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Citing lack of universal testing, Mayor Walsh says there’s no timeline for reopening Boston

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Boston is “still in the process of combating the virus.”Angela Rowlings

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Tuesday there is no timeline for a return to some semblance of economic normalcy in Boston, as key prerequisites to reopening the city, including universal testing for COVID-19, could be months away.

Calling recent announcements about quick reopenings in places like Georgia “dangerous and detrimental,” Walsh said Boston is “still in the process of combating the virus.”

As of Tuesday, Boston had more than 6,000 coronavirus cases, which included 196 deaths. The city has tried to mitigate the effects of the pandemic through a recommended curfew and suspending construction, among other measures. Walsh has also asked residents to wear masks whenever they are outside.


Walsh’s approach to the pandemic — earlier this week, he publicly upbraided golfers for getting rounds in at city courses during a burst of springlike weather — stands in stark contrast to the outlook found elsewhere in some parts of the United State in recent days.

Last week in Florida, for instance, Governor Ron DeSantis gave the green light for some beaches and parks to reopen if it can be done safely. Some beaches in North Florida allowed beach-goers.

In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp earlier this week rolled out plans to reopen the state’s economy, saying many businesses may reopen their doors as early as Friday. Kemp said gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys, and tattoo parlors are among the businesses that may reopen on that day — as long as owners follow strict social-distancing and hygiene requirements.

“I think it’s dangerous,” Walsh said of the Georgia decision during a phone interview with the Globe on Tuesday.

Walsh added: “I think if you’re going to start thinking about opening up business, you open up things that are going to impact your economy. I think that some of the amenities aren’t necessarily the first things you open up.”


Any reopening of Boston would have to be done in stages, and determining what sectors will be allowed to open up first will be an important part of the decision-making, according to the mayor. For example, he envisioned allowing the financial and legal sectors to get back to a more normal routine before opening up tourism-related operations. Some office setups would allow for social distancing, he said.

“We’re not going to turn a light on one day and everyone is back to work tomorrow,” Walsh said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

Details like the cleanliness of the public transit system would also have to be considered, he said. Walsh wants assurances the city would not have to weather a resurgence in coronavirus cases before he starts to reopen sectors of the city.

“We have to make sure we don’t make any mistakes,” he said.

Achieving accurate and nearly universal testing for the virus in the region would help the authorities gauge when it’s safe to lift restrictions, he said. That might be two months away for Boston, he said.

“It could be longer, but I hope it’s shorter,” he added.

Fifteen testing sites are available at Boston hospitals and community health centers.

“We have the ability physically to get these sites up and running pretty quickly in every neighborhood; the issue now is how do we get access to these tests,” Walsh said.

According to the mayor, there is still a need locally for medical gowns and masks.


Last week, President Trump gave governors a three-phased road map for beginning to open up the economy.

Weeks ago, Governor Charlie Baker extended his stay-at-home advisory and closing of nonessential businesses until May 4. On Tuesday, Baker ordered schools to stay closed through end of the school year and for the state’s day-care centers to stay closed until June 29.

Also Tuesday, Walsh’s office announced that city officials are now serving adults, in addition to children and youth, at six meal sites. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Boston has distributed more 461,000 free meals at 65 sites for the school district’s students, according to the authorities.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Danny McDonald can be reached at Follow him @Danny__McDonald.