Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced this week an extension to his May 18 “Stay At Home" order. The Mayors of Somerville, Cambridge and Peabody, MA ordered the wearing of masks in public places (indoor and outdoor) with fines for non-compliance of between $300 - $1000. Is doubling down on a general population lock down strategy the right path going forward? Or does the overall strategy need review?
One can reasonably ask: Is the strategy of generalized social distancing with increasing restriction appropriate going forward? Would it be more effective to target the virus directly where it is most insidious and deadly, focus resources there, and allow a gradual development of herd immunity in the general population?
Last week the Wall Street Journal reported over 10,000 COVID-19 associated deaths at elder care facilities. This number is likely to go up in both number and percentage terms. The WSJ has built its own database by contacting state departments of health directly because reporting from government sources was rare. California released data this weekend indicating nearly 40% of its deaths come from nursing home and elder care facilities. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports half of Europe's deaths from COVID-19 were from elder care facilities.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health COVID-19 Dashboard indicates nearly 60% of the 3153 MA deaths occurred in long-term care facilities. This percentage might rise as the definition may only indicate those that die on nursing home property not those that were released to home or died in hospitals after transfer from a nursing home.
In Massachusetts, the 70 and older age group made up 86% of confirmed COVID-19 deaths with those 80 and older making up nearly 65%. There have been no deaths in the 0-19 age group and 33 in total for those in age groups under 50. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of those who died in MA, and for which a full investigation has been completed, had underlying conditions.