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Boston coronavirus rate drops for first time in five weeks, but no time to let up, mayor says

COVID-19 Media Availability 11-25-20

Mayor Walsh said today that the percentage of people testing positive on Covid-19 tests had dropped to 4% for the week ending Nov. 20 over the week before, the first time numbers have dropped in at least five weeks.

But both Walsh and Health and Human Services Chief Marty Martinez said at a City Hall press conference that people need to keep taking precautions, especially tomorrow.

"One week of data does not make a trend," Martinez said.

Walsh urged people to spend Thanksgiving with just members of their personal households, but said that if people ignore him on that, they should wear masks even if indoors, open windows, practice the usual social distancing - so no couch sharing with relatives, especially older ones - and designate just one person as the day's food server. Plus, everybody should frequently wash their hands and surfaces.

And, he added, people who tested negative in the days before Thanksgiving shouldn't take that as an excuse to disregard standard precautions tomorrow, "honest to God," because one negative test could mean you just haven't started churning out new viral particles, and other people around you might be infectious.

Walsh said the improved Covid-19 numbers were seen almost all over the city - not a single neighborhood had a positivity rate above 8%, he said. Mattapan did show a slight increase.

Because the decrease is just for one week, Walsh said it's too early to start talking about easing any restrictions, some of which remain tougher in Boston than in most of the rest of the state. He added the city will continue to have to research tightening restrictions should the numbers start going up again.

BPHC core metrics for Covid-19.

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Comments

It seems obvious that the positivity rate would be lower right now. There are thousands of seemingly healthy people getting tested this week. The only reason they are getting tested is because they are traveling, not because they are feeling sick. The positivity rate doesn’t seem like the best metric to determine how we are doing with controlling the virus.

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It would be interesting to see the amount of people who get test because they’re symptomatic vs those who get tested because they’re required to for some reason or another.

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This seems worth celebrating!

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I work with statistics and data a lot. And I’m willing to bet the rate decreased because of an increase of non-compelling testing by people in preparation for Thanksgiving visits and travel (by non compelling, I mean people who have had no known exposure and no symptoms). I am also going to guess this week’s tests were monopolized by people who could afford the time and/or expense for a non-compelling test and therefore squeezed out a lot of people who couldn’t wait in line for six hours for a test who needed it due to exposure.

I’m much more interested in what the next two week’s rate is.

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This isn’t just more asymptomatic people testing in advance of thanksgiving gatherings, but I fear that it is

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Asymptomatic people have Corona Virus. They just don't show symptoms.

How is testing asymptomatic before thanksgiving bad?

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I was also wondering the same thing. We'll see.

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To get more people tested. It's not bad public policy, but it also feels like an effort to game the positivity rate down by increasing the size of the denominator in the fraction.

As mentioned here, https://www.boston.gov/health-and-human-services/boston-covid-19-testing... the City is giving municipal employees an hour of paid leave every 14 days to get tested, whether or not they're experiencing symptoms. They're also encouraging other employers to do the same.

So if you get a bunch more asymptomatic people to get tested, you'll pick up some number of asymptomatic cases which will be helpful to keep those folks from spreading. But if you're looking to lower your positivity numbers, that also accomplishes that goal

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Just, as you said, shouldn’t be drawing conclusions from lower positivity rate. Does Boston release an average time for test result metric?

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It's basic statistics. More testing in the general population is more sampling of the general population. Larger sample sizes give you a more representative set of data. We'll never be able to sample 100% of a population, it just doesn't happen (look at the US Census) but the closer we can get, the closer we get to finding the true prevalence in the community.

And in this situation, it also means we can catch more asymptomatic cases and isolate them before they can continue spreading the virus.

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That’s where the MWRA poop testing is so valuable. Everyone poops! and aside from the rare septic systems in the city, the majority population is being tested.

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Just if you change the characteristics of the testing population week over week, hard to compare and say trends are good. If we could test everyone positivity rate would be lower and would be good for virus control, hope we can keep increasing capacity and do more of that

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an asymptomatic person can still test positive for the Covid-19 virus and also spread the infection around.

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And officials have been asking people to get tests even if they have no symptoms for months.

So good all around.

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As a daily rider of the Orange Line and someone who works in a high traffic mini Mehadone Mile at North Station, I must admit more people are wearing masks. Also work next to the court house and mental health facilities and noticed the homeless, addicted, and or mentally I'll who were the majority of people not wearing masks a month ago in the area of my daily commute are now not hanging around as much. It could also be because of cold weather.

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...but going up in the suburbs???

Doesn't make sense.

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same thing with the 1918 Pandemic. Cities first.....other areas later.

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Why doesn't that make sense?

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I have friends in the suburbs who make it sound like there is a lot more patio type get togethers than folks are doing in the city. There's also way more kids in school and playing team sports - all more risky.

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The data is there for analyzing. It explains everything.

Instead, people don't believe what they can see for themselves. There's nothing nefarious going on, there's no tricks.

People just can't believe something that goes against what they've already decided is happening.

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Brush up on your college statistics. When you change the sample or how you select the sample, you often change the outcome. That is what I believe is happening this week.

Comparing it to previous, or future samples that revert to the old method of selecting a sample, is simply erroneous. And that is what many people are pointing out.

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I’d feel better if I knew test results were still coming back in the same amount of time.

If the data is: lower positivity rate, more tests requested by asymptomatics, test results being delayed then seems likely a lot of people testing to travel on thanksgiving which eh isn’t great. We will find out over the next week. Hope it is actual good trends but pretty skeptical that changing little in the way of behavior and gathering en masse is going to be helpful.

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