Special to the Journal
Last Thursday, the Baker-Polito Administration stepped up its targeted initiative to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in communities across the Commonwealth with the highest number of positive cases. This initiative brings even greater focus to the top 5 highest-risk communities with regular neighborhood-level assessments and a comprehensive multi-lingual public messaging campaign.
The initiative focuses efforts on Chelsea, Everett, Lawrence, Lynn and Revere. The Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Enforcement and Intervention Team (CEIT), in partnership with local community officials, is leading this effort. This targeted initiative includes regular meetings with local leadership to understand residential and business activities contributing to trends, an even greater level of state focus to stop the spread and a new public messaging campaign.
The goal of the public messaging campaign is to ensure residents know they live in a high-risk community and reiterate the importance of wearing a mask and other best practices to stop the spread. Built around a message of, “You have the power to save a life,” the comprehensive campaign will encourage the use of masks and social distancing and will run in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, Arabic and other languages common to these communities. The campaign includes:
• A new online resource at Mass.gov/StopCOVID19
(Additional multilingual online resources will be available soon)
• Advertising on billboards, digital and social media
• Downloadable materials in multiple languages
• Multi-lingual field teams deployed in the communities
• Phone and text communications
• Outreach to local community groups
This new website Mass.gov/StopCOVID19 provides residents and local business owners with information on how to stop the spread, state restrictions on gathering sizes, testing locations and materials that can be printed for display in apartment complexes, restaurants and community areas.
The campaign’s advertising will run on hundreds of displays, message boards, signs, billboards and other channels in these top 5 communities through paid partnerships and via state-owned resources, such as at MBTA stations, on MassDOT signs and much more. During Labor Day weekend, the field teams will be active at approximately 15 locations in these top 5 communities. All aspects of this campaign will expand throughout the fall.
In early August, the Administration established CEIT through the COVID-19 Command Center. CEIT is a cross-agency response unit, which includes representatives from the Community Tracing Collaborative, Department of Public Health, Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, Massachusetts State Police, Department of Labor Standards and other agencies.
Since it was launched, this team has worked closely with all higher-risk communities to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in areas that are persistently above the state average. CEIT partnered with local elected and community officials, including municipal leadership, police chiefs and local health departments, to assess trends and most effectively utilize resources. Collectively, these teams have enforced gathering size restrictions and shared with municipalities additional state support, such as testing and contact tracing information.
Over the last two weeks the statewide average daily incidence rate is 4.2 cases per 100,000 people, while Chelsea is 29.4, Revere is 20.9, Lynn is 12.1, Everett is 15.9 and Lawrence is 14.9. As new community data is reported, CEIT will adjust as cities and towns move into or out of higher-risk categories. Throughout September, the campaign will expand beyond the top 5 communities.
Mayor Brian Arrigo’s remarks during the press conference were as follows:
“Thank you Undersecretary Thorpe and Thank you Governor and Secretary Sudders for having me and for the support you continue to provide to the City of Revere in our COVID-19 response.
In the month of August, the City of Revere averaged 12.6 new cases of covid-19 per day – up from an average of 6 daily new cases in July.
For the 6th consecutive week, our positive test rate has remained at more than three times the state average, this week at 5.75%. With data as our guide throughout this crisis, we have suspended all city events and programming until further notice, and all of our students will start the school year remotely on September 16.
Our City shares many of the same characteristics as our neighbors in East Boston, Chelsea, Everett and Lynn who are facing the same challenges we are —
We are a city of essential and frontline workers, many of whom rely on public transportation to continue to report to work.
Many of our residents live in densely populated areas, and in multigenerational and multifamily households. We continue to see clusters of cases emerge at single addresses.
Half of our population is comprised of immigrants and communities of color. We know that this virus impacts Black and Brown communities disproportionately and we are seeing those impacts firsthand in Revere.
And, finally, we know many of our residents are tired. Of hearing from us. Of restrictions. And of the sacrifices they continue to make to protect themselves and their loved ones. I certainly understand where they are coming from.
It’s been a long seven months and it would be easy to throw up our hands and give up.
But, instead We have to do more.
We have to think of new ways to communicate with our residents, bring awareness to the current risk levels and implement new policies to encourage greater compliance with public health guidelines.
We are grateful for the continued support the Governor and his team are providing to us- in the form of expertise, manpower and autonomy to make the decisions that are right for our city and residents.
Since the launch of the Governor’s enforcement and intervention team we’ve bolstered our education and enforcement efforts in the city of Revere:
We are hiring multilingual ambassadors to engage directly with residents in their neighborhoods, distribute masks and connect them with other resources.
We have begun issuing citations for private gatherings that violate the Governor’s revised gatherings order. Since we announced this enforcement mechanism we have seen greater compliance. We will be monitoring for gatherings closely as we head into this holiday weekend.
We have tightened capacity limits at our grocery and big box stores.
We have ramped up our business inspections and are hiring additional inspectors to reach hundreds of businesses on an ongoing basis.
We’ve received additional support from the ABCC at licensed establishments and private clubs.
We have begun closing parks and playgrounds where large gatherings have persisted without mask wearing or social distancing. Every weekend we reach every one of our city owned parks and playgrounds and have distributed hundreds of masks.
And since rolling out two free testing sites as part of the Stop the Spread initiative, we are administering more than 2,000 tests a week for Revere residents, quadrupling the number of our residents being tested since mid-July.
Our work moving forward will include all of this and more.
Next week we will launch a regional, paid Spanish-language media campaign in partnership with the cities of Boston, Chelsea, Everett and Lynn.
We will continue to tap into additional state and federal funding to hire Ambassadors, inspectors, and fund overtime for existing staff. And we continue to have access to the entire enforcement and intervention team to support us in our efforts.
We are doing everything within our control to help slow the spread in our community, and we’re also asking our residents for their help and to make smart decisions. To wear a mask, limit sizes of gatherings, practice social distancing and to take care of each other – particularly our residents that we know are more vulnerable to this virus