As Boston Mayor Marty Walsh urges adherence to new state guidelines aimed at stemming the spread of COVID, he’s also parting ways with the governor in a subtle but telling way — saying that compliance could help the city’s public schools resume in-person learning.
“These are a strategy to get our COVID numbers back under control, and to keep people out of the hospital, and that’s the only way that we can continue to get our economy up and running and our communities back on track,” Walsh said in a Wednesday press conference.
“So if you want to go back to nightlife, youth sports, concerts and sporting events — and more importantly, if you want to get the kids back in school, which is really important for us to do — the way we do that is doing these precautions, stopping the spread of the virus, and turning the trends around that are happening right now.”
Boston’s schools returned to an all-remote schedule on Oct. 22, after the city’s COVID positivity rate rose from 4.5 percent to 5.7 percent in one week.
On Wednesday, Walsh said Boston’s positivity rate has dropped from 8 percent to 7.2 percent.
“That’s good to see,” Walsh said. “But it’s too soon to say that we’ve stopped the trend.”
Baker, unlike Walsh, has emphatically rejected the idea that school closures are an appropriate way to contain COVID’s spread.
“Schools need to stay open,” Baker said Monday, as he announced new masking guidelines and limits on restaurant service, as well as a stay-at-home advisory from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“Everybody’s concluded that closing schools last spring was probably a bad idea, okay?” Baker added. “And the basic message that’s coming out from most people this time is, schools aren’t spreaders, and it’s hugely important for the educational and social development of kids — and the psychological development of kids — that they be in school.”
While a developing body of research suggests that in-person learning isn’t causing localized COVID spikes, some public-health experts remain concerned about the possibility of transmission in the classroom, especially if proper safety protocols aren’t followed.
The state’s new restrictions go into effect this Friday.
Walsh also weighed in on the still-unfolding presidential election, saying every vote that has been cast deserves to be counted.
“Many states are still counting ballots, as we know,” said Walsh, who supports Democrat Joe Biden.
“The presidential election is very close in many of those states, so we have to be patient, and we have to respect the democratic process,” he added. “We have to respect the fact that people took time and care to vote yesterday. … No one should be calling to stop the count, or talking about fraud.”
That seemed like a clear allusion to President Donald Trump, who has asserted, falsely, that the ongoing counting of legal ballots is an attempt by Democrats to steal the election.
Walsh also urged any groups gathering publicly in the coming days to do so responsibly.
“I think there’ll definitely be some demonstrations over the next couple of days,” Walsh said. “I’m not concerned about violence in the city. I think we’ve proven here in Boston that we can demonstrate peacefully, and let our voices be heard.
“If you’re going to march in the streets of Boston, wear a mask,” he added. “If you’re going to demonstrate, wear a mask. If you’re going to walk to the store, wear a mask. If you’re going to go for a walk inside your home, wear a mask. Wherever you go, this is really important.”