A house party attended by restaurateurs in a quaint seaside town in Massachusetts resulted in more than a dozen new coronavirus infections.
On the western side of the state, a Springfield hospital is facing an outbreak of at least 40 cases traced to a hospital staff who recently returned from an out-of-state vacation.
Less than a month after Massachusetts allowed gyms, cinemas, museums and other public places to reopen on July 6th, there is a growing sense of terror that the summer truce of the state hit hard by the pandemic is falling just as families they look forward to the beginning of school.
“Paying attention to #Massachusetts – # COVID19 is on the rise. The numbers show it. The anecdotes prove it, “said Dr. David Rosman, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, on Sunday in a series of widely shared tweets.
Rosman, who is also associate president of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a follow-up interview on Wednesday that the recent improvement should be an appeal to double the virus prevention efforts in Massachusetts. The state has more than 8,300 COVID-19 deaths, among the highest in the nation.
He and others have also urged Republican governor Charlie Baker to consider withdrawing his decision to move the state to the third phase of his reopening plan if the case numbers do not improve.
In the Boston suburb of Somerville, home of Tufts University, Mayor Joseph Curtatone has expressed similar concerns for weeks.
The Democratic mayor, who chose to stick to earlier and more stringent state guidelines on coronavirus this month, said Friday that his city will stop implementing Phase 3 of the governor’s reopening plan for another two weeks.
“Pressing pause on this next step is painful, but necessary,” said Curtatone in a written statement. “We are watching as the virus rages and companies are being shut down again in states that have ignored clear warnings that were opening too quickly. Even watching state and local data heading in the wrong direction.”
Concerns about a summer renaissance extend to nearby Rhode Island, which mobilized National Guard troops in the early days of the pandemic to go door-to-door by tracking visitors from New York – then the epicenter of the pandemic – to secure quarantines.
The small state has been relatively spared by the pandemic, but has seen a peak of over 100 recently confirmed cases Tuesday – the highest one-day total in Rhode Island in months.
In response, Democratic governor Gina Raimondo on Wednesday delayed the next phase of the state’s reopening plan by another month. It also reduced the maximum size of house parties and other social gatherings from 25 to 15 people, citing party-related infections, particularly among young adults.
“We are celebrating too much,” said Raimondo. “It is clear that we are not ready to go on.”
It has also imposed stricter limits on the increasingly crowded beaches of the ocean state in recent weeks and has threatened to impose stricter measures on bars and restaurants after some owners have continued to break state virus regulations.
Baker on Friday similarly threatened to reduce the number of people admitted to private meetings, but did not publicly entertain the idea of restoring other parts of the economic reopening in Massachusetts, which had the highest unemployment rate in the nation in June, to more than 17%.
He argues that much of the recent improvement in the state can be attributed to individuals who “drop their guard” and don’t practice the proper etiquette on virus security, rather than reopening the state economy too early or too widely.
At the same time, Baker announced stricter travel restrictions for people entering the state as of August 1, in recognition of growing cargo cases elsewhere.
Baker and other state officials point out that Massachusetts’ major viral measures remain far below those of other states and below the Massachusetts position when the gradual reopening began in mid-May. The state’s seven-day positive test rate was nearly 10% then; it is now about 2%.
Rosman and other prominent doctors say Massachusetts has averaged around 300 cases per day in the past few days, an increase of about 30 percent over the previous weeks. They also indicate anecdotal evidence that the public has become too relaxed in the fight against viruses.
In addition to the outbreaks related to the Chatham home party and Baystate Medical Center, state officials are investigating COVID-19 groups from a rescue party in Falmouth, a high school graduation party in Chelmsford and an unauthorized soccer field. in Weymouth, among other major meetings, Baker said on Friday.
“We think we’re running out of COVID-19, but we’re not,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh earlier this week after the image of a cruise ship in the seemingly crowded harbor went viral last weekend. “If we’re in a sporting event, we’re probably halfway through now.”
Rosman, the president of the medical society, said that a return to the fundamentals of virus security is even more crucial as local communities prepare to reopen schools and tens of thousands of college students arrive on campuses in the coming weeks.
“If the goal is to go back to school, we must take the necessary actions to get there,” he said. “It’s like trying to lose 20 pounds. You don’t get there by eating McDonald’s. You do this by exercising and eating well. “