Massachusetts should shut down immediately

Massachusetts’ coronavirus numbers appear to be less concerning than the other three states with over 100 cases (California, Washington and New York)—they are lower and growing more slowly. However, Massachusetts has been running about 30x fewer tests than those states, and appears to have been extremely tardy in responding to a super-spreading event at the Biogen conference.

As a result, in a worst-case scenario, MA cases could be understated by a factor of 2-3 relative to other states by now. If so, we’re near the point where only near-complete social distancing (including shutdown of non-essential businesses) can avert a Wuhan-level epidemic.

Yuri and I made a scenario visualization where you can look at what happens to your region with strong or weak quarantine measures: Don’t Be Italy.

To help us avoid being Italy, call Gov. Baker and your reps today.

Update: just after publishing, Gov. Baker shut schools and restaurants and banned 25-person events. This is good progress, but we’re still not as locked down as Daegu.

Summary of claims

What you can do

First, call Gov. Charlie Baker’s office and ask for measures that have bent the curve elsewhere:

All of these measures can easily be reversed once the epidemic is contained. If we don’t contain the epidemic, we’ll really wish we’d done them a week ago.

Next, call your legislators and tell them the same thing.

Last, sign this petition to shut down MA as much as possible.

Finally, it’s still not time to panic—if we respond in time, you’ll still be less likely to die of covid-19 than of a car accident this year. It’s important to act soon, but the situation isn’t yet irreparable.

Further reading

Timeline of events

Wed, Feb 26

Sat, Feb 29

Mon, Mar 2

Tue, Mar 3

Wed, Mar 4

Thu, Mar 5

Fri, Mar 6

Sat, Mar 7

Sun-Mon, Mar 8-9

Tue, Mar 10

Wed-Fri, Mar 11-13

Friday, Mar 13

Saturday, Mar 14

Sunday, Mar 15

Thanks to Eve Bigaj, Will Brownsberger, Will Poff-Webster, and Dan Luu for reading a draft of this post.


  1. https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2020/03/13/california-could-start-testing-thousands-of-people-for-covid-19-as-early-as-next-week says one Quest lab alone is running 1,200/day ↩︎

  2. https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/after-weeks-demanding-approval-governor-cuomo-announces-fda-gives-new-york-state-authority ↩︎

  3. Comparison of https://web.archive.org/web/20200314222852/https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus (7764 tested) and https://web.archive.org/web/20200313200542/https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus (4807 tested) ↩︎

  4. https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/9GyKccaJdLEbdhyTi/a-significant-portion-of-covid-19-transmission-is ↩︎

  5. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/11/nation/how-biogen-leadership-conference-boston-spread-coronavirus/ ↩︎

  6. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/health/coronavirus-asymptomatic-spread/index.html ↩︎

  7. https://www.mass.gov/news/second-presumptive-positive-case-of-covid-19-identified-by-massachusetts-state-public-health ↩︎

  8. https://www.reddit.com/r/boston/comments/fejbe1/60_people_sent_to_brigham_and_womens_from_marriot/ ↩︎

  9. https://www.mass.gov/news/five-new-presumptive-positive-cases-of-covid-19-identified-by-massachusetts-state-public ↩︎

  10. https://www.mass.gov/news/five-new-presumptive-positive-cases-of-covid-19-identified-by-massachusetts-state-public-0 ↩︎

  11. Google cache of BPHC bloc post https://bphc.org/onlinenewsroom/Blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1282 ; see below ↩︎

  12. https://www.mass.gov/news/massachusetts-department-of-public-health-updates-new-covid-19-cases-in-new-online-dashboard ↩︎

  13. https://www.boston25news.com/more/blog-latest-coronavirus-cases-news-massachusetts/XZXJA7P3J5ENZFXLRG2YUFWTSI/ ↩︎

  14. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/10/metro/mass-legislative-leaders-propose-15-million-coronavirus-package/ ↩︎

  15. https://boxford.wickedlocal.com/news/20200311/with-emergency-declaration-mass-adopts-new-virus-strategy ↩︎

  16. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/14/metro/baker-sets-up-virus-command-center/ ↩︎

  17. https://web.archive.org/web/20200314233119/https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-cases-quarantine-and-monitoring ↩︎

  18. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/08/metro/mass-health-officials-report-28-cases-coronavirus-sunday/ ↩︎

  19. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/12/nation/severe-shortage-tests-blunts-coronavirus-response-boston-doctors-say/ ↩︎

  20. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_coronavirus_pandemic_in_Washington_(state)#March_14%E2%80%9315 ↩︎

  21. https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-pui-criteria/download ↩︎

  22. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/12/nation/marriott-long-wharf-host-biogen-meeting-close-amid-coronavirus-concerns/ ↩︎

  23. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/13/nation/this-is-not-good-enough-healey-chides-baker-administration-coronavirus-testing/ ↩︎

  24. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/13/nation/ray-hope-coronavirus-outbreak-mass-loosens-rules-who-can-get-tested/ ↩︎

  25. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/14/metro/baker-sets-up-virus-command-center/?p1=HP_Feed_ContentQuery ↩︎

  26. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/15/metro/baker-no-widespread-quarantine-order/ ↩︎

Comments

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Seth Rafal MD

Ben, Thank you for this research.  Seth (FON - friend of Nat)

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