Top health care professionals call on state governors to shut down, start over and do it right

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Top health care professionals call on state governors to shut down, start over and do it right

With COVID-19 spiking in states across the country, experts ask Governor Baker to be on high alert  

Boston– Amid uncontrolled spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, MASSPIRG and top health experts delivered a letter Wednesday to Governor Baker, noting that Massachusetts is in the “Yellow” column, according to COVID Exit Strategy, and calling on him to  be prepared to shut down again if new COVID 19 outbreaks emerge.

USPIRG, MASSPIRG’s  network of state organizations, is calling for states that reopened before they were ready to shut down, start over, and do it right the second time. This call has been joined by 160 public health professionals, including Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD-University of Pennsylvania, William Hanage, PhD-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Yaneer Bar-Yam, PhD, New England Complex Systems Institute, Maimuna Majumder, PhD, MPH Boston Children’s Hospital & Harvard Medical School, Seth Trueger, MD, MPH-Northwestern University, Megan Ranney, MD, MPH-Brown University.

MASSPIRG has been tracking critical public health metrics around the country for COVID-19 containment, building on the work of COVID Exit Strategy, a national group of public health and crisis experts. Since May, Exit Strategy has graded the readiness of all 50 states to reopen, using a simple Red / Yellow / Green color scale. However, as the national situation worsened through June and July, the group was forced to add a fourth color to their grading scale, “bruised red,” reflecting that the national situation was getting worse – not better.

Massachusetts is doing better than most. Currently, Exit Strategy rates Massachusetts “Yellow – Caution Warranted.”  “We can’t get complacent,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s legislative director.  “COVID-19 is spreading out of control in 20 states, and 17 more states are trending in that direction. Without a nation-wide ban on non-essential interstate travel, new infections from harder-hit regions could jeopardize our progress against the virus.”

“Many of our country’s decision makers need to hit the reset button,” said Cummings. “Continuing on the path we’re on now will result in widespread suffering and death. Health experts laid out criteria for how to reopen safely. It’s time to listen to them,” concluded Cummings.

The letter was also delivered to leadership in Congress and the Trump Administration.

By mid June more than 117,000 Americans had died of COVID-19.  If the U.S. response had been as effective as Germany’s, estimates show that America would have had only 36,000 COVID-19 deaths in that period. If the U.S.’s response had been as effective as South Korea, Australia or Singapore’s, fewer than 2,000 Americans would have died.

Many states reopened non-essential businesses and loosened shelter-in-place orders too quickly, doing  so without meeting key criteria that health experts laid out to reopen safely. Those criteria include:

  • Enough daily testing capacity to test everyone with flu-like symptoms plus anyone they have been in close contact with over the last 2 weeks (at least 10 additional tests per symptomatic person). Currently, the United States has only 35 percent of the testing capacity it needs to meet that threshold. 
  • A workforce of contact tracers large enough to trace all current cases. That’s 210,000 more contact tracers than the totals in April. According to an NPR survey, as of last month most states. 

We expect our leaders to lead in these deeply troubling times, the letter explained.



The Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in democratic society.

USPIRG is the federation of state PIRGS