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State to order masks for school kids, staffers through at least Oct. 1

The Herald reports the state education board gave Commissioner Jeff Riley the power to required indoor mask use at all Massachusetts schools - for both students and staff - through Oct. 1, after which schools would be able to lift the requirement if they can prove at least 80% of students and staff have gotten shots.

The vote came despite the presence of a small but noisy group of right-wing anti-vaxxers.

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Comments

are good.

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Voting closed 42

Not only are masks good, but they are totally necessary during this pandemic.

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What quantitive measure indicates the end of the pandemic and/or the end of mask mandates?

Availability of vaccines for all age groups?
Zero COVID cases?
Zero COVID deaths?
Below X hospital utilization?

I'm not opposed to masks (and wear them) but UHub commentators, experts, and politicians should clear about what constitutes the end of that requirement.

If they don't think there is functionally an end to such a requirement, be open about that too.

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would suggest that the end of rapid and uncontrolled spread of disease would be the endpoint of a pandemic.

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What defines rapid?
What defines uncontrolled?

This is where specific units of measure are helpful.

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Well, I'm not an epidemiologist, and I do not know what specific metrics we should be using, so it's probably good I'm not making important decisions in this regard. But I am a scientist, so I do appreciate that specific measurements are necessary here. I'll have to defer to someone else as to what those measurements may be.

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People stop dying of it

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In a certain sense, the pandemic will never be over; SARS-CoV-2 will continue circulating indefinitely in all countries. But at a certain point it won't *matter*.

[EDIT: OK, a self-correction to my pedantry here: A pandemic is technically just a large/widespread epidemic, and a defining characteristic of an epidemic is that it *grows*. Once basically everyone is exposed and it reaches a steady state, then it is termed an *endemic* disease. So you could quantify that endpoint based on the reproductive number. But that steady state might not be acceptable, depending on how protection from immunity wanes!]

Zero deaths is not a good goal, since about 35,000 people die of influenza every year in the US and apparently that's OK with us. So maybe pick a benchmark like 50,000/year, which would be a bad flu season. (We've had several like that in the past decade.)

You could also define vaccination thresholds, and just hope there's no significant vaccine escape.

But more realistically, the pandemic will be "over" when we no longer have to take special measures to contain it, be they masks, vaccines, social distancing, surveillance testing, or other. This just turns your question on its head, though: The pandemic will be over when we no longer need to wear masks. :-)

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Bear in mind that each pandemic is going to be a bit different simply because it takes a novel pathogen to cause one. Virulence and damage capabilities have to be taken into account.

Now for the textbook descriptions:

Pandemic: An epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people. COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020 by the World Health Organization.

Epidemic: The occurrence of more cases of disease than expected in a given area or among a specific group of people over a particular period of time.

By this definition, the pandemic ends when the virus is no longer prevalent throughout the world or in multiple countries/regions.

Here’s three ways that can happen:

A vaccine or an effective treatment is developed – this would be the most desirable option. Think of polio – a series of regional epidemics, not a pandemic – which came to a medical end with a vaccine.

Infection and death rates plummet – also considered a medical end. That’s how the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 ended ­– those infected either died or developed immunity.

People learn to live in a world with the disease. This is considered a social ending, which is not an actual end since the disease itself doesn’t go away. In this situation the disease may continue to spread, which can delay the medical end.

Depending who you talk to, we are still having an HIV pandemic - but in our region of the world it is contained through a mix of the first and third situations.

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Seems like you’re familiar with this stuff. What to make of the waning efficacy and need for booster shots? My fiancé is insisting I get the shot and I’m genuinely concerned. Not because I’m anti-vaccine, I’m not, but I don’t get the flu shot nor am I big on taking pills of any kind. I’ve never heard of a vaccine that required constant booster but I’m not a doctor either.

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The vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis has a booster schedule for adults of every 10 years according to current CDC guidelines and in some circumstances for Meningococcal vaccination.

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For some of the immunizations you got as a kid, the reason why you don't need adult boosters is because you're in an environment where the disease is no longer present, so whether you still have immunity is irrelevant. Polio is an example: you don't need a booster if you're in the United States, not because you necessarily still have immunity, but because there is no polio here. I'm not sure if this is still true, but 20 years ago I was traveling to a region that still had polio and I had to get a booster.

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I think there are a few considerations here:

- "Waning immunity" is not all one thing. If you can get SARS-CoV-2 as a head cold because your immunity is no longer top notch, that's not a major concern; just isolate as best you can until it's over. If it means you can get severe disease, that's a bigger problem. What I've been hearing about has mostly been the mild stuff, although I haven't been looking closely.

- Booster shots are generally going to be more important for people with weaker immune response, such as the elderly or people on immunosuppressants. Severe breakthrough infections are much, much more common among the elderly than the young! It might just not be all that important for you in particular.

(I do want to echo what another commenter said, though -- tetanus and pertussis need boosters as well. Pertussis in particular is very hard to get lasting immunity for.)

- Last I saw, the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna) produced a better response than the adenovirus vaccines (J&J). Not sure how that plays out in terms of long term immunity, but it might matter *which* vaccine you got. Of course, you can also get multiple kinds, and there's evidence that that produces an even better response. I don't think the CDC is ready to recommend that yet, though. ;-)

I'm not a big fan of medical intervention either, and as a healthy person in my 30s I'm pretty comfortable with just having my 2 Moderna shots and seeing how the picture looks in a few months when we have more data. My *extremely vague suspicion* is that most people won't actually need annual booster shots, but that they'll be offered. We'll see!

I do recommend getting the annual flu shot, though. Influenza kills about 35,000 people in the US along each year, and while it's difficult to target the vaccines to the strains accurately, a combination of the flu shot and masking really does help. Influenza has also long been thought to be the biggest risk for the next pandemic, so reducing the chance for variants to arise is really important.

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Does this include parochial schools under the tutelage of the Superintendent of Catholic Schools Thomas W. Carroll?

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... so it does include private and parochial schools.

Enforcement, however, is left up to the schools' administrations.

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They were open in my area last year with masks and testing.

I don't know why they wouldn't just carry on with that.

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Magoo for one is relieved. The mask mandate will allow Magoo to continue to protect Magoo’s secret identity. Like the caped crusader, Magoo is the Mask Marauder, marauding against those evil doers that even think about committing a crime. Magoo likes to say if you can’t pay the fine or do the time, refrain from committing the crime. Magoo.

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away.

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Voting closed 38

this has to be enough.

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Where's the banhammer?

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