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Boston ‘very close’ to moving into red category for coronavirus transmission, Walsh says

Mayor Walsh. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/FILE)
Mayor Walsh. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/FILE)Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Boston could soon find itself in the state’s red category for communities at the highest risk of coronavirus transmission, Mayor Martin J. Walsh told reporters Wednesday.

Speaking outside City Hall during his regular briefing, Walsh said Boston’s “very close” to moving into the red category reserved for municipalities with more than eight cases per 100,000 people.

Walsh said city officials are responding with “targeted strategies” including bringing testing resources where they’re most needed and working with employers, colleges and other stakeholders.

He also said the city will keep the maximum number of people allowed to sit together at restaurants at six for the foreseeable future, even though the state will start allowing up to 10 people to gather starting Monday.

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Walsh said keeping the six-person limit in the city is a response to “conditions on the ground here in Boston,” noting the city’s density and “less space” around restaurants than elsewhere in the state.

East Boston’s positive test rate, Walsh said, currently sits at 6 percent, down from a high of about 11.4 percent. Hyde Park and Roslindale are both just over 4 percent, while Dorchester is hovering around 5 percent.

Turning to schools, Walsh announced that the Red Sox and Major League Baseball are partnering with Boston Public Schools to randomly test teachers on a rolling basis. Starting this week, Walsh said, 5 percent of teachers will be tested on a weekly basis.

Walsh said the Red Sox are also collaborating with Jet Blue and Boston Pride to donate more than 60,000 reusable masks to students and teachers for them to use once in-person learning begins in phases.

The mayor said he wanted to give a “special shoutout” to Red Sox president Sam Kennedy and the Boston Public Health Commission for their efforts on the weekly testing program. The Red Sox principal owner, John Henry, also owns The Boston Globe.

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In a separate statement, the Red Sox said 5 percent of Boston Teachers Union members will be “invited” to be tested weekly through the end of 2020. The testing program will begin at a location near Fenway Park and move to a different spot at a later date, the team said.

A randomized sample of teachers will be tested each week with an “oversampling of teachers” working in neighborhoods with COVID-19 rates higher than 8 percent, the Red Sox said.

“As part of Major League Baseball’s COVID-19 testing program, the league wanted to ensure there was opportunity to extend their testing benefits beyond the clubs and players, and into the communities where teams operate," Kennedy said in the statement. “We are grateful to MLB for giving us this opportunity to partner with the City of Boston and help with their back-to-school rollout.”

His words were echoed in the statement by BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and BTU president Jessica Tang.

“I am so thankful to Major League Baseball and the Boston Red Sox organization for this profound commitment to the health of our educators, our students and of the entire community. In the City of Boston we truly are all in this together,” Cassellius said.

Added Tang, "We are grateful to the Red Sox and their commitment to helping us ensure safety and health in our schools during this pandemic. We hope that the early success of this initiative will enable us to explore further expansion of such efforts as we continue to keep health and safety a priority for our students and educators in order to head back into buildings for critical in-person services and learning.”

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In addition, Walsh weighed in on the news out of Kentucky, where a grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid gone wrong, with prosecutors saying Wednesday two officers who fired their weapons at the Black woman were justified in using force to protect themselves.

One officer, Brett Hankison, was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing into Taylor’s neighbors' homes during the raid on the night of March 13.

Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

Walsh told reporters that “quite honestly, I can’t understand what the attorney general in Kentucky said” when the news broke Wednesday, adding that “there needs to be greater transparency in the process.”

He said his “thoughts and prayers are with” the family of Taylor, whom he described as “a young woman with an entire life ahead of her.” Walsh said he stands “with those who demand justice for Breonna."

“When incidents like this occur, justice is demanded,” Walsh said

The mayor said a special task force chaired by former US Attorney Wayne Budd looking into police reforms in Boston held its final public meeting Monday and will submit recommendations to the city.

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“I am committed to taking action that" responds to community concerns, Walsh said, adding that in Boston, officials believe in “lifting people up, not locking people up.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.