Mayor Martin J. Walsh warned college students to avoid large gatherings as they return to Boston for the fall semester, as he announced that the citywide COVID-19 positive test rate for the week ending Aug. 22 was down slightly from the prior week’s rate.
“Do not have parties,” Walsh said, directly addressing students during his regular briefing outside City Hall. “Do not have parties in your house, do not have parties in your front yard, do not have parties on your front porch.”
Walsh said city officials are hoping to avoid a fall spike in cases and noted that some college students are returning to Boston from parts of the country where health protocols have been more “lax” amid the pandemic.
“Here in Boston, they’re not going to be lax,” Walsh said, adding that students “have a responsibility as adults in the city of Boston and quite honestly the Commonwealth to act responsibly.”
Walsh also touted multi-lingual coronavirus outreach efforts his office is launching in East Boston, where positive test rates remain stubbornly high compared to the rest of the city. He said those efforts include informational posters and the distribution of kits with hand sanitizer, masks, and testing information.
“We’re going to do whatever it take to get the message to people that COVID-19 is still with us,” Walsh said. “And all the precautions we’re taking are still very much necessary.”
The city, Walsh said, has served over 2 million meals in collaboration with community partners since the start of the pandemic, and those efforts continue.
He said the Boston Resiliency Find for coronavirus relief, supported by donations, has distributed over $25 million to groups providing “life saving services” such as food access.
Walsh also commented on the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot multiple times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“Enough is enough,” Walsh said of the shooting, echoing comments he made shortly after the May killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, which touched off nationwide protests for racial justice.
Walsh also said he would support players from the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors if they choose to boycott the first game of their playoff series on Thursday in the wake of the police shooting of Blake.
At his briefing, Walsh said many NBA players are letting their voices be heard.
“I commend them for that,” he said.
Later, Walsh added, “It’s not just about not playing a basketball game, it’s about hearing the message that those players are passing onto us.”
Later Wednesday afternoon, the Milwaukee Bucks decided to not take the floor for their game against the Orlando Magic. The NBA then announced that all three of Wednesday’s scheduled playoff games were being postponed.
Walsh said a task force is expected to release a set of recommendations on policing in Boston in the next couple of weeks, but he also praised Boston police.
“Our Police Department hasn’t stopped working throughout this time” on initiatives such as community engagement, Walsh said. “We’re going to continue to do that.”
The mayor also issued an appeal for generosity among constituents.
“I urge everyone to be kind to yourself and to others,” Walsh said. “And I ask everyone to take it a day at a time.”
Turning to the upcoming primary election on Sept 1., Walsh said the city has received about 90,000 requests for mail-in ballots, and he reminded voters that their completed ballots must be submitted to the city by next Tuesday for their choices to count in the final tally.
Ballots can be returned at an early voting location or at two drop boxes at City Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, he said.