Walsh urges Bostonians to refrain from in-person First Night gatherings

The most recent data from the Boston Public Health Commission shows a graphic of covid-19 cases in the city since last March.

With the allure of New Year’s festivities approaching, Mayor Martin Walsh urged Bostonians to avoid travelling, attending holiday parties, or gathering with anyone outside of their households during a press conference Wednesday.

Walsh told reporters inside Faneuil Hall there were 569 new covid-19 cases and 6 deaths reported Wednesday.

“Yesterday we surpassed the 1,000 death toll. Each of these numbers represent a person with a family and a community that is grieving them everyday,” he said.

“The end of the year is a time to reflect on those we've lost. I know a lot of people are tired of living with the virus and that it’s tempting to let your guards down, but the virus is still with us and the New Year doesn’t mean it will go away.”
Walsh noted that covid-related hospitalizations are higher now than they were in June.

“This virus is pretty serious and as we’ve seen, looking at these numbers over the last two months, we’ve been averaging anywhere from 400-500 cases per day, we are seeing these numbers going the wrong directions. I can’t stress to people the importance of people being careful,” he said.

“We’re excited that 2020 is coming to a close. Our safety guidance looks very different this year but it’s just as important as last year.”

The mayor strongly urged residents not to travel for the holiday, host parties or small gatherings with more than 10 people, or gather with anyone outside of their immediate households.

“A major source of virus transmission is small gatherings. When you’re with people you don’t live with you’re coming into contact with everyone they live with or have been around,” said Walsh.

First Night celebrations in the city will take on a completely virtual format to ring in the New Year; performances will be streamed at firstnightboston.org.

Walsh said that Bostonians should also be careful about drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis. “It can lower peoples’ inhibitions and cause them to forget to wear masks and social distance,” he said. “Excessive drinking can also lead to increased violence.”

Walsh continued: “I want to be clear and ask people to not have New Year’s Eve parties this year, that includes small gatherings. The number today —560 plus people that got covid— is probably a sign of what we’re expecting over the next couple of weeks here after the Christmas Holiday seeing an increase.”

Boston police officers will be patrolling neighborhoods as usual.

“We all know that the celebration of 2021 coming in there are no planned events. A lot of you will be celebrating virtually. If you are going to have gatherings please adhere to the CDC guidelines and protocols. Please, no parties,” said BPD Commissioner Gross.

“All of my 11 districts will be fully staffed, hiring additional coverage, we anticipate there could be loud or unruly parties. We want everyone to celebrate responsibly. We will be out there, we ask everyone to listen to what the mayor says, please be safe.”

When asked how the city might enforce potential New Year’s Eve parties and large gatherings, Walsh replied that any 311 or 911 complaints could result in a violation.

“If we get complaints, police will be knocking on doors,” he said. “Police will be giving those addresses to ISD (Inspectional Services Department) and we will probably be writing violations if there are more than 10 people in that house.”

Walsh pulled the city back in its reopening plans to Phase 2 Step 2 just a few weeks ago, and the most recent state guidelines have restricted all indoor activity to 25 percent capacity.

The mayor said that further pullbacks on re-openings “Is not something that I want to do as a mayor, or that the governor or other officials want to do. But if we don't get these numbers down and we have overcapacity in hour hospitals we’re going to have to take further action.”

Walsh encouraged “anyone and everyone” to get tested for the virus, especially people who have travelled or plan to travel for the holidays. Each of the city’s 30 testing sites will be closed on New Year’s Day, but regular schedules will resume the following day.

Covid-19 vaccine distribution has begun this week for EMTs and in long-term care facilities this week.

“We will follow the lead of the state who put together a vaccine distribution schedule that will prioritize our most at risk residents,” said Walsh.

“We’re going to encourage everyone to get vaccinated when your time comes. It’s safe, it’s going to be free and it’s the best way to protect everyone around you and start getting back to a normal life.

“Many people will continue to struggle through 2021, and more support is needed. I’m calling on Washington to take bold action, and here in the state, for the Massachusetts Legislature to pass the Development Bond Bill,” said Walsh.

The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) extended its moratorium on non-essential eviction through February.

“2020 has certainly been one of the most challenging years that we’ve seen in Boston and in the country. It’s been a year most of us will never forget, but through it all, Boston has grown stronger and more united in many ways.” said Walsh.
“As we head into 2021 and to a brighter future, let's bring that same spirit of resilience with us.”