Rep. Driscoll's letter to Governor Baker on easing COVID-19 restrictions
February 28, 2021
His Excellency Charles D. Baker
Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Office of the Governor, Room 360
Massachusetts State House
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, and Secretary Sudders,
During most of 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts and other states were forced to lead the way and make trailblazing pandemic management decisions because there was very little guidance from the federal government. Governor, you commented on many occasions to that effect and pleaded for more science based guidance from the federal government to help inform policy and safety decisions for Massachusetts and its residents.
I write to highlight the important guidance offered by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and respectfully ask you to reconsider your policy decision.
As you are aware, Dr. Walensky is a former member of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Advisory Group, convened by you, days after the State of Emergency was declared on March 10th, 2020. We benefited from her background and expertise then and throughout 2020. Now that she is at the helm of the CDC, the Commonwealth has a trusted agent in the federal system that can offer unequivocal guidance and policy based in science.
We finally have the federal level leadership that we longed for in 2020 and it would be unfortunate if Massachusetts did not follow the CDC’s guidance in 2021.
On a White House national briefing call, February 26, 2021 – 24 hours after Governor Baker’s announcement on lifting restrictions March 1st and March 22nd, Dr. Walensky commented,“…it’s important to remember where we are in the pandemic. Things are tenuous. Now is not the time to relax restrictions.”
Dr. Walensky went on to say, “Although we have been experiencing large declines in cases and admissions over the past six weeks, these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic.”
So, I want to be clear: cases, hospital admissions, and deaths all remain very high, and the recent shift in the pandemic must be taken extremely seriously.
On the same briefing call, Dr. Walensky also remarked, “Where the pandemic goes from here is dependent on our collective behavior and resolve to do our part to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. Together, we have the capacity to avoid another surge in our nation. I know people are tired; they want to get back to life, to normal. But we’re not there yet. Give us time we need to get more vaccines into our communities and to get more people vaccinated. This is our path out.”
Dr. Walensky was speaking about the national, 50-state, outlook but she may as well have been speaking directly to each of you in the context of Massachusetts’ announcement to ease restrictions the preceding day. After all, Dr. Walensky has deep roots in Massachusetts having served at as a Professor at Harvard Medical School and a practicing physician and infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and as an invited advisor to the COVID-19 Advisory Group before being named to lead the CDC.
We need to listen to her words. I believe it’s entirely appropriate to focus our efforts on getting our K-12 schools fully functional. The CDC’s recently published analysis (1) supports the Commonwealth’s efforts to prioritize in-person learning. That evidence, coupled with the certainty that would be provided by vaccinating teachers and staff that interact with school age children, would boost confidence, and enhance safety, in school settings. Supporting inperson schools is a wise and prudent path.
The decisions, however, to push for more in-person learning time just as the Commonwealth eases restrictions in other aspects of societal mobility needs to be reconsidered.
I would stress to all of you, we must remain vigilant in our approaches. We continue to contend with winter weather and the threat of significantly transmissible COVID-19 variants. While health data trends shift in a positive direction, we still have great risk due to high metric baselines such as, hospitalizations, cases and virus transmission (MWRA sewage data). As Dr. Walensky articulated, easing restrictions too soon in this tenuous time period risks setting off an avoidable and harmful rise in new cases - particularly before spring weather and greater supplies of vaccines arrive.
In light of the science based advice offered by the CDC, I respectfully ask that the administration pause and please reconsider easing restrictions at this time.
Sent respectfully and with a deep sense of shared duty to the people of the Commonwealth.
William J. Driscoll, Jr.
State Representative, 7th Norfolk District
1 Community, Work, and School. (2020, February 11). Centers for Disease Control and