Mayor Marty Walsh said Wednesday that Boston's COVID-19 numbers have stabilized somewhat in recent days even as the state readies itself for the implementation of new, stricter measures aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.
State officials announced a new stay-at-home advisory and mask order along with what amounts to a restaurant curfew on Monday in response to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Massachusetts.
The stay-at-home advisory will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., with residents urged to stay home except to go to work, for a walk or to the grocery store.
Restaurants will be required to stop providing table service at 9:30 p.m., although they can continue to offer carry out after that time. Liquor sales at restaurants and package stores will also shut down at 9:30 p.m. Indoor recreational facilities like theaters and casinos, youth and adult sports and adult marijuana sales operations will be ordered to close at 9:30 p.m. as well.
The updated face covering order requires everyone over the age of 5 to wear a face covering in public places.
The state also reduced the limit on indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25 people. All gatherings regardless of size must end and disperse by 9:30 p.m. Fines for violating the gathering order will be $500 for each person above the limit.
The new guidelines take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, and Gov. Charlie Baker said they will likely remain in place for at least a month.
Walsh said there is no question the new rules will take a toll on restaurants and other businesses, but he understands why the governor is taking such serious steps.
"Our restaurants won't have a chance to flip that last table. We have parents who want to have their kids in schools. They're frustrated. There's a lot of frustration here," the mayor said. "We're asking people in the City of Boston, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts -- wear your mask."
The alternative, Walsh said, would be far worse -- a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases that requires the city to shut down.
"I know it's hard and we're feeling some fatigue," he said. "This is a public health response, a strategy to get our COVID numbers back under control. If you want to go back to nightlife, youth sports, concerts, kids back in school, the way we do that is by doing these precautions, stopping the spread of the virus and turning the trends around that are happening right now."
Boston reported 69 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, and no new deaths. And Walsh said the positive test rate for the week ending Friday, Oct. 30 was 7.2%, down from 8% the week before.
"That's good to see, but it's too soon to say we've stopped the trend," he said. "Our numbers continue to be higher than we need them to be in Boston."
Last week, Walsh asked all Boston residents to get tested for COVID-19 whether they have symptoms or not due to a five-week long trend of rising cases across the city.
He announced a new pledge called “Get The Test Boston,” complete with an "I got the test" sticker for people who get tested. Several employers have signed on, including the Boston Red Sox and Wayfair -- they'll make sure their workers know how to get tested for the virus.
As part of the initiative, all City of Boston employees who are eligible for benefits will have one paid hour every two weeks to get tested for the virus.