Boston Globe, November 2020
Just a few weeks ago, much of Europe was where Massachusetts is now in responding to a resurgent virus, closing certain businesses in the hopes that would be enough to contain infections. It was not, and now countries from Ireland to Italy, England to Germany, have closed up much of their economies — an option that could prove prohibitively costly if caseloads here keep mounting a similarly worrisome trajectory.
The key difference is European countries have backed their more stringent closures with stimulus spending that softens the blow on workers and the economy. In the United States, the absence of any new federal aid is robbing governors such as Charlie Baker and local mayors of a crucial backstop for the day when they may have to directly confront the question of a total lockdown.
“There’s a very straightforward connection here,” said Marc Draisen, executive director of the regional planning organization, Metropolitan Area Planning Council. “If people see they’re getting some help to make it through, they’re going to be more receptive to restrictions.”
Despite the sharp spike in new infections in the past several weeks, the overall caseload has yet to reach levels that public health specialists say warrant going beyond the limited measures that Baker rolled out last week, which include curfews, early closings for restaurants, and smaller indoor gatherings. The governor has argued the targeted restrictions are necessary to avoid more drastic measures.
The seven-day average of new cases in Massachusetts is higher per capita than in Germany, but below the US national average and lower than that of other European countries — about half that of Italy, for example, according to data tracked by Applied XL and Stat. The state has reported well more than 1,000 new infections a day for much of the past month, with a few days even topping 2,000 new cases.