Mayor Martin J. Walsh asked Boston residents to take action to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus in a televised address Tuesday evening, while seeking to reassure them that people won’t be required to restrict all movements — at least not yet.
Walsh reiterated Governor Charlie Baker’s statement from earlier Tuesday that residents will not be asked to shelter in place at this time, as residents in the San Francisco Bay Area have been asked, and as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said is likely in the nation’s most populous city.
“We are not currently at that point, but we are monitoring the situation closely. It’s not a decision that should be made lightly or in isolation," Walsh said.
And while many cities and towns are closing municipal buildings, Walsh reassured residents that Boston City Hall remains open for business
“At City Hall, we have employees on site who are critical to the operations of the city,” Walsh said, speaking from his office. “We’re going to keep picking up the trash and recycling, we’re going to continue cleaning our streets — but we’re not going to be ticketing or towing cars. We’re going to keep cleaning our parks. We’re going to keep coordinating our food access for our children and families. We’re going to keep reaching out to support our seniors.”
Walsh also spoke of the Boston Resiliency Fund he launched Monday to coordinate fundraising efforts to provide essential services to Boston residents most at-risk or affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and assist first responders and medical care providers.
More than 500 donors have contributed a total of more than $10 million to the fund, “a resource to feed children and seniors, low-income workers, and families in need, and provide important child care service to first responders and home health care personnel who are staying on the job to protect us while their children are at home,” Walsh said. The goal is to reach $20 million, he added.
The state’s official count of infected Massachusetts residents rose Tuesday to 218, with 42 cases in Boston, Walsh said.
The full number is likely much higher because access to the test has been limited. Many more people may be sick or carrying the virus without symptoms, potentially exposing others unwittingly, according to public health specialists.
Tuesday’s speech was closed to reporters, and only a videographer was allowed into City Hall to broadcast Walsh’s message. Reporters also were not allowed to submit questions in advance.
Local doctors who specialize in infectious diseases and vulnerable populations praised the way Walsh and other leaders in City Hall and the State House have responded to the growing crisis.
“What I am seeing from contacts with the Public Health Commission is that people are really working incredibly hard to figure out solutions in this really difficult time,” Miriam Komaromy, medical director for the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center, said in a phone interview Tuesday night.
She went on to praise arrangements made to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents as both humanitarian acts and important strategic moves to slow the spread of the disease.
Dr. Joshua A. Barocas, an infectious diseases physician at BMC and assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, said the response in Boston and statewide has been well-coordinated.
“In contrast to the federal response, I believe here in Massachusetts we’ve had a robust, coordinated response at all levels of the government," he said by phone.
Barocas said Walsh, Baker, the Boston Public Health Commission, and the state departments of Public Health and Health and Human Services have "stepped up and [are] providing every possible resource that they have to every possible population. And I don’t actually think that anyone is being forgotten at this point.”
Earlier Tuesday, Walsh’s office posted multiple Twitter messages related to coronavirus preparations and where residents can access breakfast and lunch for Boston Public Schools students scheduled to be out of classes from Tuesday until April 27, as well as information about bars and restaurants still serving take-out and delivery meals while they are closed to on-premises service.
Walsh also tweeted a message of appreciation to departing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and a short video wishing residents a happy St. Patrick’s Day despite the cancelation of the city’s traditional parade, breakfast, and other activities.
“I want to send a very strong message to anyone who is still thinking about going out into big crowds this year: I’m asking you to sit it out. Stay home,” Walsh, a son of Irish immigrants, said in the video message.
“Remember, the bars and restaurants aren’t serving. And remember, this is not just about you. It’s about your fellow Bostonian. It’s about protecting your grandparents, your neighbors who have chronic illnesses, your friends who have immune disorders.”
The tradition that #StPatricksDay celebrates is a community that survived hardship because of social solidarity. That’s what we need right now. With everyone’s help, we can slow the spread of the virus and protect our most vulnerable. pic.twitter.com/CCSKmRLV1q— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) March 17, 2020