Mayor Marty Walsh on Monday announced that effective December 16, Boston will be rolling back to a “modified” version of Phase Two, Step Two of the state’s reopening plan “for at least three weeks.”
Walsh said that the increase in COVID-19 cases following the Thanksgiving holiday have held steady, and Boston saw 374 new cases as of Monday, and one new death.
He said the community positivity rate is 7.2%, which is up from 5.2% the week before, and every neighborhood in the city saw an increase in positivity. He added that hospital activity in the city also continues to rise.
The hospital data is “moving closer to the threshold for concern,” Walsh said, adding that hospitals are prepared with surge plans. He said that as of now, no hospital is “in danger” of being overwhelmed, but there is continued spread of the virus throughout the community.
“If these trends don’t stop, it will be a very difficult winter for our hospitals and for a lot of people,” he said, adding that action needs to be taken “now” to reduce the amount of activity in the city where people come into contact with one another.
Walsh said that the rollback to Step Two of Phase Two of the reopening plan “is not about targeting specific sectors that cause the virus,” but rather “trying to reduce overall activity outside the house.” He said that he wants to “minimize the negative impacts on working people and small businesses.”
Industries required to close include gyms (one on one personal training may continue with proper distancing restrictions), movie theaters, museums, aquariums, bowling alleys, sightseeing and organized tours, indoor event spaces, and more. For the full list, visit boston.gov/reopening. He thanked businesses who must close and said they will have the City’s “full support in the reopening and recovery efforts.”
“Structured youth programs at community centers may continue,” Walsh said.
Office space may stay open with 40 percent capacity, but employers are urged to have their employees to work from home “as much as possible,” according to the City, and Walsh said that “structured youth programs” may continue, as well as indoor dining “with strict adherence to guidelines” including the state’s newly imposed 90 minute timeline, 9:30 closing time, six foot distancing between tables, and six person table limit. Bar seating, however, “will not be allowed, except with special approval granted by the Boston Licensing Board,” Walsh said.
“If you dine in a restaurant or you visit a store and you want to help small businesses stay open,” Walsh said, “do your part and follow the guidelines.” He also recommended the use of takeout and delivery “whenever possible” to safely support restaurants.
The City hosted a series of webinars for small businesses to learn more about how the changes will affect them, and there are weekly small business conference calls as well.
He said he “doesn’t take lightly” that people’s livelihoods are are affected by these changes, “but public health needs are clear at this moment” and all decisions by the City are made based o public health data.
Walsh also addressed the recent vote of no confidence in Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Brenda Cassellius by the Boston Teachers Union.
“That action doesn’t help our collective efforts during this critical time,” Walsh said;. He said he “deeply” values the work of teachers in the City, and is “sympathetic to their concerns about COVID safety.”
He said that “100 percent of all the safety measures that the Teachers Union requested are implemented in the schools we opened today.”
More high needs students have been able to return to in-person learning, despite BPS being closed for in-person learning for all other students.
Walsh said that he will “continue to support” teachers and staff.
“In hard times, we really need to come together,” Walsh said.