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Boston Public Health Commission Declares Health Emergency; Restaurant Restrictions, School Closings

The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) has declared a public health emergency in the City of Boston due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This will allow BPHC to increase the availability of staff and resources dedicated to the response effort. Declaring a public health emergency can also help cities seeking additional resources and support from the state and federal government.

What this means for schools

Boston Public Schools (BPS) will close districtwide on Tuesday, March 17 until April 27. All schools will be open on Monday, March 16 to ensure a smooth transition, with the exception of the Eliot Schools and McKinley Schools, which are already closed.

To support the 72% of BPS students who rely on free meals at school, families can pick up packaged meal options at 47 locations across the city. Additionally, the City of Boston in partnership with Project Bread, YMCA of Greater Boston, Boston Centers for Youth and Families, and other community organizations will be providing free meals to school-aged children at various locations and times.

To continue students’ learning outside of school, educational resources will be set up with Google Classroom, an outline platform that all BPS students use, where students and families can find materials and work independently on activities at home. This work will not be graded, but will be encouraged to help prevent lost learning time.

Many internet service providers, including Comcast, have offered discounted or no-cost options for students and families. To supplement the need for additional computers, BPS has purchased an additional 20,000 Chromebook laptops to make sure that every student in need of a device will have access to one. Distribution sites will be set up throughout the city.

What this means for restaurants, bars, and night clubs

Boston’s Licensing Board is is requiring all restaurants, bar rooms, and night clubs to reduce overall capacity by 50 percent, remove tables and chairs to reflect that reduced capacity, and follow the guidelines around social distancing.

All licensed establishments will not be allowed to have lines outside, and hours will be reduced to close at 11:00 p.m.

For any restaurant or bar room that serves food, the Board is lifting regulations to allow for take out service, which means that all restaurants and bar rooms that serve food can now provide take out service. The Board encourages the use of delivery services. The City’s Office of Small Business can help support these services.

Beer gardens will not be opening until the public health emergency is over.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

To protect Bostonians and their families from the spread of the virus, residents are reminded to practice caution: wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol; avoid shaking hands; cover your coughs and sneezes; clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces; and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

If you think you might be sick, call your doctor or 311 to be connected to the Mayor’s Health Line. Residents are also reminded to practice social distancing: keep your distance from others (six feet apart); avoid crowded places.