Walsh: ‘Slight uptick’ in covid cases in Boston

Boston has seen a “slight uptick” in positive covid-19 cases in recent weeks, but not enough to trigger a retreat from local efforts to re-open businesses or other activities, Mayor Walsh said today at a briefing outside City Hall.

The latest numbers as of Wednesday show 38 new cases and two deaths in the city, bringing those totals up to 14,609 and 743, respectively.

“The positive test rates have increased 2.1 to 2.8 percent, but the most recent 7-day analysis brings us back down to 2.5 percent,” said Walsh. “These are not alarming increases yet. It’s a slight uptick not an established trend. The numbers still remain far below the surge we saw in April and May, so it has not reached a level that would cause us to look at rolling back any of the re-openings we’ve had so far.”

Walsh said efforts to expand testing might account for the rise in numbers.

“Last week, we had an average of almost 1,600 tests conducted in Boston each day, which was up over 10 percent from the previous week and up 50 percent from earlier this summer,” the mayor noted, adding that all Bostonians need to “maintain focus and recommit efforts’ to mitigate the spread.

“Businesses need to continue to follow guidelines and residents need to refrain from large gatherings,” he said.

“Another surge could be devastating if we have to pull back on our services.”

Walsh said he’s “especially concerned” about colleges and universities allowing students from “high-risk” states to return to city campuses in the fall.

“We’ve asked colleges to share with us their plans for testing, quarantine, and safety protocols and we want to see that they are developing and implementing a mechanism to implement these requirements,” he said.

“Many colleges have submitted their plans, but we are still looking for that info from a few outstanding colleges.”

He also noted that he’d heard spectators at little league baseball games in “some parks in the city” as well as people meeting at other large gatherings in the city, weren’t wearing masks.

“We’re asking if you go to a little league baseball game, you wear a mask,” he said. “I certainly understand people wanting to get together. These are human needs and many people are frustrated with where we are in society today with the coronavirus. But we have to be clear— it’s not time right now to let up. This virus is still here, very much present, and that’s our reality.”

“Compared to a lot of states we are certainly doing a lot better. But it wasn’t long ago that we were those states and we were getting hundreds if not thousands of new cases here in the city and commonwealth.”

The mayor called the pending decision over how Boston Public School will resume learning on September 10 “no question one of the hardest decisions we have to make moving forward.”

“I know many are anxious about the decision and everyone is rightly concerned about the safety and the safety of our young people. I want to be clear about the priorities that we’ve laid out here-- keeping everyone safe is our first priority. We will be guided by the science and data as we have been throughout this pandemic.”

Schools will not be reopening with all in-person learning, instead BPS plans thus far have highlighted a hybrid return that would include the rotation of groups of students in and out of classrooms with remote learning on certain days.

“We will either be starting with a hybrid model or a period of all-remote learning,” said Walsh.

“The hybrid model would allow us to have the separation and safety protocol for our kids and our teachers inside the schools. Whichever route we take in September, we’re doing the work now to ensure that both remote learning and in-school learning will be as safe and effective as they can be.”

Several safety protocols would be in place for any return to classrooms and every school facility would be required to receive a certificate of inspection from the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD.)

“This fall will be more planned and supported because we've had the time to sit down with teachers, union members and families,” said Walsh.

He said that BPS is facing two public health emergencies-- the covid-19 pandemic, and a race inequity crisis.

“We’ve seen them intersect in the covid numbers and we’ve responded,” said Walsh. “All of this is taken into account in reopening.”

The Mayor said the city will work with childcare providers to “see what options will be available for them.”

“I would love to be all in person, five-days-a-week but we know that we can’t. One way or another, there’s going to be remote learning going on at home.”

With school reopening just a month away, Walsh said the city will have to “make some decisions here really soon.”

“We’ll have to make a decision fairly quickly for parents to have that predictability.”