Public Health

Case Count

Message from the Public Health Department

When going outside, it’s still extremely important to practice physical distancing by staying 6 feet from other people not in your household, wearing a face covering or mask, and washing your hands for at least 20 seconds when you get home. These measures have helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in Cambridge, and we must continue these practices for our community to remain safe.

If you are feeling sick, please stay home. Together, we can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. For a refresher on how to slow the spread of COVID-19, see our FAQs and tips below.


Please continue to do your part to:

  • Wear face coverings whenever outside your home.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others at all times, avoid crowds of any size, and do not shake hands or hug.
  • Limit trips for groceries, gas, and other essentials.

Local Guidance for the Community

Current Risk

What is the current risk in Massachusetts?

Updated on October 26, 2020


On Thursday, October 22, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health recategorized the City of Cambridge as a moderate risk “yellow” community. This designation is given to communities where the average daily case rate over the last 14 days is 4-8 cases per 100,000 population. Cambridge now has 4.1 cases per 100,000 residents according to the most recent weekly data report released by the state.


While it is not possible to draw definite causal conclusions at this time, there are several potential explanations for the increase in cases among Cambridge residents that the health department is closely monitoring:

  • Since October 2, 2020 there has been an increase in cases of COVID-19 reported in long-term care facilities. The increase in this population is likely contributing to the overall city risk level.
  • Although the health department noticed a recent increase in cases among residents in their forties, the primary driver of new infections continues to be residents in their twenties and thirties.
  • Neighboring cities and towns saw an increase in cases recently, and it is unavoidable that cases would not remain low in Cambridge since people (pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic) frequently cross city/town borders for work, health care, and other needs.
  • Cooler temperatures are likely leading to people spending more time indoors, where the transmissibility of the virus is higher.
  • The gradual reopening of workplaces and restaurants, even with limited capacity, may be leading to more frequent contact among people from different households.
  • Communication at the federal level is not always in line with guidance from the state and city, which may be leading to additional confusion and general fatigue with risk reduction strategies.


COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus and the best way to contain it is for all of us who live, work, and play in Cambridge to remain vigilant about physical distancing, handwashing, wearing face coverings, and taking other precautions.

Because there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection, it is important to understand potential risks and consider your own personal situation in making decisions about socializing with friends and family this summer. In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. This graph provides some guidance for determining, and reducing, your risk of COVID-19 transmission.


Image showing Risk Levels

Who is at greatest risk for serious illness?

COVID-19 is a new disease and there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe disease. 

Based on what we know now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are:

People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
  • People who have serious heart conditions.
  • People who are immunocompromised.
    • Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.
  • People with severe obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher).People with diabetes.
  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis.
  • People with liver disease.

On May 14, the CDC issued a health advisory about a rare and serious condition in children associated with COVID-19. Cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) have occurred among children with recent or current COVID-19 infections.  

COVID-19 Symptoms, Testing, & Care

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 and how does it spread?

Updated on May 22, 2020

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported, ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combination of symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell


This list is not all possible symptoms. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

The new coronavirus is spreading very easily and sustainably between people, including people who are not showing symptoms. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person in these ways:

  • 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.

As the state reopens, it is critically important to wear face coverings, practice strict physical distancing, and wash hands frequently to continue to mitigate the further spread of COVID-19.

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.

How can I get tested for COVID-19?

Updated on May 22, 2020


There are several ways that Cambridge residents can get tested for COVID-19.  Please visit the City’s dedicated page on COVID-19 testing information in Cambridge.


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

Updated on May 22, 2020

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 a Cambridge resident, you can get tested at the CHA East Cambridge Care Center without a medical referral. 

If you are not able to get tested, but believe you may have COVID-19, take the same precautions as if you had 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. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
  • New confusion.
  • Inability to wake or stay awake.
  • Bluish lips or face.
  • Any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

What should I do if I'm home sick with COVID-19?

Updated on May 20, 2020


This information is adapted from CDC guidance available here


Stay home except to get medical care

  • Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
  • Take care of yourself. Get rest and stay hydrated. Take over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen, to help you feel better.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think it is an emergency.
  • Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.


Separate yourself from other people

As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home. If possible, you should use a separate bathroom. If you need to be around other people or animals in or outside of the home, wear a cloth face covering.


Monitor your symptoms

  • Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath but other symptoms may be present as well. Trouble breathing is a more serious symptom that means you should get medical attention.
  • Follow care instructions from your healthcare provider and local health department. Your local health authorities may give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.


When to Seek Emergency Medical Attention

If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
  • New confusion.
  • Inability to wake or stay awake.
  • Bluish lips or face.
  • Any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.


If you are sick wear a cloth covering over your nose and mouth

  • You should wear a cloth face covering, over your nose and mouth if you must be around other people or animals, including pets (even at home).
  • You don’t need to wear the cloth face covering if you are alone. If you can’t put on a cloth face covering (because of trouble breathing, for example), cover your coughs and sneezes in some other way. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from other people. This will help protect the people around you.
  • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2 years, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is not able to remove the covering without help.


Clean your hands and cover coughs and sneezes

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw away used tissues in a lined trash can.


Avoid sharing personal household items

  • Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home.
  • Wash these items thoroughly after using them with soap and water or put in the dishwasher.


Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday



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


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

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.

Taking Care of Yourself & Loved Ones

How can I support my mental health/wellness & access recovery services?

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, Recovery Services, and Mental Wellness


Virtual Support Meetings

  • Find a list of virtual recovery meetings by time of day and day of week
  • Additional recovery meeting information, online apps, and more can be found on the Grayken Center for Addiction website here.

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 Information & Resources

Page was posted on 3/18/2020 6:52 PM
Page was last modified on 1/15/2021 4:46 PM
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