You may be noticing that although mask orders are no longer in effect, many people in Cambridge continue to mask up in indoor settings and on public transportation. The Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD) strongly supports this practice! We are experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases both regionally and in the city, and taking measures to protect yourself is a smart choice.
Fortunately, Cambridge is a highly vaccinated city and we are not seeing significant pressure on the healthcare system at this time. With more COVID-19 cases in the community, CPHD offers these reminders to help keep yourself and others safe:
- Get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19;
- Stay home if you are sick! Follow isolation and quarantine guidelines;
- Be sure that you are vaccinated AND boosted;
- Wear a mask indoors when outside your own home, including on public transportation.
These safety measures are important for everyone but are especially important if you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. You’re at higher risk if you are over age 65 or have underlying medical conditions or a compromised immune status. You are also at higher risk if you are not fully vaccinated and boosted.
If you are at higher risk and you do get COVID-19, there are several free and effective treatment options:
- Treatments can prevent serious illness and hospitalization, but need to be administered early to be effective.
- Treatment is available for people who are at increased risk of severe disease, test positive for COVID-19, and have any symptoms, even mild ones.
- Residents who test positive for COVID-19 and have any kind of risk factor including age (65+), diabetes, high blood pressure or asthma, should contact their healthcare provider or call the state’s COVID-19 Self Referral Treatment line at 508-213-1380 as soon as possible.
Cambridge offers free PCR testing 7 days a week. To make an appointment or learn about our walk-in option, visit www.cambridgema.gov/testing
Residents can order free rapid home tests from the federal government at https://www.covid.gov/tests, and all insurers – including MassHealth – are required to cover up to 8 rapid tests per month for each individual. Test kits are also available for purchase at most pharmacies.
Vaccines and Boosters
Vaccines and booster shots significantly reduce the risk of severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. They are widely available in Cambridge and are offered:
- By appointment at most pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens, and Inman Pharmacy;
- By appointment on Wednesday afternoons at the Cambridge Public Health Department on Windsor Street: https://bit.ly/Camb-Color;
- By appointment or walk-in at the Cambridge Health Alliance Vaccination Center in Somerville: CHA Vaccination Center.
You can also search by zip code for additional vaccination sites: https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/
Not all masks provide the same protection. It is important to consider how well a mask fits and how well it filters the air.
High quality “medical-style” masks are the most effective at protecting the wearer from infection. Look for masks that fit snugly and block at least 90% of small viral particles from being breathed in. Masks should also be comfortable, especially if they are being worn throughout the day.
Wear a mask with excellent filtration. Aim for 90-95%.
- Several types of disposable masks provide excellent personal protection. These “high filtration” masks include KF94 masks (made in Korea), KN95 masks (made in China) and flat medical-style masks that are quality-certified.
- KN95 and KF94 fit more snugly than flat medical-style masks.
- If shopping for masks, some keywords to look for are KF94, KN95, or ASTM-rated.
- About Cloth Masks: Cloth masks are best suited to outdoor use when it’s easy to social distance. They do not provide adequate protection against the Omicron variant in indoor settings.
Choose masks that fit snugly and cover your nose, mouth, and chin.
- All edges should touch your skin so that unfiltered air does not escape or enter through the gaps.
- Try different shaped masks to fit your face.
- Try “ear savers” or mask straps to change the way a mask fits on your face.
- A bendable nose clip is important for keeping masks in place and closing gaps.
- If you cannot get a good fit with a flat medical-style mask, consider placing a cloth mask over it. This is known as “double masking.”
- See the CDC website for more tips on improving mask fit and double-masking.
Mask Reuse and Care
- High quality disposable masks can be reused many times, as long as they are not visibly damaged or soiled. In independent tests, these masks remained effective after 40 hours or more of use.
- Masks that have been filtering germs all day may have germs on their outside surface. When removing a mask, hold it by the ear loops and wash your hands afterwards.
- Store used disposable masks in the open air or a paper bag to dry until you need them.
- Do not clean your disposable masks with soap or alcohol—or put them in the washing machine—because this will destroy their ability to block viral particles.
- Medical-style flat masks and KF94/KN95 masks still work when wet with perspiration. They can be dried with a tissue.
- Bacteria and fungi can grow on cloth masks, so they need to be washed daily with your laundry or in hot soapy water in the sink.