As COVID-19 Concerns Grow, An 'Unworkable' Solution Proposed

Oct 16, 2020

Concern is growing in parts of New England about the potential for another spike in COVID-19 cases.

Four western Massachusetts communities — Springfield, Holyoke, Amherst and East Longmeadow — are "in the red" on the state's coronavirus map.

In Springfield, Health Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said about half of the city's positive tests are from people 30 and younger, and had a specific message for that age group.

"Until and unless you take this virus seriously, none of us will return to the society that we want to live in and have the economic prosperity that we deserve," Caulton-Harris said Tuesday.

Panelist Elizabeth Román said Caulton-Harris was right to address her warning to younger people.

"And I think it's important to never forget to mention that Black, Latinx and Native American communities are highly affected by this. And in Springfield there are large Black and Latinx communities," Román said. "It's important to protect all of us, of course. But it is greatly affecting people in those neighborhoods."

Also in recent days, the Great Barrington Declaration was developed in the Berkshire County town at the American Institute for Economic Research. It argued for a concerted effort to reach herd immunity for COVID-19, potentially by Christmas, they argued.

It's drawn swift backlash from many public health officials and scientists, including Gregg Gonsalves, an assistant professor at Yale.

"They're staking out a radical claim that has very little support in the scientific community," he said. "So it's not as if there's like a scientific debate. It's flat earth versus the world is round."

Panelist Matt Szafranski said the proposals are "certainly unworkable — definitely before a vaccine" is available.

"It's unfortunate because I think there is a conversation that can be had about how some of the measures that we're taking are helping some of the least vulnerable people instead of the most vulnerable people — especially where the economy is concerned," Szafranski said.

Also this week, western Massachusetts Catholics met their new bishop. Bill Byrne, who succeeds Mitchell Rozanski, said he looks forward to reviewing recommendations from an independent panel evaluating how the diocese can better deal with clergy abuse claims.

"We need to take it out of our hands and have outside voices," Byrne told reporters. "You can't police yourself in any way effectively."

Byrne stars in a series of YouTube videos called "5 Things with Fr. Bill Byrne."

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