Party’s over — or else.
That’s the message city councilors want to send to people in South Boston and elsewhere around the city who continue to hold large gatherings in violation of coronavirus guidelines.
City Councilors Ed Flynn and Michael Flaherty, both South Boston natives, have filed a hearing order “to discuss ways to better enforce rules regarding house parties and indoor gatherings.” The order raises “the possibility of raising fines” on people who continue to flaunt the COVID-19 rules.
The councilors’ news release says, “There have been concerning reports of large house parties in South Boston and the potential for super spreader events due to a lack of proper physical distancing and mask wearing.”
They wrote that neighbors also have complained non-COVID issues, including noise and trash-disposal problems.
“I’ve heard from many concerned residents about the increasing number of large house parties in our neighborhood and across the city,” Flynn, a district councilor who represents Southie and Chinatown, said in the statement. “This creates not only a potential public health issue with a super spreader event in the age of COVID-19, but also a quality of life issue with noise and trash debris impacting their neighbors — including our seniors, children, persons with disabilities.”
The Boston Police Department even before coronavirus began operating a “party line” people can call to drop a dime on over-exuberant gatherings. The city has said it doesn’t keep data on calls to the line, so it has no information to make available about the COVID-era calls.
“House parties have always been a major quality of life issue, both in South Boston and across the city, but the presence of COVID-19 has completely raised the stakes on the matter, shifting it from a quality of life issue to a major public health concern,” Flaherty, an at-large councilor who lives in South Boston, said in the statement.
Under current COVID rules, indoor gatherings in Boston are limited to 25 people. Although violators are staring down the possibility of a $500 fine, Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin Walsh both have repeatedly said that people holding parties are contributing to the again-rising numbers of virus cases.
White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx in Boston Friday stressed public spaces such as retail stores and restaurants have become very safe, but people tend to let their guard down around family and friends in private settings.
Those parties, she added, is driving a wave of new coronavirus cases and has the potential to result in “full blown spread.”
She warned “if you wait until people have symptoms, you’ve waited too long.”