In the coming days, Boston residents will celebrate Passover and Easter, continue to observe Ramadan, cheer on the Red Sox during their home opener at Fenway Park, attend the 126th running of the Boston Marathon, and enjoy a week of school vacation.
With so much to look forward to, health officials are encouraging residents to remain vigilant about COVID-19, noting the threat of COVID still exists.
The Boston Public Health Commission issued a safety warning before people gather this weekend and next week, reminding people to take precautions to ensure they can experience everything Boston has to offer this spring by getting vaccinated or boosted, wearing a mask, testing, and staying home when they feel sick or test positive for COVID-19.
"Celebrating with family and friends is an important and treasured time, and as cases increase, we must remain vigilant so we can be together safely," said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. "We have the tools – testing, masking, vaccines, and boosters--to stay safe and lower the risk of COVID-19 infection and severe illness. I encourage everyone to look out for themselves and those around them by taking appropriate precautions before, during, and after gatherings this weekend and beyond."
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COVID cases have increased in Boston over the past few weeks. The community positivity rate is now up to 6.2-percent -- up from 2.2-percent in early March.
Seven neighborhoods in Boston currently have positivity rates above the commission's threshold for concern: Charlestown (8.2%), Allston-Brighton (7.9%), Back Bay/Beacon Hill/Downtown/North End/West End (7.6%), South Boston (7.0%), South End (6.9%), Jamaica Plain (6.2%), and West Roxbury (6.0%).
The city’s data also shows that people between ages 20-30 currently have the highest case rate citywide.
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"These increased rates, as we approach a holiday weekend, make it important for residents to take appropriate precautions to prevent further increases and help the city move out of the pandemic," read the commission's safety warning.
The commission asks residents to take the following steps to protect themselves and others:
- Wear a well-fitting mask to minimize your likelihood of contracting and spreading the virus. Masking is especially important for those who are at higher risk for severe illness, such as people who are not fully vaccinated, seniors, and those who are immunocompromised. Also consider wearing a mask around those who may be at high risk for severe COVID-19, especially if you may have been exposed to COVID-19 recently.
- Get tested before attending indoor gatherings, especially if you will be around high-risk individuals. There are several free, walk-in testing sites operating around the city, and results are usually available within 24 hours. For more information about where to find a test, visit boston.gov/covid19-testing or call the Mayor's Health Line at 617-534-5050. At-home tests are available for sale at retail stores. Your insurance plan may cover the cost of at-home tests. If you haven't already, you can order free tests at www.covid.gov/tests or by calling 1-800-232-0233.
- Stay up to date on your vaccinations by getting boosted. Boosters are essential for maintaining a strong immunity against COVID-19 and are effective for preventing severe illness that can result in hospitalization and even death. Boosters are widely available at free walk-in vaccine clinics throughout Boston. To find a vaccine clinic near you, visit boston.gov/covid19-vaccine.
- Open windows or gather outside as much as possible. This is especially important for businesses and houses of worship that expect to serve a higher number of patrons in the coming days.
- If you're feeling sick, please stay home and isolate to prevent further spread to those around you. Get tested, and if you test positive, call your doctor right away. Early treatments that prevent severe illness and hospitalization may be an option for you.
The state’s health commissioner, Margret Cooke, says the reality is there’s going to be fluctuations in the COVID variations and rates of transmission.
“The good news is we are not back where we were in the surge. We are not seeing the numbers or case counts that we saw in January of this year with Omicron, BA.2 is a variant of Omicron, and so we need to watch it carefully, but we are still seeing relatively low numbers here in Massachusetts,” Cooke said.
Meanwhile, the state is incentivizing getting a vaccine or booster during school vacation week, April 18-24. There are several locations around the state that will be hosting various giveaways -- including zoo tickets and $25 gift cards -- for those who get vaccinated or boosted. A similar effort was done in February. Click here for more information.