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Mayor Walsh Discusses City’s Reopening Strategy with Wharf District Council

Stressing the need for a slow and cautious approach to reopening the City, Mayor Walsh opened his discussion with the Wharf District Council at their May meeting by referencing the latest COVID-19 numbers, which as of Wednesday, May 20, stood at 588 deaths and over 12,000 reported cases in Boston.

Watch the full meeting video below. Mayor Walsh begins speaking at 24:12.

Mayor Walsh then went on to answer many questions from the Council and meeting attendees. Read the full report or jump to points of interest broken out by topic below.

Restaurants, Hotels, and Hospitality

The restaurants and lodging will have to wait until phase two of Governor Baker’s four-phase plan in order to further revive operations. With each phase designed to last three weeks, and relying on trending public health data, insights were sought on what is being done at the City level to assist businesses.

“We want to keep our main streets alive and prevent restaurants from shutting down,” Walsh said, adding that the City is currently digging into multiple approaches with the City’s Chief of Streets Chris Osgood and other departments to figure out solutions to support struggling business owners.

Outdoor dining was discussed and is a measure the City supports with a working plan in place. Walsh acknowledged that having to free up parking spaces for accomodation may mean having to make difficult decisions. Indoor dining is not off the table, but public safety remains a priority.

Boston Planning and Development Agency

Asked if the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) has made any progress toward adapting all of its meetings to virtual, Walsh replied that no definitive date has been set for a complete transition.

The public review process for Article 80 projects and BPDA planning studies remain on hold until further notice.

Voting

One resident brought up COVID-19’s impact on voting and referenced vote-by-mail.

Mayor Walsh voiced his support for vote-by-mail. Walsh added that a discussion is ongoing on whether to designate November 3rd as a one-day public holiday to facilitate a safer in-person experience.

The City is currently reaching out to senior housing, schools, and other facilities ahead of the elections to ensure a state of readiness at polling places.

Schools

Asked whether or not grade school will be making an in-person return in the Fall, Walsh replied that no decision has been reached, but cited the recent antibody test results released on May 15th as playing a role in continued conversations with Boston Public Schools (BPS) and other officials regarding student safety.

Colleges have “a bit of a way to go” Walsh admitted, with the overall situation still being very fluid and different institutions mapping out strategies to combat and deal with the pandemic.

Northern Avenue Bridge

The Northern Avenue Bridge Project was discussed, with Walsh stating his confidence in the bridge being able to relieve tension along the South Boston Waterfront due to emergency vehicles and buses traveling one-way.

Capital funds have been allocated, but COVID-19 may present challenges in regards to the project timeline.

Tourism

It may take well over a year for tourism to return to full strength, with all large summer events canceled in Boston. The Mayor estimated we may start to see an increase in visitors in the fall if most colleges reopen due to families coming into the city.

Mayor Walsh addressed many of these issues and more in Tuesday’s press conference. Watch the full video below. The WDC has also uploaded a recording of the meeting which may also be viewed below.

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