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With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Boston health officials urge residents to take precautions

Commuters wearing masks last month in Boston. With cases and hospitalizations on the rise, Boston health officials are recommending that people wear masks on public transportation again.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Citing rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Boston health officials on Thursday urged residents to take precautions to stave off the coronavirus, including getting tested, wearing masks indoors, and getting vaccinated and boosted.

“We have noted a significant increase in both COVID-19 cases and in hospitalizations,” Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said in a statement. “We need to decrease onward transmission to others. Please test prior to gatherings, wear a well-fitted mask in indoor settings, including public transportation and get boosted if you have not been already.”

The state’s largest city has seen a weekslong rise in cases and hospitalizations, the statement from the commission said. The city is now averaging 61 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents per day and community test positivity is now at 11.5 percent.

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More than two years after the pandemic began, people are eager to get back to normal. But cases and hospitalizations, after dropping precipitously from the winter, have been increasing again statewide. “The surge we’re seeing is real and ongoing,” Andrew Lover, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in an e-mail.

The Boston officials also advised people to stay home from work if they feel sick, improve indoor ventilation by opening windows when possible, gather outdoors instead of indoors, and contact their health care providers about treatments if they contract COVID-19.

The officials said there are a number of situations when people should get tested including: when they have symptoms; when they have been exposed to COVID-19; and when they are planning to attend, or have attended, an indoor gathering.

People should also test if they are going to be around those who are older, immunocompromised, and unvaccinated. “They remain at high risk for severe illness,” Ojikutu said.

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The commission supports several free walk-in testing sites, all of which provide PCR testing. More information about locations and hours of operation can be found by visiting boston.gov/covid19-testing, officials said.

The commission, which posted the statement to the Web Thursday, also offered guidance on using rapid, at-home tests, which are available at retailers. Among the tips: People who have COVID-19 symptoms who test negative on their first rapid, at-home test should take additional tests to double-check the result.

Those who test positive, on the other hand, should contact their health care provider to discuss treatments, the commission said.

The state government recently announced a new program enabling residents to get Paxlovid, a highly effective COVID-19 treatment, through free telehealth appointments, the statement said, strongly encouraging people to “utilize this valuable resource.”

People can find out more about the program on the Mayor’s Health Line website or by calling 617-534-5050, officials said.


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