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LETTERS

From schools to mandates to testing, Mass. faces major COVID challenges

About 30 people stood outside the Whittier Street Health Center on Jan. 7 waiting to get a COVID-19 test.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Safer schools are essential for both health and effective learning

As a stepparent of a Massachusetts high school student, I applaud Alan Geller’s Jan. 10 op-ed, “To keep schools open during COVID, Governor Baker must make them safer.” This is essential not only for the health of students’ and teachers’ families but also for effective learning.

My high schooler faces a daily litany of absent teachers due to illness. He receives near daily notices that he has been exposed due to the illness of a student in one of his classes. He doesn’t feel safe taking off his mask, so he eats outside every day, even in arctic conditions. Teachers falling ill and distraction and worry over getting COVID-19 at school form a significant learning barrier.

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The focus on keeping schools open that dominates public statements of the governor and Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley is insufficient to get our kids back to effective learning. We need schools that are safe and that have less COVID circulating, even if that means going back to remote learning for a time. To prevent a return to remote learning, Baker and Riley need to engage forcefully on COVID prevention in schools, using measures such as those Geller suggests. A collaborative attitude needs to replace the bombast of recent statements.

Teachers and parents have a right to be concerned about safety under the administration’s current, and failing, approach.

Frank Lowenstein

West Newton


Condition of school buildings finally gets attention, but did it have to take a pandemic?

As a retired teacher, mother of a teacher, and grandmother of a first-grader, I am delighted to see commentary in the Globe that strongly advocates for improving measures to keep schools open safely. But I must admit that I am also shaking my head and thinking, “Too little, too late.”

Not only are schools already deep into the disaster of the Omicron surge, but many of us have been saying for years that our school buildings are often unsafe.

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It is with a sense of irony and dismay that I see the sudden fascination with improving ventilation and space in public schools. After many years of advocating for newer, safer, better buildings for students and teachers, I guess I should be happy that the public is suddenly aware of the need for clean air and adequate space in schools. I suppose I should be ecstatic that society has finally realized how vital schools and teachers are to the operation of our everyday lives.

Still, I wonder how many new schools will be built in the coming decade in Massachusetts’ poorest communities.

Karen Shiebler

Winchendon


Baker needs to set statewide mandates, not pass buck to cities and towns

We read with interest your recent editorial “New Year’s resolutions for the new mayor and the outgoing governor.” The editorial board itemizes areas of importance for Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, all worthy aspirations, including “Chart Boston’s pandemic recovery.” However, we were puzzled and dismayed by the list for Governor Baker. “Outgoing”? Isn’t Charlie Baker the chief executive of the Commonwealth for another year? And what about COVID-19? Tackling the pandemic should be at the top of the governor’s list of problems he resolves to address.

We have been pleased with Baker’s leadership over the past seven years in most respects. In the best of times, he has a tough job. The past 22 months have been grueling and dispiriting. But we implore the governor not to pass the buck on the toughest decisions — mandates for masking and vaccination certification — to the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. That is a prescription for confusion and ineffectiveness. Few of the municipal boards of health are equipped to successfully combat the pandemic on a piecemeal basis. COVID respects neither boundary lines nor political parties.

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Governor, your legacy will be determined by this final year of service. Please don’t let us down.

Arthur Currier

Newburyport

Dr. Richard J. Hannah

Salem

This letter was cosigned by seven current and past Massachusetts residents from the Berkshires to the bay.


People who test positive should have an easier path to a retest

Re “Baker defends Mass. on COVID-19 testing availability, says residents will have to ‘be patient’ ” (BostonGlobe.com, Dec. 30, 2021). Governor Baker, in his full-throated defense of his record, omitted a key lapse in the state’s COVID testing policy. For Massachusetts residents who receive a positive test result, their ability to test again in 5 to 10 days in order to return to work is a daunting challenge. Similar to the COVID vaccine program, which guaranteed a second vaccine appointment three to four weeks after the first vaccine appointment, Baker needs to guarantee that people who test positive will be retested in 5 to 10 days.

State-run testing sites and perhaps private pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, should be ordered to set aside a percentage of appointments for retesting people who receive positive COVID test results. Perhaps the state Department of Public Health, which tracks people with positive test results, should issue such individuals a special code to enter when signing up for their next COVID test appointment that would give them priority.

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Dr. Peter Lifton

Lexington