Boston, one of the first major cities in the U.S. to shut down all but emergency construction work to curb the COVID-19 outbreak, is extending its building ban “until further notice” as virus-related deaths and infections mount.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a former union laborer and buildnig trades leader, had initially announced a two-week halt when he unveiled the shutdown order on March 16.
But on March 25, with 1,838 infections and 15 deaths in Massachusetts and the number of new cases growing rapidly, he extended the ban indefinitely.
In a press statement, Walsh noted that “large gatherings such as those at construction sites have been proven to escalate the spread of the coronavirus.”
While not offering any timetable for when Boston might reevaluate its stance, Walsh said the city is working with both construction companies and unions in the building trades to “determine protocols” so that work can safely resume.
Walsh’s decision to extend the ban comes even as other state and local officials have allowed a range of major building projects to move forward, including in Boston.
Despite Walsh’s ban, work has continued unabated in Boston’s Seaport District on a Hyatt Place Hotel and in the neighboring Ora Seaport, a 304-unit apartment building. While they are located on Boston’s waterfront, the buildings are exempt from Walsh’s order because they sit on land controlled by the Massachusetts Port Authority.
In contrast to Walsh, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) classified construction work as “essential” in his March 23 order for all "non-essential" businesses and organizations to close for two weeks.
Construction continues to operate with COVID-19 regulations in cities and towns that neighbor Boston, including Brookline.
Boston’s decision to shut down construction comes amid an epic building boom in the city.
There were 97 different active construction projects across the city before the ban went into place last week, for a total of more than 21 million sq ft of new or renovated residential, office and commercial space, according to the Boston Planning and Development Agency.
"The safety and health of construction workers and all residents of Boston is my first priority, and I am not willing to put that at risk as the virus spreads throughout our communities," Walsh said.