these capacity restrictions.” The limit on outdoor gatherings is still 25 people and the limit on indoor gatherings is still 10 people for both private and public places.

Walsh said that “the improvements we’ve seen in our city and state numbers” mean that the precautions and safety requirements are working, as are the personal measures residents are taking, such as wearing a mask and washing their hands.

He said that this “does not mean anyone should let their guards down,” and that people should continue to follow all guidelines and precautions.

Walsh also said that the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) is working with the Boston Police Department, the Boston Fire Department, the Licensing Board, and other entities on ensuring that restaurants and other businesses are following the guidelines.

He said that “random spot checks” are conducted each week, and that these departments are “not there to give you a hard time,” but rather to “make sure people stay safe.”

Walsh said that the “health and safety of residents” is always the first priority, and the city has and will continue to shut down any business that does not comply with the requirements.

He said he does not want that to be the case, and the city is working to provide businesses with things that will help them through this difficult time, such as grants and PPE.

Walsh also encouraged residents to not host parties or other gatherings. He said there were three distinct times when COVID cases spiked in the city: in April and May of last year, when the virus really hit the city for the first time, following the Thanksgiving holiday, and following Christmas and other holidays where people gathered with friends and family.

He said that the city and state are “starting to see these numbers go down now,” but people should stay vigilant and not contribute to another spike.

The city and state are at the beginning of Phase Two of the state’s vaccination plan, which includes those age 75 and older plus all people eligible in Phase One,. Several vaccination sites are open in the city at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury and Fenway Park, as well as “multiple sites operated by community health centers and five pharmacy locations,” Walsh said. He said that by the end of this week, there will be eight pharmacy locations.

For any seniors having issues getting a vaccination appointment, Walsh encouraged them or their family members to call 311 and ask for the Age Strong Commission, which will work with residents to help them sign up for an appointment.

“The vaccine is certainly a major step forward in the fight to recover form COVID-19,” Walsh said. “It’s one of the best tools we have to stop the spread of the virus and begin to return back to some sort of normalcy here in the city as far as being able to go outside and be able to enjoy life again.”

He said this is only possible “if people have access to the vaccine.” Walsh said that the city is working to provide access to the vaccine in the communities hit hardest by the virus, including people of color, low income residents, and immigrants who may have transportation or language barriers or are not able to take time off of work to get the vaccine.  

“That’s why the city is pushing for more access,” Walsh said, and “doing what we can to make sure that process is equitable.”

Walsh also said that the city will be assisting people with the online registration system for vaccine appointments.

“We hope and expect that all the things will speed up as more slots become available.

This Saturday, Feb. 13, there will be a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for veterans at the Dorchester VFW Post 1018 on Morton St., Walsh said, that will be “open to vets 65 and older who are enrolled in VA healthcare.”

Caregivers enrolled in the VA Caregiver Support Program are also eligible for the vaccine at the clinic, which will be open from 10am-1pm, and is first come, first served. Those who receive a vaccine at this clinic will be scheduled for their second dose for March 13.

Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez added that the city was “pleased to see” that the state will now permit a “companion” (of any age) who brings a person over the age of 75 to get their vaccine at one of the state’s mass vaccination sites to also get vaccinated on the same day.  

“For seniors watching, if you have someone in your family who will take you to get vaccinated, they will make an appointment as well as you and they will also be able to be vaccinated at one of the state’s mass vaccination sites including at Fenway Park here in Boston as well as the Reggie Lewis Center,” Martinez said.

He also said that the city is continuing its work to prepare for the people who are eligible in the next phase to ensure access for all.

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