Walsh: Boston ‘still experiencing surge’ in coronavirus cases as testing expands

BOSTON (WHDH) - Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Friday said that Boston is “still experiencing a surge” in coronavirus cases before announcing that the city has “significantly” increased its COVID-19 testing capacity.

“Today is May 1. We are still experiencing a surge in cases. Every day remains critical to slowing the spread and saving lives. The good news is that we’re making a difference,” Walsh said during a news conference at City Hall. “Social distancing is working. The added care capacity is working. Hospitals are treating critical care patients with the resources they need. They are saving lives.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Boston had 9,271 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 357 deaths across the city. More than 2,000 Bostinains have recovered from the virus.

RELATED: Dozens of Mass. communities now require residents to wear a face mask in public

Walsh said that Boston has “significantly” expanded its testing capacity over the course of the past week, with the number of tests increasing by over 44 percent from the previous week.

New testing indicates that the percentage of people testing positive in East Boston is on the decline, although the neighborhood still has the highest rate of positive tests in the city, according to Walsh.

“What we find with more testing is we are able to look at the information and dissect the information to see where we are standing,” Walsh said.

Mattapan, Hyde Park, Roxbury, and West Roxbury saw the biggest decrease in positive tests compared to last week’s data, Walsh noted, but South Boston and the Fenway area are experiencing higher positive testing rates.

“We’re going to keep working to increase the testing in these neighborhoods. We’re working to open new test sites in Jamaica Plain and Charlestown to expand our testing capacity,” Walsh said. “We’re going to keep expanding access across the city to get a better picture of how the virus is impacting neighborhoods and our people.”

Walsh announced that 28,000 Boston residents have been tested this week with 32 percent coming back positive, which is a slight decrease from last week.

“We are going to keep working around the clock to provide testing, support, and information,” Walsh said. “We need everyone to stay focused on what you can do to slow the spread.”

Walsh said that there are still too many reports of people not wearing masks in public places, especially among young people.

“You’re not helping yourself and you’re not helping the people who are delivering services to you,” Walsh said of those who continue to enter grocery stores and coffee shops without a mask.

Walsh also called out residents of South Boston who have been running and walking on the beach with no face coverings on.

RELATED: Expert report predicts up to two more years of pandemic misery

“You can look at the correlation between people not taking care of themselves and not watching out for other people and seeing higher COVID rates of people testing positive,” Walsh said. “Again, please wear a mask.”

The city is now working with the state to “strengthen guidance” on the need for all Massachusetts residents to wear a face-covering in public, according to Walsh.

“It’s important to understand that too many people are leaving their home and putting others at risk,” Walsh said.

With beautiful weather in the weekend forecast, Walsh warned residents not to gather in groups.

“If you are going to a park and you see it’s crowded, turn around and leave. It’s that simple,” Walsh said. “I want you to be smart and do your part.”

Walsh said the city is “having a lot of conversations” about reopening but he warned that it will never be a reality if people refuse to adhere to the precautions that are in place to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Walsh urged all Bostonians to continue practicing preventive measures to ensure that the city sees a downturn in COVID positive cases as testing ramps up.

Click here for more coronavirus coverage.

(Copyright (c) 2020 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)