Mayor Marty Walsh held a press conference on March 1, where he provided updates on reopening in the city, talked about Boston Public Schools students returning to in-person learning, and announced that the city’s outdoor dining program will resume on April 1.
Walsh first provided a COVID update, saying that for the week ending Feb. 21, the seven day average positive test rate was 3.5 percent, which he said has increased slightly from the previous several weeks.
He also spoke about Governor Baker’s announcement last week that the state would be entering Step Two of Phase Three of the reopening plan beginning on March 1, and Phase Four on March 22.
“I want to be clear,” Walsh said, “we’re also moving forward here in the City of Boston along with the state,” however there will be some exceptions in the city.
He said that as of March 1, businesses such as gyms, museums, and fitness centers will be allowed to operate at 50 percent of the max capacity, and the capacity limit at restaurants will be lifted with other restrictions still in place, such as the 90 minute limit, the six person table limit, and six feet of distance between tables.
Walsh said that Boston is “not moving forward” with things like live music in restaurants, the reopening of indoor performance venues, and “higher contact indoor recreation” like laster tag and roller skating until “at least March 22,” when the public health data will be evaluated again.
Walsh said that the city is “committed to economic recovery,” but slowing the spread of the virus remains the “top priority.”
Additionally. the St. Patrick’s Day parade has been cancelled for the second year in a row.
“We are so close to a finish line here that what we don’t need now is a step backwards. We’re opening up, the governor’s opening up, we’re trying to open up more businesses, we’re trying to get fans in the stands at Fenway and at the Garden; we’re trying to do that,” Walsh said. “But events like St. Patrick’s Day and weekends like St Patricks Day can throw us back. They can become super spreader events and we could be in a situation where were shutting everything down again.”
He said that there will be “no exceptions to the rules on restaurants, bars, and private gatherings” for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and reminded residents that the gathering limit for private gatherings remains at 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
No lines outside restaurants will be permitted, and no alcohol without food service will be permitted either, he added.
“Outdoor dining was one of the brightest spots of this experience last summer and fall here in the City of Boston,” Walsh said.
The program ended in December of last year for the winter season, but Walsh announced on Monday that it will return beginning April 1 “or as soon as the weather permits it to happen.”
He said that fees will continue to be waived for restaurants interested in applying for an outdoor dining permit, and there is a “centralized application” available online for businesses to use.
Walsh said that there will be restricted parking and certain streets will be closed again to make space for the outdoor dining program, and more details will be available in the “coming weeks” on which streets will be affected.
He also said that the City’s Disability Commission has been working to ensure that all residents have access to the restaurants.
“The program was made stronger by community input, so we welcome community conversation,” Walsh said.
He added that the online application has been available since December 10, and more than 370 applications have been received, with over 150 already approved.
“Applications moving forward will be reviewed by a rolling basis,” Walsh said. The application and more information can be found at boston.gov/2021outdoordining.
On March 1, all Boston Public School students in grades Pre-K through 3rd grade were eligible to return to in-person learning “if parents opted in,” Walsh said. These students “joined high priority students who have been in school since the fall,” he added. “We’ll continue to bring students back safely into our schools, as long as the public health data supports it.”
Walsh said that students in grades 4-8 will be eligible to return to the classrooms beginning on March 15, and the remainder of students will be able to return on March 29, he said.
Walsh said that the city “continue[s] to work with the state on the vaccine rollout,” and continues to create locations where residents can receive their vaccinations once eligible.
Over this past weekend, Walsh said that more than 1600 people received vaccines at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury.
Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez announced on Monday that beginning on March 1, the Boston Public Health Commission will “start to release Boston-specific data regarding who is being vaccinated in the city,” which will help the Commission understand things like progress being made as well as where there are gaps.
“As of February 23, over 96,000 Bostonians have gotten their first COVID shot,” Martinez said, which amounts to “about 16.5 percent of the population over age 16 who is eligible.”
He added that “of these folks, about 42 percent have gone into the arms of people of color.” He said that the city continues to work on “creating equitable access to the vaccine in communities of color.”
The data will be published online and will include neighborhood and age based data as well.
He said that this past weekend, the city was able to bring vaccines to residents through its mobile effort.
“This is the beginning of an effort that we want to continue across our approaches,” Martinez said.
He said that the goal is to “use our four approaches that we’ve laid out,” which he said include mass vaccination sites, priority group clinics, community based clinics, and the city’s mobile vaccine effort.
For more information on vaccines in Boston, visit boston.gov/departments/public-health-commission/covid-19-vaccine-boston.