BOSTON — Marty Walz is not a professional photographer, but she got a shot on her cellphone Saturday night that’s creating quite a buzz on social media.
She and a friend were headed to Pier 4 to get take-out dinner when they spotted a crowd of people walking down a gangplank and onto a boat.
"I could hear the noise coming off the boat and see the large crowd of people," Walz said. "So that's when I grabbed a photo of it because it was so shocking."
What shocked Walz -- and many who later saw the photo -- was the lack of COVID-19 precautions those who crowded the top deck of the Bay State Cruise ship seemed to be taking.
"It was just breathtakingly crowded, given that we're in the middle of a pandemic," Walz said. "It's obvious from the photo and from what I could see that as passengers were boarding there was no social distancing."
And few passengers were masked.
“As the boat went by us I was just stunned to see so many people being so reckless,” Walz said. “Because even if they wanted to take their own health into risk, they get off that boat and expose everybody else around them, potentially, to COVID-19.”
“The picture that was taken from Pier 4 this evening was of our harbor cruise vessel getting underway for a 7 to 9:30 p.m. cruise,” said Bay State Cruise manager Michael Glasfeld. “We sailed at 33% capacity. The deck areas of our vessel provide for 28 square feet per passenger (the area of a six-foot circle) for up to 44% of our vessel’s capacity.”
While there may be plenty of real estate on the ship to spread out -- that appeared to be the problem, Walz said.
"It was a beautiful summer evening. Maybe some people were on the lower deck," she said. "But nearly everybody was along the top deck and it was very crowded."
Glasfeld said the ship is considered an outdoor venue that has the added COVID-protective effect of moving at nine knots -- thus providing a constant breeze.
"We have a semi-enclosed middle deck as well that, at nine knots, exchanges its entire volume of air in less than one minute," he added.
Walz isn’t convinced. “Even outside, the virus can spread,” she said. “So it’s not enough to say well, we were outside. You’re in close proximity to other people. This is an event that could lead to large numbers of people getting COVID-19.”
Walz didn't realize the impact the photo had until she got home from dinner Saturday night.
"This morning it's getting retweeted multiple times so it's getting renewed attention," she said. "It has really, I think, struck a nerve among those of us who are trying very hard to social distance, to wear masks, and keep people around us safe."
Ultimately, Walz said she posted the photo for the sake of public health.
“If we don’t try to stop the things we see we’re gonna have a massive outbreak of the virus again,” she said. “And we all need to take action to keep ourselves safe and stop things that are going to potentially kill people.”
Mayor Marty Walsh’s office said while the city doesn’t have regulatory power or oversight of the company’s activities, it has been in contact with Bay State Cruise Company and will send an inspector from the Boston Public Health Commission’s Environmental Division to visit the site Monday in the interest of public health.
“We know all too well the serious health consequences of the coronavirus, and it is very concerning to see crowds of people gathering in large groups, putting themselves, everyone around them, and every person they come into contact with at risk,” Walsh’s office said in a statement. “It is incumbent upon every person and every business to take this seriously, and follow the public health guidance that has been issued for everyone’s safety.”
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