coronavirus

Boston to Lift Business Curfew, But Will Remain in Phase 2, Step 2: Walsh

The move means businesses, including restaurants, will be able to open past 9:30 p.m.

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Some businesses in Boston will be allowed to open past 9:30 p.m. starting next week as the state eases some COVID-19 restrictions, but others will be required to remain closed under the city's cautious reopening plan, Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday.

In a press conference, Walsh said Gov. Charlie Baker's lifting of the state's early business closure order -- slated to begin Monday -- would apply to businesses in Boston that are currently allowed to be open.

"That means Monday, restaurants will be able to stay open later and businesses that are currently open will be able to stay open later," Walsh said.

However, Walsh said the city will remain in Phase 2, Step 2 of its reopening process, meaning many businesses, including gyms, indoor event spaces, indoor recreational and athletic facilities and sightseeing companies must remain closed.

While much of Massachusetts is in Phase 3, Step 1 of the reopening plan, Boston in December rolled back to Phase 2, citing a spike in COVID-19 cases following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Boston's rollback to Phase 2 is set to expire on January 27. Walsh said the city would provide an update next week on whether the city would extend the rollback.

"The last thing we want to do is reopen too quickly... because we might have to close down again," he said.

Walsh said Friday the Boston's latest coronavirus data has been trending in the right direction with the city's positivity rate and hospital admissions falling this week compared to the previous week.

Baker's order that requires all businesses close by 9:30 p.m. concludes Monday, but businesses still won't be able to exceed 25 percent capacity. That restriction will stay in place for at least another two weeks, Baker said.

Additionally, liquor stores and other establishments that sell alcohol, as well as adult use cannabis retailers, will be allowed to sell those products past 9:30 p.m.

Baker is also lifting a stay-at-home advisory, which asked residents to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 p.m. and, during the day, to avoid going out except for essential activities like grocery shopping.

Meanwhile, Walsh urged residents to get COVID-19 vaccination when they are eligible, saying it is "one of the best things you can do to protect your family and your community and yourself."

The timeline for in-person learning in Boston has been updated.

In particular, he urged people in communities of color to consider getting vaccinated.

"There is no doubt that throughout history communities of color have faced discrimination and outright cruelty in the health care system. This is a tragic outcome from systemic racism in our country," he said.

"We don't want communities of color to miss out on the vaccine, because it's the best tool we have to put this pandemic behind us."

Walsh said his administration had made efforts to provide information about COVID-19 vaccines to communities of color.

Massachusetts is offering vaccines to resident in a phased plan that prioritizes health care workers, first responders and residents of long-term health care facilities. All residents in Phase 1 of the vaccination plan are now eligible for vaccination.

Boston officials provided an update on vaccination rollout priority in the city.

The announcement came with Walsh's stint as mayor potentially coming to a close in the coming weeks after he was tapped as President Joe Biden's nominee for labor secretary.

Walsh, 53, has been Boston's mayor since 2014. He's a former state lawmaker with a long history with organized labor. Walsh is a former head of the Boston Building Trades, a union umbrella organization.

His move to the U.S. Labor Department sets the stage for what could be a wide-open mayoral race. He said the transition to Boston City Council President Kim Janey, who would take over as acting mayor if Walsh is confirmed by the Senate, has already begun.

City councilors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell have already thrown their names into the race. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has expressed her support for Wu.

On Monday, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said he was considering running for mayor of the city as well, but hadn't decided yet. According to The Boston Globe, Gross' decision to run would factor into whether others, including City Councilor Michael Flaherty, may also choose to run.

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