Mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday that further rollbacks of the reopening of Boston's economy are "on the table" if coronavirus cases continue to rise at the current pace.
"In the event we have to roll back -- we don't have to today -- but in the event we have to roll back, we won't hesitate," he said.
Walsh said he planned to attend a briefing later Thursday about what a potential roll back could look like. He would not speculate on what industries might be affected if the city did decide to roll back its reopening.
"It's on the table," he said. "Our goal is not to roll back restaurants, our goal is not to roll back movie theaters or go back to Phase 2, Step 2 (of the state's phased reopening). That would not be my intention. But if the numbers continue to go up, if hospitalizations continue to go up, we want to catch it before we get over capacity."
"People say 'Shut it all down,' and some say 'Don't shut it all down," he added. "If we feel we need to shut it down we will shut it down."
His comments came as Boston continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases. Two new deaths and 350 cases were reported on Wednesday, meaning over 30,000 cases have been confirmed along with nearly 950 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Walsh also said the city is preparing to open a field hospital even though the numbers at the hospitals don't yet show a need. For now, health officials are monitoring emergency rooms, ICUs and surgical beds.
"Across Boston hospitals right now we have about 300 COVID positive patients. In April when we had the field hospital, we had about 1,600," Health and Human Services Chief Marty Martinez said.
At his last coronavirus availability a week ago, Walsh expressed concern about the spike in coronavirus cases across the city in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday.
On Thursday, he warned residents to take added precautions and released guidance for the rest of the holiday season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The holiday season looks a lot different this year. We all want to be with the people we love and celebrate our favorite traditions, but we must remember that the coronavirus is still with us," Walsh said. "Since Thanksgiving, we've seen significant spikes in coronavirus cases and hospital admissions, both in Boston and across Massachusetts, on a daily basis. Now more than ever, we must continue to stay vigilant and follow all the precautions to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe."
Health officials are asking people not to host or attend holiday parties and gatherings. Additionally, they are advising against traveling this holiday season, which may increase the chances of getting or spreading the virus. Traveling to visit family may be especially dangerous for those more likely to get very ill from COVID-19, such as older adults and people with medical conditions.
"Many people are hoping for normalcy," Walsh said. "But this isn't the year. It's not the time for us to start thinking about going back to normalcy."
Despite the steady rise in cases, Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced this week that the next set of students will return to classrooms on Monday.
That group includes about 1,700 "students with complex disabilities and language needs who were identified as having high priority for in-person learning," Cassellius said in a letter to parents.
"This is based on those who selected hybrid learning," Walsh said Thursday. "These students are not being forced into school. All the students and families have opted to do in-person learning."
The mayor said he remains hopeful that K-12 students will be able to begin returning to school in January. But that depends on how high the virus rates are at that time.
Walsh also released information Thursday about the city's 2021 outdoor dining pilot program. The program aims to continue some of the initiatives from the summer and fall, which included allowing outdoor patios on roadways.
The season will begin on April 1, 2021, or sooner if weather permits, and end on Dec. 1.
Applications for outdoor dining licenses on public and private property are now open and can be accessed on the city's website. Restaurants who took part in 2020 will have to reapply.
Virtual help sessions will be offered starting Dec. 16, and the city will also be offering free 1-on-1 help for any restaurants that need help with their applications.