All of Boston’s libraries, as well as pools and gyms operated by the city’s Centers for Youth and Families, were the latest services to be closed amid the coronavirus pandemic that has brought many aspects of local life to a grinding halt.
“Nobody could be prepared for this,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh, speaking to reporters at an afternoon press conference outside City Hall announcing those closures, as well as the suspension of construction work in the city.
While coronavirus cases in Massachusetts have topped 160, Walsh said Boston has had 33 coronavirus cases to date.
“We expect those numbers to climb,” he said.
Walsh said all branches of the Boston Public Library, including the central library, will be closed at 6 p.m. Monday. He said the city plans to expand automatic library renewals, allow people to keep books and other materials for 15 weeks instead of three weeks, waive late fees until May 1, and push back card expiration dates, among other measures.
“This is a difficult decision,” he said.
Walsh also announced that all Boston Centers for Youth & Families pools, gyms, and fitness centers are also closed. BCYF manages 36 facilities, and supports children, youth and families through a wide range of services.
The mayor said Monday all BCYF programming will be suspended starting Wednesday, adding that certain centers will be open to distribute youth meals during the Boston Public Schools closure, which is slated to start on Tuesday. The shutdown will affect 54,000 students and about 10,000 teachers and staff. As part of the closure plan, officials plan to give every student who needs one a Chromebook, said Walsh.
Walsh said all the moves being announced are aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.
"This is a critical time for us right now to prevent the spread," he said. "If we can prevent the spread from happening and try to level the virus off, we'll be in a better position long-term."
Marty Martinez, Walsh’s health and human services chief, also addressed reporters and said that as of Monday, about 1,000 people have been tested for the virus statewide, but numbers for Boston weren’t available.
Martinez stressed that the best way for city residents to get tested is to contact their primary care provider if they're not feeling well.
Walsh conceded that “people would like to see more tests, clearly,” adding that officials expect a sharp increase in the number of tests with each passing week.
He also stressed that during the school closures, parents and guardians shouldn't allow large groups of young people to gather together, and older people providing childcare should use caution.
“Unfortunately we’re dealing with a worldwide pandemic, and it’s something that hopefully no other generation will have to go through,” Walsh said.