Boston coronavirus metrics show improvement

Several of Boston’s coronavirus metrics continued to head “in the right direction” in the days before Thanksgiving even as officials braced for a potential post-holiday surge.
“This is the first time in seven weeks maybe that we’ve seen any kind of decrease in positivity or number of cases,” Marty Martinez, the city’s health chief, said in a press conference this week.
The city’s seven-day average positivity rate — excluding colleges — ticked down to 3.4% as of Monday, the last day for which complete data is available in the new report issued Saturday. That stayed below the 5% “threshold for concern” city officials have said could trigger rollbacks in reopening.
The number of daily positive tests also declined, with the seven-day average dropping to 183.3 per 100,000 residents on Monday from a high of 252 on Nov. 15, and remaining well below the threshold of 339.7.
Testing, which was pushing upward in the weeks before Thanksgiving, appeared to drop off slightly in the few days before the holiday, ending up with a seven-day average of 4,860 on Monday. Officials have said it would be a concern if the number of tests fell for three weeks in a row.
The seven-day average of nonsurge intensive care unit beds occupied in Boston hospitals held steady at 81%, below the threshold for concern of 95%.
The number of free ICU and surgical beds rose slightly, with the seven-day average ticking up to 29% on Friday from 26% earlier in the week. The threshold for concern there is 20%.
Emergency department visits to Boston hospitals also declined over the past week.
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“We’re seeing the numbers go in the right direction,” Mayor Martin Walsh said this week. “We need to continue to see those numbers trend in the right direction.”
Walsh attributed the recent improvement in the data to more people following public health guidelines like wearing masks and adhering to Gov. Charlie Baker’s re-upped stay-at-home advisory.
“I think more people are paying attention to the public health recommendations,” Walsh said in a Wednesday news conference.
Martinez, the city’s health chief, said that while one week’s worth of data doesn’t denote a trend, “hopefully this is a trend in the right direction.”
What happens next will hinge in large part on Thanksgiving. Public health officials have said the full effects of Turkey Day travel and gatherings likely won’t be known for weeks, but Boston-area hospitals have already been gearing up for a surge in cases and hospitalizations.
Sean Philip Cotter contributed to this report.

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