BOSTON – Sunday, March 15, 2020 – Today, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is declaring a public health emergency in the City of Boston due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This is a progressive step in line with the Boston Public Health Commission’s COVID-19 Response Plan that allows BPHC the authority to increase the availability of staff and resources, and enhance reporting, information and resource sharing among Boston’s health and medical community.
“The health and safety of each and every Boston resident is our first priority. At this point, we are undoubtedly experiencing a public health emergency in the City of Boston, and it is clear that we need to activate every tool at our disposal,” said Mayor Walsh. “This declaration will enable us to activate and deploy all the public health resources and personnel necessary to meet the needs of the moment.”
The declaration is an essential step to respond to and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and wellbeing of Boston’s residents. This response requires an all hands-on approach and calls for heightened coordination across BPHC’s bureaus and programs, City departments and health care partners. Declared public health emergencies can aid cities in seeking additional resources and support from the state and federal government. Within BPHC, the declaration allows for internal personnel and resources to be redirected towards the response effort.
Certain populations, including older adults, anyone with underlying health conditions (such as heart or lung disease or diabetes, anyone with weakened immune systems), and anyone who is pregnant, are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. All residents are urged to practice social distancing (approximately 6 feet away from other people) whenever possible and to continue to wash hands, utilize hand sanitizer and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your inner elbow. Residents should take measures to limit interactions with persons who are at higher risk for COVID-19.
“The health and wellbeing of Boston’s residents, particularly the most vulnerable, are our top priority as the City’s health department,” stated Rita Nieves. “This declaration will allow us to strengthen our response to this outbreak.”
BPHC has activated its Medical Intelligence Center, which supports coordination across health and medical partners, resource assistance and information sharing. BPHC is working actively with the City’s Office of Emergency Management, to support collaboration across departments and align response efforts.
While most individuals experience only minor symptoms associated with COVID-19, older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk. As of March 15, 2020, there are 29 cases (confirmed and presumptive positive) of COVID-19 in Boston residents.
Since January, the Boston Public Health Commission and Boston EMS have taken extensive steps to prepare for a potential outbreak of COVID-19. BPHC and Boston EMS have been engaged in daily communications with city, state, federal and community partners, including hospitals, schools and public safety departments to ensure they have the latest information on guidance, best practices and recommendations.