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Walsh: Boston doesn't have to shut indoor dining yet, but ask him in another week

COVID-19 Media Availability 11-17-20

Mayor Walsh said that with Covid-19 numbers rapidly increasing in Boston, he's begun to consider whether Boston needs to follow other cities, most recently Philadelphia, and shut restaurant indoor dining again - although he added we're not quite at that point yet and Bostonians can still turn things around the way they did earlier this year.

And if that happens, ISD enforcement of the state 10-person limit on indoor gatherings would not be far behind, Walsh said at a morning press conference outside City Hall.

Walsh said the city saw 224 Covid-19 cases today, compared to just 10 to 15 a day in the summer, and that the percentage of people who get positive Covid-19 test results is now near 10% citywide.

Boston is not yet at the point where stricter measures than constant requests to wear masks and wash hands are needed, but we're not far from that point, he said. If the numbers don't start coming down, "we're going to have to do more. ... In the end, there is no economic recovery without public health."

Referring specifically to indoor dining, he said, "If need be we will will take that action in Boston." He said he does not have a specific trigger number, but will look at all the stats before making such a decision. "The last resort would be to shut things down and we're headed to that last resort."

He said one good sign so far is that while new case numbers are now approaching the numbers seen in the spring surge, hospitalization rates have yet to rise as rapidly - and he said that Bostonians brought Covid-19 rates down once before and they can do it again.

But with data showing workplaces and indoor gatherings as major spreader spots, he pleaded with people to avoid parties - and to do that doubly for Thanksgiving, which he urged people to spend only with their immediate households.

ISD is working on how to enforce 10-person max. indoor gathering, he said. The city doesn't want to do that, but people, landlords will get fined if numbers keep going up. Covid is a deadly matter, creates strains on hospitals and local economies - look at long food lines in other cities, he said.

"This is real, this isn't something made up," he said. Yes, it's hard, being human means wanting to get together, but we're talking death, economic devastation otherwise if we don't get this under control, he said.

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But with data showing workplaces and indoor gatherings as major spreader spots...

A restaurant is both a workplace and an indoor gathering. There is a direct correlation to zip codes with the highest COVID spread and the zip codes in which much of the staff who works at these restaurants live.

And although many establishments are transparent and posting on social media when a staff member tests positive, there is no required duty to inform the public (as there is when an establishment suffers a food borne illness outbreak) and not every restaurant discloses positive tests amongst active staff.

A recent Stanford University study shows that reducing restaurant occupancy to 20% of maximum reduces risk of covid transmission to 18% of what it would be at full capacity. This is good news, but let’s be clear: reduced capacity doesn’t mean 0 risk. Consider this the next time you dine out indoors and consider that MA restaurants are currently allowed to operate at 50%.

https://news.stanford.edu/2020/11/10/computer-model-can-predict-covid-19...

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https://www.mass.gov/doc/weekly-covid-19-public-health-report-november-1...

Unregulated indoor gatherings are the problem, not regulated indoor gatherings such as restaurants. Scroll down to page 38 on the link above to see Covid clusters/cases by setting. You'll see the state's numbers show restaurants are no more responsible for spread than any other setting. Only 94 cases traced to restaurants between the period of 10/11-11/7. Most of the spread is from household to household. Not from private businesses which are following all the protocols to operate safely. How can anyone recommend closing down an entire industry based on these numbers?

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Those numbers are based on the states poor contact tracing program, which has only been able to identify half of cases. And it's probably skewed to the half that's easier to track, like family gatherings, prisons, nursing homes, etc. That's a terribly low number when its not a random cohort. Other real studies, like the one cited by the first poster, show why other cities and states are shutting indoor dining, gyms, casinos. We were late shutting down before, and it looks like baker and Walsh are repeating the same mistakes.

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With the caveat that Stanford did not look at Greater Boston:

The study, published today in the journal Nature, merges demographic data, epidemiological estimates and anonymous cellphone location information, and appears to confirm that most COVID-19 transmissions occur at “superspreader” sites, like full-service restaurants, fitness centers and cafes, where people remain in close quarters for extended periods.

I would not eat in a 50% capacity indoor restaurant right now. And given that we are now, what?, 3 weeks into uncontrolled spread, and remembering the CDC study from September that 2 out of every 3 Covid-positive people reported dining out in the week before their test, waiting another week to reduce capacity seems like either paralysis of analysis or hoping for a miracle. It does not seem like responsive, prudent governing.

I am acutely aware that Covid has already crushed independent restaurants and workers and it’s set to get worse for those who have survived thus far, but this isn’t August where spread was low. There is no rational reason to choose to dine indoors unless you find seating at off-peak hours and there are far fewer diners than allowable guests. Eat outside or stay home.

[As an aside, the $120B RESTAURANTS Act has been passed by the House sitting on McConnell’s desk for +6 weeks, but Republicans have abdicated all duty to responsible governance and would rather force the the Bakers and the Walshes of the world into an impossible choice of unleashing further Covid spread through dine-in restaurants or grinding independent restaurants and their workers into oblivion. It’s criminal-level negligence and Mitch McConnell deserves to rot in Hell for this.]

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Yes, the overwhelming majority of the defined clusters in this data is 'household', but it seems like it's almost a given that this will spread within households once someone brings it home. What's more important is where it came from outside the household. Are these household numbers just unknowns, where they were unable to contact trace outside the home? Are they defaulting to household when more than one person in the household gets it, even if there are other connections? To me it seems like incomplete data, which makes the other numbers seem less significant.

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Kids and teachers should be back in the classroom? I don't get some of their logic.

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You can teach with a mask on. You can learn with a mask on. You can't eat with a mask on.

Also schools are more important than effing restaurants.

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I guess my comment was more about the hypocrisy of what the Mayor wants to open, and what the Mayor wants to close. Indoor dining = bad, schools = fine. If he was on one side or the other he'd be consistent, but he isn't. The Governor falls into that same category.

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The virus doesn’t care how important the gathering is.

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Any ideas on how schools should handle lunch and snack? I have a friend who just got covid after having lunch with a family member. Just the two of them.

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The state is going to lockdown. The public health officials are telling him we are going to lockdown. Most of Europe is locking down. It is going to be painful and destructive but all the delay is going to do is make it more painful on the other end and increase deaths.

Stay at home advisory with non essential businesses closed. Do it now, do it before thanksgiving, do it with heavy fines for gathering above six adults from multiple households, get to work on making grocery store and pharmacies curbside only.

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Curbside only? No way, I want to pick out my own meats, fruits and eggs. Call Peapod if you’re scared.

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I want to do lots of things that used to be normal. But I don’t, to ensure the safety of myself, my family, and the entire community.

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About preventing exposing store workers to COVID

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If we're calling people scared, how about you go tell these guys to stop being such big babies?

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...and they can do it again", he says.

How did "Bostonians" bring the rates down before? Did it perchance involve closing indoor dining?

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If people would just stop jogging outside without masks COVID would be over. Indoor dining is fine but walking outside is most certainly not.

/S

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If you had said people with dogs it would have been funnier. To me.

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No restaurants, no gyms, no retail, no grocery stores, no nothing until a vaccine is ready for EVERYONE

When will people learn that merely stepping outside is putting hundreds of thousands of people's lives at risk?

Please stop being incredibly selfish and start quarantining no matter what until there is a vaccine.

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