The city of Boston officially moved into the high-risk category for COVID-19 last Wednesday, days after Mayor Marty Walsh warned the public in a press briefing on the increasing rates of infection.
In Boston, 8.5 people are infected per 100,000, slightly above the eight people per 100,000 threshold of the red category created by the state for COVID-19 data reporting. The categories, along with a map of each region and its classification, are available on the state’s official website.
Boston joins 25 other cities and towns that moved to the red category. Those who are or were recently at a high-risk will remain at Phase III, Step One of the Baker administration’s reopening plan. The rest of the state moved to Step Two on Monday.
According to the Commonwealth’s website, the other cities that are or recently in the high-risk category include Attleboro, Avon, Chelsea, Dracut, Everett, Framingham, Haverhill, Holliston, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Lynnfield, Marlborough, Methuen, Middleton, Nantucket, New Bedford, North Andover, Revere, Saugus, Springfield, Tyngsborough, Winthrop, Worcester, and Wrentham.
Step Two of Phase III will allow indoor and outdoor performance venues and recreational businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity, with venues having a maximum of 250 people. Other public places such as gyms, libraries, museums, and driving and flight schools will increase to a capacity of 50 percent. Fitting rooms in stores will also be permitted to open.
As of now, Boston’s outdoor venues can only operate at 25 percent capacity.
Boston’s positivity rate measured at 4.1 percent as recently as Oct. 3, as stated by the Boston Public Health Commission. Two zip codes have been identified by the City of Boston for having increasing positivity rates: 02121 and 02125.
The positive rate per test across Massachusetts—which is experiencing increases as well—is 1.1 percent. According to the Boston Herald, the positive rate in the state has fluctuated to higher percentages over the October 2-to-4 weekend, reaching 4.4 percent on the third.
Reasons for the increase in cases in Boston and in the state as a whole vary. Gov. Baker said that clusters of cases came from gatherings that involved people not abiding by social distancing and the use of face masks. Mayor Walsh also cites increasing infections due to house parties. Outbreaks have also been traced to the influx of college students, as many colleges in the city have opened their doors for dorming and in-person classes.
UMass Boston is in the zip code of 02125, which leaves students taking extra precautions to prevent sickness.
Justin Rodrigues is a senior living off-campus near the school. The pandemic has affected his employment and his housing situation. Prior to the pandemic, Rodrigues worked at TD Garden, which is now closed, and he is facing difficulty with finding a roommate due to remote classes. To stay cautious, Rodrigues tries to avoid coming into contact with people. He also brings his mask “like it’s a pair of airpods” to incorporate it into his daily life. He does not want anyone to “lose [their] life because [he] didn’t respect others.”
Regarding college students’ treatment of COVID-19 guidelines, Rodrigues says he has witnessed young people not following social-distancing. He says that even though small gatherings “[are] not the worst thing” as long as people are careful, large gatherings and parties are not responsible behaviors.
“People don’t understand the dangers,” said Rodrigues, “just because it doesn’t affect you, it can affect a family member you know, or it may affect someone you don’t know.”
Despite this, Rodrigues feels that Boston’s handling of the virus “has done its best.” He adds that although the city has been “less transparent” compared to other places, which can be “extremely frustrating,” he thinks that government officials, regardless of political party, are attempting to do well. “That’s all you can ask [for],” said Rodrigues.