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Op-ed: Massachusetts sees a spike in COVID-19 cases and it will not stop till we do more

(CDC/Unsplash)

Matthew Micale
Connector Staff 

As of Oct. 28, Massachusetts has had a total of 153,000 coronavirus cases. Of these cases, close to 10,000 have resulted in deaths. This past week, there was a recent spike of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts with over 1,000 new cases per day. This is amid social distancing guidelines and self-quarantine requirements for those testing positive and those who were in contact with them. In my opinion, aside from everyone completely isolating, COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts will continue to fluctuate throughout the winter.

Many people seem to be divided in their thoughts about COVID-19. Some are more daring and not shying away from meeting up with friends or family. Others are nervous about contracting the virus and avoid leaving their homes altogether. Whether or not some portion of the population isolates, if people keep engaging with others new cases of COVID-19 are inevitable.

With the incubation period of COVID-19 averaging around five days, someone could have the virus and unknowingly infect others. Unless you are getting tested daily or completely avoiding others, you could be spreading the virus even without having symptoms. It is hard to control something that is, at times, undetectable.

I am not arguing that precautions such as mask-wearing won’t help slow the spread of the virus, just that with the uncertainty and randomness of daily life, it is impossible to completely control the course of the pandemic.

No matter where you go in Massachusetts, you will see the vast majority of people wearing masks. Governor Baker issued an order back in May that requires those leaving their homes to wear facial coverings. Masks have been proven to slow the spread of the virus when worn properly. Sure, it might seem like a hassle to wear one, but in terms of putting in minimal effort for something that could help slow the spread, it feels more worth it. But is it enough?

Restaurants have also been open in Massachusetts since early summer and require their employees to wear masks. Customers also must wear masks but can take them off when sitting at a table. To me, this seems counterintuitive since germs can be spread just as much when sitting down as they are when walking to the bathroom. Complete isolation seems to be the only foolproof way to avoid contaminating others. Other than that, every time you are around someone else, you risk being contaminated or contaminating others with the virus.

I feel the same way about stores with plexiglass between the customers and the cashiers. Sure, this seems like it would help stop contamination, but all precautions are undermined when you exchange cash with the cashiers hand-to-hand. The reality of COVID-19 is that germs are being spread despite our best efforts to stop it.

Aside from wearing masks, another big change in day-to-day activity is more remote work and learning. A common tactic used by many remote workers and students in the state is a hybrid model where they meet in person some days but stay at home on others. This makes little sense to me since it only takes seconds of exposure to contract the virus. If someone in the incubation period of COVID-19 stays home Monday but goes into work on Tuesday, the same thing would happen as if they went in on both days: the virus would be spread.

I do not think that pointing fingers at the government, an organization or a specific individual for handling the virus “poorly” makes any sense. We are dealing with something that is invisible to the naked eye and functions in ways we do not completely understand. Unless we all isolate completely, COVID-19 is going to continue to spread in Massachusetts, and in the rest of the world, at varying rates.

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