Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was set to update the public on the city’s response to the novel coronavirus, Friday, hours after President Donald Trump announced he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19.
Walsh was scheduled to hold a press conference at 12 p.m.
Earlier in the day, Walsh urged residents to stay vigilant over the weekend and take measures to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
Walsh did not directly address the president’s diagnosis.
Trump was experiencing “mild symptoms” of COVID-19 after revealing Friday that he and the first lady had tested positive, a stunning announcement that plunges the country deeper into uncertainty a month before the presidential election.
Meanwhile, Walsh’s scheduled remarks come after Boston moved into the highest-risk — or red — category on the state’s coronavirus risk map for the first time Wednesday.
The city had 8.5 cases per 100,000 residents on Massachusetts’ COVID-19 risk map. Because of the change in categorization, the city will not enter the second step of Phase 3 of Massachusetts’ reopening plan, Walsh said Wednesday.
“Being in the red category is something we need to take extremely seriously here in Boston,” the mayor said at his Wednesday coronavirus briefing. “It’s not unexpected and it’s based only on one data point. We’ve made incredible progress in the last few months and we still have the ability to continue that progress.”
A representative for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health noted Wednesday night that Boston is uniquely dense among Massachusetts’ communities, with the state’s largest population and a high concentration of colleges and universities and other jobs that bring people together. High levels of testing at institutions of higher education has contributed to higher numbers of positive cases as well.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that Boston’s incidence rate was 7.9 cases per 100,000 people last week, just short of the level to be considered high risk.
Walsh said East Boston and parts of Dorchester have a test rate that is over 7%, which will require targeted outreach and testing in those neighborhoods. Roughly half of the city’s new cases are in Latino communities, he noted.
Despite the “red” designation, thousands of Boston Public School students headed back to the classroom Thursday for the first time since March.
Around 3,500 high-needs students returned Thursday and a similar group is slated to head back Monday. The rest of the district remains remote for now.
Boston Public School officials have said they spent the summer upgrading buildings and classrooms, replacing nearly 300 windows and more than 10,000 air filters. There are a number of health and safety measures in place, including coronavirus symptom screenings, limited class sizes and a moratorium on visitors.
The positivity rate for coronavirus testing in Boston remains under 4%, but any increase in that metric would force the district to go back to remote learning full-time.
Effective Monday, lower-risk communities in Massachusetts will be able to move to Step 2 of Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, which allows indoor and outdoor recreation businesses to reopen, expands the size of outdoor gatherings at event venues to 100 people and allows indoor and outdoor performance venues to open up to 50% capacity.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday that the state will move forward with the second step of Phase 3 of its reopening on Monday, which includes indoor and outdoor recreation businesses. But Walsh said given the rise in cases in Boston, the city will not be moving forward with the latest step in the reopening of the economy.
Boston Public Schools said in a statement Wednesday night, after the city moved into the red zone, announced no change to the plan to send students to class Thursday. officials “are monitoring public health guidance and we will only continue with the scheduled phase-in of the hybrid model if it is safe to do so.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh had some strong words for President Trump’s stance on voting in this year’s election.
The mayor stressed that keeping the positive test rate low is something that is within residents’ control, reiterating his plea to avoid large gatherings and continue wearing masks, social distancing and practicing good hygiene.