“In the absence of clear Federal guidance, we need decisive leadership in Massachusetts.”
Earlier today, Time magazine correspondent Charlotte Alter went for a morning run past the brunch hotspots near her Brooklyn apartment holding a flag instructing people to “Go Home.”
Here in Boston, the same sentiment is steadily emerging. Even as Mass Governor Charlie Baker announced extreme moves like the closing of bars and restaurants for eat-in business from Tuesday through at least April 17, people are demanding stricter measures. A petition to “#ShutDownMASS to minimize the spread of coronavirus,” which had more than 10,000 signatures and was quickly adding hundreds of names by the minute at the time of this writing, reads:
In order to minimize the spread of coronavirus and make sure our hospitals are not overwhelmed, we are calling on Governor Baker to #ShutdownMASS today. This includes restaurants, bars, and non-essential businesses – it is clear that optional, individualized social distancing is not working and the time to act is slipping away.
In the absence of clear Federal guidance, we need decisive leadership in Massachusetts. We recognize that there will be severe economic effects from a shutdown, and we will undoubtedly need Federal and State-level financial assistance. Yet the consequences of “business as usual” will be far worse.
This is not a drill. In the words of George Q. Daley, Dean of the Harvard Medical School: “The outbreak of COVID-19 is the single most threatening pandemic to arise in the last century, and has historians recalling the devastation of the influenza pandemic of 1918, which infected about a third of the world’s population, resulting in at least 50 million deaths. The world’s population today is almost four times larger, and our communities are correspondingly denser and more vulnerable. Reducing not only community density but containing the migration of those infected with the virus will be essential for dampening the impact of this pandemic.”
We call on Governor Baker to shut down all non-essential businesses in Massachusetts, as quickly as possible. We also call on Governor Baker to provide direct aide to those affected by this critically important shutdown, including a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, sufficient paid leave for all workers, immediate support for small businesses, and ensuring that COVID-19 medical testing and treatment is available at no charge to MA residents.
The petition was circulated by Somerville City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen, and has been echoed by other officials including state Rep. Mike Connolly, who wrote on Facebook this morning:
Today I joined with Somerville’s Ben Ewen-Campen and several other local leaders in calling on the Governor to order the closure of all schools, daycares, restaurants, bars, and any other establishment that isn’t critical to the preservation of human life. See this petition Ben started this morning that now has almost 7,500 signatures: https://bit.ly/2WmDy8W. The Mayors of Cambridge and Somerville have indicated they are in agreement on this.
Voluntary social distancing is not working. Everyone needs to understand that COVID-19 is extremely contagious (including for the many people who are carrying the virus without showing any symptoms). Today I have heard from several experts who believe the collapse of our healthcare system is a serious possibility if we do not immediately limit all unnecessary in-person interactions.
Meanwhile, on Saturday CNN reported, “Infected people without symptoms might be driving the spread of coronavirus more than we realized,” specifically citing Mass as an example:
New studies in several countries and a large coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts bring into question reassuring assertions by US officials about the way the novel virus spreads.
These officials have emphasized that the virus is spread mainly by people who are already showing symptoms, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing. If that’s true, it’s good news, since people who are obviously ill can be identified and isolated, making it easier to control an outbreak.
But it appears that a Massachusetts coronavirus cluster with at least 82 cases was started by people who were not yet showing symptoms, and more than half a dozen studies have shown that people without symptoms are causing substantial amounts of infection.
Nationally, while every news channel and level of government still seems to be telling a different story, ProPublica published a post today trumpeting, “No Matter What Some Public Officials Say, the Message You Need to Hear Is “Stay Home”:
The discordant messages underscore the immense challenges conveying common messages during a public health crisis, one that has happened time and again as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has swept across the country.
“The most important thing is for people to change their daily routines and really reduce their social interactions,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a former federal and state health official who is now vice dean for public health practice and community engagement for the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.
“I don’t think it is the consistent message from all health and political officials. If people are going to change the way they live their lives, they need to hear about the need to do that from every credible source of information they have because if they get mixed messages it’s easy to lapse back to not changing.”