Walsh: Covid cases at spring-like numbers

Melissa Leason administered a COVID-19 test on Nov. 5 during a pop-up testing clinic held at the Jubilee Christian Church parking lot on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan. John Wilcox/Mayor's Office photo

Boston is experiencing another spike in fresh Covid-19 cases, a grim marker that Mayor Walsh warned on Tuesday could get worse in the coming days and weeks. The city notched its single largest one-day total since June on Nov. 12 and Monday of this week brought 293 new confirmed cases and 4 new deaths over the weekend.  

“The daily cases we’re seeing are starting to look like the numbers we saw near our peak in April in May in the commonwealth and in the city,” Walsh said. “Hospital admissions are not at that level, but they have increased over time.”

Testing data for the week ending Nov. 12 showed that an average of 2,340 Boston residents are being tested daily. The average daily positive result went up to 7.9 percent, with seven Boston neighborhood rates over 10 percent. East Boston led the pack at 16.8 percent. As of Tuesday, Dorchester zip codes 02122 and 02124 are at 14.6 percent; 02121 and 02125 at 14.2 percent, with Mattapan at 13.3 percent.

The city will position one of its mobile testing sites (there are 30 citywide) at Mattapan’s Jubilee Christian Church throughout the weekend. City health officials will begin releasing six new coronavirus metrics twice a week, on Monday and Saturdays, and they will include the average number of daily cases, community level positivity, average daily tests, and three hospital metrics: ICU beds, overall beds, and the average number of patients visiting emergency rooms with Covid-like symptoms. 

“The hospital capacity metrics are all about making sure we can take care of those who need the most care and the other three allow us to look at Covid across all of our communities,” said Marty Martinez, Boston’s chief of Health and Human Services.

“We are going to introduce a new adjusted metric looking at community-level recent positivity. Right now, we look at unique individual testing positivity and the adjusted metric will look at the total number of individuals that have been tested over the last 7 days and those who have tested positive. That percentage will allow us to look at more recent community-level positivity and not cumulative— which is what we have been looking at.”

The percentage of occupied non-surgical ICU beds as of yesterday was 81 percent, according to Martinez. “Our goal has been to keep it under 85 percent. We’ve been at or under for some time. In the spring we were at well over 125 percent,” he said.  

When asked about the new coronavirus metrics, Walsh said, “It’s within our own ability to get these numbers down,” adding that he doesn’t want to be “at this podium three weeks from now” closing parts of the economy down. 

In-person learning for Boston Public School’s most high-need students continued on Monday after all other classroom learning halted last month when cases began to climb. Walsh said that the rest of the BPS students will remain in remote learning until further notice. He urged city employers to continue following public health guidelines, especially around break areas.  

“Many employers do have a choice to make. I’m asking everyone who can to commit to that to help get through the winter safely. Please continue to permit and promote working from home whenever possible,” Walsh said. 

He also urged Bostonians to spend Thanksgiving holiday “only with those in your current households.” And indoor gatherings should be limited to 10 people and everyone should be wearing masks and social distancing when not eating, he added. 

“We have nine days before Thanksgiving, and we have the ability in our own power to not have that spread. We’ve worked hard to get to this point and we don’t want to go backwards,” said Walsh.

Rita Nieves,  executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said that officials are very concerned about the possibility of upcoming holidays creating transmissions during small gatherings. 

“We are concerned about not only Thanksgiving but the upcoming holidays in December,” she said. “As we all know, there’s a lot of Covid fatigue and people are tired of being apart. As the holidays come in, people will gravitate to do what they always do around the holidays: come together.”