Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said construction has begun to build 1,000 beds for coronavirus patients at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport.
During a press conference Thursday, he said 500 of the beds would be dedicated to serving people who are homeless and have the coronavirus, but don't need full hospital care. The other 500 beds will be for coronavirus patients coming from hospitals.
Already, the city has established 560 beds for the homeless population at a former hospital in Brighton, a Suffolk University dorm, a closed wing at Boston Medical Center and tents outside homeless shelters.
Walsh said if needed, those who are homeless could be moved from the convention center to other locations to free up more space for hospital step-down patients.
"I'm hoping it stays empty," Walsh said.
The mayor said right now, hospitals say they are within capacity. But there are concerns that the number of patients will surge in the next few days. Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that new models predict the virus is likely to peak in Massachusetts between April 10 and 20.
In central Massachusetts, the DCU Center in Worcester is being converted to a 250-bed field hospital for stable COVID-19 patients.
Walsh provided several other updates Thursday:
- The city has created a small business relief fund: $2 million in available grants to businesses at risk of shutting down permanently because of the crisis. Businesses can begin applying Monday at boston.gov/businessrelief.
- The city put together a financial relief handbook for small businesses that will be updated regularly.
- There is a new fund for tenants who fall behind on rent, made up of $3 million in city and federal funds. Walsh said to email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Boston has issued more than 1,000 rental vouchers for the families of Boston Public Schools students.
Walsh again stressed the importance of physically distancing from anyone who isn't a household member. He says he is even avoiding seeing his mother, though he has delivered coffee to her, leaving it on her stoop.
He said he didn't want to issue fines or have police officers break up gatherings, but if there wasn't adherence to social distancing guidelines, Walsh said he would take those next steps.