Walsh: Focus must be to ‘contain the virus’

Mayor pushes back against councillor’s critique of Resiliency Fund

Mayor Walsh on Thursday said the city of Boston's priority moving through Phase 3 of reopening is to “contain the virus and prevent another surge.” In his press conference outside of City Hall the mayor urged all Bostonians to be tested for covid-19, even those not experiencing symptoms.

He noted that testing is available citywide in more than 20 locations and mobile sites. Marty Martinez, chief of Health and Human Services for the city, added that any individuals who have exposed themselves to larger groups of people, or aren’t wearing masks often enough in public, should be tested regularly.

“To contain covid, we have to make sure that people know their status,” he said.

Walsh announced that the city's Health and Inequities Task force, which was commissioned to study and address health disparities, identified a spike in positive covid-19 rates in Latinx communities.

“Latinx residents make up 20 percent of our population, but make up 27 percent of our city's overall COVID cases,” he said.

“We launched the COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force to help us identify the solutions that will address these disparities and I am pleased that through the Boston Resiliency Fund we are able to make significant investments in organizations that will expand needed outreach, education, and testing throughout the Latinx community."

The city will invest $400,000 in funding through the Boston Resiliency Fund into a community-specific plan to address inequities the numbers represent. The funds will be administered to the Greater Boston Latino Network, East Boston Health Center and Whittier Street Health Center.

“This will expand on the outreach we are doing to provide testing and other support in Latinx communities by reaching families and individuals through grassroots organizations,” said Walsh.

The Health and Inequities task force has also provided guidance to the Walsh administration on expanding testing in Black and immigrant communities, enhancing language access, and placing mobile testing sites in public housing developments and in senior communities.

“We're working everyday to build our strategy to address systemic inequalities, equity has been at the center of our response,” said Walsh.

Rev. Sam Acevedo, community activist and member of the task force, said that the pandemic has “only proven to increase disparities.”
“Even before the pandemic, Massachusetts was already the number 1 one state for Latino income inequalities. The pandemic has only proven to increase disparities,” he said.

“Virtually since its launch, the Latino members of the Health & Inequities task force have noted that the data being captured by the state and city did not match what we were seeing firsthand with the latino families that we work with.”

Many individuals and families in Boston’s Latinx communities did not want to be tested because of fear over their status, Acevedo said.

“For many families who don’t speak English it can be bewildering to navigate covid-19. Latino covid-19 cases, unfortunately, are on the rise in Boston, especially for the 21-39 age group” he added.

Acevedo said the funding would allow community groups to enhance testing and support for the Latinx population, and also create bilingual campaigns.

Walsh noted again the accomplishments of the city’s Resiliency Fund and vented over criticism from Councillor Michelle Wu, who wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe that blasted the fund and the mayor’s handling of such philanthropic efforts. Wu reiterated the critique in a radio interview on WGBH this week.

Walsh died not name Wu specifically, but referenced a female councillor. Wu is increasingly viewed as a likely candidate for Mayor in 2021, although she has not made any definitive statement to date.

“We’ve disbursed $ 1.2 million in grants from the Resiliency Fund this week, to benefit youth programs, seniors, food distribution efforts, and more,” he said. “Since the fund’s inception, we’ve raised over $33 million through private donors, and to date have used $24 million-- 53 percent of those grants have gone to organizations led by people of color.”

“I usually don’t respond to things I hear on the radio, but if the city councillor took time out of her schedule to go on a call with us she would understand what the Resiliency Fund has done,” he said.

“We’ve been able to put foot on peoples’ tables, expand testing to community health centers, expand Telehealth medicine and more.”

Added Walsh: “So when I hear people talk about how it’s not effective, they should take a little bit of their time to learn about why the fund was set up and maybe help us get some money for the fund rather than play Monday morning quarterback on a radio show when they have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to Resiliency Funds.”

The mayor also called for more federal relief for Americans.

“I’m urging Washington to bring more relief before economic destruction becomes an economic disaster,” he said.

Police Commissioner William Gross commented that said that he was frustrated by continuing violence in Boston, referencing another shooting Tuesday night in which Tanjim Siam, a 21-year-old convenience store clerk, was shot during a robbery on Shawmut Avenue.

“You can see my frustration. A young man from Bangladesh comes here to Boston to seek a better quality of life, and then a coward, trust me a coward, shoots him during a robbery,” he said.

“We know that the mentality in the street is that you can do what you want because the courts are closed and there’s no grand juries. But repeat violent offenders should be held accountable because our neighbors deserve it.”
Gross said that BPD will continue meeting and working with the community.

“Our communities are not desensitized to violence, they do care. Let's continue to stick together and work to send a message to the repeat public offenders that they will be held accountable,” said Gross.

“I only hope that the judicial process is listening. We should not be bailing people out and putting them on electric bracelets when they get arrested with firearms. It’s just sending the wrong message.”

Neither Walsh or Gross confirmed whether or not the shooter in the case referenced was a repeat offender.

“The violence in our city needs to stop,” Walsh said. “The circumstances around the shooting I can't get into right now, but I will say that in Boston we're better than that. There’s no excuse in this city for when you go out and commit harm against other people. We’re going to hold you accountable.”