With the Omicron COVID variant now the most prevalent variant sweeping across the US–making up nearly 75 percent of all new cases–the Back Bay and the surrounding areas’s weekly COVID positive test rate rose once again ahead of the Christmas Holiday. With COVID infections spreading like wildfire Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced Monday a new initiative to require vaccination in certain indoor spaces in the city, including indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment establishments
. The new “B Together” initiative will begin January 15 and will phase in second vaccine doses and youth vaccination requirements. Both patrons and employees of indoor venues will be required to show proof of vaccination and the indoor mask mandate remains in effect.
“Vaccines are the most powerful tool we have to fight this pandemic. Vaccination saves lives, and closing vaccination gaps is the best way to support and protect our communities, businesses, and cultural institutions during this pandemic,” said Mayor Wu at a City Hall press conference Monday.
“The vast majority of COVID-related hospitalizations are of unvaccinated individuals, which is impacting our entire healthcare system and compromising the health of our communities. Today’s steps to protect community members in certain indoor establishments and throughout our city workforce will help ensure that everyone in Boston will be safe. City government must take down barriers and direct our resources for easy access to testing and vaccination to protect our city and all of our communities.”
According to the weekly report released Monday by the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), 2,693 Back Bay, Beacon Hill, North End, West End and Downtown residents were tested and 6.2 percent were positive. This was a 29 percent increase from the 4.8 percent that tested positive between December 6 and December 13. The weekly positive test rate is up 100 percent in the area since December 6. However, the citywide weekly positive test rate remained the same last week. According to the BPHC 30,754 residents were tested and 6.7 percent were COVID positive–this was the same percentage reported by the BPHC on December 13. One hundred sixty seven additional residents have been infected with the virus between December 13 and December 20 and the total number of cases in the area increased to 4,846 cases overall since the pandemic began.
“COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in Boston. The B Together initiative is just one component of a multilayered, comprehensive strategy that the city has implemented to address COVID-19 and promote the health and safety of Boston residents,” said Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission Dr. Bisola Ojikutu. “We must also ensure that every Bostonian has easier access to vaccines and boosters, and we will be rolling out new sites across the city.” Starting January 15, 2022, patrons of covered businesses will be required to show proof of vaccination upon entering the premises. The order states that individuals can demonstrate vaccination by showing their CDC vaccination card or a photo of their card, any official immunization record or digital image from a pharmacy or health care provider, or on any COVID-19 vaccine verification app.
The city also announced plans to create its own app, modeled on the successful Key to NYC app that has supported the vaccine requirement effort in New York City. Businesses included will also be required to post a notice at all entrances. The city will begin a weeks-long campaign to educate residents and businesses about the new policy, utilizing city outreach workers and inspectional services. Businesses found not in compliance will receive verbal and written warnings. Repeat offenders may be subject to fines.
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 four percent last week and went from 92,170 cases to 95,790 confirmed cases in a week.