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Boston COVID-19 test positivity rate rises over 5 percent amid unease about BA.2 subvariant

A home COVID-19 test kit is held, Feb. 3, 2022, in Seattle.Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive in Boston has edged over 5 percent, amid unease about the possible impact of the Omicron subvariant BA.2. Cases are also ticking up.

According to data files posted by the Boston Public Health Commission, the city’s community positivity rate was 5.03 percent as of Wednesday. The all-Boston positivity rate, which adds in routine tests of college students, was 2.4 percent.

The community positivity rate had dropped precipitously from a high of over 32 percent during the original Omicron wave earlier this year. It dropped below 5 percent in mid-February and dropped below 3 percent for several weeks before starting to rise again in mid-March.

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Community positivity was one of three key metrics Mayor Michelle Wu was watching while considering whether to drop the city’s indoor vaccine mandate in mid-February. She wanted the number to go below the 5 percent “threshold of concern.” (The other two metrics, percentage of occupied ICU beds and number of adult hospitalizations, remain below thresholds set by the city.)

The number of people testing positive every day has also ticked up slightly in Boston, according to data from the health commission.

The seven-day moving average on Wednesday of 163.3 daily cases reported by the city was up from a low of 73.1 on March 12, but it was still a far cry from the peak of over 2,700 in early January.

Case numbers statewide have been ticking up, and levels of the coronavirus detected in Eastern Massachusetts waste water at the Deer Island treatment plant, considered an early warning system of future waves, have also been edging upward.

Local health experts are closely watching case numbers and encouraging vaccinated people to get their booster shots to help reduce the chance of severe infection and to ease pressure on an already beleaguered health system, the Globe reported Monday.

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Experts and officials are warily eyeing what’s happening in Europe, including the United Kingdom, where the pandemic has made a comeback. The United Kingdom, which has, in the past, offered a preview of US surges, hit a record number of nearly 5 million cases Sunday due largely to the more-transmissible BA.2, according to The Associated Press.

“The Boston Public Health Commission monitors COVID-19 case, hospital data, and wastewater data very closely. Our core metrics have guided our response to the pandemic, and we will continue to use data to develop policies aimed at keeping our residents safe,” the commission said in a statement.

The commission said it is “critically important that our residents stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations by getting fully vaccinated and getting their booster doses when eligible. Boosters provide a critical layer of protection that is necessary for sustained immunity to reduce risk of transmission and protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.”

John Hilliard of the Globe staff contributed to this report.





Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.