For months, the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts has strived to be a COVID-safe community. But this hard work is now challenged by the controversial “Great Barrington Declaration.”
[Pictured: Town Manager Mark Pruhenski]
The Declaration, advocating a herd immunity COVID-19 solution, was developed and distributed by the American Institute for Economic Research, located in our town. The town itself had no role in, or forewarning of, the declaration bearing the town’s name.
Many local residents, business owners and town leaders, riled that the town is now associated with the Declaration, wish to clarify the record.
“We are a COVID safe community, we are not tossing off our masks,” said Town Manager Mark Pruhenski. “This Declaration has gained national headlines and has created harmful misperceptions—just as we are doing all we can to protect residents, employees and visitors.”
Townspeople have been following protocols for preventing virus transmission, following CDC and other public health guidance, and common sense. Businesses are following our town’s GBSafe program, for both employee and customer safety.
“We wear masks, keep safe distances as we can in public,” said Selectboard Chair Stephen C. Bannon. “We find enjoyment in our vast open spaces, trails, lakes and rivers, hiking, biking, and exploring. We have safe social pods with neighbors, family and friends.
“We are among the lowest risk towns in the state, and we hope to keep it that way,” he said.
Many town leaders believe herd immunity is a dangerous COVID-19 strategy: Achieving herd immunity levels could cost millions of lives, and this is unacceptable, particularly in a nation where far too many people live with risky, underlying health conditions. Many hospitals and front-line workers have been overwhelmed by vast waves of stricken patients.
We share one aspect of the Declaration: great empathy and concern for the pandemic’s toll on communities, businesses, families, children, isolated elders.
Great Barrington is working hard to mitigate some of these impacts: A ride and shopping service helps seniors. Small, supervised, in-person learning pods support essential workers’ children. Our food banks are full with donations.
Anyone who might avoid Great Barrington, due to confusion over the Declaration, is invited to visit and see how COVID-safe works in a small New England town.
Please wear a mask.