COVID

City encourages indoor masks as Boston’s COVID cases rise nearly 40 percent in past week

"Based on current trends, it isĀ essential that people protect themselves and others."

Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, speaks at City Hall in December. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe
More on BA.5

COVID-19 cases in Boston rose nearly 40 percent and hospitalized cases jumped nearly 25 percent in the past week, prompting the city’s health officials on Friday to encourage the public to mask-up when inside crowded indoor spaces.

The Boston Public Health Commission said cases rose 38.9 percent and hospitalized patients admitted with the contagious virus jumped 24.6 percent over the past seven days.

Hospitals are now averaging 151 new COVID-related admissions a day.

The BPHC attributed the spike largely to the rise of the BA.5 variant of the virus, which is now propelling most new cases across Massachusetts.

The variant can more easily evade immunity built up by those who have already had COVID-19, though it is unclear whether the latest variant prompts more severe illness than previous variants.

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In the past two weeks alone, virus infections have jumped by 6 percent across the country, hospitalizations by 17 percent, and deaths by 13 percent as the new variant sets in.

Now, Boston public health leaders are reminding residents to take precautions amid the pandemic’s latest evolution.

“Cases are increasing, as are hospitalizations. We are following our citywide trends closely, and we suggest that everyone follow recommended precautions to reduce risk,” Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, the city’s commissioner of public health and executive director of the BPHC, said in a statement on Friday. “Based on current trends, it is essential that people protect themselves and others by wearing masks within indoor crowded settings, testing, isolating if they’re sick, and staying up to date with their vaccinations which will reduce the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”

According to the BPHC, COVID-19 levels in local wastewater have spiked by 21 percent over the past week, with 728 RNA copies of the virus per milliliter in the water.

Officials noted that although the number remains lower than the 1,000-plus particles present in early June, COVID presence in area water was “relatively high” as of Friday. (By comparison, levels were “as low as 100 particles/mL in March,” the BPHC said.)

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The city’s community positivity rate stands at 10.1 percent.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Suffolk County is currently at medium community risk for COVID-19.

“For medium risk, we encourage masking within crowded indoor spaces for everyone to decrease the risk of transmission, staying up to date
with vaccination, and testing if you are ill and prior to large indoor events,” the BPHC said Friday.

The BA.5 variant appears to evade vaccine immunity, but booster shots can help add protection, experts say.

In Boston, 73.9 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, and 55.9 percent of those who are have also received a booster shot, according to the BPHC. Just over 47 percent of children ages 5-11 are also fully vaccinated, and vaccines are now available for everyone ages 6 months and older.

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