Guest Op-Ed: Emergency Care Has Not Been Put on Hold If You Need Medical Assistance, Seek Help

By Mayor Martin J. Walsh

During this public health emergency, many of us are feeling stressed and anxious. Days are uncertain and our routines have shifted. Many people are working remotely, or have lost their jobs. Students are learning online. Many of our favorite events have been canceled. For some time now, I have urged you to follow many precautions like staying home, covering your face when outside, and not visiting friends and family. But, one thing has not changed and should not change: if you are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1 for help. Boston EMS and our emergency rooms are ready to help you.

In anticipation of Boston’s surge in COVID-19 cases, we have been doing our part to not overwhelm our emergency departments. We are asking individuals to call their primary care provider or 3-1-1 if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have any health-related questions. You can also visit for an online screening of COVID-19 symptoms. But, life-threatening emergencies like difficulty breathing or pain or pressure in the chest should be addressed immediately by calling 9-1-1.

Boston EMS will provide you the necessary pre-hospital care and transport you to the nearest emergency department if needed. Hospitals have seen dramatic decreases in health emergencies, like heart attacks, strokes and appendicitis. Even though coronavirus is a new challenge, that does not mean other health challenges are less present. Please do not delay getting life-saving care because of fear of getting coronavirus. Go to the emergency room if you think you are in need of emergency care. Our hospitals in Boston have been taking many steps to ensure safety and cleanliness, and they have space for you. 

Every day we are planning and responding to reduce the further spread of coronavirus. One piece of this has been increasing hospital capacity. We know it is important to be ready to treat as many people as possible, and not just for COVID-19. We must also help front line workers, like our medical professionals, first responders, grocery store employees, public servants and sanitation workers, stay healthy by practicing our guidelines: staying home as much as possible, covering your face when outside your home, keeping at least 6 feet of distance from other people, washing your hands frequently, and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces.

I know it’s a hard adjustment, and it seems like this has been going on for much longer than it has. But this virus will not stop spreading if everyone follows our guidelines. I want to thank everyone who has been avoiding gatherings and wearing a face covering when they go outside. I know it’s not always comfortable or easy to do, especially as we move into warmer weather. Your actions will directly help save lives. To those of you ignoring these guidelines, I urge you to reflect on the consequences of your actions. Is ignoring these guidelines worth risking the lives of your friends, family and neighbors? We can overcome this, but we have to work together.

The City of Boston will continue to take the proper steps to respond to this crisis in a comprehensive way. This is a difficult time for everyone around the world. It’s okay to feel stressed. We will get through this together by following the public health guidelines, working together and supporting each other, one day at a time.

For more information on Boston’s COVID-19 response, please visit or text BOSCOVID to 888-777 to receive text alerts on a regular basis, available in 11 languages. For non-emergency questions, please call 3-1-1. Martin J. Walsh is the Mayor of Boston.

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