Mayor Walsh: "We are not powerless and you are not alone"

With much of normal life on hold while the world fights a pandemic, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh on Tuesday night addressed the anxiety and fear Boston residents and others across Massachusetts are feeling.

The mayor's prime-time address came at the end of a day that saw the number of positive coronavirus cases in Massachusetts climb to 218 -- including 42 in Boston -- a hospital in Dorchester embarked on a plan to focus only on COVID-19 patients, and forecasts of a recession from a state fiscal watchdog and a major credit rating agency.

"This is an unprecedented situation, both in the nature of public health challenge and the steps we are taking to protect our residents," Walsh said. He later added that public health officials expect the number of cases in the city and state to "increase in the near future," but said, "I want you to know: we are not powerless and you are not alone."

Because the situation is serious, Walsh said it will take "every single resident to help, no matter your age or your health status." He told people to continue to wash their hands often, to cover coughs and sneezes, and to isolate themselves and call a doctor if they feel sick.

"The actions all of us take now will save lives," Walsh said. "This is not a time for house parties, play dates or visiting friends. We need everyone to limit their contact with each other right now. This is the social distancing that we're learning and practicing together as a city. It's a new situation for our city, but it's a known solution to the challenge we face."

The mayor also addressed the possibility of ordering Boston residents to shelter in place. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that his residents should be prepared for such an order in the next 48 hours.

"We are not currently at that point, but we are monitoring the situation closely. It's not a situation that should be made lightly or in isolation," he said, pledging to stay in close contact with Gov. Charlie Baker and to do what's best for the public health of the city.

At the State House, lawmakers on Wednesday will continue to work on legislation Baker has filed to allow affected workers to begin immediately collecting unemployment benefits, to give municipal governments more governing flexibility and to create a September holiday to celebrate the postponed Boston Marathon.

Baker will meet with Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Massachusetts Port Authority CEO Lisa Wieland to tour a new facility constructed to screen international arrivals during the coronavirus pandemic. The governor is expected to speak publicly after the tour.

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