Here’s why residents of Boston just received a COVID-19 emergency alert

“The purpose of this messaging tool is to help residents remain vigilant.”

Accidental cuts and bruises to the face, head and neck from cellphones are sending increasing numbers of Americans to the emergency room.
–Matt Rourke / AP, File

If you live in, or near, a community that has been designated by Massachusetts public health officials as being at high risk for COVID-19, you may be hearing directly from the state about how to stay safe from the virus.

Since Oct. 19, the state’s COVID Enforcement and Intervention Team and COVID-19 Command Center have been sending out emergency alerts to cell phones in high-risk communities to remind residents to remain on guard against the virus.

These emergency alerts began zapping local phones at 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, and continued this Monday, as a reminder to members of numerous high-risk communities including Acushnet, Attleboro, Boston, Brockton, Chelmsford, Gloucester, Holyoke, Hudson, Kingston, Lawrence, Leicester, Lowell, Malden, Marlborough, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, Plymouth, Randolph, Springfield, Waltham, Webster, and Woburn.

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77 communities in Massachusetts have been designated as high risk for the coronavirus.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency reported on Twitter that nearby communities may also receive these COVID-19 alerts due to cell tower locations.

“The purpose of this messaging tool is to help residents remain vigilant,” Tory Mazzola, a spokesperson for the Command Center, said in a statement. “We cannot let our guard down because our actions — wearing a mask or stopping gatherings with extended family and friends, for instance — can save lives and stop the spread.”

According to Mazzola, because the COVID-19 alert system can reach every cell phone in a designated area, sending alerts about the risk of the virus will help “get people’s attention,” remind them of the measures needed to prevent the spread of coronavirus and of ways to get more information. Phones in nearby communities may also receive the alerts due to the cell tower locations, according to the state.

The first alerts were sent out on Oct. 19 between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. in both English and Spanish, using the following template:

MAGovt Alert COVID19 is a serious threat in [city/town name]. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Do not share food drinks utensils. Stay home if sick. Get a free COVID test. Stop gatherings with family and friends. Protect you and your loved ones. For more info visit mass.gov/stopcovid19

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The state said the wireless alert system is just one tool in a broader messaging campaign to stop the spread of COVID-19, which includes field teams, paid advertising, and other communications related to the pandemic.


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