Over the course of this past year, as local leaders in infectious diseases, we have extended our collective voice to our fellow residents of Massachusetts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. As we ring in a new year, here are our resolutions; please consider joining us.
Resolution #1: We resolve to double down on measures to protect ourselves, our families, and our community so we may endure the current surge of COVID-19 cases. We all can do our part by covering our faces anytime we are with anyone outside our immediate household, by maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance, following hand hygiene and environmental control measures, and by not going to work or school when feeling unwell. Masking, including while indoors, is safe and more effective in preventing COVID-19 — including the coronavirus mutation first seen in England — than any other tool we have available today and clearly works to prevent transmission of the virus.
Resolution #2: We resolve to cooperate with the data-driven measures that Governor Charlie Baker has implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 and allow schools and businesses to remain open. Limiting the number of people allowed in stores, places of worship, etc., provides an additional layer of prevention to the universal measures of masking and hand hygiene. Fortunately, we have learned that schools can operate safely and with minimal risk to students, teachers, and staff. We share the goal of returning students to full-time, in-person learning and appreciate that this may require resources and sacrifices, including financial and other support for changes to facilities and personal protective equipment for teachers as well as sacrifices by the public in taking measures to reduce community spread. Avoiding interactions at places like gyms and restaurants will help to mitigate spread and must be prioritized.
Resolution #3: We resolve not to give the vaccine more work to do. The rapid development and authorization of two vaccines was an incredible scientific achievement. These vaccines, as well as others that may soon follow, provide hope for an inflection point in this pandemic and a return to a more normal life. However, it will take time until we get a large majority of the population vaccinated to reach a point when the virus no longer circulates in the community. Widespread vaccine uptake can avert a larger proportion of infections when there is less disease circulating in the community. When we roll up our sleeves for the vaccine, it will be more effective if transmission is under control. Which brings us to:
Resolution #4: When it’s our turn, we resolve to embrace vaccination and encourage our family, friends, and neighbors to do the same.
For this New Year, please stay home and celebrate with your household or virtually with friends and family. By giving the gift of a small New Year’s celebration, you will protect yourself, your family, and your neighbors. The light at the end of the tunnel is ahead and we know that if we can persevere, we will all be able to celebrate in 2021 … together.
Dr. Tamar Foster Barlam is chief of the Section of Infectious Diseases at Boston Medical Center. Dr. Helen W. Boucher is chief of the Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Kalpana Gupta is associate chief of staff and chair of the Infectious Diseases COVID Response Team at Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System. Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Mary LaSalvia is interim chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Matthew R. Leibowitz is chief of Infectious Diseases at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Dr. Katherine McGowan is chief of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Kenneth M. Wener is chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center.