With Massachusetts hospitalization rates now climbing higher than last winter, four leaders of hospitals and health systems say their workers have done their part — and now it’s time for the public to do its part by getting vaccinated, boosted, and wearing masks.
“We are here for you and your families, whether you have been vaccinated or not. We will do our part; we ask that you do yours,” they said in a Globe op-ed.
The state reported Thursday that 2,524 patients with COVID-19 were in the hospital. That exceeds the peak during last winter’s deadly surge of 2,428 on Jan. 4, 2021.
Dr. Kevin Tabb, president and CEO of Beth Israel Lahey Health; Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center; Dr. Anne Klibanski, president and CEO of Mass General Brigham; and Michael Dandorph, president and CEO of Wellforce, took aim in the opinion piece at boos and protests against government COVID-19 measures.
They pointed to the “chorus of boos” at Mayor Michelle Wu’s press conference to announce the city’s new indoor COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination policy and another protest at Monday’s swearing-in ceremony for Boston City Council members.
“We hear booing for our collective best chance at limiting serious illness and death as the fast-spreading Omicron variant rips through our community,” they wrote. “Our hospitals are caring for the highest numbers of COVID-positive patients since the early days of the virus. And who are the vast majority of those hospitalized with serious illness? The unvaccinated.”
The officials noted the impact of the pandemic on the immunocompromised and elderly who are at risk despite taking precautions, on children who are too young to be vaccinated or may have to go back to remote learning, and people who may hesitate to seek health care for other conditions.
“Those of us in health care have done our part — and more. But we can’t do it alone. Public health requires, well, the public to do their part,” the officials said.
“Wu is right to take steps to encourage Boston’s residents, visitors, and employees to get vaccinated to participate in activities safely,” the op-ed said. “We encourage others in positions of leadership to do the same: large employers to require vaccines for their employees, as we have, and other municipalities to consider similar policies, and major entertainment, cultural, and other venues to require vaccination.”
“We are only asking of you what we are asking of ourselves — and what you can expect of the people taking care of you. Wear a mask. For those who haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated. For those who have been vaccinated, get a booster if you’re eligible,” said the officials, who lead organizations with more than 139,000 workers.
The op-ed came on a day when Massachusetts was hit with a storm that dropped more than a foot of snow in some areas.
The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said that some COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites could be closed, and that people with scheduled appointments as well as those planning to walk in should call their vaccine or testing location to ensure it will be open.
Dr. Catherine Brown, the state epidemiologist, said that a snow day could potentially be a good thing in a pandemic because fewer people will be mingling outside of their household bubble.
“The challenge is that a single day is not enough to really break transmission cycles,” she said.
Brown noted that the snow could deter people from getting tested, disrupting the state’s data collection, though she said one day wouldn’t be enough to make a big difference.
Matthew Fox, a professor of epidemiology and global health at Boston University School of Public Health, said that, because of the snow day, people infected but not showing symptoms would have more of a chance to develop symptoms - and then get tested over the weekend and isolate, instead of returning to work or school on Monday to spread the virus.
“It’s not going to have a massive impact,” he said. But “every little bit helps.”