The fourth and final stage of Gov. Charlie Baker's reopening plan begins Monday.
This means indoor public gatherings of up to 100 people will now be permitted — up from just 25. Stadiums, arenas, performance venues and overnight summer camps are among the places that will be allowed to open. Bars and nightclubs will remain closed, for now.
Massachusetts has not seen loosening of social distancing guidelines like this since the pandemic began here one year ago, and with just a portion of the state fully vaccinated, some people may wonder whether it's too soon.
Dr. Jorge Fleisher is an infectious disease expert and physician of internal medicine at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston.
He told WBUR's Morning Edition host Bob Oakes that he approves of the governor's reopening plan — that it falls in line with the state's current COVID-19 transmission rate and the country's ambitious vaccine rollout.
On whether the governor's reopening plan is wise at this time
Based on the numbers [Baker] showed [Thursday] and based on the numbers I was able to review into the Department of Health page, it makes perfect sense. And we're working on a really strong vaccination program.
On concerns over the spread of new COVID variants
We saw that the data from Johnson & Johnson that they were able to protect people against the new [variants]. But I think the most important thing to remember is as long as we keep with the program of wearing masks and social distancing, that has shown again and again that it would protect against any single variant. So if we continue with vaccination, wearing masks all the time, social distancing, I'm hopeful that we're not going to have any problems.
On the feasibility of the governor's plan to vaccinate more than 70% of Massachusetts before the Fourth of July
I think that as long as we continue to get the vaccine from the federal government, as long as the big companies keep producing the vaccines they promised, I think it is possible. And if by the last week of April — because it takes two to four weeks for the vaccine to actually develop full strength to protect against getting infection — so if by the first week of May or the second week of May, we vaccinate around 70% of adults in Massachusetts ... I think we're going to be able to get to what is called herd immunity.
On the future of the pandemic
This is a different virus compared to the influenza. If you remember the data, for instance, [the influenza vaccine] is effective anywhere between 20-40%, depending on the year. The industry and especially scientists have worked really hard to make this [COVID-19] vaccine, And no one expected to have a success rate ... of about 90% or 80%. So my hope is that maybe for a few years, this will require maybe a booster, but I don't see it to become anything like influenza. And at some point we're going to be able to eradicate — that's my hope — this virus, and we're going to be able to return to normalcy soon.
This segment aired on March 19, 2021.