BOSTON (CBS) - The COVID-19 positivity rate in Massachusetts is once again above 3%. And in Boston it's even higher. So, is it time to start taking stricter precautions again? While some experts voice cautious optimism, others are already sounding the alarm.
"Masking indoors is still optional but we know it's one of the best ways of stopping the spread of COVID-19," Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Tuesday.
But with surging caseloads prompting massive lockdowns in China, sharp spikes in hospitalizations and deaths in England, and the reinstatement of an indoor mask mandate in Philadelphia, you wonder: is our brief respite from COVID-19 precautions in jeopardy?
"We're somehow taking the head in the sand ostrich approach to this pandemic," said Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, chief of the COVID Task Force at the New England Complex Systems Institute. He says he's appalled by moves like next Monday's lifting of the mask mandate for airline passengers.
"England already has higher hospitalization rates than their previous Omicron wave just merely three months ago, and their deaths have increased 45% in one week," he says. "We're literally just a month behind that."
"Having a citywide mask mandate, I think it's a bit early for that," says Dr. Paul Sax of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.
But while he sounds less alarmed, Dr. Sax also sides with the 60% of air travelers who support keeping the masks on.
"Strong suggestion for masks would be warranted," he said. "I'm actually in favor of masks for things like air travel."
But when even former pandemic hardliners like Mayor Wu and Governor Charlie Baker are avoiding mandate restoration, does it mean those days are gone for good?
Dr. Feigl-Ding says if so, there will be a price to be paid.
"We're just basically allowing the virus to run free and giving it a come what may attitude," Feigl-Dig said. "I think that is just disastrously irresponsible and morally bankrupt."
We saw widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 in Washington last week after several large indoor gatherings, but no change in the CDC's retreat from indoor masking.
What does that tell you?
That the political backlash against masking and vaccine mandates is prevailing, for now, even though most polls show majority support for masking requirements.
We're seeing a struggle between two aspects of human nature - the desire to be free to socialize, travel and do business as you please, and the desire to be healthy and protect the health of loved ones.
Until the day comes when COVID-19 is completely understood and its worst damage preventable, that battle will continue.
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