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Walsh Declares Public Health Emergency In Boston, Orders Bars And Restaurants To Cut Capacity

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh declared a citywide public health emergency on Sunday and announced new requirements for bars, restaurants and clubs in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus in the city.

Walsh said that eating and drinking establishments would be required to reduce their capacity by 50 percent, close by 11 p.m. every night and prohibit lines from forming outside. Businesses that violate these requirements will be automatically shut down for 30 days, he said.

The city is also lifting regulations on delivery services for restaurants, Walsh said, and restaurants without a license for takeout will be able to get one Monday.

After a St. Patrick's Day weekend in which people flocked to bars in Boston, Walsh had a "strong message" for anyone thinking about going out and being in large crowds, ignoring recommendations to "socially distance."

"This isn't about you. This is about your fellow Bostonians," he said. "It's about your grandmothers and grandparents. It's about your neighbors who are sick. It's about children in .. your buildings that have asthma. The tradition of St. Patrick's Day celebrates a community that survived hardship because of social solidarity. That's what we need right now, social solidarity."

Hours before Walsh's announcement, bars and restaurants mostly in South Boston agreed to close.

The public health declaration, Walsh said, will facilitate cooperation between Boston's hospitals and healthcare providers, improve the city's ability to respond to emerging developments, and help the city seek support from the state and federal governments.

Walsh stressed that the city is committed to meeting the needs of economically disadvantaged students in light of citywide public school closures, and that families could pick up meals at dozens of designated "stations" throughout the city starting Tuesday.

Additionally, Walsh said that every Boston Public School student who needed one would be provided a Google Chromebook by the city for remote learning, and that the city is working with internet providers to reduce or eliminate the cost of internet service for affected families.

Walsh also said the city was looking into meeting childcare needs for families affected by school closures, and for those whose childcare providers have shut down due to the outbreak.

Walsh emphasized the importance of social distancing in reducing the ultimate impact of the outbreak on the city.

“Remember, this is not a snow day," he said. "The more seriously we take this situation now, the sooner that life in our city can go back to normal."

As of Saturday there are 29 known cases of coronavirus in Boston and 164 known cases in the state.

This article was originally published on March 15, 2020.

Liam Knox Twitter Digital Producer
Freelance digital producer for On Point and WBUR news. 

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