No Plans to Shelter in Place
Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker have spoken to residents via live-streamed and televised addresses over the past several days as the coronavirus situation continues to unfold. As information related to the virus is constantly evolving, city and state officials are regularly updating the public with new facts and regulations.
On Wednesday afternoon, Governor Charlie Baker announced that all Massachusetts childcare and early education centers would close beginning next Monday, March 23. Some programs will be allowed to remain open for the care of children of first responders and medical personnel.
Baker also signed an order waiving the one-week waiting period for people to receive unemployment assistance, as well as announced the postponement of tax payments for some small businesses.
As of press time, 2,054 state residents are subject to quarantine, 886 individuals have completed monitoring and are no longer in quarantine, and 1168 individuals are currently undergoing monitoring or are under quarantine, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
As of press time, the Mayor said that 218 Massachusetts residents have tested positive for the virus, with 45 of those cases in Boston. “Public health officials expect these numbers to increase in the near future,” he said in a video message on the evening of March 17.
He said that many people have wondered what is next for the City, as the San Francisco Bay Area has been ordered to shelter in place, and other cities are considering the same. “We are not currently at the shelter-in-place point,” Walsh said, but city officials are “monitoring the situation closely” and are in conversation with the Governor and state officials as well. The Governor has also said he has no plans to shelter in place at this time.
“Make no mistake, this is a serious situation,” Walsh said. “We are not powerless and you are not alone.”
Walsh and city officials have taken several measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the City of Boston, including closing all Boston Public Schools through April 27, closing all Boston Public Library branches and Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF) centers, reducing service on the MBTA, and, per Governor Baker’s emergency order, prohibiting on-premises consumption of food or drink at bars and restaurants. Walsh also declared a public health emergency in Boston, and all city events with more than 25 people have been cancelled.
Starting on March 17, Mayor Walsh halted all regular activity at construction sites in Boston. “Employers should maintain the necessary crews to keep their sites safe and secure, keep any materials from blowing away, and prevent trespassing,” according to a press release from the City. This work needs to be completed by March 23, and after sites have been secured, skeleton crews will be allowed on the sites to make sure the safety measures remain in place. The only permitted work will be emergency work that has been approved by the Inspectional Services Department.
Additionally, street cleaning is on a normal schedule, however ticketing and towing is suspended. Trash and recycling pickup remains on a normal schedule.
After hearing that reduced service on the MBTA was causing more crowds to gather on trains and buses, Walsh announced on March 18 that additionally capacity has been added to allow for more social distancing on public transit.
Walsh also announced the Boston Resiliency Fund, which will provide food for children and seniors, as well as technology for students to learn remotely, and support for first responders and healthcare workers in the city.
The City has come up with a plan to make sure that BPS students will receive meals and will be engaged with learning activities for six weeks, and the Boston Public Library will provide thousands of e-books, audiobooks, and more online. Additionally, 20,000 Chromebooks have been purchased for BPS students to use while learning from home.
The Mayor has also set up resources for businesses to get set up with delivery services if need be. He said the City will also continue to reach out to veterans, immigrant communities, and the homeless population.
“Safety is our top priority,” Walsh said, especially for the seniors. “We’re thinking of you,” he said to the city’s seniors. He said the City’s Age Strong Commission will be reaching out to senior buildings and working to continue the in-home service that many seniors rely on.
“The actions all of us take now will save lives,” Walsh said in his March 17 address. He advised residents to keep washing their hands, wiping down surfaces, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding crowds, and to stay at home as much as possible. He did say, however, that although everyone needs to limit contact with each other, it is okay to go outside for a walk.
He stressed the importance of social distancing, and said that it is “not only for at-risk communities,” and is “especially important for younger and healthier people” as they have a responsibility to protect the older and more vulnerable people. In doing this, “we can prevent the kind of spike that would cause our health system to be overwhelmed,” Walsh said.
Additionally, there are plans in place for staggered hours for City Hall employees, and as much as possible, city services will be offered online.
“Our goal is to practice social distancing,” he said, and said that there is extra cleaning going on at City Hall. City parks will continue to be cleaned as well, and the election and procurement departments will remain open.
Walsh urged Bostonians to follow recommended precautions, and told residents that he realizes “none of this is easy,” as people’s plans are put on hold, people are feeling lonely, and many are worried about paychecks, bills, and struggling to find childcare.
He said that the city has identified safe sites where people can be tested and treated for symptoms of COVID-19, and is also in talks with lenders and landlords to prevent faults for business owners. He said that grocery stores will continue to be open and home delivery will continue.
He praised Stop and Shop for holding special hours for individuals over the age of 60 to shop in order to reduce their exposure to crowds, and encouraged all stores to do the same.
“These experiences present unique challenges,” Walsh said. “Bostonians are coming together in thousands of ways.” He said that choosing to practice social distancing shows care and concern for neighbors.
“We’re going to keep relying on each other,” Mayor Walsh said. “Bostonians are resilient. We are being tested again but just look at who we are and the strength we possess. There’s nothing we can’t do when we stand together.”
The most up-to-date information can be found at boston.gov/coronavirus, and to sign up for the City’s daily text service to receive information, text BOSCOVID to 99411.