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Walsh warns against second COVID surge

City is expanding testing while cases in Mass. continue to decline

Kenneal Patterson
Walsh warns against second COVID surge
Mayor Martin Walsh during a press briefing last week. PHOTO: JOHN WILCOX, MAYOR’S OFFICE

Mayor Walsh warned Boston residents that COVID-19 will likely have a second surge and encouraged them to take precautions as the city reopens.

“If you don’t take this virus seriously enough, we can and will get spikes,” he said during a June 18 briefing.

As of Sunday, there had been 107,061 confirmed cases in Massachusetts and 7,858 deaths. Boston’s case count was 13,302 total cases and 694 deaths. Over 8,990 people have recovered.

“We continue to monitor the data closely, and the trends continue to go in the right direction,” said Walsh.

Walsh said that the city is continuing to expand testing for communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

“This week, we met an important benchmark,” he added. “The overall positive test rate is down to 19.6%. That is the first time that our test rate in the commonwealth and the city has fallen below 20%.”

Walsh said that that rate has been one of the city’s key targets for continuing a safe reopening. 

COVID-19 risks from recent demonstrations

Walsh also addressed COVID-19 risks from the city’s recent demonstrations. Thousands of Bostonians took to the streets to honor George Floyd and protest police brutality. Walsh encouraged residents to stay safe as they make their voices heard. 

He said that pop-up testing sites opened in Roxbury for anyone who had gathered during the protests.

“Nearly 1,300 people got tested, which I was very happy to see, and the positive rate was just 1% where those tests happened,” Walsh said, who noted that most of the protestors wore face coverings. He added that the state administration is opening testing sites around the commonwealth for anyone that has gone to protests in other parts of the state.

Last week, Walsh declared racism a public health crisis. The announcement followed months after Councilor Ricardo Arroyo urged the city to acknowledge the crisis and recognize the health disparities between white neighborhoods and communities of color.

“We continue to make equity in public health our priority in Boston,” said Walsh. “Our budget adds $13 million to the Public Health Commission, getting our total contribution to the Boston Public Health Commission $106 million. They also get a lot of federal money as well.”

Walsh said that the money will go to battling both COVID-19 and Boston’s health inequities.

“Boston is a leader in this work, and we are strengthening that leadership at a time when it is needed now more than ever,” he said. “That focus on public health is essential to our progress in Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan.”

Walsh noted that Boston Public Schools’ summer learning programs are moving forward on a remote basis, as well as adult job programs.

Walsh also recognized the businesses of color opening across the commonwealth.

“A key building block of equitable recovery is our diverse small business sector,” he said. The Small Business Relief Fund gave over $5.9 million to over 1,600 of Boston’s small businesses, said Walsh, and over 50% are owned by people of color. The updated directory of black and brown businesses is available on the Boston website’s reopening page.

Boston officials are also permanently increasing the availability of liquor licenses with 184 new licenses. Fifteen are set aside for minority-owned businesses, said Walsh.

“We need to make sure to continue to give our restaurants every opportunity they can to recover and succeed,” he said.

Walsh also acknowledged concerns regarding housing security and said that 3,000 affordable homes are currently back under construction. Furthermore, the One Plus mortgage program was launched last week, which gives first-time homeowners low interest rates and down payments.

“Our goal is to create a thousand new homeowners in the city of Boston,” he said.

Walsh closed by commemorating the history of Juneteenth. He said that people need to acknowledge the role they have in breaking down systemic racism. This is the time to make history and move forward, he said.

Walsh called June 19 a monumental day for the nation and for Boston itself.

“Juneteenth is as important as it ever has been because the legacy of injustice and the fight for freedom continue today,” he said.