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Mother’s Day traditions altered by coronavirus as Mass. deaths rise, though hospitalizations continue to fall

Every Mother’s Day for the last 23 years, hundreds of people have walked from Fields Corner to City Hall to support families who’ve lost loved ones to violence.

This year, like so much else, the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace will be different.

The annual event — which raises money for the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Dorchester — will be held virtually. Institute founder Tina Chéry and NBC10 anchor Latoyia Edwards will host on video. Politicians and public safety officials will beam from their homes, instead of gathering on the steps of City Hall. Any walking will be done from home, not in the joyful parade that in past years had streamed across the city.


"This is not happening the way we’re used to,” said Shaulita Francis, a spokeswoman for the institute. “You can’t give hugs.”

It’s just one of so many Mother’s Day traditions around here being altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Arnold Arboretum has canceled its annual Lilac Sunday events. Duckling Day will be held online, without the usual yellow-tinged procession through the Boston Common and Public Garden. Celebratory brunches will be homemade, or maybe takeout. Indeed, for many mothers — especially those living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities — even a visit may be out of the question, the latest of countless ways big and small that the outbreak has changed life this spring.

And the health toll keeps rising. State officials on Saturday reported 138 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total in Massachusetts to 4,840. More than half — 2,922 — have been in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

There were 1,410 newly-confirmed cases, according the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, for a total of 76,743 people infected since the outbreak began in March. Of the 10,514 tests conducted, 13 percent were positive, down a bit from the 15 percent average over the past seven days. In one piece of good news, the number of people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 continued to fall, down by 120, to 3,229, the lowest number in nearly a month.


Meanwhile, efforts to cope with the economic and social fallout of the pandemic continued.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Saturday announced that the Boston Resiliency Fund, a charitable effort to help social service agencies combat the crisis, has raised $30.7 million. Of that, $16.2 million has been distributed to 178 organizations across Boston. Much of the money has gone to pay for food and other basic needs, and to expand health care capacity and support health care workers in the city. In a statement, Walsh emphasized that the funds have gone to every corner of the city, and to a wide array of grantees.

“We’ve supported diverse, grass-roots organizations that are trusted in the community, employ local people, and provide direct services to residents,” he said. “Resiliency is only possible if equity is at the forefront.”

And US Senator Ed Markey began stumping for more direct aid from Washington for people struggling with the economic impact of the crisis.

Markey, along with Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kamala Harris of California, on Friday filed legislation that would send $2,000 a month to people who make less than $120,000 a year, plus $2,000 per child. It would be a huge — and costly — increase from the one-time $1,200 payments the federal government issued last month, but one that supporters say is more in line with the scale of a crisis that wiped out 20.5 million jobs in April and froze much of the nation’s economy.


“A single check is not sufficient for households that are struggling during this health and economic crisis,” Markey said. “Americans need more than just one payment.”

The bill’s fate in the Republican-controlled Senate is unclear, but Markey scheduled a news conference Sunday to make his case.

At the same time, mothers, and their children, planned to celebrate as best they could, given the circumstances.

Francis said the Brown Institute briefly considered postponing the peace walk — which is its biggest fund-raising event of the year — until it could be done in person. But, she said, they quickly realized how important the march has become over the years to the people they serve.

“Yes, a lot gets lost when it’s virtual,” Francis said. “But this still shows our community that we’re here for them.”

And they’re there for each other. Chéry, who founded the institute after her own teenage son was killed in 1993, lost her mother to COVID-19 last week. Zoila Weddborn died Thursday at Boston Medical Center, where she had worked for 40 years, Chéry said in a Facebook post. Chéry was taking a few days to grieve, Francis said, but she’ll be there Sunday morning, leading the walk, just she has every year for nearly a quarter-century.


“At this time we just need positivity,” Francis said. “We hope this broadcasts that.”

Tim Logan can be reached at timothy.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.