By Lydia Edwards
Although we are starting to see great improvement, East Boston continues to have the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the city at 5.1% as of the Boston Public Health Commission’s latest report. This is down from the 11.8% rate we had a few weeks ago, but still higher than Dorchester, which is the neighborhood with the next highest rate at 4.9%.
There are a number of reasons for East Boston having the highest rate in the city. Our geography is one of them. We are isolated from the rest of the city and caught in between Chelsea and an international airport. We’re also a very densely populated neighborhood. A lot of our residents live with either multiple families in the same unit or multiple generations of the same family. We also have a high number of essential workers in East Boston that have begun riding the MBTA again as businesses have continued to reopen.
There are other factors that are contributing to our high infection rate. When I go on my morning run down the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway, I still see too many people walking, running, and playing sports without masks on. In order to continue lowering the infection rate in the neighborhood, we need everyone to wear masks when they go outside and maintain social distancing whenever possible.
I was grateful to see Massport put up signs in their parks encouraging people to wear masks and maintain social distancing. I would like to see these signs go up in the harborwalk area along the waterfront where people are congregating without masks or distancing themselves from each other. Each point of entry into the neighborhood should have signage about proper mask wearing and social distancing guidelines, including all MBTA stations. The rules regarding park closing hours should also be enforced. Hiring park monitors to enforce these rules could create new jobs and help some residents pay rent after they are hired.
As Rep. Adrian Madaro has pointed out, East Boston is in a crisis and additional state funding needs to be allocated to the neighborhood to help find the sources of infection and reduce or eliminate them. Governor Baker should designate the neighborhood as one of the high risk communities in the Commonwealth and send aid as quickly as possible. The city should also increase funding for isolation housing to help slow the rate of family spread, which is one of the main sources of spread according to research.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of coming together for the greater good. We’ve seen incredible work being done by our local nonprofits to help keep people fed and care for the children of essential workers. The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center has tested thousands of residents and is working with the city to help lower the infection rate. If everyone does their part, we will be able to lower the infection rate and try to get back to “normal” as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for too many people in East Boston there will never be a return to normal because they have lost a loved one to this virus. Let’s all do our part and prevent any more families from losing someone.
Lydia Edwards is City Councilor, District 1.