Walsh Gives COVID-19 Update, Announces New Healthy Streets Initiatives, Extends Outdoor Dining

Mayor Marty Walsh held a press conference on September 15, where he provided COVID-19 updates, as well as announced some upgrades as part of the Healthy Streets Program.

Walsh said that as of Monday, there were 235 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, with nine deaths. In Boston, there were 51 new cases and two deaths over the weekend. The seven day positive teat rate for the week of September 7 was 1.6 percent, which he said was down from the previous week. Last week, 2700 residents were tested each day on average, including college students, Walsh said.

He then announced new initiatives as part of the Healthy Streets Program.

“The pandemic brought a new urgency for safe and reliable transportation,” he said, especially for healthcare and other frontline workers who rely on it to get to their jobs.

Earlier this summer, Health Streets was launched and included pop up bike lanes downtown, connecting residents to major roads so they could commute more easily. Additionally, the City started offering 90 day free BlueBikes passes for essential workers.

Walsh announced on Tuesday that some of these upgrades will be permanent, such as the installation of new bus lanes in neighborhood corridors such as Columbus Ave. in Roxbury.

“Bus lanes have worked well and have proven popular,” Walsh said, adding that he wanted to thank the MBTA for their partnership.

Additionally, many pop up bike lanes will become permanent, in areas around the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden. Traffic signals will be adjusted to increase safety, and intersections will be improved. He said that residents should be patient during the construction process, as the changes will add opportunities for bikers that weren’t there before.

Walsh also talked about extending the October outdoor dining program. The program was originally set to expire on October 31. He said that restaurants who use public sidewalks and parking spaces through the Temporary Outdoor Dining Program may continue to do so until December 1, when further assessment will take place.

“Requests for further extensions of this use shall be considered on a case by case basis in the coming weeks and months,” the City said in a statement. 

On private property, outdoor dining is permitted to continue for as long as the COVID-19 public health emergency is in effect, he said.

He said that as temperatures begin to drop, the City will waive application fees for propane heating in outdoor dining areas. While a permit is still required, restaurant owners will not have to pay for the application fee. Electric heaters will be permitted without a permit as long as cords are not draped across the sidewalk, causing a hazard, Walsh said.

Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez also talked about colleges and how they are handling the pandemic, especially in light of the recent spike in cases at Boston College (BC).

Martinez said that the City continues to work with colleges on their reopening and testing protocols, and has “partnered with BC closely” to support their efforts to isolate students and increase testing capacity. He said that BC has “been very responsive,” and the City will “continue to monitor” the situation there and at every college in the City.

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