Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said a recent spike in coronavirus cases in the city's East Boston neighborhood could result in additional restrictions, up to and including a curfew.
In the past week, 127 East Boston residents tested positive for COVID-19, a rate of 11.4%. That's five times higher than the citywide positive test rate of 2.3%.
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"As of now, no," Walsh said Wednesday when asked about a possible curfew. But he didn't rule out the possibility if the situation doesn't improve.
Marty Martinez, chief of the city's Office of Health and Human Services, said Boston is looking at a "multi-pronged" approach including community outreach and education and increased testing. Depending on what they find about where the new cases are coming from, he said additional restrictions could also be recommended.
"We're not there at that point," Martinez said. "But what we have to do is make sure people understand social distancing works, wearing a face mask works, not being around people for a long duration of time... It's really, really important to our neighbors in East Boston that we try to follow those restrictions and guidelines."
For now, Walsh said the city will focus on mobilizing teams to provide safety materials and education to residents and businesses in East Boston. The city is also moving its mobile testing team to East Boston starting on Tuesday, and city officials are talking with the state about finding temporary isolation housing so people can quarantine away from their families if they test positive.
"We don't know the root cause yet, but 11% is pretty high," the mayor said. "Those are back to end of March numbers. It's concerning the numbers are going in the wrong direction."
Citywide, Walsh said 31 new cases of coronavirus were reported Tuesday, with four additional deaths. The total number of cases is now at 15,263, including 752 deaths.
Walsh's press conference Wednesday came on the heels of a study that estimated that a Biogen conference held in February at Boston Marriott Long Wharf led to some 20,000 cases of the coronavirus.
The mayor said Wednesday that additional outbreaks like that could threaten the continued reopening of the city's economy.
"We want to see Boston back," Walsh said. "If we see another Biogen, we may need to go backward."