Gov. Charlie Baker's latest stay at home advisory in response to the spread of the coronavirus is expected to impact people and businesses all across the state, including Boston. WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to learn more about how the city is preparing itself and its residents for the changes ahead. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: You've been at the podium in front of the cameras and microphones daily. Do you support the governor's move here to close non-essential businesses?
Mayor Marty Walsh: Yeah, I do. Absolutely. We're at the point where we're seeing our numbers rise from positive cases of the coronavirus. We expected that when we get more testing ability and what we have to do now is do everything we can to be vigilant, to stay home, to stay away from people physically, stay connected to people, but keep to our own houses and to stop the spread of the virus. That's ultimately what we want to do.
We've been watching situations happening in New York and in Italy, and those numbers are multiplying by the day. In the last several days we have 777 cases in Massachusetts. We have 133 in Boston. We have two people that have died in Boston. Nine people died in the state. We can literally keep these numbers down if we all are very disciplined in first of all, staying home and social distancing. And secondly, it's really important for us to continue to wash and sanitize our hands as frequently throughout the day, continue to wipe down surfaces, stay at home as much as possible, be very careful when you go out and also be mindful of [the] older community [and] making sure that people are safe. If you're sick and you happen to go visit somebody, that's not the right thing to do right now. The right thing to do right now is social isolation [and] physical isolation, meaning stay connected through other means, but physically stay away from people.
Mathieu: I'm curious, Mr. Mayor, will Boston Police be involved in helping to enforce this advisory or are they already in terms of dealing with businesses that do not close or people who are gathering in larger groups when they shouldn't be?
Walsh: What we're asking people, out of respect to one another and some commonsense here, [is] to pay attention and follow this order. If we have businesses that should be closed, we're going to remind them they need to be closed. And hopefully people understand that and do the right thing here. This is really important. I think by now everyone should understand the severity of the issue and what we're seeing not just here in Boston and Massachusetts, but around the world.
Mathieu: You would think at this point that people are, Mayor Walsh. We heard from President Trump last night, though, suggesting that he wants to reopen the economy, I believe the words that he used as early as next week. He says it's time to get back to business. What would we do? What would the city do if he made that order?
Walsh: Well, we're not going to do that, number one, because we're not going to be in a place where we can. We would love to re-open the economy and there's nothing more than I would love to see us getting back to life as we knew it. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future we're not going to return back there by next week. I'm hoping I'm wrong. But by next week, the president's going to realize that we're nowhere near reopening our economy the way that it was. I think the new normal right now is trying to keep business moving and doing it from home. In City Hall, many of our people are home and they're working from their homes, doing their job. I think they'd rather be at work because of the fear of this virus, but I think the president will realize really quickly how different it is. Plus, you don't know. Today, he could wake up and say something completely different at the microphone, which is really unfortunate in this particular case.
Mathieu: Mayor, you're hiring a consulting firm run by former General Stanley McChrystal. I wonder what will he be doing for you?
Walsh: You know, it was an important move to think about as we started looking at all the plans and what we're doing here in Boston. We started thinking about in the event of having to have a complete shutdown, do we have enough capacity? On Sunday the McChrystal group came in to review and update the city of Boston's emergency management plans. General McChrystal was the commander of a top counterterrorism force: The Joint Special Operations Command. For the next two months they're going to support us in our work, including coordinating agencies, integrating all of our response plans, and ensuring effective transportation [and] communication plans to our residents.
So what they're basically going to do is help us and walk us through this, that if in the event that we have to take this shutdown to the next level, all of the folks in our low-income communities – we have many people that are living paycheck to paycheck [and] simply don't have money coming in – how do we get them food? How do we make sure our kids in our schools get food? How do we make sure our seniors get provided services? So they're making sure that our plans are where they need to be.
Mathieu: Understood. What's the status of your office, Mr. Mayor? I'm assuming that most of your nonessential workers in the mayor's office are at home are scattered around the city.
Walsh: Yeah, a lot of people are at home. Obviously, our public safety folks are out there working hard. They're incredible; they have to stay out there working. We have to have a team at City Hall basically just working on a lot of the policies and plans that we're instituting, and helping people get connected to services.
We're asking people that if you have to come in to City Hall, call ahead [and] make appointments. Particularly folks that they need birth certificates and death certificates, and want to pay bills and things like that, we're asking you to pay ahead, trying to do as much of that online as possible. We're trying to cut down on the interaction with folks that work in City Hall with the public, but also with the public with folks that work at City Hall. It's really important that a lot of this work can be done over the phone. So as much as possible, we're asking people to do that. You call 3-1-1 to get connected to City Hall and we can try and help you with whatever issue you have.
Mathieu: Thanks, Mayor. And if people once again are looking for food assistance, for instance, with students out of school or any other help on that level, should they call 3-1-1 as well?
Walsh: Yeah, let me just give a couple of numbers that you might want to put down. Number one, the 24-hour constituent hotline for the city of Boston is 3-1-1. If you are listening to the radio show and you're not a Boston resident and you want to know how to get connected to the state, that's 2-1-1. You can you can also text to receive alerts on a regular basis. Text the word "BOSCOVID" to 9-9-4-1-1. You can also visit boston.gov/coronavirus. That will give you everything you want to find in the city of Boston.