Walsh: city seeing ‘definite’ covid-19 trend in last five weeks
Dorchester posted the highest covid-19 test rate this week, at 11.9 percent, well above the citywide average of 7.9 percent.
“It’s been five consistent weeks that we are seeing these numbers go up which is concerning,” Mayor Walsh said during a press conference on Thursday in City Hall. “The focus now must be to turn around this trend and we are definitely seeing a trend now.”
The Boston Public Health Commission’s most recent data show that the citywide average positive covid-19 test rate increased from 6 percent the prior week (Oct. 11 - 17) to 7.8 percent this week (Oct. 18 - 24.)
Dorchester zip codes 02122 and 02124 posted the city’s highest positivity rate at 11.9 percent; 02121 and 02125 are at 10.1 percent. Boston’s second highest positivity rate—10.9 percent—was recorded in Mattapan.
The city recorded 106 new covid-19 cases and 1 death on Tuesday, Walsh said, bringing Boston’s total caseload and death tolls to 19,986 and 778, respectively.
“Today we will probably hit the 20,000 case mark when numbers come in later. We still have much work to do to keep people safe,”said Walsh. “The data continues to reflect a steady increase in Covid activity in Boston, similar to what other cities and towns are seeing statewide.
It’s not close to the number we saw in April and hospital admissions still remain lower than we saw in our peak.”
The mayor urged all Bostonians to commit to regular Covid testing so that the city can get a better picture of how and where the virus is spreading and respond accordingly.
“The bottom line is that we’re entering into a very critical time in this pandemic—the most critical since the beginning. The numbers have gone up, but they don’t have to keep going up,” he said.
Walsh said officials will continue to target educational resources and mobile testing in the neighborhoods seeing the highest infection rates, mentioning Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, Roxbury and East Boston.
“We are also going to focus on workplaces because that’s where many people are coming into contact,” said Walsh, announcing that the city is launching a “call to action and asking everyone to commit to getting tested for covid-19.”
“Testing is how we track the presence of the virus in our community. We need a more accurate picture so we can focus on an effective response. We have more than 30 active testing sites citywide,” he said.
“We have a major advantage compared to our situation earlier in the pandemic. As of now we are investing in our testing, contract tracing capacity, and ability to support people who need to quarantine. Despite increased access we have seen the daily testing average fall off in the past weeks. As we head into a critical time we need to turn that around.”
Anyone who gets tested for coronavirus at one of Boston’s Community Health Centers or mobile testing sites will now receive an “I Got Tested” sticker, which Walsh hopes will “raise awareness and show that there’s no stigma around getting tested.”
Marty Martinez, the city’s chief of Health and Human Services, said that the city’s hospitals are better prepared for any potential surge in covid cases than they were last Spring.
“They are also better prepared to take care of people. Although there’s currently a slight uptick in emergency room visits and hospitalizations in the ICU, we are not nearing the numbers we saw in the last surge,” Martinez. “Right now we have I think probably 100-plus covid positive patients in our Boston hospitals. At our highest peak we were close to I think 1,500 people in the hospitals.”
The Walsh administration is also asking employers to support the push and urge employees to get tested. Employers can now sign onto the “Boston Testing Pledge,” essentially a commitment to promote testing.
“We’re offering any eligible City of Boston employee 1 paid hour every 14 days to get tested during work hours,” said Walsh.
“Employers will receive regular compensation for their time spent getting tested and will not be required to use sick time or personal time for that hour. Other employers can use the pledge in ways that work for them in their industry.”
About 20 employers have signed the city’s pledge, Walsh said, including the Boston Red Sox.
The mayor reminded Bostonians of Halloween-related restrictions, which include no door-knocking, minimal face-to-face contact, and a minimum of 6 to 8 feet of social distancing between trick-or-treaters.
Families are also advised not to go out as groups, and all participants must be wearing masks.
“Costumes are not a substitute for a mask,” said Walsh. “Masks must be worn underneath any costumes.”
“There should be no adult parties this weekend. That’s where we are seeing some of the increases in numbers in daily positive rates with people under the age of 29,” the mayor added.
Walsh added that the city has “paused the Boston Public Schools reopening plan until we see a consistent lower positive test rate.”
He said that Superintendent Brenda Cassellius is working on new ways to expand in-home services to students with special needs.