Walsh: Negative COVID test doesn’t ensure a normal Thanksgiving

Mayor Martin Walsh said Boston has seen a large increase in the number of Bostonians getting tested for covid-19. An average of 4,800 people were tested last week, up 1,000 from the previous week (not including colleges.)

“I want to thank everyone who’s taken time out of their schedule to get tested. We expect and encourage this interest in getting tested to continue and will continue to work on our capacity to expand testing,” Walsh told reporters outside of City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

“I know many people wanted to get tested before Thanksgiving, but we don’t want people to think that a negative test result allows you to have a normal Thanksgiving. You must still take precautions.”

When asked if he is concerned that people will not have test results back in time for Thanksgiving, Walsh had this to say: "A negative test result should not change the way that you approach Thanksgiving. You must and have to take all precautions regardless. We cannot test our way to a safe Thanksgiving. Our Thanksgiving guidelines remain the same.

“It is true that health centers are testing more patients than ever before so some people are thinking that it’s safe to be able to gather," the mayor added. "Right now is not the time to do it."

“My concern about tomorrow is that we, as family members, generally get together. We have no idea where and who other people have been in contact with that’s why it’s so important to keep it to your immediate household tomorrow.”

The average rate of positive tests returned each day last week was 215, a decrease from the previous week, said Walsh.

On Tuesday, 187 Bostonians tested positive and one died from COVID-19 related illness, bringing the city’s overall totals to 25,962 confirmed cases and 903 deaths.

The most recent data posted on the Boston Public Health Commission's website as of Nov. 20 shows that Mattapan and Dorchester remain well above the citywide average positive rate of 6.2 percent.

Dorchester zip codes 02122/02124 are at 12.1 percent and 02121/02125 at 13.1 percent. Mattapan’s positivity rate is at 13.2 percent. East Boston has the city’s highest positive rate at 15.4 percent.

“Every neighborhood saw positivity rates go down except for Mattapan, which had a really small uptick,” said Walsh.

The city’s free mobile sites will be open Wednesday and Saturday in East Boston, and at Mattapan’s Jubilee Christian Church.

The city city is working on adding a third mobile testing team to its current fleet, and has a network of more than 30 testing sites.

The mayor said the decrease in positive rates is an encouraging sign but that Bostonians “need to keep it going.”

Those that do choose to gather for Thanksgiving are advised to keep indoor gatherings limited to 10 people, enforce mask wearing, clean surfaces frequently, and encourage social distancing.

“Overall the data continues to tell us that viral transmission is happening in every community— each of us are at risk of infection and our older and medically at risk relatives continue to face higher risk of severe illness,” said Walsh. “As a community we face the collective risk of surges over the winter so we have to work to keep that down and all of us individually have the power to work to keep the numbers trending down.”

“We see a big increase in testing and less people testing positive. So the metrics are moving in the right way in the hospital and also not showing that capacity has been stressed yet,” added Marty Martinez, chief of Health and Human services for the city. “The voice of caution suggests that one week of data does not make a trend. We need to continue to do what’s necessary as Bostonians to ensure that we continue to see the decrease in activity.”

When asked about the possibility of a shut down on indoor dining in restaurants, Walsh said if the city’s numbers continue to trend downward, there would be no concern.

“In the last seven days we’ve been seeing a decrease (in positive covid numbers) for the first time in five weeks. If we continue in that trend then there’s no conversation about shutting things and restaurants down,” he said.

“Right now, we have no intention of shutting down restaurants. In a week from now if the numbers go up we might have a different conversation.”

On the role the city could play in an eventual role out of a COVID-19 vaccine, Walsh said the city has been “working with the state right now on plans of how it will be rolled out. But I thinkPresident-Elect Joe Biden will probably be responsible for coming up with a system of how we get it into the streets. It will be a coordinated effort. We don’t have an answer to that yet but we will be talking about that as we move closer. Need to make sure it’s covered by insurance,” said Walsh.