Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker continue to update the public with new announcements as the coronavirus outbreak continues to develop.
Governor Baker on Tuesday announced an extension of his previous executive order requiring the closure of all non-essential businesses as well as the stay-at-home advisory until May 4. The orders were previously set to end on April 7. “This order also extends the 10 person limit on social gatherings until May 4 as well,” the governor said.
The state will also put out an updated list of businesses and organizations that will continue to operate during this period of time, which can be found at mass.gov/covid19.
“These actions will improve our ability to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the impact the surge has on our healthcare system,” Baker said.
The governor said he recognizes the “high cost” this has on small businesses and on residents who have to stay away from their loved ones for even longer.
“If we can limit face-to-face, person-to-person contact now, we can slow the spread and get back to work as soon as safely as we can,” he said.
Additionally, the governor said that hotels, motels, and short term rentals like Airbnbs are to be used “for limited purposes only”—ones that serve “direct efforts related to the fight against COVID-19,” which includes nurses, doctors, workers part of the essential business community, and Massachusetts residents “who have been otherwise displaced.”
Baker said that restaurants may continue providing food for takeout and delivery only, and stressed the importance of social distancing when outside and inside grocery stores and pharmacies.
“The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in this battle,” Baker said. “People need to play their part.”
He thanked all the workers on the front lines, including nurses, doctors, first responders, public sector workers, the National Guard, and essential workers like grocery store employees. “The state is filled with remarkable people and remarkable communities,” he said.
Baker also talked about the 13 confirmed deaths at the Solders’ Home in Holyoke, six of which have been officially attributed to COVID-19.
Baker said that in the short term, a primary focus of the state will be on the residents of the Solders’ Home in Holyoke, and assured that the state “will get to the bottom of it.”
Mayor Walsh Announces Plan for Homeless Individuals
As of March 31, there were 6,620 confirmed cases in Massachusetts and 938 cases in Boston. Walsh said on March 30 that 55 people have made full recoveries in Boston, and two Bostonians have passed away. Statewide, 89 people have died from the virus.
“We continue to work around the clock to slow the spread,” Walsh said on Monday afternoon. Walsh urged people to remain in their homes, and only leave for essential items. He assured residents that water services will continue for all Boston residents, and urged people to reach out to their banks regarding mortgage and credit card payments, as many banks are offering programs to help. People can also reach out to the Boston Home Center, he said. He said that all eviction proceedings are halted until the crisis is over as well.
Walsh also said that the federal stimulus package will help renters and those with federally backed mortgages, and he will let people know what they can apply for as the city learns more about the package.
Walsh also announced a comprehensive plan for homeless individuals in the City, which includes the construction of a 38 bed isolation and quarantine facility next to the 112 Southampton Shelter.
Additionally, Suffolk University is repurposing one of its dormitory buildings to provide 172 beds to help aid with social distancing in Boston’s existing shelters. The facility will be managed by the Pine Street Inn and the Boston Public Health Commission. Walsh said that people should go to shelters and not directly to one of these facilities. At the shelters, staff will evaluate people and decide where best place for them to go is.
“I sincerely want to thank Suffolk University for stepping up to the plate and getting these facilities ready so quickly,” Walsh said.
An additional seven beds will be provided by The Davis Companies at the site of a former hospital in Brighton. This facility will be operated by the boston Public Health Commission and Boston Health Care for the Homeless.
Walsh said that all homeless shelters in Boston remain open and are receiving regular deep cleaning and sanitizing.
Social Distancing Outdoors
Walsh said that while most people are doing a good job of social distancing, there have been several 311 calls reporting that people are still gathering in groups and playing sports in the City’s parks.
In response, the Mayor has put zip ties on basketball hoops in an effort to dissuade people from gathering in groups to play sports. “The last step is to lock the park down,” Walsh said. “We don’t want to lock the park down.”
Additionally, Walsh said the City has received calls that realtors were showing properties in Open Houses. He asked realtors to not do that, and to show apartments by appointment only.
Schools, Seniors, Parking, and Healthcare Updates
Walsh said that the City continues to serve students and families while Boston Public Schools are closed by distributing meals at over 70 sites across the city. Additionally, over 21,000 Chromebooks have been distributed for online learning.
The City also continues to reach out to its seniors to make sure they are receiving the support they need. Walsh said that seniors who are having trouble accessing food should call 311; they can also call the Greater Boston Food Bank or Project Bread.
For transportation updates, Walsh said that a five minute pickup zone can be created for cars to park while picking up takeout from restaurants, and those with resident parking stickers are allowed to park within their neighborhoods in metered spaces without payment or time limits. There will also be no ticketing for expired registrations, and still no ticketing or towing for street cleaning. Residents are still not allowed to park in handicapped spots or in front of hydrants or crosswalks.
“It’s about all of us working together,” Walsh said. He said that while he knows kids and parents are getting “antsy,” families should talk to their children about the “seriousness of this.”
He reminded people again to stay at home, but going out for a walk and staying socially distant from others is “fine.” He said he doesn’t want to have to arrest or fine anyone, but said that everyone needs to follow the guidelines.
“We need to level this off; probably won’t see it for another couple of weeks,” the Mayor said.
Additionally, Massachusetts has partnered with Buoy Health, based in the South End, which can provide free health tools to residents. At buoy.com/mass, residents can use an online diagnostic tool to assess risk for COVID-19.
Other Baker Updates
Governor Baker on March 30 announced actions that would increase the health care workforce in Massachusetts, including expediting licensing for certain health care workers and initiatives to recruit volunteer medical professionals. Health care professionals who are licensed in other states or have allowed their Massachusetts licenses to expire within the past 10 years while in good standing can received expedited licenses to help out in hospitals.
Additionally, the Baker-Polito Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center is working to create dedicated facilities for people who are infected with the virus but are stable enough to not be in the hospital. This will free up hospital beds for those who need more critical care.
Baker also spoke about the federal relief package passed by Congress last week, calling it “a lot of good news.” He said that states are still waiting on guidance from the federal government about how to “implement and distribute these funds.”
Additionally, “our administration is committed to getting the resources to people who need them,” Baker said. Updates will be posted on mass.gov.
Baker said that the state continues to look for personal protective equipment (PPE) through a. Variety of different supply chains, and the national stockpile did send additional supplies over the weekend. He added that there is a “crucial need” for blood donations right now as well.
The surge in cases in Massachusetts has been calculated to start somewhere between April 7 and April 17, Baker said.
“For the most part people are doing a good job” of social distancing, he added, stressing the importance of doing so when going outside.
“We are about to enter what will be the most difficult period associated with this virus,” Baker said on Tuesday, adding that there is “no doubt in my mind…that you will all perform above and beyond.”