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New COVID-19 Cases Slow in Boston; Per Study 90% Have Not Been Exposed [COVID-19 Weekly Update]

The number of newly reported positive COVID-19 cases in Boston dropped significantly this week, under 750, and the first time below 1,000 since March. And of those, 5.3% went to the hospital, down from a peak of over 11% in early April.

The North End, Downtown, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill had a total of 347 positive cases of the coronavirus, a rate of 62.3 per 10,000 residents, in the most recent report from the Boston Public Health Commission. Last week, there were 328 positive cases. Within the city, the downtown neighborhoods, Allston/Brighton, Charlestown, Fenway, Jamaica Plain, South Boston, and West Roxbury have relatively lower incidence rates while East Boston, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale, Roxbury, and the South End have higher incidence rates.

The total number of positive COVID-19 cases for Boston the week ending with May 15th currently stands at 11,527 with 558 total deaths, according to the most recent data.

There were 62 new deaths this week citywide, representing a 27% decrease from last week. Tuesday, May 12th was the first time the City of Boston had no new deaths to report in a twenty-four hour period. The majority of this week’s daily new deaths have been reporting in the single digits.

Results from the City of Boston’s antibody and COVID-19 study with Mass. General Hospital shows that approximately 10% of Boston residents have been exposed to the virus. The sample study tested 5,000 residents in certain areas, indicating that about one in ten residents have developed antibodies and one in forty residents are asymptomatic for the virus.

“The testing that the teams from Boston and the MGH conducted shows that approximately 90 percent of the city’s residents have not yet been exposed to the virus,” said Peter L. Slavin, MD, president of Massachusetts General Hospital. “We also know that COVID-19 will be with us for a while. It is vital therefore that we be thoughtful and careful about reopening, and that we continue to take actions – wearing masks, physical distancing, working from home when possible, limiting gatherings – that can prevent another surge of the disease.”

As the discussion about a phased reopening for Boston continues, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that officials are looking at ways to allow for better physical distancing. To assist small businesses with adhering to health guidelines, Boston is considering allowing expansion “outside of their four corners” such as curbside tables for customers and expanded sidewalks in business districts where lines are formed. There has also been discussion about expanding sidewalk space by removing some curbside parking, limiting some streets to local traffic, temporarily opening lanes for cyclists and pedestrians, and increasing the frequency of public transit to make social distancing easier for residents.

“We support a cautious, phased-in approach that includes clear health criteria and safety guidelines for each industry,” said Mayor Walsh during a press conference on May 13th. However, he cautioned Bostonians about any expectations for reopening on Monday, May 18th, stating, “We don’t move forward based on the date. We move forward based on data.”

The Mayor’s sentiments echo the guidelines that Governor Charlie Baker released on May 11th regarding a four-phase approach to reopening the economy. A Reopening Advisory Board is expected to release a more comprehensive set of guidelines this Monday that will better advise overall social guidance, mandatory workplace safety standards, and sector-specific safety protocols.

The Boston Resiliency Fund, which focuses on providing food to children and seniors, technology to students during remote learning, and support to first responders and healthcare workers, has raised $30.5 million to date. The Small Business Relief Fund has delivered the first $2 million of relief to 561 local businesses. The North End, Waterfront, Downtown and West End based businesses who have received relief are Sock it to Me, Orient Express, Salon JLS, 369 Music Group, Luxious Lighting, and Boston Kebab House.

Massachusetts currently has 83,421 positive COVID-19 cases. There have been 435,679 tests conducted across the Commonwealth with about 19% of those tests resulting in a positive case. Hospitalizations have continued to decrease with only 3% of all COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization. The state has reported a total of 5,592 deaths with 890 new deaths this week. About 61% of all deaths are attributed to long-term care facilities with 3,414 reported.

Boston expects to begin sharing data provided by the state for the City’s long-term care facilities on a weekly basis. The North End Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center currently has three COVID-19 positive cases; one of these patients was expected to be released today. Following the testing of 55 employees, one asymptomatic employee tested positive and was removed from the work schedule. Sami Almadi, Senior Administrator at the facility, expressed his gratitude to the various businesses and groups who have donated food, especially Tia Bruno of Cini’s.