City Health officials say cases surging due to small gatherings

City officials are warning residents that part of the uptick in COVID-19 cases seems to be clusters in households that seem to be coming not from blockbuster parties, but rather small gatherings that most feel are safe – but end up being COVID spreading events.

Ahead of Gov. Charlie Baker’s new 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on Monday, City Health Chief Marty Martinez and other health officials said they are looking to help people understand how the virus is now spreading.

“It’s about multi-generational households in units where people live with two or three different people and have frequent contact with them every day,” he said. “It’s not just households, but also the really informal small, get-togethers. You have two or three people get together to watch the game. They all know each other and feel they are fine, but one person has COVID-19 and it spreads to the other two people and they take it home to a household. That’s part of what we’re seeing in the 39 and under age group. Not doing these things is difficult to do as it gets cold and we get into the holidays. 

“There is a lot that individuals can do right now,” he continued. “We’ve just got to double down on it and people need to be careful and avoid these get-togethers. There are super-spreader events, but these are small scenarios that are happening and they increase the spread.”

To that end, the City and the Boston Police Department (BPD) were out in force over the Halloween weekend to clamp down on house parties, whether inside or outside and fine the owners if things got out of hand.

“Prevention is one piece but it’s also the messaging,” he said. “A party, even a small one, that puts you at risk and everyone else around you at risk. It’ very important we keep that in mind and we encourage people to think about that. Enforcement is part of it too, and we’re tying that together with the BPD.”

That was followed up by a more stringent regulation from Gov. Baker on Monday about gatherings, even at private homes. 

The new gatherings order also requires that organizers of gatherings report known positive COVID-19 cases to the local health department in that community and requires organizers to cooperate with contact tracing. The gatherings order authorizes continued enforcement by local health and police departments and specifies that fines for violating the gathering order will be $500 for each person above the limit at a particular gathering.

•CASES SOAR FOR LATINO RESIDENTS

The COVID-19 case data is no doubt on the rise in Boston, but is still far from the surge in April, Martinez assured.

As of Oct. 24, the daily rate in Boston was 121.3, as compared to April’s rate of 331. However, the summer low for cases was 20.6. The positivity rate for testing was at 7.8 percent citywide on Oct. 24.

One of the caveats of the most recent surge is that rates for LatinX populations have gone much higher than in the initial surge, while the rates for Black/African American populations have gone down compared to April. In essence, they’ve switched places.

However, he said it’s a much younger group of people being affected now, particularly those under 39 and LatinX across every neighborhood in Boston.

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