Mayor Marty Walsh hopes to be able to reopen Boston's public schools in January, and to have a plan in place on how to safely reopen them sooner, he said at an update on the coronavirus Tuesday.
The city has seen a few weeks of promising coronavirus data, but Walsh reported 400 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. It's the most in a single day since June, he said, and could be indicative of a new surge coming after the Thanksgiving holiday.
"I'm not anticipating our schools reopening fully before Christmas, the Christmas break," he said at City Hall, adding that he hopes to have a plan in place before then.
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The 407 new cases Walsh reported Tuesday comes after two weeks where the city's coronavirus numbers went in the right direction, he said. The average positive test rate is 3.4%, down from 5.4% last week, and no neighborhood had a rate above 8%.
But Walsh also noted that the numbers could increase after the Thanksgiving break, for which many people traveled despite public health officials' warnings not to, with Tuesday's numbers being "the first signs of what Thanksgiving brought." It'll take up to two weeks to know whether Boston is seeing a new surge, he said.
As of Monday, the city had more than 4,000 active cases, out of 27,228 total since the start of the pandemic, and the average number of active cases nearly doubled from the beginning of November to the end, though it leveled off by the end. In all, 919 people with COVID in Boston have died, unchanged since Monday, though Walsh noted that there were 11 deaths in the city since Friday.
Of city schools, Walsh said he wants them open, citing the likely detrimental impacts that missing in-person learning will have on students.
To parents planning a protest outside City Hall on Wednesday, Walsh said, "I support you, but right now, today, right now, today, we are not prepared for that, not when you have 400 new cases today."
Earlier Tuesday, his office announced a new free coronavirus testing site in Jamaica Plain active through Thursday, to increase testing capacity in the wake of Thanksgiving.
Adding to the city's two existing mobile testing sites in East Boston and Roxbury, which will operate through Saturday, the Jamaica Plain site will be at Anna Mae Cole Community Center at 10 Lamartine Street on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3-7 p.m. People can be tested for free, without insurance and if they have no symptoms.
"It's especially important now for anyone who spent the Thanksgiving holiday with people outside their household to get tested and limit the further spread of COVID-19," Walsh said in a statement.
At his news conference, Walsh also said he expects the city will run a public awareness campaign about vaccinations -- the mayor said he plans to get one when he's eligible.
At his news conference last week, Walsh said he has no plans to shut down restaurants in Boston as long as the COVID-19 cases continue to decline.
Walsh said Boston had actually seen a decrease in the number of daily coronavirus cases for the first time in five weeks.
As of Tuesday, there were 27,228 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Boston and 919 deaths. Over 22,000 people have recovered from the virus.
"We're going in the right direction," Walsh said. "We just need to continue to see that trend."
He attributed the decreased number of COVID-19 cases to several factors, including Gov. Charlie Baker's stay-at-home advisory and restaurant curfew.
"I think more people are paying attention to the public health recommendations. People are hearing it," the mayor said.
Despite the positive trend he highlighted Wednesday and Boston being free of the state's highest-risk designation for three weeks, Walsh said his city will not advance to the second step of Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan.
"We need to continue and we're going to continue to take cautious approaches to get our numbers going down consistently. We just need to continue to see these numbers going down," he said.
Marty Martinez, the city's chief of health and human services, cautioned that "one week of data does not make a trend," and said residents need to keep doing all of the right things, including wearing masks and social distancing.
"Hopefully, this is a trend in the right direction," he said. "I think we just need to keep reminding ourselves that we've got a long way to go through COVID."