Coronavirus is as significant to history as the Great Depression

May 20, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

Christmas is coming – well, so to speak.

Since I have to write this column several days before Gov. Charlie Baker makes his announcement on May 18 all I can do is act like a kid several days before Christmas.

I don’t know what I’m going to get. I know I’m going to get something. I’ve been told something is under the tree. I’m allowed to talk about it. I can guess.

Until the day arrives I don’t know if it’s going to be a package of underwear or a live pony.

Based on my own cynical nature, I’m assuming socks – not even fun socks.

Baker stoked the fires of anticipation with his announcement on May 11 by speaking about a tiered plan to re-open the state. People are antsy and many are willing to throw some caution – in the case of supporters of the president, most caution – to the wind in exchange of returning to “normal.”

As Chris Lisinski of the State House News Service reported, “The first wave of businesses shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic could begin to reopen around May 18 if public health data continues to trend in a positive direction, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday as his administration unveiled a four-step plan to move from widespread shutdowns into a ‘new normal.’ One week before a panel tasked with laying out reopening strategies publishes its report, Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito offered an outline of how the process will unfold. It will start with industries that are best able to limit face-to-face interaction and transmission risks for the highly infectious virus. All businesses will face a range of new mandatory safety standards once they resume operations, and state officials will also lay out industry-specific requirements. During the initial stage, every workplace must ensure that all employees, customers and vendors stay at least six feet apart as often as possible, wear masks, and perform regular cleaning and disinfecting, Polito said. That first phase, which the administration titled ‘Start,’ could begin as soon as next week. Phases two, three and four – dubbed ‘Cautious,’ ‘Vigilant’ and ‘New Normal,’ respectively – will follow. The timeline for those phases will depend on how well the state is able to contain COVID-19. ‘The goal is to begin this process around May 18, but it will be gradual and facts on the grounds will determine if we actually hit that goal,’ Baker said.”

Naturally there was pushback to the Baker announcement from the General Court. Matt Murphy of the State House New Service wrote, “Several Republican legislators on Tuesday urged Gov. Charlie Baker to not delay the reopening of the economy any longer, expressing frustration that other states around Massachusetts are allowing businesses to resume activities while owners and employees in their districts remain in limbo.

“The lawmakers – three of the more conservative figures in the House – also expressed impatience with the level of detail the Baker administration has provided to businesses so far about which ones will be allowed to open first and when. Business owners should be allowed to figure out for themselves, to some degree, how to safely bring employees back to work, the lawmakers said.

‘It’s time to open Massachusetts without delay,” said Rep. Marc Lombardo, a Billerica Republican who wore a red ‘Make America Great Again’ cap on Tuesday's Zoom call.”

I really want things to reopen. I also don’t want to get sick because people are irresponsible.

I understand that people are suffering. I get it there will be businesses that don’t recover from the shutdown and that job losses may be permanent.

The effects of the pandemic may for many people take several years to overcome. This is as significant moment in American history as was the Great Depression.

The real Christmas Day is coming, but it will take a while.

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