Mayor Martin J. Walsh and city Health and Human Services Chief Marty Martinez on Thursday said Boston remains committed to ensuring the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed equitably, reserving 50 percent of appointments at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury for communities of color and vulnerable populations.
Walsh, appearing with Martinez at a City Hall briefing, said the state on Thursday took over operations at the Reggie Lewis Center, which will now be a mass vaccination site. CIC Health will be operating the site on behalf of the state. The company also operates mass vaccination sites at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium.
“We’ll continue to hold appointments at Reggie Lewis Center for outreach, organizing, serving communities of color and other vulnerable populations,” the mayor said. “Moving forward, we’ll continue to hold 50 percent of those appointments for that purpose. So we do have opportunities in the Reggie Lewis, even though it’s turned into a regional center to be able to take care of folks from the city of Boston.”
Walsh urged eligible residents 65 and older who are having trouble booking appointments online to call the city’s 311 hotline. The state website for reserving appointments is vaxfinder.mass.gov. It crashed last week when 1 million additional people became eligible to book slots.
Before the mayor addressed the vaccine issue, he again offered condolences to the two men who died tragically at a construction site Wednesday morning on High Street downtown.
“My heart goes out to the family and the loved ones of the two workers that were lost yesterday in the terrible, tragic incident at a construction site on High Street,” Walsh said, adding that city, state and federal authorities continue to investigate. “Until a thorough investigation is complete, however, the company involved will not be allowed to perform work in the city of Boston.”
Walsh also addressed school re-openings during the wide-ranging briefing, noting that at the beginning of February, city officials had launched a new timeline for returning students to in-person learning.
“To date, we have welcomed all students with high in-person priority status who want to be back in the classroom — it’s an opt-in option,” he said. “Nearly 7,000 students have been invited to return to school buildings since November. Starting next week, the week of March 1, we’re inviting students in preschool and kindergarten through grade three to return [to] in-person learning.”
That means, he continued, an additional 7,900 students for a total of 15,600 could be back in school learning in-person, rather than remotely.
“We’re making sure that our classrooms and buildings are safe for students, teachers, staff, and that includes air purifiers in every occupied space, and frequent air-quality testing, best possible filters in all HVAC systems, medical grade PPE for all staff, [and] disposable masks available to students and staff.”
On the financial front, Walsh also announced the 28th round of COVID-19 relief grants given to local groups providing aid, courtesy of the Boston Resiliency Fund.
“This represents the last funding round during my time as mayor,” Walsh said. “It’s also our biggest round, with $3.8 million going to 62 different organizations. These organizations are working to provide food, public health resources, and other basic needs for Boston’s residents.”