BOSTON (CBS) — Mayor Marty Walsh on Thursday said Boston is “entering into a very critical time” in the coronavirus pandemic. Now his top health adviser says the city is “definitely considering” tightening reopening restrictions, including pausing indoor dining at restaurants for up to three weeks and stricter limits on the number of people allowed at gatherings.
Health and Human Services Chief Marty Martinez said during a virtual roundtable discussion about the pandemic that city leaders are looking at “how they might tighten restrictions on some of the reopening efforts.”
Possibilities include a pause on indoor dining for a period of 14 to 21 days, a reduction of indoor gathering capacity to 10 people and a reduction of outdoor gatherings to 25 people. Those who organize gatherings of more than 25 people could be fined.
“None of these are set in stone and none of these are ready to be implemented,” Martinez said. “But we are considering these types of restrictions on our reopening efforts while we try to get COVID more under control.”
Boston’s positivity rate is at 7.8% and rising in recent weeks, and Walsh is urging everyone in the city to get tested. The city has paused its school reopening plan amid the surge in cases.
“While we are seeing this increase in cases, we are definitely considering these potential tightening of restrictions because more indoor activity with more people is going to continue to spread COVID,” Martinez said.
Boston restaurants owners like Frank DePasqaule hope the city ultimately does not pause indoor dining.
“I hope that the cases go down,” said DePasquale, who owns seven North End restaurants. “We’ve already lost maybe 50 percent of our restaurants in Boston. We’d hate to lose the rest of them.”
Despite social distancing and sanitizing measures already put in place, experts say indoor dining isn’t necessarily safe.
“What we know about the virus is that it spreads when large numbers of people gather indoors, especially if they are not wearing masks,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the Dean of Public Health at Brown University. “Indoor dining is one of the major culprits of spread.”
DePasquale says he’ll roll with the punches to do anything to keep business afloat. But switching back to takeout only won’t be enough.
“In reality, it’s really like five percent, 10 percent,” said DePasquale. “It’s not enough to keep a restaurant alive.“