Withthe North End and the surrounding area’s weekly COVID positive test rates continuing to slowly drop week after week the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MassDPH) announced an update to its statewide mask advisory. The updated policy now puts mask wearing in the hands of individuals regardless of vaccination status. However, all people in the state, regardless of vaccination status, are required to continue wearing masks or face coverings in certain settings, including in health care facilities. “To protect friends and family members, residents are reminded that getting a vaccine and booster remain the best way to protect against serious illness or hospitalization from COVID-19,” said Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke. “Based on our nation-leading vaccination efforts, DPH now recommends that Massachusetts residents have the option to make a personal choice about wearing a mask or face covering in indoor settings regardless of vaccination status.” MassDPH continues to advise masks for individuals with a weakened immune system, those at increased risk for severe disease because of age or underlying conditions, or who have a household member with a weakened immune system and at increased risk. Last week, 1,072 North End, Beacon Hill, Back Bay,West End and Downtown residents were tested for the virus last week and 11.3 percent were positive–this was a 18 percent decrease from the 13.8 percent that tested positive as reported by the BPHC on June 6. One hundred twenty one additional residents contracted the virus between June 6 and June 13 there have now been 11,140 confirmed cases in the neighborhood since the start of the pandemic. Boston’s citywide weekly positive test rate stayed the same last week with 13,924 residents tested citywide and 9.5 percent testing positive for COVID positive. 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 increased 0.7 percent last week and went from 190,394 to 191,740 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic. There were four additional deaths in Boston from the virus in the past week and the total number of COVID deaths is now at 1,478.