The five major candidates for mayor of Boston took part in their first televised debate Wednesday evening, sharing their thoughts on how they think the city has handled the pandemic.
Mayor Kim Janey, City Councilor Michelle Wu, City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, City Councilor Andrea Campbell and former economic development chief John Barros were asked to give letter grades to the city's response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Janey, who stepped in as acting mayor after former Mayor Marty Walsh left to join President Joe Biden's cabinet, gave the highest grade at A-.
"As someone who has experienced many of the challenges in our city, I bring that life experience to the job as mayor," she said. "When I took over in March, we were in the midst of the pandemic. I acted quickly to get vaccines into arms. I invested a total of $3 million in a vaccine equity grant so that we could focus on the hardest-hit communities. And now in the city of Boston, more than 70% of every resident has at least one shot."
Janey also pointed to the city being Massachusetts' first to implement a mask mandate in schools, as well as Boston's vaccine mandate for city workers.
Barros gave Boston the second-highest grade among the candidates, a B.
"I was there in government, and as chief of economic development when the pandemic first hit, and we mobilized, we got together and we were having meetings every day at 8 a.m. to make sure that Boston was safe, had the information it needed," Barros said, praising what the Walsh administration did to help small businesses and residents.
The next highest grade, a C+, came from Wu.
"We have gotten to the point where we are now seeing businesses beginning to wonder about what the next steps are as the delta variant ramps up, we are sitting on the verge of schools reopening, and a lot of uncertainty, as well," Wu said. "We need to do better about closing the gaps and addressing the issues that this pandemic has exacerbated, but were already present in our communities for a long time before."
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Essaibi George gave the city a C.
"We've been in the thick of this pandemic for too long," she said. "From the beginning, when we had difficulty getting testing into the hands of our city's residents, to then a vaccine rollout that had some starts and stops, and now we're in a great spot with high rates of vaccination -- certainly we have to do more across our city."
The councilor added that she feels the city has "lost the mark a little bit on testing" and that she'd like to see it ramp back up as breakthrough cases continue.
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Campbell said the city's response was worthy of a D.
"It's simple," Campbell said. "We need masks, we need vaccination. Right now, in the city of Boston, we have a mask mandate, of course, for city employees, as well as a vaccination mandate or regular testing. We have mask mandates for those who are external to the city, but we do not have vaccination requirements. I've been on the record leading the way, pushing the city of Boston, pushing the acting mayor, of course, and the administration, to implement what New York City's doing, what San Francisco's doing, all of these best practices we know are saving lives."
Campbell noted she lives in Mattapan, Boston's least vaccinated neighborhood, and said more needs to be done to protect people.