Re "Baker moves slowly to reopen the state — and swiftly to remove nursing homes’ coronavirus liability,” (Opinion, May 19): Where are the state’s priorities? Conspicuously absent from the administration’s reopening plans was any mention of nursing homes, where 60 percent of Massachusetts deaths have occurred. Everything from construction to pet grooming was included for guidelines to reopen, but not one word about plans to make nursing homes other than death traps for vulnerable residents.
The Baker administration needs to inform the public of what it intends to do to safeguard the lives of nursing home residents and how it is preparing to fend off the inevitable second wave come this fall or winter. Who is in charge of this difficult, critical task? What are the specific plans regarding ongoing testing, infection control, spatial separation, and isolation for COVID-19 patients? The state has failed miserably to protect senior care residents from the scourge of COVID-19, and the absence of a single word about future plans from the administration is very discouraging. We expect more, and we can and must do better.
The Writer is a former Massachusetts undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.
Recalling a premature reopening
My grandfather, Jeremiah James Dromey, died on Jan. 1, 1919. He was 33 years old. He succumbed after contracting influenza during the 1918 flu pandemic. He was, by all reports, a healthy young man who got sick on Dec. 30, 1918, and was dead two days later. He left behind a wife and three sons, who were under the age of six. His fourth child, a daughter, was born four months after his death. The influenza pandemic in Massachusetts was first detected in August 1918. State officials restricted public gatherings but reopened on Oct. 20, after officials determined it was prudent to do so. Perhaps my grandfather had gone to his church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, on Mission Hill in Roxbury, for Christmas services. Wherever he contracted the flu, his death had devastating ramifications for his family. Let us hope that the projected reopening of Massachusetts during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic will have sufficient safeguards and not result in similar tragedy for families today.
‘Data not dates’
There has been a lot of discouraging news relating to public health and the economy coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent op-ed by Christopher R. Anderson and Steve Pagliuca, “Data not dates” (Opinion, May 16), provided a hopeful vision of how Massachusetts can benefit from undertaking a science-based approach to controlling the disease and safely rebooting the economy. The article explained how Massachusetts companies and institutions are playing a leading role in developing life-changing therapies and technologies that will have a worldwide impact. The authors argue that “states, cities, and regions that get it right on COVID-19 response and recovery now will gain the advantage in the global competition for economic investment and employment in the long term.” This vision must guide Massachusetts and, perhaps inspire other places, in the coming months.
James C. O’Connell
Wait another two to four weeks
Governor Baker is an excellent manager, but a poor leader.
The staged reopening plan, with a few exceptions, is itself largely sensible and detailed. However, the primary message coming from the governor needs to be that we need to hold the line, not that it’s time to reopen. By starting to reopen now, we are saying that we are okay with staying at about 1,000 new cases a day. We are saying we are okay with seeing cases quickly jump back up to dangerous levels before we can notice or react. We are saying that we don’t value our health care providers enough to give them a break from the virus. Because every bit of new activity and relaxation risks increasing transmission from where we are now.
If we waited just two to four more weeks, down to 100 cases a day, —and about the level we had when we shut down — we would leave ourselves much more room for error.
Massachusetts deserves a leader, and we do not have that in Baker.
Nicholas C. Bauer
Workers need to be protected
The Globe’s May 15 editorial is quite right: “Business immunity for COVID-19 is not the solution to Trump’s reopening fiasco.” Instead, it’s business accountability that’s needed, and this administration, with tragic consequences, has failed to require it. When the Trump Labor Department could have issued COVID-19-specific emergency safety and health regulations months ago, it opted instead to offer “guidance” that “create[d] no new legal obligations.” Many employers, to date, have been doing their best to follow various recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational and Safety Administration SHA. But too many have not. It’s critical that enforceable requirements be implemented immediately. They’ll protect workers from preventable contagion. They’ll also level the playing field for employers who are already taking the necessary steps when their less scrupulous competitors are cutting corners and risking workers’ — and the public’s — health. Requirements should come with severe sanctions for noncompliance, along with the resources needed to effectively police them.
The president’s inaction has cost countless lives already. If his administration won’t take the measures needed to protect worker health now, it should pay the heaviest political price. Absent robust federal action, which, regrettably, is unlikely, the states — including the Baker administration — need to step in and fill the void. Unfortunately, the reopening plan that Governor Baker rolled out this week suffers from deficient consultation with workers, unions, and occupational health professionals. To improve protections for all of us, they need to be at the table.
The writer was, from 2010 to 2018, the US Labor Department’s New England regional solicitor, responsible for enforcing federal worker protection laws, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Child care has never been more essential
This pandemic has made it clear how undervalued caregiving is instead of being appreciated for the critical role it plays in our society — especially when it comes to child care programs. Child care ensures parents and caregivers can work and support their families while providing children with a strong foundation for future success. During this time of social distancing, children have missed their educators, friends, and routines, while parents have juggled trying to balance work and child care. Meanwhile child care programs are struggling to stay afloat without the tuition from families they need to operate and cover fixed costs. We are on the verge of losing half of all our child care programs and, sadly, many may not reopen. If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Child care is essential. We must invest now to ensure our nation’s child care infrastructure is still there when it’s safe to reopen. If people can’t get back to work after this crisis is over because they don’t have access to child care, it will hurt us all.
Re “Restaurants seeking elusive ingredients to reconstitute their business model” (Page A1, May 18) and a comment from one owner: “There is a lack of nuanced understanding of how challenging the landscape is for . . . the restaurant community.”
Per Governor Baker’s reopening plan, dine-in service will not resume until June at the earliest. So I’d like to offer a thought for anyone ordering takeout or delivery in the meantime: Don’t be a jerk. Tip well — 20 percent and up — and be nice to workers. Customers may not realize it, but this is an unimaginably stressful time for anyone making a living in food service. Restaurants offering takeout are earning less than before the pandemic — even if their phones are ringing all day — because they have little or no bar revenue, with smaller margins selling food. Social distancing means fewer cooks in the kitchen, which means your order may take longer. Even with distancing, workers are still taking a risk by being around customers and fellow employees. And restaurants that were previously dine-in have had to reconfigure their whole operation, and troubleshoot on the fly.
So, to recap: Did you have to call 40 times in a row before connecting? Was your order late? Did the runner who brought your food to your car not greet you cheerily? Be nice and tip well anyway.
Owen Hooks Davis