The number of COVID-19 infections throughout Massachusetts is rising at an alarming rate. Massachusetts now has more new COVID-19 cases per capita than Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, or Texas— and in the last week alone, MA has seen more COVID-19 deaths per capita than 23 other states.
This surge of infections and hospitalizations is placing tremendous pressure on the state’s health facilities and leading to countless preventable COVID-related deaths.
Over the past nine months, Gov. Baker has mainly linked increased COVID-19 cases statewide to private social gatherings and individuals failing to comply with state health guidelines. However, the data clearly shows there are systemic factors in viral spread and infection. It is time for the Baker Administration to shift the onus of responsibility from individual actions to systemic factors that continue to put people at risk for COVID-19, particularly communities of color, which have been hit hardest by this pandemic.
Though each person plays a role in reducing the spread of the COVID-19, individuals alone are not personally responsible for putting an end to the pandemic. Immediate action by the Governor to tighten COVID-19 restrictions is necessary to reduce the strain on our health system and to save lives. Beyond private gatherings, there have been many reports of viral clusters at workplaces- and this goes beyond personal choice. Many people, particularly those working in low-wage jobs, do not have the option of staying home to reduce their exposure to COVID. While Gov. Baker placed new restrictions this week, including requiring masks for indoor dining and gyms, reducing the size of outdoor gatherings to 50 persons, and closing certain high-contact recreational businesses, these are simply not strong enough to address this state of dire emergency for our communities.
Our state’s support systems for those facing housing instability and food insecurity, for those who have recently lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, and protections for schools, businesses, and workers on the frontlines of this crisis are just a few examples of systemic factors that ultimately influence people’s risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection. The House and Senate recently passed a state budget that makes significant investments in housing assistance, food security, and substance use addiction services, as well as domestic violence, sexual assault treatment and prevention programs to address the sweeping effects of the pandemic. The budget invests in programs that provide COVID-related supports for small businesses, and increases funding for child care and local boards of health. There is still more work to be done to support individuals and small businesses as we continue to navigate this crisis, but this budget makes important steps.
It is imperative the Governor and his administration implement targeted rollbacks of the state’s reopening plan to keep people safe. To do this, it is necessary for the state and federal government to strengthen resources and the safety net to support families and small businesses.
Right now, people across the Commonwealth are doing all they can to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy and safe. We are counting on the Baker Administration to make needed adjustments to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions to minimize the dangerous impacts of the virus on our health care system and our communities.