Mayor Wu on Boston’s COVID thresholds and the school mask mandate

Mayor Wu answered some important COVID-19-related questions on Monday.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu answered two pressing questions about how the city is handling COVID-19 Monday on WBUR‘s Radio Boston.

In her monthly “Mondays with the Mayor” segment, Tiziana Dearing asked Wu to clarify what the city’s established COVID-19 monitoring thresholds mean in terms of impacting policy, now that the city has exceeded one of the thresholds for weeks now.

That threshold is the average COVID-19 test percent positivity rate for the city, which the city set at 5 percent for considering more COVID-19-related restrictions. Boston had a percent positivity rate of 6.8 as of Friday.

The other two thresholds that have been specified as influential to city policy are the weekly average number of positive tests per day and the average number of hospitalizations per day.


As of Friday, the average number of positive tests was about 40 per 100,000 residents, which is below the city’s threshold of 50 per 100,000, and the number of hospitalizations per day was at about 83 per day, which is below the city’s threshold of 200 per day.

“We specified that these three metrics would be used in concert with each other because we need to watch not only the spread of the virus in communities, but also the impact that it’s having on our healthcare system,” Wu told WBUR.

While transmission rates in the city have ticked up the last few weeks, Wu said, hospitalizations are still quite low.

Wu also said that COVID-19 wastewater data, which has been shown to be a reliable predictor of COVID-19 spread in a community, has been promising in the last few days, showing a decline.

“We’re monitoring every bit of information that we have and working to make sure that that is reflected in the policymaking,” she told WBUR.


Dearing also asked Wu a listener question about Boston’s school mask mandate, which is one of the last COVID-19 restrictions in place in the city.

“When can the masks come off at BPS? Windows can be open now. This is just getting so tiresome. Many other districts have had a voluntary mask policy for one year. Truly sucks for our kids,” the listener said.


“I know this has been incredibly, incredibly difficult for our families throughout this pandemic, because it’s felt not only like we are in situations that have unknown health consequences at times, but also that the process of changing protocols has lurched from surge to surge,” Wu said.

Wu said the primary concerns driving the city’s decision-making around masking in schools are the physical and mental health of the students.

Wu said she spends time in Boston Public Schools every week and also sends her boys off to Boston schools every day.

“I think about the toll that this is taking. I understand the fatigue. I understand the desire to just move on,” she said. “Unfortunately, Boston Public Schools has pretty big vaccination gaps when it comes to our young people, and that has factored into our decision making.”

Wu said that some school leaders have told her they think they and the kids are better off masking and are perhaps even more comfortable in school doing so because of the added level of safety, while others are ready to ditch the masks.

“We are watching the numbers very closely,” she said. “We are working to balance every bit of the public health knowledge and information with the needs of schools and school leaders on the ground.”


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