As Boston tries to get a handle on the city’s COVID-19 spike the positive test rate in the North End and surrounding neighborhoods spiked dramatically according to the latest data released by the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC).
While North End’s COVID-19 positive test rate was decreasing steadily for the past few weeks the numbers jumped slightly two weeks ago but exploded last week.
Last week the BPHC reported that 28,161 North End, Beacon Hill, West End, Back Bay and Downtown residents were tested for COVID-19 and the data shows that 5 percent of those tested were COVID positive. This was a 138 percent increase from the 2.1 percent testing positive as reported two weeks ago. The citywide average was 7.8 percent, up 13 percent from the 5.9 percent that tested positive two weeks ago.
Overall since the pandemic began 2.7 percent of North End, Beacon Hill, West End, Back Bay and Downtown residents were found to be COVID positive.
The infection rate in the North End and surrounding neighborhoods increased 7.2 percent in one week according to the latest city statistics.
The BPHC data released last Friday showed the North End, Beacon Hill, West End, Back Bay and Downtown had an infection rate of 139.9 cases per 10,000 residents, up from 130.5 cases per 10,000 residents.
Fifty-four more residents became infected with the virus and the total number of cases in the area increased from 726 cases to 780 cases as of last Friday.
The statistics released by the BPHC as part of its weekly COVID19 report breaks down the number of cases and infection rates in each neighborhood. It also breaks down the number of cases by age, gender and race.
Citywide positive cases of coronavirus last week were set at 21,275 cases and deaths from the virus were totaled at 871. This seems like a huge jump from last week’s numbers but the BPHC explained the numbers posted Tuesday, “include a one-time increase that is part of an ongoing effort to ensure data accuracy in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The additional cases are no longer active and were contacted appropriately when the individual tested positive. The additional deaths are spread out over the last 3 to 6 months.”
In response to the spikes here and across the city, Mayor Martin Walsh is urging everyone to get tested in order to stop the spread.
The philosophy of Walsh’s administration is now, ‘the more people who know they have COVID, the more we can isolate the sick from the healthy’.
In order to ensure more people get tested Walsh said Tuesday the city has continued to add free testing resources, especially in neighborhoods with higher case rates.
The Mayor noted that the City has passed the 20,000 case mark, or 2.9 percent of Boston’s population, a clear indicator of the reach of the virus and the work needed to prevent further spread.
Last week Walsh unveiled the city’s “Get the Test, Boston” pledge, campaign, and social media toolkit. The new initiative to encourage everyone to get tested regularly for COVID-19.
He discussed the importance of getting tested as part of keeping yourself and your family safe, and helping the City track the presence of the virus and respond effectively.
“The City is currently investing in more testing resources, more contact tracing capacity, and more ability to support people who need to quarantine,” said Walsh. “But, despite increased access, we’ve seen our daily testing numbers fall off in recent weeks.”
The Mayor said we need to get more people tested, and asked for everyone’s help.
“Reasons to get tested immediately include having COVID-like symptoms, having been exposed to someone with a confirmed case, having been part of a large gathering, or having recently traveled,” he said. “In addition the virus is spreading among people who don’t have symptoms who may not know they’ve been exposed. So we want everyone to be proactive and get tested if you are leaving your house for any reason.”
The Mayor said that he gets tested regularly and that it’s a quick and painless experience. He also called it an opportunity to arm yourself with knowledge and be part of our community’s defense against this virus.
“We will soon have stickers available at our mobile testing sites that say “I got the test” to help raise awareness and show there is no stigma to getting tested,” he said. “We also have a social media toolkit available and we’re asking everyone to promote the importance of getting tested throughout their networks.”
The Mayor recognized that work hours can make it harder to find time to get tested, so he is asking employers to make it easier for workers to get tested.
“The “Get the Test, Boston” Pledge is a commitment that employers and individuals can make to support testing access,” said Walsh. “It keeps your workforce healthy and productive, it prevents an outbreak that could hurt business, and it’s a way to help our city avoid having to roll back reopening. The City of Boston is taking the Pledge and offering eligible City employees one paid hour every 14 days to get tested during work hours. Employees will receive regular compensation for their time spent testing, and will not be required to use sick or personal time for that hour.”
Other employers can fulfill the Pledge in ways that work for them and their industry.
“All you have to do is encourage your employees to get tested and provide them with information about how and where to get tested,” said Walsh. “You can also consider giving paid time off, or other forms of flexibility, for workers to get tested during work hours.”