At his daily press briefing last Thursday, Mayor Martin Walsh addressed the ongoing COVID-19 crisis unfolding in East Boston, saying his administration remains committed to monitoring and sharing neighborhood data and race and ethnicity data, and responding to any anticipated or emerging disparities.
Over the past month, Eastie has reemerged as a COVID-19 ‘hotspot’ in the city after a relatively quiet few months where positive test rates and infection rates remained stable.
Eastie now leads the city in infection rates and positive test rates by leaps and bounds with the positive infection rate here at nearly 11 percent last week against a citywide average of 2.3 percent.
Mayor Walsh said these numbers are concerning and the City is addressing the sharp rise through a multipronged approach.
Mayor Walsh has deployed a mobile testing site, in partnership with the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC), to Central Square through Saturday (see Eastie COVID Update story).
The city is also working with the State to identify temporary isolation housing, so that people can quarantine away from their families if they test positive.
“We are working collaboratively on strategies and solutions with East Boston elected officials; cross-departmental City teams; medical and social service providers in the neighborhood; union leaders who represent East Boston residents and workers; and clergy who have been helping to share messages at services,” said Walsh. “The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) has mobilized teams to provide safety materials and education to residents and businesses in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, and Arabic. They have been out at MBTA stations and key intersections, and will be expanding into neighborhood parks at times when people gather and play sports. They are distributing COVID care kits, sharing information about safety precautions, and answering questions that people may have about COVID-19. We are making clear that anyone can get tested, regardless of immigration status. No information about your status will be asked. And we are making clear that residents can file a confidential complaint with the BPHC if employers or businesses aren’t following safety guidelines.”
In addition, business outreach in Eastie began last week in multiple languages, to make sure management and staff know COVID regulations; have access to PPE, signage, and prevention efforts like social distancing and hygiene; and know that they need to report to BPHC when they have an employee test positive.
The Mayor said that if case numbers don’t come down, the City will look at tightening regulations around gatherings and public spaces, but he hopes that it doesn’t come to that.
“The City will prioritize working collaboratively with residents to get the message out that COVID-19 is still with us and all the precautions we’ve been taking are still necessary,” he said.
The Mayor pointed out that economic conditions impact COVID numbers, and that Eastie has high rates of multi-generational housing, overcrowded housing, and breadwinners who can only work outside the home. He said bringing resources to those families and supporting them when workers need to stay home is a big part of the solution.
The Mayor concluded with a reflection on the ongoing psychological impact of COVID-19:
“Let’s remember what people are going through,” said Walsh. “People are experiencing illness in themselves and loved ones; fear of COVID that many have anxiety around; financial stress around lost income, struggling small businesses, and people in fear of losing their home. And then there’s the toll of systemic racism. Many residents experience it personally and they also see continual footage of violence against Black and Brown people on social media. All of it together is taking a tremendous toll. It’s showing up in mental health concerns and physical health concerns. It’s playing a role in domestic violence and street violence. And people are struggling with substance use. For anyone in recovery or interested in recovery, recovery meetings are online and now some meetings are happening in person, outdoors. You can reach out to AA or NA to find a meeting, or contact our Office of Recovery Services by calling 311.”
Walsh reminded the public that these are not normal times and a tendency toward conflict will not serve us well in every situation right now.
“I ask everyone to work together in a spirit of unity and I urge everyone to be kind to yourself and others,” he said. “Let’s take it a day at a time.”