Despite Rise in COVID Cases, Walsh Hopeful for In-person Learning in Boston This Year

The city was added to the state's list of moderate risk COVID communities on Tuesday

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Mayor Marty Walsh said Wednesday that despite a recent uptick in coronavirus cases he remains hopeful that there will be at least some in-person learning in Boston schools this year.

"We know there's going to be remote learning this year," he said. "We hope there will be in person learning this year. We're planning and preparing to make sure both of them work and it's high quality."

Walsh said a final decision on whether Boston school will reopen remote-only or as a hybrid of remote and in-class learning needs to be made "really soon" so parents have time to plan.

"We know it wont' be all in-person learning. That could be dangerous," he said. "We will either be starting with a hybrid model or a period of all-remote learning."

The mayor also listed a series of back-to-school improvements the district is making to ensure that school buildings are safe for the return of students. They included plexiglass and vinyl separators, properly ventilated isolation spaces in nurse's officers, filters for HVAC systems, electrostatic sprayers to disinnfect surfaces and sanitizing stations.

"We have to get this right," Walsh said. "Our kids are depending on us doing this."

Boston schools are currently scheduled to reopen on Sept. 10.

In a COVID-19 update, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh addresses schools reopening in the fall, announces new coronavirus numbers and pays tribute to the late Rep. John Lewis.

Walsh described the current uptick in coronavirus cases in Boston as "slight increases," but said it's nothing yet that would cause the city to roll back the reopening process.

But he warned that people need to continue to practice social distancing and wear masks when they are out in public. He mentioned that at Little League games being held in the city last week many spectators weren't wearing masks.

"I certainly understand people wanting to get together. People want to go out, families want to celebrate milestones. These are human needs. Many people are frustrated. But we have to be clear -- it's not the time right now to let up. This virus is still here, it's very much present, and that's our reality."

On Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a list of 33 Massachusetts cities and towns at high or moderate risk for coronavirus spread. Boston was one of the 29 communities included in the moderate, or "yellow" category, meaning they have between four and eight cases per 100,000 residents.

Massachusetts released a map showing coronavirus hot spots across the state.

The state plans to offer all municipalities in these categories assistance with testing, contact tracing, gathering-size enforcement and public awareness campaigns. Parks, playgrounds and some businesses could be restricted or shut down in moderate- or high-risk communities if they have been shown to be contributors to a municipality's higher infection rates, the governor said.

As of Tuesday, Boston had reported 14,609 coronavirus cases, including 743 deaths. Those numbers included 38 new cases and two new deaths.

The Baker administration's stepped up vigilance comes after case totals and the state's positive testing rate had been creeping up over the past couple of weeks. Both seem to have stabilized, with the positive testing rate back under 2% for several days, but the governor said that's not the case everywhere in Massachusetts.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

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