Walsh: Boston will have to reopen in phases

BOSTON — Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says no matter what happens on a state level, Boston will have to reopen in phases.

During our one-on-one virtual interview, he told Boston 25 News how and when that happens depends on a lot of things, but first and foremost, it’s testing.

So far, the city of Boston has tested three percent of its population. Walsh thinks he’ll need to test 10-25 percent to have a real gauge on the outbreak in the city.

Boston is currently testing in five hospitals and 10 health centers. From there, it’s about looking at data, who’s had coronavirus, who’s recovered, who hasn’t been exposed. Walsh says he needs a broader snapshot of that before Boston opens back up.

“Let’s say we flip the light on tomorrow, and everyone goes back to work tomorrow, that second surge that everyone talks about, could be much worse than the first surge,” said Walsh.

Preventing a second surge in Boston weighs heavily on him. But he says conversations are ongoing on how to safely open the city back up. However, it’s tough to predict which sectors would reopen first.

“It’s hard to say that. A lot of people talking about potentially construction being one of those sectors,” Walsh said. “We have sent out safety plans to constructions and developers in the city and asking them to put some protocol in place, many of them have. We are sending inspectors out to job sites now to see they’re ready to go.”

Walsh says construction sites would need the appropriate PPE and places for worker to wash hands.

But, he said it's not just a question of which sectors to reopen, but which workers to bring back. Some people will need flexibility.

Schools are closed through the end of the school year. The state has closed non-emergency childcare centers until June 29.

When asked if he would be recommending flexibility for parents, Walsh said, “I think there would have to be a whole new alignment of childcare, a whole new alignment of what the rules and regulations are."

“I think all of that would be fluid and looking at how do we make changes,” Walsh said.

And, he says flexibility might be necessary for older workers or those who are immunocompromised.

Walsh used Boston City Hall and roughly 4,000 people who work there as a microcosm of what could be.

“I don’t anticipate on the day we bring people back to the building that on day that we open up city hall full time to the public, I don’t anticipate every single employee showing up at 9 o’clock in the morning and working until 5 o’clock. We have to look at maybe splitting shifts, maybe splitting weeks. We have to look at scheduling times, as far coming in the building.”

He says there will likely need to be protocol to check temperature and overall wellbeing.

When it comes to restaurants Walsh offered this piece of caution, it's not just about opening them up, but making sure people feel safe going to them.

When asked, as mayor of a major U.S. city, how difficult these conversations are when weighing public health versus enormous economic hardship, Walsh said, “Right now, I am always going to err on the side of caution and keeping people safe and healthy.”

“So, as we think about this, we have to be thoughtful. We have a group of people working to make sure we keep people safe and continue to provide services in this time of need for people,” Walsh said. "And we have a group of people working on what does reopening look like and how to put time and effort and thought into when we do reopen, making sure we make the right moves.”

He thinks it will be six to 10 months of wearing masks and taking extra precautions in this new normal.

Because, Walsh said, it’s not just a possible second surge, but a second shutdown.

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