Has Massachusetts Become Too Comfortable With COVID-19?

State officials are concerned after a series of incidents that suggest people in Massachusetts may not be taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough

Officials in Massachusetts are expressing concern that the public might be letting its guard down with respect to the coronavirus pandemic.

A party boat on Boston Harbor was crowded with people. Peabody Essex Museum in Salem chose to do contact tracing after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The Ming Dynasty restaurant in Marshfield was shut down for a day -- the treasurer's office says more than 100 people, many without masks, gathered at the bar.

"The health crisis is far from over, and taking care of all Massachusetts residents is of the utmost importance," Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said in a statement. "Stepping up our monitoring and COVID-19 enforcement will help save lives."

As the positive coronavirus test rate ticks up to 2%, are these incidents proof we're too comfortable with COVID-19?

"I do think that it's hard to sustain hyper-vigilance all the time," said Sarah Fortune, an infectious disease specialist with Harvard University.

She says it's up to the health care community to tell people what's safe and what's not.

"A bar, especially, where people are crowded into spaces, maybe without masks, but even with masks, spaces with limited ventilation and everybody is talking and aerosolizing viruses," Fortune said. "People need to be aware, those are really risky situations."

Grocery shopping, on the other hand, is low-risk, according to Fortune.

But it does seem COVID fatigue is leading to risk-taking.

Tracy Pinkham of Dracut agrees with Fortune about the difficulty of staying vigilant.

"I think that happens anytime we're under a lot of stress, mental health stress," Pinkham said. "People want to get out, but they can't, and you have the opportunity to go on a boat and you want to let loose for a night, but who knows if, the next day, you end up with the virus and then you spread it to people you love."

John Kheir of Boston believes there are a lot of factors.

"I think it depends on who you are and where you're from and what your education level is and if you had a personal experience with people who have gotten sick," he said.

But coronavirus ICU nurse Paul Milius says now is not the time to relax.

"People are not taking this seriously at all," he said. "It really is not that hard to wear a mask. Surgeons, [operating room] staff and dentists do it for their job all the time."

If you are looking for some good news, Fortune says she's impressed with the progress being made on a coronavirus vaccine and she is optimistic flu season will be mild, if only because of the precautions we are already taking.

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