learn about COVID-19, its impact, and what you can do about it.
On Thursday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker outlined guidelines that the district can use to safely and effectively reopen schools without causing another surge in coronavirus cases. Despite backlash from the teacher’s unions and parents, Baker urged that he wants to prioritize the mental and physical health of the students as isolation poses a very real risk to developing minds. The new guidelines require adults and students in second-grade and above to wear masks, and encourages it for children in kindergarten and first-grade. Desks should be spaced at least 3 feet apart — 6 feet when possible — and meals will likely be eaten in classrooms. He also noted that daily temperature checks and limiting classroom size would not be necessary, as it could create issues for schools that are not equipped with those resources. Despite these new guidelines Baker is ultimately leaving districts the choice on how they will manage to bring students back to school in the fall. Additionally, the state will provide nearly $200 million in additional funding to help schools with coronavirus-related costs, plus $25 million in federal funds for technology upgrades as it is still a possibility that COVID-19 could make a resurgence in the fall, resulting in a switch back to remote learning.
This news comes as Massachusetts enters week 6 of their phased reopening plan. Most businesses, excluding entertainment spaces, have been allowed to open with restrictions, such as limiting capacity and requiring employees and customers to wear masks upon entry into the establishment. Although Massachusetts was one of the hardest-hit states by COVID-19, with cases surpassing 100,000 and deaths over 8,000, they were named one of only 4 states that were on track to successfully contain the coronavirus by the organization Covid Act Now. The collection of epidemiologists, health and public policy experts, and technologists found that the state’s infection rate has dropped to 0.75 from a peak of 2.76 in March and the positive test rate is at 2.3 percent, down from an apex of 28.9 percent on April 15. One technology that is significantly helping limit infections is the contact tracing program. Covid Act Now concluded that with the 2,500 contact tracers Massachusetts currently has, they are in a very good place considering, as their site says, “with an average of 202 new daily cases, Massachusetts needs 1,010 contact tracing staff to trace all new cases in 48 hours before too many other people are infected. This means that Massachusetts is likely able to trace 100 percent of new COVID infections in 48 hours. When this level of tracing is coupled with widely available testing, COVID can be contained without resorting to lockdowns.” Coupled with that widely used technology, Massachusetts is also among the top four states in the country for regular mask usage, according to data collected by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
The second part of phase 2 began last Monday, allowing indoor dining, increased office space capacity, open fitting rooms in retail stores, as well as other indoor beauty services, so Baker would like to see the cases continue to decrease before allowing phase 3, which would allow movie theaters, bars, nightclubs, and other entertainment to open as well. States must continue to be cautious of reopening as Florida, Texas, and California have seen drastic increases in cases and deaths as a result of easing restrictions too soon or refraining from enforcing CDC guidelines such as wearing masks in public and social distancing whenever possible. As we can see with Massachusetts, regular mask usage combined with access to testing and contact tracing information allows for the economy to thrive while also keeping citizens safe.
Written by Margot Galligan
Authors and Editors