OP/ED: Moving Massachusetts Towards a New Normal
Moving Massachusetts Towards a New Normal
Good news is starting to break across the Commonwealth, despite reaching 80,000 confirmed cases in Massachusetts our Department of Public Health is seeing an approximate 13% positive test result rate over the past few days. This is below what was reported just even a few weeks ago and this reduction in the positive rate is the omnipresent phrase known as “flattening the curve” that we've all been working towards. Of course there is still work to be done. For example, Lowell General Hospital is still roughly at double it's ICU capacity than typically, but hospitalization rates are lower and state sourcing of ventilators and PPE have put us in a stronger position. So what does this mean? It means in the next few weeks we move forward towards a “new normal.”
Governor Baker's reopening team, under Lieutenant Governor Polito's leadership, has already released a rough four-stage plan in which they are currently refining the opening procedures. Questions currently being discussed include the current and future availability to of PPE in Massachusetts for businesses to operate safely, how to increase capacity and disinfect the MBTA, and how to encourage remote working when it is the most feasible. Many of the safety standards currently in play, such as the minimum six-foot separation, requirement of masks, and increased disinfecting and cleaning will continue to be required. To help formulate a plan that strikes a balance of safety and productivity, the state has asked for businesses who wish to contribute ideas to best practices to be set, as well as what they view might be an impediment to their operations. If you would like to contribute your thoughts, concerns, and plans to help shape our state-wide strategy, please call or email my office so that we may ensure the reopening committee considers your ideas as we adapt our lives.
Over the previous week we still continue to receive many calls related to masks; yes, you must wear them if you are near other people you are not quarantined with. The Governor's order does make the clarification where distancing is not possible. If you are clearing brush in your own backyard, you need not wear a mask. If you are pumping gas, you should, and you should don a mask if you are going through a drive-thru. Even if you are young and healthy, this mask will help prevent any aerosolized virus from contaminating surfaces or spreading if you are asymptomatic. This has been enacted with tremendous results in places such as Austria, where transmission of the virus was reduced by up to 90% upon the implementation of this rule. I also want to clarify that masks do not need to be a certain medical grade, so a cloth or scarf will be considered sufficient in helping slow the spread.
Lastly, and while this is old news, if you have an issue with your IRS stimulus, small business assistance, or unemployment please do not hesitate to reach out. The stimulus is your tax dollars - please do not accept not receiving it. Together with Congressman Moulton's office we inquired about stalled or missing payments, including missing paperwork and other issues. I ask that if you do reach out electronically, that you do not include your Social Security Number for privacy issues, but do include your name, address, and phone number. For those of you encountering issues with the SBA or unemployment, please continue to reach out so we may advocate for you. As always, be safe and healthy.
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