Back Bay, Surrounding Area’s Weekly COVID Positive Test-Rate Nears 15 Percent: Public Health Officials Brace for Spike During Graduation Season

The Back Bay and the surrounding area’s COVID positive test rates jumped to nearly 15 percent last week forcing Boston public health officials to brace for a potential new spike in cases during graduation season.

While it seems the latest surge in COVID cases is beginning to decline in some neighborhoods, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is strongly urging students, parents and family members to take extra precautions as they gather for graduation ceremonies and graduation parties throughout June.

Last week the BPHC put out an alert asking residents to wear masks at indoor ceremonies, be up to date on vaccinations, hold parties or graduation ceremonies outdoors when feasible and use an at home rapid test to check for a potential COVID infection before heading to a crowded ceremony or party.

Last week, 989 Back Bay, Beacon Hill, North End, West End and Downtown residents were tested for the virus last week and 13.9 percent were positive–this was a 16 percent increase from the 12 percent that tested positive as reported by the BPHC on May 30.

One hundred thirty seven additional residents contracted the virus between May 30 and June 6 and there have now been 11,030 confirmed cases in the neighborhood since the start of the pandemic.

Boston’s citywide weekly positive test rate decreased slightly last week but remains above 11 percent.

According to the BPHC 18,277 residents were tested citywide last week and 9.5 percent were COVID positive–this was a 14 percent decrease from the 11.1 percent that reportedly tested positive for the week ending on May 30.

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 1 percent last week and went from 188,509 to 190,394 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic. 

There were five additional deaths in Boston from the virus in the past week and the total number of COVID deaths is now at 1,474.

​For this season’s graduations and large events, the BPHC recommends:

• Vaccination: Attendees should be strongly encouraged to get fully vaccinated and boosted prior to the event. Please consider sending reminder communications prior to the event.

• Respiratory etiquette and masking: Attendees should be strongly encouraged or required to wear face masks during indoor events. We strongly recommend that individuals at high risk for severe COVID-19 disease, such as seniors, those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, and those who are not fully vaccinated, use masks during indoor events given current COVID-19 community levels. Limiting consumption of food and beverages during events, particularly those that are hosted indoors, may help to minimize mask removals. Medical grade face masks should be made available during the event for attendees. Hand sanitizer should be readily available.

• Testing: Attendees should be encouraged to test with 1) Rapid at-home test the day of the graduation OR 2) PCR testing within 24-48 hours of the graduation. Rapid at-home testing kits should be made available to families and staff.

• Test for COVID-19 at least 5 days after an exposure or attending a large indoor event, such as a graduation—or sooner if experiencing symptoms of COVID-19–to prevent onward transmission.

• Ventilation: All events should be held outdoors whenever feasible.

• If indoors, use as large a space as possible with as much ventilation (fresh outdoor air, not recirculated). Please open windows whenever feasible to maximize ventilation. Tents with more than two sides count as ‘indoors’.

• Symptom screening: Attendees should be reminded to self-screen for symptoms on the day of event and to stay home if they are feeling sick and/or experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. Please consider adding signage in the entrance to this effect.

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