With warm weather expected Memorial Day but the safer at home advisory still in place, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh implored residents Thursday not to undo the hard work the city's done flattening the coronavirus curve by gathering together for cookouts or at the beach over the holiday weekend.
"I have major concerns with that because we're still in the very early stages of this pandemic here in Boston and Massachusetts. All indications are that we could be battling this pandemic for eight months to a year," Walsh said at a news conference.
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While fewer people have been getting the virus in the city and around the state now than this time last month, the coronavirus can make a comeback, he warned. A Massachusetts General Hospital study has shown that 10% of Bostonians had the antibody for the virus, but Walsh noted that means that more than 600,000 people in the city haven't gotten it yet.
"I'm personally asking people don't be hanging on the beach," he said. "If you go for walks, practice social distancing and physical distancing."
He added later, "Don't put yourself at risk to become one of the folks I read about in the numbers every day."
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Instead of having a cookout, he asked people to deck out their homes in flags and other patriotic decorations to honor the country's veterans.
"If you make some phone calls, you can bring your street to life," he said, noting that the sacrifices veterans have made may put some of society's new ones in perspective.
Walsh made a series of other announcements Thursday, including a new web portal to help local businesses source the protective gear they'll be required to use once they can reopen. It's available at boston.gov/business-ppe.
The mayor also said he plans to release more guidance on capacity limits for Boston office space. He's previously said he's not comfortable with offices operating at the 25% capacity Gov. Charlie Baker is allowing beginning June 1.
Earlier Thursday, his office announced the city was making it easier for restaurants and small businesses to operate outdoors and Boston distributed millions of dollars in grants to local businesses to help them recover from the economic fallout triggered by the pandemic.
The Licensing Board for the City of Boston on Thursday removed the restriction to ban on serving alcohol without food outdoors, among other actions.
"It's my hope that these updated protocols will help ensure proper social distancing, and give much-needed assistance to the small businesses that are the lifeblood of Boston's neighborhoods," Walsh said in a statement.
The relief funds have come in the form of debt-free grants and were distributed to over 1,100 small businesses across the city through the Small Business relief fund, according to the mayor's office.
"I've said it many times: small businesses are the heartbeat of our economy, and they provide residents with the services they depend on every day," Walsh said in a statement.
"Through the Small Business Relief Fund we have been proud to support Boston's small businesses with a swift and direct infusion of funds through a fiscally responsible and equitable system that will help businesses stay open, pay employees, and strengthen our local business districts."
According to the city, the hard-hit hospitality, personal care, arts and recreation, retail and healthcare and social assistance industries benefited most from the funds.
Walsh's scheduled remarks come days after the city cautiously moves to reopen parts of its economy at a slightly slower pace than the rest of the state.
Walsh on Monday said the city's 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew will remain in place, and the opening of office spaces will be delayed until June 1, one week later than in the state's plan. Construction on schools, hospitals and open air sites will begin this week in accordance with the state's plan, but all other construction will resume May 26.
The mayor said he's not comfortable with the 25% maximum capacity rule for office spaces in the state's plan, saying that still seems too high for Boston.
"Twenty-five percent the first day is too much," he said. "We need to start thinking about how we do that."
As of Wednesday, the city had reported 12,143 cases of COVID-19, including 591 fatalities.