Sandro Galea, dean and Robert A. Knox professor at the School of Public Health, has been appointed to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee. The 18-member committee will advise the city on its COVID-19 response in light of the new Omicron variant and anticipated winter surge.
“The goal of this group is to move quickly and to ensure that we are getting the best combination of science, lived experience, and direct impact, and inform how implementation of any policies would affect the communities and residents in Boston,” said Wu in a press conference introducing the committee. “We are very much in an urgent situation in Boston.”
Chaired by Bisola Ojikutu, director of the Boston Public Health Commission, the committee’s mission will be centered around four key priorities: increasing access to vaccinations and boosters, increasing testing, enhancing health communication, and doubling down on efforts around prevention.
As a first major policy move to protect Boston residents and encourage vaccinations, Wu introduced a new initiative on December 20 called “B Together,” which will require individuals to show proof of vaccination to enter certain spaces, including indoor dining, fitness centers, and entertainment venues. Employees in these locations will also be required to have proof of vaccination. The policy will go into effect on January 15, 2022, requiring all individuals ages 12 and over to show proof of at least one dose of a vaccine. Proof of a second dose in a two-dose series will be required for all adults by February 15.
“There remains much to be done as the pandemic continues,” says Galea. “Boston can be an exemplar to the country in dealing with COVID-19, balancing safety of the population, protecting those who are most at risk, and ensuring that there are economic and social supports for those who are most affected by COVID-19 and the consequences of the pandemic.”
The committee is comprised of a diverse group of doctors, public health professionals, and community leaders, including Cassandra Pierre, medical director of public health programs at Boston Medical Center; Joseph Betancourt, senior vice president of equity and community health at Massachusetts General Hospital; and Nia Grace, restaurant owner and co-founder of the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition. Other Boston University members appointed to the advisory committee include Sabrina Assoumou, Louis W. Sullivan professor of medicine at the School of Medicine; and Jake Sullivan, vice president for government and community affairs.