COVID-19 Update to the Community

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As COVID-19 cases rise across the Commonwealth and in our City, the City wants to update you on all of the strategies and mitigations that we have put into place to keep us all safe.

In November, the City expanded its free COVID-19 testing program to seven days a week as one significant key strategy to protect residents. Since our testing program was launched in early April, the Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD) and community partners have provided over 25,000 COVID-19 tests to the Cambridge community. From November 1-15, CPHD and members of the Cambridge Pandemic Collaborative (CPC) have administered 6,528 tests in an effort to provide greater improved access to COVID testing before the Thanksgiving holiday. Prior to expanding to seven days a week of testing, on average, the City provided roughly 600 tests per week through the end of October. For the month of November alone, the City is averaging over 3,000 tests per week, representing a five-fold increase in the number of tests made available to residents.

We share your concern about the increase in cases across the Commonwealth and in our City. As the City conducts more testing, more cases are going to be identified, especially during the cooler fall and winter seasons. We want to identify cases quickly, so they do not turn into clusters, and so that asymptomatic individuals do not inadvertently spread the virus among family members and close contacts, especially among those who are most vulnerable. We are experiencing a substantial increase in the number of cases reported here in the Commonwealth, yet Cambridge still remains a low-to-moderate level community. As of the most recent dashboard report generated by the Mass. Dept. of Public Health (November 12, 2020), Cambridge showed a rate of 9 new cases per 100,000 compared to a statewide average of 21 new cases per 100,000. With regard to overall positivity rates, Cambridge showed 0.32% compared to a statewide average of 2.29%. This report allows us to compare Cambridge to other communities across the state using a consistent dashboard on a weekly basis which may reflect a lag time. We recognize that these figures will continue to evolve across the Commonwealth as well as here in the City with the reported uptick in cases regionally and nationally (see chart of Town Data produced by the Cambridge Health Alliance). Keep in mind that we also post Cambridge updates every night in the City’s data center based on the CPHD’s internal data analysis, which will show higher numbers than the weekly state report.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the City has taken a proactive approach to controlling the spread of COVID-19 and responding to neighborhood hotspots when they occur. Our universal testing program is one clear example, and unique to Cambridge. Early on, we instituted our mandatory mask order and put a moratorium on construction (which was lifted). Our previous construction moratorium is yet another example. We established a COVID-19 Expert Advisory Panel and captured and communicated detailed Cambridge-specific data to help inform our local decisions.

While we recognize the relative risks associated with indoor versus outdoor activities, it is very difficult to show causal linkages of transmission directly attributed to any one activity, like indoor dining or gyms. For this reason, our messaging strategies have emphasized the importance of paying closer attention to social networks and minimizing "any" indoor exposures as much as possible. CPHD and the City are aware of the uptick in community spread, which is the reason that we have applied consistent and broader mitigation strategies here in the city to protect residents, employees, and visitors from potential exposures (e.g. messaging about social distancing, requirements about the wearing of masks/face coverings, stricter requirements regarding indoor dining, or improved access to COVID-19 testing).

The CPHD team continues to monitor these activities very closely. The City recognizes the looming concerns in the midst of this ongoing pandemic. It is important to note that Cambridge has done much more than most communities, and we will continue to do so. We are deploying Cambridge Community Corps members to conduct more targeted outreach in the most impacted neighborhoods here in the city; we are working directly with the food service establishments to ensure their compliance with our existing municipal orders; and we remain a key partner supporting the efforts of the school community by providing the added surveillance testing made available to staff and students. Also, on weekends, we are deploying additional Inspectional Services inspectors and Cambridge Police Officers in our squares to assist with compliance and education of the Governor’s recent Executive Orders.

We must remain vigilant during the holiday season in order to maintain the progress made over these many months. We will continue to use our COVID-19 Expert Advisory Panel and the current data and evidence to assist with our public health strategies and initiatives. To that end, we will continue to communicate to the public the importance of mask wearing, washing hands, remaining 6 feet apart from others, and limiting indoor gatherings with people outside of an immediate household.

We wish all of you a joyous and safe holiday season, and remember, your City will continue to implement strategies backed by science and data to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

Page was posted on 11/18/2020 6:05 PM
Page was last modified on 11/18/2020 6:29 PM
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