Boston health officials ‘strongly’ recommend masking while indoors or on public transit

Boston health officials ‘strongly’ recommend masking while indoors or on public transit

Public health officials in Boston are “strongly” recommending residents mask up while indoors or on public transportation as cases continue a weeks-long increase in the city.

The Boston Public Health Commission reported the city averaging 61 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents a day and a community positive rate of over 11% — well above the 5% threshold city officials set as a measure for when citywide policy actions may be needed.

BPHC Executive Director Dr. Bisola Ojikutu said there has been a “significant increase” in cases and hospitalizations.

“COVID-19 testing remains a critical tool to decrease the risk of transmission to others, particularly those who are older, immunocompromised, and unvaccinated. They remain at high risk for severe illness.” Ojikutu said. “We need to decrease onward transmission to others. Please test prior to gatherings, wear a well-fitted mask in indoor settings, including public transportation and get boosted if you have not been already.”

The commission is also recommending proper indoor ventilation by opening windows when possible, gathering outdoors instead of indoors, testing for COVID-19, and contacting health care providers about ant-viral treatments if diagnosed with the virus.

A coalition of elected officials and public health experts called on the Baker administration Wednesday to reinstate public health protections like mask mandates at public schools and on public transportation.

“We need to bring back masks until the surge has passed, improve ventilation and air filtration where we can do so immediately, and vaccinate and boost as quickly as possible to save lives and protect children and adults from Long COVID and other serious health outcomes,” said Boston University School of Public Health Assistant Professor Julia Raifman, a member of the Massachusetts Coalition for Health Equity.

Speaking to reporters at an unrelated event Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker pointed to vaccination rates in Massachusetts in response to questions about masks in schools.

“We continue to have mask requirements in places where we believe that our vulnerable populations can be served — long-term care facilities, senior care facilities, primary care operations, health care facilities,” Baker told reporters. “But we believe the most important thing people can do to keep themselves and their family members safe is to get vaccinated.”

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said earlier this week that she is not planning to implement an indoor mask mandate even with cases on the rise, GBH News reported.

The Department of Public Health reported 3,948 new confirmed cases Wednesday along with 10 confirmed deaths. The seven-day average positivity rate is 9%, according to DPH.

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