Mayor Martin Walsh declared a "public health emergency" in Boston on Sunday afternoon, citing the need to speedily deploy more resources to combat the CONVID-19 virus outbreak. Walsh also urged people to "avoid crowds of any kind" and issued new orders to bars, restaurants and nightclubs as part of a heightened mandate aimed at "social distancing."
The city currently has 29 COVID-19 cases, a number Walsh expects to rise.
"This is not a snow day," Walsh said, speaking directly to people who want to continue to "go out" and congregate. "This isn't about you," he said.
Licensed establishments have been ordered to reduce their capacity by 50 percent, Walsh said. No lines will be allowed outside and all establishments must close by 11 p.m., with violators subject to a loss of license for up to 30 days.
"This week is critical for flattening the curve," he said.
Walsh also addressed the city's plans for feeding and teaching Boston Public School students, who will report to class on Monday, March 16 for one day before being released until April 27 under a plan Walsh announced last week. Walsh said any BPS students who wants lunch will be able to get one every school day at one of dozens of sites across the city.
"This is a unique situation," he said. "We're doing it geographically."
For example: If you go to school in Dorchester and you live in Hyde Park, you'll be picking up your food in Hyde Park.
Walsh said that parents have already been notified of locations for food distribution.
Students will be sent home tomorrow with printed materials for offsite learning and— in the days to come— will be given Chromebooks to assist with at-home learning if they need one.
Walsh urged people throughout Boston to continue practicing good hygiene and social distancing until further notice.
"The more seriously we take this situation now the sooner life in our city can go back to normal," Walsh said.
The mayor also announced a dramatic expansion of takeout options to help service workers to remain employed, and said he was encouraging the use of delivery services and urged those interested to call 311 and talk to small business assistance representatives. Beer gardens have not opened yet and won't "until this crisis is over."
As sirens wailed in the distance, Walsh said, "This is a time of shared sacrifice and I know firsthand that we are capable of that hre in the city of Boston. The bottom line is that social distancing is not a vague wishful strategy. It's backed by science and data. What we do in our city over the next week or two will make big impacts on the local trajectory of this outbreak and our hospitals' ability to handle it. It will save lives."
State House News Service reports contributed to this story.