With Mayor Martin J. Walsh vowing a crackdown on house parties as Boston’s COVID-19 numbers continue to climb, Boston police have received almost 1,400 calls complaining about parties since Sept. 1, the department divulged on Friday.
During the month of September, there were 993 calls about parties in the city, a substantial increase in comparison to the number of calls during the same month in 2019, when there were 600 complaints about parties, according to police. Thus far in October, the department has received 404 calls about parties.
Walsh took aim at house parties during a Thursday City Hall news briefing, saying that Boston authorities are considering issuing fines for such get-togethers, as well as closing parks to curb unsafe gatherings, in what would mark a substantial change in the city’s handling of the public health crisis.
Walsh said the rate of positive tests citywide for the week ending Oct. 10 was 4.4 percent, up from 4.1 percent the previous week. Over the summer, during a 12- to 16-week period, the rate hovered between 1.8 percent and 2.8 percent. Earlier this month, Boston decided to delay the return of in-person schooling for most students after the positivity rate went over 4 percent.
Walsh said city officials are considering a system that would potentially fine both landlords and tenants for house parties. Landlords, he said, “have to take responsibility for their tenants.” Details, like the amount of the fines and how specifically they would be levied, have yet to be announced.
Walsh has assembled a team that includes representatives from the Boston Public Health Commission, inspectional services, health and human services, the city’s parks department, neighborhood services, and police, to examine ways to strengthen COVID-19 restrictions, according to the mayor’s office. City authorities are discussing tightening enforcement on gathering limits, restrictions on unpermitted public events, and unsanctioned activities in parks, and working to help restaurants adhere to pandemic guidelines. Discussions regarding fines and a curfew are underway, according to Walsh’s office, but no final decisions have been made.
Until now, Walsh has largely avoided punitive action to enforce coronavirus-related restrictions. There have been no citations for those who do not wear masks, and the mayor said Thursday that is one measure that authorities have not yet discussed. When Walsh asked residents to stay indoors between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., the curfew was a request, with no fines for lack of compliance. When he instituted a construction suspension, it carried no fines for those who did not comply, although city authorities did stop work at scores of sites that were flouting the rules.
But Walsh signaled on Thursday that his administration was considering a change of approach in terms of its handling of the pandemic: fines for house parties. He also urged people to call 911 if they witness a house party that causes concern. Additionally, BPD has a direct “party line,” which gives residents “a direct contact for reporting the occurrence of loud after-parties.”
Residents are encouraged to use this resource as a means of preventing late-night disorderly behavior and reduce the incidents of possibly further criminal conduct.
“We are going to be cracking down,” he said.
Globally, some governments are implementing more stringent measures in an attempt to mitigate the virus and curb another surge.
In response to a new wave of novel coronavirus cases, the Czech Republic has shut schools and is building a field hospital, Poland has limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and schools, and France is planning a 9 p.m. curfew in Paris and other big cities. In Britain, authorities are closing pubs and bars in areas in the country’s north, while putting limits on socializing in London and other parts of the country.
With newly confirmed cases reaching records, the World Health Organization warned Friday that intensive care units in a number of European cities could reach maximum capacity in the coming weeks.
As of Friday, Boston has had 18,558 confirmed COVID-19 cases during the pandemic, a caseload that has included 769 deaths.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.