Things will not be normal when Boston’s public economy eventually reopens, Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday.
During his monthly “Ask the Mayor” segment on Boston Public Radio, Walsh said that he understands residents are beginning to feel tense as the economic shutdown caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus moves into its second month, but emphasized that the city cannot safely reopen without more testing available to residents.
“I certainly want to open Boston today because of the economy. I mean, we were booming here in a lot of ways. We were doing a lot of great things, and I know in my heart and I know literally that when we open back up we’re not going to pick up where we left off,” Walsh said. “So, the quicker we can get ourselves open the better it is, but we have to make sure that people are going to be safe before we open up.”
According to the most recent data from the city, there have been 6,958 confirmed cases and 232 deaths in Boston. Walsh said the city has tested close to 19,000 people. When the city does reopen, Walsh said he does not expect everyone to return to work immediately.
“When we go back to work, we’re really going to need to look at who has been tested for the coronavirus and also who’s had the antibody test as we move forward to see who had coronavirus, so we can really get a gauge on how to put our society back to work,” Walsh said. “We certainly won’t be where we were [on] Feb. 1, where everyone is working and people are working and the economy is moving forward. We’re not going to get back to that moment in time for quite some time.”
Boston currently has four testing facilities, and announced Thursday a plan to provide universal testing for the city’s homeless population. Walsh said Friday that the city has a goal of testing 180,000 people before reopening — currently a far-away ambition. The mayor said he expects minimal help from the federal government when it comes to testing.
Once the gap has been closed and testing is more widespread, Walsh also said that any reopening of the city will be done in collaboration with other mayors in the metro area. To prevent the pandemic from worsening, Walsh said it’s critical for elected officials to work with neighboring cities and states in reopening their economies.
“It really has to be collaborative,” Walsh said. “When you watch what’s happening in Washington with the Senate and House not talking to the president — it doesn't seem like the president is briefing them necessarily on a daily basis — and they’re not talking about how to move our country forward.”
Noting frustration from some in the business community about the prolonged shutdown, Walsh said his priority is ensuring public safety before opening the economy.
“It’s about stopping the spread of the virus,” Walsh said. “I know that people's emotions are at the point now where it’s concerning to all, but it’s still about keeping people safe and keeping people alive.”
Walsh also took calls from listeners during this segment.