Mayor Marty Walsh issued a rallying cry for Boston to come together through social distancing in an address Tuesday night on where the city stands amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak and what it will continue to do.
Watch Walsh's full address here:
He said the city is "not currently" at the point of needing to be locked down in the face of the pandemic but didn't rule it out. Much of the speech, which invoked "Boston Strong," was a direct plea for citizens to commit to staying home or at least far away from others, despite the personal and financial difficulty, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
"We simply need everyone's help, and that's how we'll get through this," Walsh said.
The city was lit up green for St. Patrick's Day, but there was little to celebrate. The streets were empty, restaurants were closed and people were being urged to stay home.
"This is not a time for house parties, play dates or visiting friends," Walsh said. "We need everyone to limit their contact with each other right now."
"This is kind of new territory," said Cambridge resident Anya Dangora. "I'm still going outside, just practicing social distancing and wait to hear from the news what to do next."
Also Tuesday night, the city launched a text service that residents can opt in to for updates and information on the outbreak. Anyone who wants to join can text the word BOSCOVID to the number 99411; anyone looking to know if they might be sick is urged to call their doctor or 311 to reach the Mayor's Health Line.
Walsh said that the city has 42 cases of people infected with the virus' disease, COVID-19, which is up 33 a day before. There were 218 cases reported statewide on Tuesday, and more than 5,000 around the country.
Public health experts have warned that the virus spreads so quickly and quietly and sickens so many people that, if unchecked by serious social distancing measures, it can overwhelm hospitals' intensive care units and lead to thousands of deaths, as Wuhan, China, and northern Italy have already experienced.
Explaining the urgency of avoiding that situation, the mayor ran through a list of what the city has done so far to keep people home, including closing schools, banning eating in restaurants, halting eviction proceedings and more. He also thanked the supermarket chain Stop & Shop for its decision to give senior citizens, among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, dedicated shopping hours.
On the matter of a citywide lockdown, Walsh only committed to do what's best for the residents of the city and state. Gov. Baker said earlier Tuesday he had no plans to order a shelter-in-place himself.
But he also said that by following the social distancing advice being preached by public officials from City Hall to the White House, "we can prevent the kind of spike that could cause or health care system to be overwhelmed."
He once again urged Bostonians to wash their hands, wipe down surfaces, cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze, avoid crowds, stay at least six feet from other people and to stay at home as much as they can.
The remarks grew deeply personal, with Walsh at one point talking about the advice he'd given his own aging mother about not having visitors and at another referring to his recovery from addiction.
"We are a city of miracles and comebacks. There's nothing we can't do when we stand together. We have faced frightening situations before and we have learned what it means to be Boston Strong."