Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh is tapping a consulting firm headed by Stanley McChrystal, a retired four-star Army general who at one time commanded US and international forces in Afghanistan, to review the city’s emergency plans amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at a news conference outside City Hall Monday afternoon, Walsh also announced that the city had seen its second death from coronavirus. Statewide, nine deaths had been attributed to COVID-19, according to data released Monday afternoon.
The mayor said McChrystal’s firm will be taking a look at “every aspect” of city government.
Walsh said that included everything from how Boston helps its homeless residents to how to make sure everyone has access to food during the pandemic. He said he expects McChrystal’s firm to do the work with urgency, and spoke to the unprecedented times Boston finds itself in.
“I don’t think anyone has ever experienced a complete . . . shutdown of society in two weeks,” he said.
McChrystal’s team started reviewing the city’s plans and speaking to critical departments on Sunday, with the goal being able to update the city’s services to reflect current residents’ needs, to mitigate service gaps, and to provide residents with services efficiently, Walsh said d on Monday.
“I am not willing to leave anything to chance when it comes to the safety and well-being of our residents," Walsh said. "This is uncharted territory.”
For the next two months, The McChrystal Group will help sharpen the city’s response to the pandemic, work that will include the coordination of agencies, the integration of response plans, and helping communicate plans to residents.
The mayor indicated Boston would share the best practices of The McChrystal Group with communities across the state if other municipalities found such insight to be helpful.
The retired general oversaw the US war effort in Afghanistan before he was forced to resign in 2010 following comments he made to Rolling Stone magazine criticizing the Obama administration. McChrystal also led the Joint Special Operations Command, which his biography from his firm’s site calls “the nation’s premier military counter-terrorism force,” during his career.
McChrystal founded the firm in 2011 “to deliver innovative leadership solutions to businesses globally in order to help them transform and succeed in challenging, dynamic environments,” according to firm’s website.
Delivering an update on the status of the city’s response to the coronavirus epidemic, Walsh also said that one Boston police officer and one EMT in the city have tested positive for the coronavirus, while four other EMTs are in self-isolation.
Walsh spoke on the day that all nonessential, nonemergency construction projects in the city were supposed to halt because of the growing pandemic. Boston’s homeless shelters remain open and officials are erecting facilities for screening, testing, and isolating patients outside two major shelters, the Pine Street Inn and the Southampton Street shelter, he said.
“As of today, we have no known coronavirus cases among those experiencing homelessness,” Walsh said.
Walsh said that The Greater Boston Food Bank has 150 food pantries and meal sites operating, and 70 meal sites are also operating for Boston Public Schools students. Additionally, the city’s students have so far received about 15,000 Chromebooks.
Per a state order, most child-care programs in the state were told to close by Monday, and there are 27 emergency child-care centers open in Boston for the children of families with “no other option,” said Walsh.
The Boston Resiliency Fund has collected over $17 million from over 1,500 donations to make sure city residents have food access, technology support for at-home learning, and support child-care workers and first responders, according to the mayor.
“These are extraordinarily difficult times, but I’ve seen people come together in the spirit of community,” Walsh said, emphasizing the need for people to practice “social distancing,” avoiding contact with others so the spread of the virus can be slowed. Governor Charlie Baker earlier Monday had ordered all non-essential businesses in Massachusetts closed and issued a statewide “stay-at-home” advisory.
Going for walks is permitted, Walsh said, but “it’s about social distancing, physical distancing” and not gathering in groups.
He asked restaurants and customers to practice social distancing while people wait to pick up take-out orders, saying city officials want to avoid “having people on top of each other” in line.
“I recognize how difficult it can be to change our social practices, but we must,” Walsh said.
“That is the best thing we can do is to stay home, stay in and around your home,” he said.
He commended public safety workers, janitors, and other frontline employees for doing their jobs “out of sense of duty and compassion.”
“I am so proud to be the mayor of this great city,” Walsh said.
Travis Andersen and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.