Walsh: City enters Phase 3 with ‘caution and confidence’

Mayor Walsh spoke at a press conference in April. John Wilcox photo/Mayor's office

Overall positive covid rate down 15.5 percent

The city is preparing guidelines for “Phase 3” reopenings on Monday, which will include outdoor events, indoor gyms and museums. “Overall, the message about Phase 3 is that we can move forward because we’ve been doing the right things here in Boston. We have to continue doing the right things,” Mayor Martin Walsh said in his Friday press conference, “We’re ready to enter Phase 3 with both caution and confidence.”

Reopenings in the city trailed the state by a week.

“We took an extra week here in Boston to take extra steps due to our unique concerns. This caution approach also informs the reopening of our city facilities,” said Walsh.

Over the last 14 days, Walsh said, the city has seen the rate of recorded positive covid-19

“The overall positive rate since the start of the pandemic is down from the first day to 15.5 percent from a starting point of over 35 percent,” he said. Mobile testing sites will be outsourced to each of the city's neighborhoods to help continue tracking trends.

“We’re going to continue to follow the science and monitor data and make any adjustments needed. We’ve had daily contact with hospitals and the ICU’s are at 75 percent capacity-- well below the rate of a surge,” said Walsh.

Despite state guidelines allowing larger gatherings, the city will not host public or private meetings in City Hall or in any other city buildings. City Hall remains open to the public by appointment only on Tuesday and Fridays.

“We’ve had success with online meetings and we’re going to continue that for the time being,” said Walsh.

Outdoor events in the city are limited to 50 people, half the amount of the state’s 100 person limit. Participants will be required to wear face coverings and maintain social distance.

Boston Parks & Recreation will resume permitting on Monday for “low and moderate contact sports and events,” said Walsh,“High contact sports like lacrosse, basketball, football are not permitted until step 2 of phase 3, skill practices are allowed but no games.”

Boston Centers For Youth and Families (BCYF) will offer both virtual and in person summer programming for youth and families, opening online registration on Friday for children ages 7 and up.

“Many families depend on these centers for the summer. Teen programs started this week virtually and today, our online registration is open for day programs,” said Walsh. Programming will include art classes, day trips, virtual workshops and more.

When asked if he has any concerns about a new wave of reopenings, Walsh said, “The indoor stuff is going to be the hardest, gyms and restaurants are going to have to do a lot more cleanings.”

“As of right now we don’t see any increased activity of concern but with things opening we want to make sure we stay on top of that.”

“We’re monitoring not only the number of cases but also the positive percentages. Cases are going to fluctuate depending on how many are conducted each day-- but we monitor the overall percentages, the 7 day averages,” said Marty Martinez, chief of Health and Human Services for the city.

The Mayor called fireworks “an ongoing concern” in the city.

“July 4th is behind us but we’re still hearing them go off in many neighborhoods. They are a fire hazard and dangerous safety risk,” said Walsh, “An 11 year-old boy in the hospital with serious injuries to his hand and his body. We’ve had enough of this. It’s time to stop, we don’t need another crisis to deal with.”

Walsh said the Task Force he commissioned just a few weeks ago to address fireworks in the city has “reached out to the community” and “come up with some ideas.”

He urged residents to let their neighbors know “it’s time to stop” setting them off, and to anonymously call the BPD’s crime stoppers hotline if they see anyone selling illegal fireworks in their communities.

“My message to people on the fireworks is: ‘It's time to stop,’ a frustrated Walsh concluded.

The mayor noted that his administration is assessing school reopening plans for the fall, and will announce plans in the coming weeks.

The mayor also announced Friday morning that the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) will extend its moratorium on nonessential evictions through the end of 2020. The moratorium was implemented in March at the onset of covid-19 related closures to protect renters.

Nonessential evictions include all eviction proceedings except for those related to criminal activity and those that are necessary to protect the health and safety of BHA residents and employees.

“I want to commend the BHA for once again setting the example for our city's landlords. These are extraordinary times, and right now, we all need to come together to ensure that our city's most vulnerable residents are able to continue to live and work in the city they call home,” said Walsh.

“Our public housing communities are a critical and irreplaceable piece of the fabric of our city, and we want to make sure they are supported during these difficult times."

“As we work to tackle an economic crisis and a public health emergency, it is critical that we take every step we can to ensure that our residents have stable housing,” BHA Administrator Kate Bennett said in a statement.

“This moratorium buys critical time for our residents to weather the COVID-19 public health emergency until both of these crises have abated.”

Walsh has supported statewide legislative efforts to extend the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums beyond the original August 18 date, and issued a letter on July 9 to the chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing urging support for S.2785, legislation that would provide legal representation to low-income tenants and owner occupants in eviction proceedings, often called “right to counsel.”