BOSTON – As the Omicron variant moves through Massachusetts and hospitals fill to capacity, a Boston doctor comes up with a solution to flatten the curve again.
Dr JÃ©rÃ©my Faust, an emergency medicine specialist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, sent a three page memo to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week, urging the agency to consider issuing guidance for state and local governments to determine when a short “circuit breaker” shutdown may be needed to slow the spread.
âWe define circuit breakers as temporary restrictions on high-risk activities, including indoor meals, shows, and non-essential work outside the home,â Faust wrote.
Faust and his co-author, Guillaume Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, devised an emergency threshold using a ratio between the number of COVID-19 cases and the available hospital beds that would trigger a temporary shutdown of some activities. Faust said most circuit breakers would last 5-7 days, “but they would be unlikely to be needed more than 14 days to achieve the stated goal.”
Faust disagrees that his proposal has similarities to the widespread nationwide shutdown that crippled businesses from March 2020.
” I do not like it [comparison] because the closures remind us of the beginning of 2020 when we did not leave our house. We weren’t doing anything, âFaust said. “There’s a difference between saying we need you to stay in your house all the time and saying I don’t want you to go out to dinner a few nights.”
The CDC did not respond to Boston’s request 25 for a response to the memo.
matt fox, a professor in the departments of epidemiology and global health at Boston University, said the proposal is an “important idea and one that we really should have implemented sooner.”
âWe wanted clear measures for when we stop things like business lockdowns and closings and mask warrants. But as the authors of the letter point out, we need it both ways. We also need metrics to know when we are braking. I realize this can be frustrating for many as vaccination rates are high and they may wonder why we need more action. The key is, if we have metrics that cover when to add metrics and when to remove metrics, we have more certainty and we know what to look for, while preventing our hospitals from filling up and reducing mortality. Fox said.
Dr Shira Doron, epidemiologist and attending physician at Tufts Medical Center said the idea is wrong because state data indicates that most people transmit the virus in their homes.
“The great, great, great majority [of cases] are contracted in people’s homes, âDoron said. âWe talk a lot about restaurants and gyms. You don’t see a lot of restaurants and gyms in those numbers week after week.
Ashley Hudson, manager of Italian restaurant Libertine in Boston’s North End, doesn’t think her business could survive another shutdown, no matter how brief.
âMost restaurants operate on a tight margin. Two bad weeks or one bad month can stop you, âHudson said. “I think our restaurant [would never] reopen.”
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