Acting Mayor Kim Janey on Thursday issued an impassioned plea for all city workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and said she is not ruling out a mandate to require members of the municipal workforce to get inoculated.
“If it takes a mandate to keep the City of Boston employees safe, that is what we’ll do with very thoughtful, worker-centered approaches, but we must do that by building the right plan for our workforce and for our vital city services,” Janey said during an afternoon briefing at City Hall.
She said city officials, as they’ve done throughout the pandemic, will “follow the public health data, we will provide resources to make getting a vaccine easier and we will ensure a high level of service to the public. And we will work with our public-sector unions on any plan that we implement, including a potential mandate.”
Janey added that while “vaccinations are the best protection we have, I have also strongly encouraged the wearing of masks during the course of this pandemic.”
In addition, the acting mayor provided fresh statistics on the city’s ongoing battle against the coronavirus. Boston, a somber Janey told the press corps, is trending in the wrong direction.
“After months of extremely low and declining cases, we have seen a marked increase in COVID activity in Boston over the last several weeks,” Janey said. “The majority of people affected by the increase in COVID positivity in Boston are individuals between the ages of 20 and 39 years old.”
The city’s current test positivity rate, Janey said, stands at 2.7 percent. And as of Tuesday, she continued, Boston had logged 704 new cases in the prior two weeks, for a total of 71,914 since the start of the once-in-a-century pandemic.
That’s a big jump in new cases compared to the previous two-week period, when just 147 new cases were reported, according to Janey.
She said there were also four new coronavirus-related deaths reported in the city over the last two weeks, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 1,399 fatalities.
Hospitalizations have also spiked, Janey said.
“At the beginning of this month, we saw a seven-day average of 26 COVID-related hospitalizations,” Janey said. “As of July 26, that number has risen to a seven-day average of 36 hospitalizations. In early July, Boston hospitals reported a seven-day average occupancy of 83 percent in non-surgical adult ICU beds, and that rate has risen to 88 percent in the most recent data.”
But it’s not panic time yet.
“All of of our tracking metrics remain below threshold levels, and well below the peak of 2020, but they are increasing,” Janey said. “After a year and a half of battling COVID-19, I understand that many of us feel ready to move on from the pandemic. But let me be clear: the pandemic is not over. We are still living with COVID-19, and we must do all we can to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. Vaccines are the best way to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19.”
Councilor Andrea Campbell, one of Janey’s many rivals in the upcoming mayoral election, spoke outside City Hall following Janey’s remarks. Campbell said she thought Janey’s hesitance to outright issue a vaccine mandate for the city’s workforce was a mistake. Bringing the unions to the table to discuss such a measure, said Campbell, “is a conversation that could happen really quickly.”
“You can’t be ‘leaning toward,’ we need decisive decision-making action,” said Campbell.
Campbell said Janey should also consider indoor mask mandates for restaurants and certain businesses.
“I would rather be safe than sorry,” she said.
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