Boston Marathon

What to know about rising COVID-19 cases and the Boston Marathon

Here are the latest COVID trends in Boston ahead of Monday's marathon.

Medals are handed out to runners at the finish of the Boston Marathon in Boston in October. Allison Dinner/The New York Times
2022 Boston Marathon

COVID-19 cases are on the rise again, just as one of Boston’s most celebrated events is returning to its pre-pandemic spring routines with the familiar and long-missed sights and sounds of Back Bay in April.

The Boston Marathon is back.

For the first time since 2019, the historic and storied road race is happening on its usual spring date, only six months after organizers hosted the 125th Boston Marathon in October — a schedule change prompted by surging virus cases early last year.

Still, even as Massachusetts experienced a drop in coronavirus cases following this winter’s omicron-fueled surge, case counts have been ticking up again, leading local officials to urge race-goers to consider taking health precautions.

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Here’s what to know about COVID-19 and the 2022 Boston Marathon:

Boston’s positivity rate is above the city’s threshold. But other key metrics, such has hospitalization rates, are below the city’s level of concern.

Statewide COVID-19 data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health shows the Bay State’s seven-day weighted average percent positivity rate was 3.66 percent as of Wednesday. That’s far below the most recent surge, when, in January, the state recorded 23 percent positivity.

However, the rate is on the rise.

As of April 1, the percent positivity was 2.57 percent. A month ago, it was 1.6 percent.

In Boston, the latest data from the Boston Public Health Commission, dated Tuesday, shows the city’s positivity rate hit 6.5 percent — markedly above the city’s 5.0 percent threshold for concern.

“We are monitoring that very carefully,” Mayor Michelle Wu said earlier this week, when the rate hung at 5.4 percent.

But other COVID metrics in the city are also below important thresholds.

There were, for example, approximately 72 people hospitalized with COVID each day, as of Wednesday. The official threshold for that statistic is 200 people hospitalized per day.

Additionally, 89.1 percent of the city’s ICU beds are occupied — below the threshold of 95 percent.

Altogether, those metrics are the three indicators the Wu administration watched closely earlier this year when determining when to lift pandemic-related mandates, such as indoor mask and vaccination requirements.

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“We’re not there yet on those metrics, and we’re just watching the numbers there,” Wu said on Tuesday. “There have been fluctuations up and down. So we want to just see where this is going and make sure that it’s not headed on a continued upward trend.”

City health leaders are also monitoring COVID’s presence in area wastewater, a data set that has become crucial to tracking spread in real time.

The latest wastewater data shows a rise in COVID in Greater Boston, but experts are not in agreement about whether the trend signifies a surge or if the bump is simply a blip.

“Really our best leading indicator is the wastewater data, and we’ve seen a pretty big increase, over 100 percent increase, from today compared to two weeks ago,” Wu said. “And so we know that there’s continued transmission out in the community.”

There are no COVID-related mandates in the City of Boston right now.

With two out of three of the city’s crucial COVID metrics below the threshold of concern for public health leaders, there are no mandates requiring masks or proof of vaccination inside public establishments in Boston.

Both measures were lifted by March, before the city’s two-year-long declared public health emergency ended on April 1.

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However, MBTA passengers should keep their masks ready.

As required under federal regulations, masks are still required on public transportation, including in ride share services, such as Uber and Lyft.

State mask rules will still apply to the marathon’s medical tents as well, race organizers said.

“We will be following the same protocols that are in place in local hospitals, which include having all of our staff and patients masked to the most degree possible, emphasizing routine enhanced sanitation use, and setting up the footprint to maximize social distancing,” Boston Marathon Co-Medical Director Dr. Aaron Baggish, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told reporters on Thursday.

Baggish also said he believes Boston is in a “good place” amid the pandemic.

“I think here in Boston and our surrounding towns have all very much enjoyed the well deserved easing of the mask mandates and the COVID requirements over the past month or two, and this is really a reflection of the fact that we’re in a good place,” Baggish said. “Viral prevalence in the community is low and we’ve done a good job weathering the storm.”

Marathon participants and other personnel must be vaccinated. Organizers are also offering free COVID testing.

All marathon participants, vendors, volunteers, and other personnel are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or else provide a medical exemption.

Tom Grilk, president and CEO of the Boston Athletic Association, said Thursday race organizers consulted with the BAA’s COVID-19 advisory group, as they did last year.

“Just as the advisory group guided us to a successful race in October, we’re confident that their guidance will once again allow for a successful return here on Patriots Day,” Grilk said.

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The BAA will offer optional COVID testing at the Hynes Convention Center “for anyone who wants it,” Grilk said.

Additionally, individuals can be tested for COVID before or after the race at the city’s several, free testing locations.

Officials are asking the public to consider taking virus precautions as they take in the festivities.

Earlier this week, Wu urged the public to take personal health precautions when they turn out for Monday’s race.

“Even outdoors when many, many people are crowded together, it is a situation where we want everyone just to be aware,” Wu said. “And so if you are able to take a test before you attend, especially if you’re going to a party or a more crowded situation or an indoor event, that always helps.”

The Boston Public Health Commission also issued a formal statement reminding Bostonians to use caution, not only at the marathon, but also as they gather for Easter, Passover, and Ramadan this weekend, too.

“With so much to look forward to, the Boston Public Health Commission is encouraging residents to remain vigilant about COVID-19 and to use the tools that we know work — masking, vaccines, boosters, and testing — to protect themselves and those around them before gathering this week and next,” the commission wrote in a blog post.

The commission made these recommendations for staying healthy during the celebrations:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask
  • Get tested before going to indoor gatherings
  • Get a booster shot if you haven’t already
  • Gather outside and open windows as much as possible
  • If you’re feeling sick, stay home

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