BOSTON (CBS) – As we enter the third calendar year of the COVID-19 pandemic, one Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Professor is pitching that Massachusetts update its playbook.
“We’ve been relying on the 2020 playbook for two years now and it just doesn’t make sense to me that we use the same playbook going into 2022,” Professor Joseph Allen told WBZ. “It’s as foolish as using the 2019 playbook in 2020.”
Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is widespread and everyone age five and up has had the opportunity to get vaccinated, it’s time to change mitigation measures, he explained.
This mentality is what inspired Allen to publish an op-ed in the Washington Post on Wednesday, detailing the ways he believes the playbook needs to be changed.
1. “Fully vaccinated” should include a booster shot.
2. Stop equating all control strategies, like vaccination and hand washing, when some are stronger than others.
3. Where all people are vaccinated, do away with mask mandates and distancing requirements.
4. Ventilation matters.
5. CDC should update masking recommendations.
6. One way masking is fine.
7. Make rapid antigen tests the gold standard for testing instead of PCR tests.
8. Isolation periods should be reduced from 10 days to five.
9. Close contacts should not be sent home for quarantine.
10. Masks for kids in schools should be optional in the new year.
Specifically, Allen feels the state and country should prioritize vaccination over all other mitigation measures. In 2020, “we put a long list out there, the usual suspects, everybody knows what to do, wash your hands, clean, ventilation, mask, get vaccinated,” he explained. “But really most important is to get vaccinated.”
After getting vaccinated, Allen says, the focus should be on proper ventilation. Next on the list, he says, rapid at home antigen tests should become the gold standard as a way to stay safe. “It gives you an answer within 15 minutes and answers the question: are you actively infectious?” he explained. “This is a great tool if you were getting together with friends over the holidays or maybe someone who’s older or immunocompromised. Before you go, you can test and get that answer right away.”
Watch Full Interview With Professor Allen
However, there is currently an accessibility issue with those at home tests. Governor Charlie Baker recently announced that two million free tests would be delivered to high-risk and lower income communities.
Allen says that’s not enough. The at home tests are difficult to find at stores, and cost roughly $25 for a pack of two. “These should be free or under a dollar, because that’s the only way we are going to remove the barriers to make people use them,” Allen explained. “People aren’t going to be able to do this if it’s expensive, but if we make it free and cheap, like they should be, then it will become a tool that can become leveraged more effectively.”
This shift in mentality that Allen is pitching pairs with the ongoing realization that the pandemic is not going away any time soon. “This virus is not going away,” he said. “It’s headed towards being an endemic. We are going to deal with a lot of cases because of Omicron. We have to recognize that cases in some of those eight-year-olds are very different from [those of] eighty-year-olds, and a case in someone who’s vaccinated is very different from someone who’s not vaccinated.”