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Boston could reach criteria for ending vaccine mandate for public indoor spaces soon, official says

Boston's Covid-19 numbers are dropping fast enough that the city could meet its metrics for ending a requirement that indoor diners and gym users show proof of vaccination "in the coming weeks," Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission said this morning.

In a City Council hearing, Ojikutu said the latest stats show the city's nine hospitals have already met one of the three requirements: Current ICU occupancy is about 90%, below the 95% level the city has set.

The other two metrics - number of overall hospitalized Covid-19 patients and daily test positivity - remain higher than the city thresholds, but both are dropping dramatically, she said. She said the city currently has 343 hospitalized Covid-19 patients, compared to a threshold of 200 - and that the daily test positivity rate is 6.9%, compared to the city threshhold of 5%. But she said that at the peak of the omicron surge in early January, Boston had 780 hospitalized Covid-19 patients and a test positivity rate of 32.7%.

Ojikutu added that data from Covid-19 testing at the Deer Island treatment plant, which has proven to be a predictor of Covid-19 diagnoses seven to ten days out, has shown an equally dramatic decrease.

"There's reason for optimism right now in regards to the metrics we're following, but I don't want to say we're fully out of this," she said. She said people should continue to practice social distancing, mask wearing and, if they haven't gotten them, get shots.

Under an agreement with the Boston Teachers Union reached this week, the criteria could also let teachers who refuse to get vaccinated continue to teach in person as long as they get tested twice a week.

In response to a question from City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo (Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale), Ojikutu said vaccination and testing will continue to be critical: Vaccination for reducing the spread and severity of the disease, testing for tracking what's happening and to get resources to areas that need them - and to alert folks who test positive that they need to isolate until they test negative again.

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