Walsh Gives Coronavirus Updates; Announces Reopen Boston Fund

Mayor Marty Walsh held a press conference on Tuesday, where he updated Bostonians on how the city is moving forward with the COVID-19 crisis.

As of May 26, Boston had 12,521 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 622 people had died.

Governor Charlie Baker announced that the Boston Hope medical center set up at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston would no longer be accepting new patients as of Tuesday. Walsh said that Boston Hope is currently serving 36 patients, and the facility will remain open until the last patient is discharged. The 1,000 bed facility was set up in a matter of days and was up and running to serve patients beginning on April 10.

“Boston Hope has been the most significant event ever held at the convention center,” Walsh said. “It truly is a great Boston story and will be told for years to come.” 

Walsh said the hope is to not have to open Boston Hope again. “We’re not on the other side of the virus yet,” he said. “I think it’s incumbent upon all of us now to do the distancing and the  hand washing so we don’t have to open Boston Hope again. It’s within our ability to stop that second surge.”

He said that although “we’re moving in the right direction,” he said he saw some “concerning behavior” over the Memorial Day weekend. Walsh warned residents that there is a two week lag between infection and positive test results. It’s still important to keep washing your hands, wearing a face covering, as well as physically distance from others, he said.

“It’s important to keep educating ourselves and how the science applies to reopening,” Walsh said. He said that people have to “understand the risks and minimize them as much as possible,” especially as offices are set to reopen on June 1. Factors like air flow and ventilation, as well as how many people are in a space and how much time is spent in a space are all important ones to consider.

“I certainly understand that none of this is easy,” he said, but it’s “certainly not a time to let up.”

Walsh also talked about supporting local businesses, and said that the City is continuing to host workshops and deliver resources to small businesses across Boston. “In the City of Boston, we’ll continue to provide the facts in multiple languages and on multiple platforms,” Walsh said, as well as continue to make testing available where it is needed.

The City has also launched a webpage to support local businesses and provide them resources.

So far the City of Boston has $7.5 million in the Small Business Relief Fund, and $4 million has already been distributed to 1100 small businesses, 95 percent of them with 15 or fewer employees.

$6 Million Reopen Boston Fund

Walsh announced on Tuesday the creation of a $6 million Reopen Boston Fund, which is a debt-free grant program to help small businesses put safety measures in place as they begin to reopen. Funds from this grant could be used to purchase things like personal protective equipment, install safety partitions, and manage outdoor spaces approved for business use.

Walsh said that the funds will be released in three rounds that correspond to the state’s reopening phases. Applications for Phase One will open Thursday, May 28 at 5pm and information sheets will be available in multiple languages. For more information, visit boston.gov/reopen-fund.

“We know how much small businesses mean to our community,” Walsh said. He added that th City is also aiming to create more opportunities for local minority and women contractors to install safety materials for businesses.

He also reminded businesses that just because they are allowed to reopen doesn’t mean they have to. He said they will continue to receive resources and guidance from the City, even if they choose to keep their doors shut for now. He said there are also options for employees if they feel they are being pressured into unsafe situations.

Other Updates

Walsh was asked on Tuesday about a range of different subjects from public pools to summer camps to pro sports coming back to the City.

He said that if pro sports teams do come back soon, “it will be different than what we’re used to,” with players most likely playing in empty stadiums. He said he would keep the public updated with any news on that front.

When asked about restaurants asking for the ability to serve cocktails with their takeout meals, Walsh said that he “would allow restaurants to sell cocktails to go,” but he understands that it would require changes to the legislation to do so.

He said that he’s in “regular conversation with the state” about things like public pools, which, according to the state’s reopening plan, would be allowed to open in Phase Two. He said he’s “looking forward to learning” more specifics about what opening pools would entail, as details have yet to be released about guidelines for public pools.

For summer jobs in Boston, Walsh said that the City is “actively working for the best ways to bring the most opportunities to our young people.” He said he does “intend on having summer jobs here in the City,” but he is unclear on the specifics of what they would be or how they would work.

Walsh said that the hope is to reopen colleges and universities this coming fall, but it’s “still a little too early” to provide any specifics on what that might look like. He said that specifics on things like housing and transportation accommodations still have to be discussed further.

“I think there’s always a safe way to do things,” he said. He said he is on “several calls a week” with the bigger universities as well as the commuter schools. Walsh said that it’s hard to tell where the City will be with COVID-19 cases in the fall, so there are a lot of questions that have not yet been answered. Some schools, like Boston University, have announced testing protocol that they would use. “The intention is to open in the fall; I hope we can do that,” he said.

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