As schools and businesses continue to reopen, coronavirus cases are rising again in Massachusetts. As of November 7, the New York Times reports a seven-day average of 1,571 new confirmed cases per day in Massachusetts, with Middlesex County, where Concord Academy is located, reporting a fourteen-day average of 290 confirmed cases per day. With a few anomalies here and there, these numbers have steadily risen over the last few weeks; the seven-day average of new confirmed cases per day in Massachusetts rose by 265 from November 1 to November 7. On November 7, 2,302 new cases were reported, a number Massachusetts has not come close to since the height of the pandemic in April and May.
It is worth noting that as of August 12, Massachusetts only reports lab-confirmed coronavirus cases, which eliminates suspected cases from reports and so decreases the number of cases reported. Massachusetts has also greatly increased its testing capacity since the beginning of the pandemic, from roughly 13,000 tests per week in early May to a seven-day average of 76,820 tests at the beginning of November. Increased testing should lead to a relative increase in the number of cases reported. Together, these two factors should in principle improve the accuracy of the coronavirus statistics reported.
In response to the current trend of increasing coronavirus cases, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker has implemented a new set of restrictions designed to prevent continued spread. As of November 6, Massachusetts residents are required to adhere to a curfew from 10 PM to 5 AM. Certain businesses must close at 9:30 pm, and gatherings at private residences are limited to ten individuals indoors and 25 people outdoors. Residents can be fined up to 500 dollars for violating the restrictions on gatherings. As of October 5, Massachusetts is in phase three, step two of its reopening. Phase three of four involves the reopening of almost all businesses and public spaces, with coronavirus safety protocols in place. Phase three, step two only applies to lower-risk communities, defined as “cities and towns that have not been designated in the ‘red’ category in any of the last three weekly Department of Public Health weekly [sic] reports,” according to Mass.gov.
As of November 6, the Massachusetts Department of Health defines “red” communities as those with greater than or equal to 10 average cases per 100,000 residents for communities with more than 10,000 individuals or greater than 25 reported cases for communities with fewer than 10,000 individuals. As of October 29, Concord has received a “green” designation, indicating fewer than 10 average cases per 100,000 individuals.
While CA is currently in a hybrid learning mode, they will switch back to remote learning for STAC 3. Cozette Weng ’23 said she feels the prioritization of safety at CA is “within reason for now,” although if CA were to become any less lenient with its safety guidelines, it would become concerning. With regards to public concern for the pandemic, she says, “My biggest concern is that people are forgetting the scale on which things can escalate.” With the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projecting coronavirus diagnoses and deaths to increase in the coming months, CA’s choice to return to remote learning in the near future will prioritize public health and safety. However, Cozette shares that she is concerned about CA’s return in STAC 4.
At the moment, CA is planning to return to a form of in-person learning in STAC 4, although current coronavirus case trends may lead to a revision of this plan. Sarah Yeh, interim Head of School, says that in the event we see transmission at CA, we would consult with our school consulting physician, nursing staff, Concord Department of Public Health, and Massachusetts guidelines in determining next steps.
We have been fortunate thus far that all our mitigation protocols have meant that we are not seeing much transmission on CA’s campus, and that it is a key factor in our ability to keep campus open.
For now, CA students should do what they can to limit community spread by following their local coronavirus guidelines as well as those of CA, including but not limited to minimizing social gatherings, wearing masks, washing hands, sanitizing spaces, monitoring personal symptoms, and maintaining physical distancing. Sally Zimmerli, Dean of Students, touched on this responsibility in a recent email, saying, “It’s not just what you do to avoid getting into trouble that matters, but rather what you do because it is right, that proves your character!”