Walsh, Baker extend shutdowns as coronavirus cases increase
Gov. Charlie Baker extended the closure of schools in Massachusetts until May 4 and Mayor Martin Walsh extended the ban on construction projects until further notice, during separate press conferences Wednesday.
The new measures came as the number of people infected with the coronavirus in Massachusetts rose to 1,838 cases amid increased testing. In Boston, there were 197 cases counted by Wednesday afternoon, with two deaths and 21 people having made a full recovery.
Baker’s and Walsh’s orders ran counter to signals from the President Donald Trump, who yesterday said that restrictions should be lifted by Easter, less than three weeks away.
Speaking about what he said are mixed messages coming from Washington, Walsh said the focus in Boston is on public health.
“Our focus should be on saving lives, preventing the spread of the virus,” he said in a briefing with reporters in front of City Hall. “There is no economic recovery without public health.”
Other recent updates:
The city will continue providing breakfast and lunch for Boston students at meal sites in community centers and other facilities. (See the city’s map of meal sites.)
Playgrounds and tot lots are now closed. Parks remain open, but city officials encourage park users to remain at least six feet away from others.
All Boston Public Library branches are closed, as are community centers, public gyms and pools. Some community centers will continue to serve as sites of meal distribution for students.
Walsh announced that the Boston Resiliency Fund has raised more than $20 million to help communities cope with the effects of the pandemic. The fund has disbursed $5 million to assist with senior and low-income food programs, including the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Ethos Meals on Wheels program and Community Servings.
Programs assisting homeless people also received funds, including Boston Health Care for the Homeless, Boston Medical Center and the Pine Street Inn.
At the state level, Gov. Baker announced the state Division of Banks has outlined steps his administration expects financial institutions to take in response to the financial impacts of the epidemic. These include postponing foreclosures for 60 days and observing a 60-day period in which banks will not report late payments to credit rating agencies.
The state Department of Housing and Community Development has directed state-funded public housing developments to suspend all non-emergency evictions.
Action urged on mortgages, rents
Walsh expressed support for a discussion of District 5 City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo’s proposed ordinance placing a moratorium on rents, mortgage payments, evictions and foreclosures.
“I think that’s something that’s really important for us as we move forward,” he said. “It’s something we need to have more than a conversation about and some action on.”
He also urged landlords and homeowners facing hardship to talk to their banks about deferring mortgage payments.