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Message from the Public Health Department

Social distancing is still the most important thing we can do right now to help keep people healthy and prevent overwhelming hospitals with large numbers of very sick patients.


Please continue to do your part to:

  • Stay at home and avoid all non-essential contact with others.
  • Limit trips for groceries, gas, and other essentials.
  • If you must go out, stay at least 6 feet away from others at all times, avoid crowds of any size, and do not shake hands or hug.

Local Guidance for the Community

Current Risk in Cambridge

Risk Summary from the Cambridge Public Health Department - Week of March 22-28

The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 remains high in Cambridge, the state, and the nation.

Massachusetts is among the states currently experiencing widespread community transmission of COVID-19. This means that residents are contracting the illness but the specific source of the infection is unknown.

In Cambridge and the Commonwealth, the number of residents infected with COVID-19 continues to rise due to increased community transmission and increased testing. Because there is widespread community transmission, the Cambridge Public Health Department believes that all residents should consider themselves at risk for infection. 

Some groups are at higher risk for exposure to the coronavirus than the general population, including:

  • People who have close contact with individuals with COVID-19.
  • People who work in health care settings, particularly those caring for COVID-19 patients.
  • People who have recently returned (in the past 14 days) from areas of the U.S. where there is ongoing community spread of the virus, which now includes Massachusetts.
  • People who have recently returned (in the past 14 days) from any of the "high risk" (level 3) countries identified by the CDC. See the CDC’s list Travelers Returning from High Risk Countries/

Last updated by the Cambridge Public Health Department on March 27, 2020.

COVID-19 Symptoms, Testing, & Care

What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19?

If you or a household member have COVID-19, here are some precautions to take at home:

  • Establish a room (and a bathroom if possible) that only the person with COVID-19 can use.
  • The person with COVID-19 should not leave home at all, except for urgent medical care. If urgent care is needed, the person should wear a surgical mask at all times while outside of the home. Do not take buses, subways or ride shares like Uber or Lyft. Use a personal vehicle or call an ambulance.
  • All household members should practice strict personal hygiene. That means washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water. When coughing or sneezing, use a new tissue every time. Then wash your hands.
  • Do not share plates, glasses, cups, or utensils. Wash all these items in a dishwasher or with dishwashing liquid and warm water.
  • Wipe down frequently used surfaces with a household disinfecting cleaner.
  • Do not allow visitors in your home.

All household members should monitor their own health and call their health care provider if they develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, sore throat, loss of sense of smell, cough, and/or shortness of breath).


The CDC has additional guidance for caring for people at home who are sick with COVID-19.

This information is from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website, current as of March 26, 2020.

What should I do if I think I have symptoms of COVID-19?

If you or a family member develop symptoms of COVID-19—which include fever, sore throat, loss of sense of smell, cough, and/or shortness of breath—call your health care provider and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure. They will decide whether you need to be tested.

If you are not able to get tested, but believe you may have COVID-19, take the same precautions as if you tested positive.

Keep in mind that there is no treatment nor vaccine for COVID-19. People who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home.

If you have severe symptoms: Call 9-1-1 for an ambulance. The dispatcher should be alerted that you may have COVID-19 so that appropriate precautions can be taken. Severe symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Other symptoms that are severe or concerning

Where can I find out about COVID-19 testing?

If you think you may have COVID-19 symptoms, call your health care provider. If your doctor or nurse thinks you should be tested, but are unable to offer a test at their own health care facility, they will provide a referral and you can be tested at a test site near you. An appointment is necessary.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has also provided a list of testing sites: Massachusetts COVID-19 Testing Sites.

If you are a Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) patient, CHA is offering COVID-19 testing to existing patients via a stand-alone testing center at its Somerville Hospital location. Due to continued limited availability of tests, patients must meet federal criteria and be existing CHA primary care patients to be eligible for testing at this location. See March 16 announcement.

This information is from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Cambridge Health Alliance. Last reviewed on March 26,2020.

What is COVID019 and how does it spread?

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus. Reported illnesses for positive COVID-19 cases have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure, and include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache Body aches

The new coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Can you get COVID-19 by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects?

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

This information is from the Cambridge Health Alliance (symptoms list) and CDC website, current as of March 26, 2020.

Slowing the Spread of COVID-19

Handwashing, Disinfecting, & Other Ways to Protect Yourself

Here are some tips to protect yourself from COVID-19 illness. There are more tips on the CDC website. Español | 中文

  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and rub your hands until they are dry. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Learn more
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes. Throw tissues away and clean your hands afterwards.
  • If you are planning to travel, check CDC's Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for updates and guidance.

Physical (or Social) Distancing: Guidance & Tips

What is Physical Distancing?

Physical distancing—also known as social distancing—is about keeping a certain physical distance from other people. The goal of physical distancing is to slow the spread of the coronavirus. By slowing the spread, we have a chance to protect family and friends at greater risk for serious illness and the health care workers who care for people with COVID-19.

What You Can Do

For physical distancing to be effective, it is essential we all do our part. If we all start keeping a 6-foot distance from people we don’t live with, we may be able to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Cambridge.

The following tips are for people who are healthy:

  • Maintain a safe separation of at least 6 feet from others not in your household.
  • Cancel in-person social gatherings, even those with just a few people.
  • Avoid crowds of any size.
  • Refrain from shaking hands, high fives, and hugs.
  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
  • Limit unnecessary travel.
  • Try to visit grocery stores and pharmacies when they are less crowded.

If you are sick with COVID-19, please follow the CDC’s guidelines to protect the people you live with and the community.

Physical Distancing is Not Social Isolation

  • Physical distancing is about keeping a safe distance from other peopleit does not mean social isolation. You can be social through social media, video chats/conferences, or by phone. You can also write letters or cards. Checking on friends, family, and neighbors is a great way to stay connected and be supportive of others who may be feeling alone or isolated.
  • Physical distancing does not mean you cannot leave your home. When going outside, be sure to avoid crowds and maintain a safe separation of at least 6 feet from others.
  • Walking outside is a good way to exercise and prevent stress. Remember, if you walk or exercise with someone who is not a household member, keep 6-feet apart from each other.

Resources on Physical Distancing

What Cambridge Employers Can Do About Physical Distancing

On March 23, Governor Charlie Baker issued a stay-at-home advisory through April 7, asking all non-essential businesses to stop in-person operations.

For workers who must be physically present in a workplace, such as health care and long-term care workers, public safety personnel, pharmacy, and supermarket employees, employers can help ensure their safety by:

  • Strongly discouraging older employees (age 60+) and those with chronic health conditions from coming into the workplace.
  • Following recommendations for social distancing, such as keeping an approximate 6-foot distance from other people and recognizing that this will not be achievable in all settings.
  • Ensuring that soap/sanitizers are available and that participants engage in proper handwashing and hand-hygiene practices.
  • Ensuring that cleaning and disinfection guidelines for COVID-19 are followed.

The information is from the Cambridge Public Health Department, last revised on March 26, 2020.

Taking Care of Yourself & Loved Ones

How can I support my mental health & wellness?

The outbreak of COVID-19 may be stressful for people and communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. It is important to remember that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and that taking care of your mental health is not a sign of weakness. Taking care of your emotional health during an emergency will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Here are some things you can do to support yourself. You can learn more on the CDC site.

  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis repeatedly. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.
  • Connect with others. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.
  • Seek help when needed. If distress impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to a counselor, doctor, or clergy member. You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. For Spanish speakers, call 1-800-985-5990 and press "2" or text Hablanos to 66746. Español

Resources on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Mental Wellness

How you can talk to children about COVID-19

Reassure your children that they are safe. Try to keep information simple and remind them that health and school officials are working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.

You can also help your children find positive ways to express feelings such as fear and sadness. Sometimes engaging in a creative activity, such as playing and drawing, can help this process. Children may feel relieved if they can express and communicate their disturbing feelings in a safe and supportive environment.

More Tips

  • Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members online or over the phone. Rely on your social support system.
  • Get children into a handwashing habit. Also remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma. Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.

Resources for Parents and Children

Additional Resources

Page was posted on 3/18/2020 6:52 PM
Page was last modified on 4/6/2020 6:45 PM
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