Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Tuesday cited encouraging trends in Boston’s recent COVID-19 numbers but urged residents to remain vigilant and take advantage of the city’s mobile testing program.
“The uptick that we saw in the second half of July has leveled off,” Walsh said during his regular briefing outside City Hall. “But we’re watching the data very closely."
He said the positive test rate in Boston for the week ending Aug. 10 was 2.6 percent, down from the prior week of 2.8 percent.
“Our mobile testing teams have played a role in increasing both the capacity and the access to testing in our neighborhoods,” Walsh said. “We’re offering testing to anyone who wants it, at no cost, and regardless of if you are symptomatic or not.”
At Moakley Park in South Boston over the last two weeks, he said, the mobile team performed over 3,000 tests. Starting Thursday, Walsh, said, the team moves to Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan. Testing there will run from Aug. 20 to Aug. 22 and again from Aug. 25 through Aug. 29. More testing information is available online at boston.gov/coronavirus.
“We are going to be bringing testing wherever it’s needed,” Walsh said. “And I encourage everyone to get tested regularly. Knowledge is power in this situation, for individuals and for our community.”
Walsh stressed that every resident, college student and business has a role to play in complying with public health directives such as face coverings, hand washing and physical distancing. He said that as of Tuesday, Boston had 14,940 positive cases including 746 deaths.
“Face covering is hard for some to get used to,” the mayor said. “But I want people to think of it, it’s like putting a seat belt on. Years ago, when there was a big push for seat belts, no one wanted to put it on, people said it felt restrictive. Now it’s the norm. No one even thinks about wearing a seat belt any more, it automatically goes on. No one expects to be in an accident, but you don’t feel safe until you buckle up. And that’s common sense, we’re asking you to do the same thing with masks. When you have a mask on, you’re safe. You’re protecting yourself and you’re protecting others from coronavirus.”
Turning to schools, Walsh said Boston Public Schools on Friday submitted reopening plans that meet all the state public health guidelines. The latest draft of the plan is publicly available online, he said.
Walsh said Boston officials have asked the state to allow the city to push back its first day of school from Sept. 10 to Sept. 21 for all but pre-kindergarten students, who would go back Sept. 23.
“That gives teachers, administrators more time to plan, and gives us more time and information to monitor the data,” he said. “Very soon we will be making decisions on whether to open all remote learning or a hybrid model. But I want to be clear, every family has the choice to begin the year remotely, even if we have a hybrid model on the table. Our priorities are safety, quality and equity.”
The mayor also briefly addressed national headlines, chiding President Trump’s threats to “undermine the operations of the Postal Service” ahead of the election “to disrupt mail-in voting.”
Earlier Tuesday, US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced plans to suspend cost-cutting initiatives at the US Postal Service until after the November presidential election.
The initiatives had been viewed by critics as an attempt to disenfranchise Americans casting ballots by mail during the pandemic.
“We need a strong Postal Service,” Walsh said during Tuesday’s briefing. “We have a strong Postal Service. ... Many of our seniors and others receive their medication by mail, along with their checks and other essential items. To threaten this on the eve of the election during the pandemic is a dangerous attack on the fundamental institution and values.”
Despite DeJoy’s reversal, Boston officials will continue to monitor the situation, Walsh said.
“We’re going to cont to push to make sure that we don’t see any disruption in our mail as we go through this election season,” he said.
Material from the New York Times was used in this report.