Mayor Walsh said today that office buildings in Boston will re-open a week later than in the state because the sheer potential crush of people going back to work here means the city needs to spend some extra time working with office-building owners and employers to ensure things are done safely. And he urged barbers, salon owners and religious leaders to think long and hard about whether they're really ready to re-open safely.
For heaven's sake, he said at a press conference at City Hall, religious leaders who do decided to re-open their houses of worship should not allow choruses to start up.
Even with an extra week, Walsh said he is not comfortable with the state's plan to let offices re-open at up to 25% of their listed occupancy, at least at first. That's just too high, he said, adding he is concerned about the impact on the T if people cram back onto it to get to work, especially since it plans to continue to run on a modified Saturday schedule.
Walsh said a city team plans to have guidelines out for large employers next week on how to keep their workers and visitors safe. He said he was heartened to read that two large employers - Liberty Mutual and Mass. Mutual - have said they won't be re-opening until later in the summer and will instead continue to have employees work at home. Walsh said companies that do re-open should consider staggered hours to reduce the loads on the T if nothing else.
He added that, at least in the first week, there are currently enough spaces in what are now emergency child-care centers in Boston for workers who need a place to drop off their kids, but that the city is talking to state officials about what happens after that as more people return to work.
He said he'd rather go slow than fast with re-opening because the city has to get it right and protect residents' health, "we have to get it right, we can't afford to have a second shutdown." He pointed to the shutdown of Stella's in the South End and said the city would permanently lose more businesses if no re-opening is allowed. so we have to get it right, we can't afford to have a second shutdown. At same time, he said he'll do whatever it takes to protect safety of Bostonians.
And that includes keeping the current voluntary overnight curfew and public-health emergency declaration in place "for the foreseeable future." So keep washing hands, wearing masks while shopping, social distance and stay at home when possible, he said, adding that because of the way Covid-19 spreads, he expects it will take a couple of weeks before testing can show whether the initial phase of re-opening was safe, or as safe as can be with a disease that spreads as easily as the common cold.
The mayor continued that he hopes to have plans ready within a week for how to let restaurants across the city claim sidewalk space for outdoor dining, possibly by expanding sidewalks onto parts of roadways. ""I don't think we're going to be shutting down streets in the city," but maybe partially shutting down some streets, he said.
The mayor continued that BTD is working to carve out parking spaces for retail stores that want to re-open with curbside delivery, similar to what the department had done earlier in the pandemic for restaurants.
Walsh said he understands barbershops and salons want to re-open, but said not all will be able to comply with state safety regulations - and urged owners who are not comfortable with complying to not re-open. He declined to say if he would feel comfortable getting a haircut next week, but allowed, "Won't say if he'd be comfortable getting a haircut next week, says safety protocols will keep a lot of barbers and hair salons from opening. "I certainly would like to get a haircut, I haven't had one in awhile."
He added: "If you're a gym owner in Boston, do not open your doors." But he also said he thinks Boston gym owners are smarter than counterparts elsewhere who have vowed to re-open and screw state regulations.
Walsh added that Boston Public Library branches will remain shut. ""We're not anywhere near ready to open libraries yet," he said, adding they might re-open once the state gives the OK for customers to go back into stores.