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BPHC Shares Respiratory Virus Guidance Ahead of Back-to-School Season

BOSTON – August 15, 2023 – The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), is encouraging everyone to prepare for the upcoming cold and flu season as students get ready to go back to school in the coming weeks amid a nationwide uptick in COVID-19 cases.  

The average level of COVID-19 particles in Boston’s wastewater has increased over the past few weeks (569 RNA copies/mL as of July 26); however, new weekly COVID-19 related hospitalizations are still low (35 through August 5). These increases are not cause for immediate concern but are important to be aware of with back-to-school season, cooler temperatures, and cold and flu season all approaching.  

“Preparation is key when planning for a new school year and the changing of the seasons. Cold and flu season always poses a risk, but there are several steps we can all take to protect ourselves and others including vaccination.” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “Everyone in your household should be up to date on vaccinations to reduce the risk of severe illness this season.”  

BPHC reminds residents that the City experienced a high level of flu activity last year, the highest in three years, and that flu season will likely begin in October. As families prepare to send their children back-to-school, BPHC is reminding them of the ways they can stay safe and healthy and avoid missed days of schools amid the rising spread of COVID-19, and likely spread of the flu and RSV in the fall and winter.  

Most importantly, BPHC strongly recommends that all families stay up to date with their vaccines for COVID-19, flu, and other diseases, such as pertussis, measles, and varicella. We recommend that everyone ages 6-months and older get their annual flu shot in September or October. Families should plan ahead and schedule flu shot appointments with their trusted health care providers or at a local pharmacy. 

The FDA and CDC are expected to issue approvals for updated COVID-19 vaccines and schedules in the coming weeks. BPHC will provide recommendations after reviewing the latest guidance. In the meantime, everybody should take the following steps to protect themselves and their loved ones from getting sick with COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses by:  

  • Having COVID-19 rapid testing kits available at home to test if you have symptoms of COVID-19. 

  • Staying home when sick and wearing a mask if you are around others while ill or have to leave the house.  

  • Talking to your trusted healthcare provider about treatment if you test positive for COVID-19 or flu and are at high risk for severe disease.  

  • Wearing a well-fitting face mask, especially in crowded indoor settings if you are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., unvaccinated or moderately to severely immunocompromised)  

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  

  • Regularly disinfecting and cleaning high touch surfaces.  

COVID-19 vaccines and testing are still available throughout the city. BPHC operates two standing clinics at the Bruce C. Bolling Building in Roxbury and City Hall that offer free COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, and rapid at-home testing kits which can be taken on site. BPHC has also partnered with several community-based organizations to create rapid at-home testing kit distribution hubs in neighborhoods across Boston. More information about distributions hubs is available on the BPHC website


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