Boston restaurants to close early, cut diners to fight virus

Coronavirus

Tables are vacant in the nearly empty tourist area of Quincy Market, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Boston. At rear is Faneuil Hall. Public health officials in Massachusetts said Wednesday that they are monitoring more than 445 people under self-quarantine for possible symptoms of the coronavirus, which has affected global tourism and business. For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — Restaurants and bars in Boston will have to reduce their dining room capacity by half and close early in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the city’s mayor announced Sunday.

Mayor Marty Walsh detailed the new rules on the same day that he declared a city public health emergency. That’s a formal step that city officials say will speed up the response to the virus and enable the city to seek state and federal aid.

Under the mayor’s order, restaurants will have to remove half of their tables and chairs to give diners more space and reduce the risk of transmission. In addition, lines outside restaurants will be prohibited, and all eateries will have to close at 11 p.m.

Drive-through restaurants and delivery and take-out restaurants will be exempt from the rules. Restaurants that violate the new rules are subject to an automatic 30-day closure.

“This is a time of shared sacrifice, and I know first hand we are capable of that in the city of Boston,” Walsh said at a Sunday afternoon news conference. “We are in this together.”

More than a dozen bars in South Boston voluntarily closed on Sunday, traditionally the focus of local revelry for St. Patrick’s Day, which is Tuesday, though the parade was scheduled for Sunday.

“We are in unchartered waters here and all need to heed the advice of public health professionals to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” state Sen. Nick Collins, a Democrat who represents the area and who announced the closures in a statement.

Walsh last week canceled the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, one of the world’s largest. It’s usually one of the city’s busiest days for visitors, but on Sunday key tourist destinations were largely empty.

The state has already banned public gatherings of more than 250 people. Public school classes in many parts of the state are canceled. In Boston, classes are canceled starting Tuesday, with most city schools still holding classes on Monday, so students may pick up their belongings and materials for home learning.

TOTAL CASES

On Saturday, the state reported 138 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. That was an increase of 15 over the day before. Another update is planned Sunday afternoon.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

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BAKER DEBUNKS QUARANTINE RUMORS

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, said he’s heard false rumors that the state will announce a broad quarantine for all residents Monday. He said it’s one example of the misinformation about coronavirus circulating online.

“We have no plans to do that,” he said of the rumored quarantine during an interview on WCVB-TV Sunday.

Baker urged residents to check trusted sources — government or legitimate news organizations — for the latest information on the virus.

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HEALTH WORKER INFECTED

A health care worker at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital has tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a statement, the hospital said that patients and staff who may have had contact with the infected worker are being contacted. Brigham and Women’s did not specify where the employee worked.

“The Brigham Health community has been preparing for this eventuality and has taken every precaution to protect our patients, their loved ones and our staff during this unprecedented pandemic,” a hospital spokesperson wrote in the statement emailed to reporters.

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DEATH ON FLIGHT TO BOSTON

Officials say a man who died while on a flight from Dubai to Boston will be tested for the coronavirus.

The 59-year-old Worcester resident had traveled to India this month and was returning Friday following a layover in Dubai. During the flight, authorities in Boston were notified of a passenger in cardiac arrest. The man was pronounced dead soon after landing.

The man had gastrointestinal illness in the days before his death, according to Massachusetts State Police.

While the man’s symptoms weren’t consistent with consistent with coronavirus, authorities say he will be tested because of his recent travel. An autopsy is pending.

According to the State Police, 322 passengers and 18 crew members were aboard the flight, Emirates EK237.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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