Doctors Urge Masks in Crowds, Vaccination as New COVID Variant Spreads

Infectious disease experts are advising precaution amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases

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Concern is growing amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

According to the CDC, the XBB subvariant accounts for more than half of all cases in New England. It is emerging while a lot of families are off enjoying holiday vacation, so many of them have started taking precautions.

The Boston Children's Museum is experiencing one of the busiest weeks since before the pandemic. Many families are eager to beat cabin fever, but they know getting out comes with some risk.

"We're keeping the mask on all of the time. We like to stay on the cautious side of things," said Shuai Niu, who came with his wife and daughter.

The museum is also doing its part. They close for 90 minutes in the middle of the day for a deep clean.

"We started doing that during COVID, and we're still doing that. It gives us a chance to get everything extra clean, get fresh air cycled into the building and all of that," said Justine DeCotis, the director of visitor experience at Boston Children's Museum.

Top Boston doctors talk about rising COVID wastewater levels, the newly dominant XBB variant and whether Boston Public Schools should implement a temporary mask mandate during NBC10 Boston’s weekly “COVID Q&A” series.

Dr. Richard Ellison, an infectious disease expert at UMass Memorial, said keeping protocols in place is not a bad idea, especially during the busy holiday season.

"If you're traveling in crowded areas or on airplanes, it's a good time to be wearing a mask," Ellison said.

Infectious disease experts are also keeping a close eye on surging cases in China. The United States just announced visitors from China will soon be required to have a negative COVID test amid fears of a new variant spreading in that country.

"We don't know what variants could be spreading in China. We don't know if someone from China could be introducing a brand new variant," Ellison said.

Doctors said the uptick is another reason why getting the latest COVID vaccine booster is so important. Pinnacle Partnerships hosted a clinic in Brockton Thursday, offering $75 gift cards for Market Basket to anyone who got the vaccine.

"It's definitely brought out more people. They are definitely interested in the gift cards, and we want to be able to keep families safe," said Winnie Boussicaut of Pinnacle Partnerships.

They plan on hosting more clinics with gift cards at the Westgate Mall in January.

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