Friday, March 13, 2020

COVID 19: A Word From City Councilors O'Malley, Campbell & Wu

A Word from Councilor Andrea Campbell

I hope you are staying calm and spending time with family during this stressful time. The most important role of government is to keep our neighbors safe and healthy, which is why there will likely be inconveniences and challenges to Boston's residents and those who come into our city in the midst of COVID-19.  As Bostonians, we know how to come together and overcome adversity -- we've done it before and we will do it again with this challenge.

I wanted to pass along an email from my friend and colleague, Matt O'Malley, the City Councilor representing Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and parts of Mission Hill and Roslindale.  Matt is right -- we all need to strike the right balance of being hypervigilant without succumbing to hysteria.  The impact of the coronavirus is likely going to get worse before things get better and we need to do everything we can to mitigate it. 

As we learn more and more about COVID-19 and its potential impacts on our region, it is important that we listen to our public health officials and take their recommendations seriously.  This especially applies to our seniors, those with underlying medical conditions, and anyone who regularly interacts with them.

Below, please find links to resources from the City, State, and Federal government providing information and recommendations for residents.

A Word from City Councilor Matt O'Malley
Typically, I shake more hands than your average bear.  This is because: a.) I am friendly, and b.) it comes with the job. Yesterday, I ran into a friend on the street. He extended his hand. I returned with an elbow. He was offended. I asked him if he’d been living under a rock lately. He laughed. We hit elbows.  Today, I offered another friend an elbow.  He responded with a salute.  Touché! I responded. (I might add salutes into the repertoire now). I mention this to illustrate an easy and effective way that we can contain the spread of the coronavirus: let’s stop shaking hands!
This is tough for Bostonians. For our (unwarranted, in my opinion) reputation as being a little cold, we love to touch. Handshakes, hugs, busses on the cheek often define our greetings.  We can’t do that.  At least for a little while.
It also bears repeating that we all have to become expert-level hand washers.  No more of a quick rinse with a dollop of soap. We need to treat each hand washing as though we’re preparing to perform major surgery.  Sing Happy Birthday twice or opt for an eclectic catalogue of songs as I have done.  The refrain from Escape (the Pina Colada song) is especially catchy.
Avoid touching your face. I know: this is impossible.  I’ve just touched my face as I’m typing this.  But we really have to try to be better.
If you’re feeling sick, please stay home from work if you’re able.  If your boss gives you a hard time, have them call me.  (And bosses – please encourage telecommuting when an option).
You have no doubt heard by now that the famed South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade has been cancelled. This was not an easy call to make, but it was the right decision nonetheless. More events will be cancelled.  There will no doubt be pushback and disappointment, but please know that this is being done out of an abundance of caution. Believe me, no elected official likes to put the kibosh on fun things, but public health and safety should always come first.  This is not only for your safety, but also for those who are older or immunocompromised. As such, I have decided to cancel our annual Irish flag raising reception scheduled for this Thursday, 3/12, at City Hall Plaza.  I am enormously grateful for my team member, Shannon Murphy, for her tireless work in organizing this annual event and cannot wait to celebrate it next year! 
Dealing with the coronavirus ought to be an apolitical exercise, but there is no doubt that government has to play a vital role.  We need to demand that the federal government recognizes the enormity of this crisis.  We need increased testing availability, better coordination of federal services, increased access points of information and healthcare delivery systems, as well as a plan to address the economic impact (particularly for those in the service industry).
At the local level, we have a role to play too. I don’t profess to be a public health professional or an epidemiologist, but I have obviously been following coverage of the coronavirus very closely.  I’ve recently called for a hearing to discuss strategies and preparedness in Boston along with my colleagues.  We will convene all relevant stakeholders to meet to discuss how we can best prevent the spread and impact of COVID-19. The hearing is scheduled for next Monday, 3/16, at 5:30pm. DM/Call/Email me any specific questions or concerns you may have and I’ll do my best to have them addressed. 

In the meantime, check in on one another (particularly older relatives), tip well when you go out to eat, and take extra safeguards.  We all need to strike the right balance of being hypervigilant without succumbing to hysteria.  The impact of the coronavirus is likely going to get worse before things get better and we need to do everything we can to mitigate it.  I am confident that being smart, alert, and taking extra precautions will allow Bostonians to do just that. 

A Word from Councilor Michelle Wu

Yesterday the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus to be a global pandemic. Around the world and here in Massachusetts, governments are bracing for rapid spread and communities are grappling with the impacts. Today I hosted a question-and-answer session with one of the world's foremost infectious diseases epidemiology experts--Professor Marc Lipsitch, Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. You can watch our 30-minute conversation here.

As Professor Lipsitch explained, at this point we are beyond being able to stop the spread of COVID-19. Instead, communities must focus on slowing down transmission to reduce the number of cases that require treatment all at once. Without intervention, the exponential spread of this very contagious virus would send tens of thousands of residents to hospitals at the same time, overwhelming the health care system and forcing medical staff to ration care. The only way to slow the spread is through "social-distancing"--limiting physical interactions and large-scale gatherings. 
Just as important as limiting spread is mitigating harm to those who will be disproportionately affected by the disruption to important support systems such as public transportation or public schools, and those who have the least flexibility to adapt to uncertain working conditions--low-income communities and communities of color, residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability, and the medically vulnerable. In addition to emergency response, we have to plan for food access, economic stability, supports for housing stability, and more.

Boston City Council will host two sessions of hearings on COVID-19: on Monday, March 16th at 5:30PM to discuss emergency response; and on Tuesday, March 17th at 2PM to discuss facilities/infrastructure and economic impact. City Hall has instituted a temporary policy to limit crowds, so please email any questions or testimony rather than attending in person to testify. The live-stream will be available on the City Council website.  

Let's do more than just wash our hands. Even as we practice social-distancing, it's more important than ever to strengthen our social bonds. Seniors face particular health risk from this virus, yet taking precautions only reinforces social isolation. Please take the time to call, text, or send a message to your neighbors. Ask if any elderly friends need someone to do the grocery shopping for them. Help your family members stock up on prescriptions and make provisions for child care in case they may need to seek treatment. Consider setting up a phone tree or email list for your block so that people can be in touch about what they need.              

Related Posts

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.