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Walsh says he’s monitoring case uptick, concerned about return of college students

Mayor Walsh at a recent news conference.
Mayor Walsh at a recent news conference.John Wilcox

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Wednesday that the city is keeping a close eye on a “slight uptick” in coronavirus cases, and he urged people to continue to take precautions against it.

“They’re not alarming increases yet, but we are seeing slight increases,” he said. “We are monitoring the data very closely, and we’re working to understand the uptick and what this activity means.”

“What we need to do now is maintain our focus, and that certainly means all of us on a daily basis,” he said. “We have to be clear it’s not time right now to let up. This virus is still here. It’s very much present, and that’s our reality.”

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Boston seeing slight coronavirus case increase
Mayor Marty Walsh spoke about rising coronavirus case numbers in the Boston saying, "They’re not alarming increases yet, but we are seeing slight increases." (Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Pool, Video: Handout)

The state Department of Public Health said Wednesday the number of confirmed coronavirus cases climbed by 229, bringing the total to 113,198. The number of deaths rose by 18 to 8,547, the department said.

Officials said 15,693 more people had been tested for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of individuals tested to 1,353,299. The total number of tests administered climbed to 1,781,548.

Wednesday’s report for the first time did not contain a separate count of probable cases and probable deaths from the virus.

Speaking about the virus’s impact on the economy, Walsh said: “Businesses need to continue to follow the reopening guidelines. This has been a tough time for many industries, especially our restaurants as we all know, but another surge could be devastating to them if we have to pull back.”

He suggested that one reason cases might be on the increase was stepped-up testing.

“We continue to expand testing,” he said. “Last week, we had an average of 1,500, almost 1,600 tests . . . given in Boston each day,” he said. That was up 10 percent over the previous week and over 50 percent from earlier in the summer, he said.

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Walsh spoke at length about plans for the “most important collective step before us” — the reopening of Boston schools.

“Keeping everyone safe is our first priority. That means our kids, our families. That means all of our teachers, our staff. That means our community at large. It means, quite honestly, everyone,” he said.

He described numerous steps the schools are taking to prepare for opening, which will occur either with a hybrid model or a period of all-remote learning.

Walsh also spoke about the arrival of college students in Boston, an education mecca, saying he was “especially concerned” about students coming from states that have been harder hit by the coronavirus.

“We’ve asked colleges to share with us their plans for testing and quarantine and safety protocols. We want to see that they’re developing a mechanism to implement and enforce these requirements,” he said. He said many colleges had submitted their information, but some had not so “please provide us with that information.”

He said he was concerned not so much about the colleges, but about the students and whether they would follow rules intended to prevent the virus from spreading to the city.

He said students are supposed to self-quarantine for 14 days before they come to Boston, they’re supposed to get a test within 72 hours of coming and present it on arrival, and then their colleges are expected to quarantine them again.

“We’re hoping that students do this. We’re hoping that students actually quarantine, and they’re not bringing the virus to the city,” he said.

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Walsh renewed his exhortations to residents to maintain their vigilance.

He said that at recent baseball games at city parks some spectators were not wearing masks, and he urged people to wear them. “You should be making sure that you’re protecting not just the kids that are playing, but also protecting other people around you,” he said.

“Each of us has the ability and the obligation to protect ourselves and help prevent the spread of any potential outbreak,” he said. “So we’re asking people to continue to wash your hands with soap and warm water. We’re asking people to keep wearing a face covering outside of your home. We’re asking people to keep six feet away from other people as much as possible, particularly if those are not family members. And we’re asking you to avoid large crowds and large gatherings.”

“Compared to much of the United States, we’re certainly a lot better than those states. But it wasn’t that long ago that we were those states,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago we were getting hundreds, if not thousands, of new cases a day here in the city, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I’m very proud of the work that’s been going on in the city and the way people have been interacting, and I want to thank you for that, and I want to ask you to continue to do that. We know what to do. We’ve been doing it for a long time now.”

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Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com. Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss