As you enjoy the summer, please stay focused on maintaining physical distance from people outside your home. We managed the first surge, but if we are careless, COVID-19 could return in force to Massachusetts.
Many people I talk to are nervous about the Governor’s reopening of Massachusetts. On the other hand, some whose businesses have been closed feel that the reopening is too slow. One thing is clear: whether COVID-19 surges again in Massachusetts depends mostly on how we as citizens choose to behave.
Do we allow ourselves to get packed together in crowds where disease can spread rapidly? Do we consistently maintain six feet distance from others? Do we consistently wear masks? Do we keep our masks on when we speak? So often I see people leaning in towards each other and pulling their masks down to make sure they are heard (defeating the purpose of the mask).
The mathematics of disease spread is simple. If each person who gets sick infects more than one other person on average, then the number of infected people grows exponentially. If through social distancing, accumulated herd immunity, or vaccination we can keep the transmission rate low enough, the epidemic will wane.
Right now, most of the population still has not had COVID-19 and there is still no vaccine. Our protection comes entirely from distancing. There is likely at least as much COVID-19 virus spreading in Massachusetts communities as there was in February before the virus emerged — we reported 290 new cases on Friday, July 3. Case numbers are staying low only because we have been maintaining enough distance from each other to keep transmission low.
But that could change as we reopen more crowded venues or as people get less committed to social distancing. Phase 3 of the reopening, effective as of July 6, involves opening many venues where people can get close to each other – casino gaming floors, fitness centers and gyms, museums, movie theaters.
All of these businesses bring people closer together in larger numbers than the businesses that have opened so far. The risks of transmission will start to rise. These businesses are opening subject to strict orders that require them to physically separate their customers and employees. For example, casinos must space slot machines four feet apart and separate them with plexiglass and only three players will be allowed at each card game table. These measures will make it possible for people to maintain distance on the floor – but will they do so?
While no one can predict with confidence how the epidemic will respond to reopening, we do have data to know how the epidemic is trending in any given week. We will be watching the data closely. The moment that disease indicators start moving in the wrong direction, we will have to back off on reopening.
Many of those currently unemployed as a result of the business closures were barely making it in the good times and the job loss has had devastating consequences for them. It is necessary to try to reopen businesses, even though it is a gigantic experiment and the consequences are largely unknown.
All of us need to keep in mind that our own actions will determine the success or failure of the experiment.
“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
Reopening isn’t the only solution to unemployment and the devastating effects of the pandemic on those most vulnerable to economic downturn. Other countries have exercised compassion and care by ongoing financial support and healthcare for the unemployed. The US is one of the few wealthy nations that has failed in this regard. We can do better than forcing people to choose between “work and risk dying” and “don’t work and risk homelessness and starvation.”
The federal response to the pandemic has been criminally negligent. The lack of compassion, common decency, and common sense of many of my fellow countrymen has been appalling.
As a nation, we have little to be proud of on this Fourth of July, but I have hope that by the next one, we may have found our way to sanity and grace again.
I couldn’t agree more. The federal lack of response to the coronavirus pandemic is a disgrace and people are literally dying because of a lack of focus and leadership coming out of the White House.
Beautifully said, 100% agree. Thank you for sharing.
Kate: I agree 100%. The USA is a rogue state, a terrorist state, and now a failed state. It’s time to forget about piecemeal attempts at “reform”, which amounts to no more than nibbling around the edges of a huge poisonous mushroom. It’s time for people to organize locally all across the country (many have already done so) and experiment with entirely new ways of running our businesses, policing our communities, and sharing our collective wealth. A long time ago I was a conservative. Grew up and went to school and worked among conservatives. Took me many decades to wean myself away from that gongshow. Which way to head now, I don’t exactly know. But I do know that the old ways are not going to work. Not Republican old ways and not Democrat old ways. Time to rethink everything and start to seriously experiment with fresh ideas.
Kate, have you ever wondered about the health costs for people not being able to get routine physical exams, mammograms, colonoscopies, necessary “elective surgery”, skin scans for melanoma, and a hundred other medical tests and procedures due to doctors’ offices and hospitals being shut down?
How many cases of high blood pressure, cancer, and other ills have gone undiagnosed?
Are you sure that your probable dislike of Trump is not getting in your way?
This was an excellent reflection Kate and I could not agree more. We are all responsible for this great nation; and despite the wounds and faults of history and today’s current events, we must support all of our community members with sound legislation.
Thank you for your leadership. Can you comment on plans being developed to cope with the expected arrival in MA, in late August/early September, of all the college students. By today’s rules all who are not from the northeast are expected to self quarantine for 2 weeks upon arrival. That could be quite a large number of people, and many of them would be concentrated in a few communities.
I am deeply concerned that we are moving so quickly to Phase 3 when so much of the country is heading into the worst of the first wave. Tourists from other states are coming back to our area, many from states with exponential growth m, and I doubt most of them are following a 14 day quarantine. Massachusetts residents will travel and return from these places as well. I see many people still without masks. I am also worried about local businesses, but I’m not sure how a resurgence is going to help those businesses in the (not very) long run. The school reopening recommendations seem written by people who haven’t been in a school in 20 years. Please, if there is reason to be optimistic, let me know what it is. Thanks so much for urging people to be careful and thanks for all that you do for your constituents!
This describes what Cornell is doing. Do MA colleges and universities have the resources for pool testing such a plan requires? https://cornellsun.com/2020/07/02/what-happens-if-someone-throws-a-party-questions-and-answers-on-the-model-reopening-campus/
For those of us who must take public transit there is no way to socially distance. The buses (and particularly the subways) are much less crowded, true. But consider that the fact that the buses now have 6 to 8 feet that is cordoned off to protect the driver- which is good. But also consider you now have less seating for riders.
Many a bus I have been on has one person per each row of two seats. That is not 6 feet distancing. It’s more like two feet.
Every bus and train I have been on has at least one (and often more) riders not wearing a mask. Indeed, a few of the bus drivers have not been wearing masks.
If you politely ask the rider to put a mask on, you are likely to get an explosion of abuse.
Today, after such an incident with a fellow rider, I was told by a hostile driver that if I health issues that put me at risk, than I don’t belong on public transit.
So there you have it. This is probably the truth. But where does that leave folks who are in a high risk population, and with no car. It leaves them stranded at home.
People don’t like to hear the truth. I’ve seen articles in the newspaper about 6 feet distancing on buses, etc. that’s not the case. At least not on the more popular lines. So the newspapers report on a happy fantasy that does not exist in reality.
KM, I am so sorry that you have experienced all of this. You bring up many valuable points. I am unable to offer much, but I am happy to help you, and other people in this situation, with grocery store runs and even drives to places. I will also tell people who do not physically distant or wear masks to do so. I myself have failed to hold others accountable.
Unfortunately a large percentage of the population has to be shocked into acting responsibly; the science simply doesn’t stick. Much like the graphic ads against driving without seat belts or driving drunk, maybe the state needs to commission some starker ads that juxtapose carefree crowded bar scenes with victims fighting for their last breaths.
I have recently had to pick someone up at Logan airport. Because she was late arriving, I had to wait for her and while doing so saw many people leave the terminal – the majority of them without masks. And forget about social distancing while these travelers waited on the curb to get picked up! Additionally, none of the airport police were wearing masks although they had them hanging on their necks.
I was told that over half the people flying in from Los Angeles were not wearing masks on the plane – even though the airline ‘requires it’. I have heard of flights on the same airline where everyone wore a mask and another flight (airline unknown) where only five people on a plane with over a hundred passengers were wearing masks. Even if New Englanders are being careful (which, from what I witnessed at the airport, they are not) surely the virus will spread from folks coming to Boston on airplanes.
My traveler wore her mask from the time she entered the Los Angeles airport until the time she arrived at the destination of her two-week quarantine. I seriously doubt the majority of people on her flight, being so cavalier, will quarantine at all.
Something should be done about the airlines and Logan Airport.
When the panic started a few months ago, virtually all the so-called experts, including Dr. Fauci, said to not wear masks.
It has been stated in public outltets and now, once again in this Sen. Brownsberger most recent post that social distancing and mask wearing is the general publics’ best safety measure…and it is proven correct. I feel that we in the Commonwealth and city/towns locally are very fortunate to have this type of bipartisan leadership in our strategic government positions.
And as stated here and in the national press, we must deal daily with the inept leadership and mixed messaging coming from the Federal response “team”, which has put our country at risk and at the top of the list of fatalites and resurgency worldwide…let’s not forget this come November….VOTE !!!
Joe Biden was against Trump’s shutting off travel to the US from China, and Democrats in general agreed with him.
God help us had he been president, acting “politically correct” so as not to offend Chinese.
Do you remember a few months ago when Mass. officials encouraged people to go to Chinese restaurants?
Shall I go into the lack of criticism by Democrats far and wide over the mass protests in which people were not social distancing, and often not wearing masks, not to mention the vandalism, arson, and looting? Were these “safe” activities?
How about the 2 week “occupation” of Seattle by Chaz/Chop. You think the people in there were all wearing masks and social distancing? Two people were murdered in there.
What DO Will’s constituents think about illegally pulling down statues even of figures who were anti-slavery and on the North’s side in the Civil War?
What about the occupation outside New York City Hall?
I can tell you. By and large they could not care less about any of it. They think they’re so logical and caring. Are they really?
The sheer gall and hypocrisy of Will’s fan club.
Thank you for keeping us up-to-date on your work and concerns. Many good a relevant comments above. One aspect, I believe requires more public attention and discussion: The current tracing efforts in MA. I saw some data that over 60% of tracing calls are not returned. We rarely pick up calls of numbers we don’t recognize, but would certainly return a tracing call message. I wish there were more public awareness how important tracing efforts are to track and contain any future outbreak. Is there any progress on a tracking app in MA?
Comments are closed.