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Mayor Walsh: Boston’s COVID-19 infection rate going in ‘wrong direction’

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh
Boston Mayor Martin J. WalshJessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh told WCVB-TV Sunday that the city’s coronavirus infecting rate is going in the “wrong direction” and warned that people must play a role in bringing the virus under control if Boston is to avoid an economic shutdown.

The nation faces soaring numbers of new coronavirus cases, and Boston, like Massachusetts overall, has recorded rising numbers of new infections after a drop-off during the summer.

Walsh told “On The Record” hosts Janet Wu and Ed Harding that he has been concerned as the city’s numbers of new cases and hospitalizations have crept up, and warned that more must be done to stop the virus and be able keep businesses like restaurants, gyms, and beauty parlors open.

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“If you’re walking down the street without a mask, you’re not doing your part,” Walsh said, noting that closures don’t help the city’s economy. “It really is incumbent upon all of us to do what we need to do to keep people safe.”

Nationwide Sunday, almost 11 million coronavirus cases and close to 246,000 deaths have been reported, according to Johns Hopkins University.

On Friday, the Boston Public Health Commission reported that the city has had 23,433 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The commission said of the COVID-19 cases, 19,605 people have recovered. The virus caused 884 deaths in Boston, according to the city.

Walsh, in his WCVB-TV interview, said he is concerned about the city’s COVID-19 numbers as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. He said the city must take very cautious steps as it moves forward, as a shut down would be “devastating in a lot of ways to our economy.”

Walsh said his focus during the pandemic is protecting the residents of Boston.

“For me, the priority is keeping people safe. So that means if we have to shut things down, and take criticism for it, then so be it,” Walsh said.

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Walsh also said he opposes MBTA service cuts being made to address up to a $575 million shortfall, caused by a decline in ridership during the pandemic.

Essential workers, like hospital employees, rely on transit, and those services are needed to support the city’s economy, he said. Cutting back those services is shortsighted, he said.

The mayor said he has had conversations with Governor Charlie Baker about reopening a field hospital at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center to take some pressure off local hospitals.

The temporary Boston Hope facility, which opened in April, discharged its last patients in June but remained in place in case it was needed again.

“We’re seeing the coronavirus infection rate go in the wrong direction, which would mean ultimately that we’ll see additional hospitalizations," Walsh said, and require a field hospital to handle the potential overflow. “Everything is on the table at this point, unfortunately.”

Nationally, the response has fallen along political lines. President-elect Joe Biden has formed his own COVID-19 panel, while the Trump administration continues to face criticism that it is not doing enough to battle the disease.

Walsh, who is close to Biden and whose name has been mentioned by political observers as a potential hire in the new administration, didn’t discuss his future career plans Sunday.

Two Boston city councilors — Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu — have each launched campaigns for mayor. And Walsh, who was first elected as mayor in 2013, has yet to declare whether he’ll run for a third term.

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“I love my job," Walsh said Sunday. “Those questions and all of those decisions [about my future,] I’ll be able to talk about a little more in the new year.”


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.