Walsh Undertakes COVID-19 Educational Campaign

Mayor Martin Walsh undertook an extensive educational campaign on the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic Saturday, with numerous volunteers distributing literature in seven languages door to door throughout the city.

The seven-page, multilingual pamphlet that was disseminated contains explanations of common practices to avoid contracting the virus, such as frequent hand-washing with soap for at least 20 seconds and “social distancing” by keeping at least six feet away from others when IN PUBLIC, and lists emergency meal sites citywide. The literature also encourages citizens to only contact 9-1-1 only in cases of medical emergency, since Boston EMS doesn’t conduct COVID-19 testing.

Deborah Portman, a volunteer and Jamaica Plain resident; Jonathan Greeley of the Boston Planning and Development Agency; and Brian Norton of the city’s Office of Workforce Development distributes pamphlets on the coronavirus around the area.

Around 15 volunteers were on hand to help distribute pamphlets in Back Bay during the first shift at 9 a.m. at Commonwealth Avenue and Exeter Street on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. They typically paired off and were given a package containing 200 pamphlets, which they attempted to distribute in every lobby or doorstep of all households in a several-block radius.

“Today is to let Bostonians know that the city is a resource for them, and if they need help, we’ll be there for them,” said Jonathan Greeley of the Boston Planning and Development Agency, who led the effort in Back Bay. “The number-one goal is that every single resident has the critical information about the city’s response to COVID-19, and the wide range of city services and food-distribution sites. The thing is we want to touch every Bostonian.”

“Especially people who are really afraid, like our elderly population,” added Deborah Portman, a volunteer in Back Bay and Jamaica Plain resident who work at Orpheus Performing Arts, a Commonwealth Avenue store that specializes in classical music. “We want to reach out and get the information to people who might not be that internet savvy.”

Crystal Sotelo, a Medford resident who learned of the pamphlet campaign via the Boston Cares Boston Cares social services organization and volunteered during the first shift in Back Bay, said, “I figure at this time, If I can help out even in the smallest way, I want to help out.”

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, who was on hand at the Commonwealth Avenue Mall pamphlet-distribution site, said, “I’m really impressed with the coordination between the state and city working together to get through this, and I really appreciate the Mayor’s efforts to get the information into everyone’s hands.”

In all, Greeley said between 30 and 40 volunteers took part in the educational campaign in Back Bay over the course of the three shifts that began at 9 and 11 a.m., and 1 p.m., respectively.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm and many people came back for multiple packages of pamphlets to make sure their neighbors got the critical information they need,” Greeley said. “Clearly people want to be out helping their neighbors and city.

“Just standing on the corner for four and a half hours talking to so many people just walking by from a safe distance, you could really feel the resilient nature of Boston was on display,” Greeley added. “It was a challenging week, so this was a bright spot for everyone, including myself.”

By 11:45 a.m., Kim Thai, special assistant to Mayor Martin Walsh’s office, said between 10 and 15 volunteers had stopped by the pickup site at Charles and Beacon streets to pick up pamphlets for distribution on Beacon Hill, and that she expected a few more coming for the afternoon shift.

“We’ve distributed 2,000 pamphlets in just this neighborhood alone, and some volunteers came back for refills,” Thai said. “It’s really been wonderful to see all the volunteers come out who want to help the community and show just how strong our city is in times of crisis like this.”

Volunteer Buddy Christopher credited Mayor Walsh for breaking up volunteers in such a way that the campaign hit every street in the city.

“It’s really a nice thing, and people are stopping by and talking about helping their neighbors and caring for their families,” Christopher said. “As [clichéd] as it sounds, Boston Strong is showing itself again based on these conversations.”

City Councilor Kenzie Bok worked with four groups over the course of the day to help distribute literature.

“I think was it was a really important and successful effort citywide,” City Councilor Bok said. “Even at a time when so many are digitally connected, there are still bunch of folks not getting the information through those channels or getting bad information, so when the Mayor’s office decided to get the word out, I wanted to get involved.”

City Councilor Bok added, “It’s an overwhelming situation, and we’re just doing everything we can do to get through this challenge together. It was great to see the spirit of trying to help each other and show in concrete ways that we’re all in this together.”

Bok’s predecessor, former District 8 City Councilor Josh Zakim also pitched in to help get the word out to neighbors.

“I’m impressed with the Mayor and Council’s leadership during this incredibly difficult time,” Zakim wrote. “ The door-to-door information drop is a great idea. All of our residents need information and resources.”

            Zakim added, “Our family is doing okay, but others are not. It’s a time for government at all levels to step up, I am glad that the city is doing so, and the state. We desperately need leadership, urgency and effectiveness from the White House, too.”

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