As holiday celebrations begin and a winter storm keeps most people indoors, Boston public health officials said residents should take precautions against COVID-19 this week with the virus at elevated levels.
The warning comes as Officials in western Massachusetts have, too urged residents to practice COVID-19 safety as other respiratory illnesses such as RSV and influenza make their rounds. In Boston, Boston Public Health Commission officials said that COVID-19 and the flu “remain a concern” throughout the city.
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“The holidays are an important time to gather and celebrate with loved ones. However, with the high levels of COVID-19 and influenza in Boston, it is important that we all take precautions to protect ourselves and others,” said the Commission’s Executive Director, Dr. Bisola Ojikutu. “We are asking people to plan accordingly by getting tested before gatherings, staying home if they’re sick, wearing masks indoors, and staying up-to-date with their COVID-19 and flu shots.”
Levels of COVID-19 in local sewage are “high,” the commission said, with cases of COVID-19 diagnosed through PCR tests up 11% over the past two weeks and hospitalizations up 31% over the week recently and 72% during the past. two weeks.
The flu also continues to “spread throughout our communities at a very high rate,” health officials said, with 886 cases reported between Dec. 10 and Dec. 16.
“Both COVID-19 and influenza can result in serious illness, especially among those at highest risk, and the viral respiratory infection has caused increased strain on Boston hospitals,” the commission said.
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Vaccination rates have also slowed “significantly” in recent weeks, officials said, even as the federal government approved the use of specific omicron boosters for children ages six months to five years.
Only 13% of residents received the new booster, including nearly 18% of people over the age of 65, who are at higher risk for severe infection. The commission said the numbers suggest “many are vulnerable to infection at a critical time”.
In a nationwide COVID-19 report published Thursday, the Department of Public Health reported 9,216 confirmed cases, 96 deaths and a seven-day average rate of 9.6%.
And state health officials also reported more than 65,000 vaccine doses administered in the past seven days, according to Dec. 19 data.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists every county except Hampden and Berkshire counties at moderate risk for COVID-19. This means that people at high risk of being “overexposed” should wear a high-quality mask or respirator.
“If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk of becoming very ill, consider self-testing for infection before contact and consider wearing a high-quality mask when indoors with them,” it says the agency.
Hampden County is at high risk for COVID-19, according to the CDC. Officials said residents should wear a mask or high-quality respirator and recommend those at high risk of becoming very ill “consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities. Berkshire County is ranked as low risk for COVID-19.
In western Massachusetts, officials at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield told MassLive earlier this month that cases in the city were “staying flat.” But cases of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus were on the rise.
People still need to take precautions, a health official said.
“You have to know the risk and you have to be responsible,” said Dr. Armando Paez, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Baystate Medical Center.