COVID

“As we prepare for future risks, we can enjoy the present.”

Serena Cho, at right foreground, checks the temperature and proof of vaccination of guests arriving for dinner at Pagu in Cambridge, Jan. 27. Barry Chin/The Boston Globe

Though he said right now is not the time, Dr. Ashish Jha took to Twitter to explain why he thinks as COVID numbers continue to improve, removing public health mandates is the way to go.

In a Twitter thread Monday, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health compared the pandemic and public health mandates to weather — saying when it’s pouring rain, umbrellas, raincoats, and rain boots are needed. But when the weather calms down, you can leave most of your rain gear at home.

In Jha’s metaphor, the rain was a COVID surge, the umbrella represented vaccines, the raincoat signified good masks, and rain boots were staying out of crowded places.

“Right now, the storm is starting to ebb,” Jha wrote. “Infections are falling, hospitalizations down. But with infections still high, indoor mask mandates make sense. As do indoor capacity limits.”

Jha emphasized that keeping public health mandates in place indefinitely is not effective because people tire of the mandates. He said the key is taking off mandates during periods of low infection but then being ready to bring them back if another surge comes.

“With infections still high (hard rain), I wouldn’t end public health measures today,” Jha wrote. “But soon, as cases, hospitalizations get low (drizzle), lifting restrictions [is] reasonable. To be clear: the pandemic won’t be over, but as we prepare for future risks, we can enjoy the present.”

Read Jha’s full Twitter thread:

I’ve been saying for weeks that as cases recede

We can soon relax public health restrictions

I think of this like the weather

When it is bucketing rain

Umbrella, rain coat, boots, are all essential

When the storm turns into a drizzle, those become less critical

Thread

— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@ashishkjha) February 1, 2022

Right now, the storm is starting to ebb

Infections are falling, hospitalizations down

But with infections still high

Indoor mask mandates make sense. As do indoor capacity limits

Many states still have them (though bars are open in every city in America, as far as I know)

3/

— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@ashishkjha) February 1, 2022

Why be judicious with mandates?

Because over time, effectiveness of mandates wane

People tire of them

Key is to communicate:

During periods of low infections, restrictions come off

During potential future surges, public health measures may need to temporarily return

5/n

— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@ashishkjha) February 1, 2022

What are the problems with this idea?

Some might wonder, how do we protect the immunocompromised?

Good news is that Evusheld (protective monoclonal) is becoming more available

As is Paxlovid, a great oral antiviral

And IC folks can protect themselves with good masking

7/9

— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@ashishkjha) February 1, 2022

With infections still high (hard rain)

I wouldn’t end public health measures today

But soon, as cases, hospitalizations get low (drizzle)

Lifting restrictions reasonable

To be clear: the pandemic won’t be over

But as we prepare for future risks

We can enjoy the present

End

— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@ashishkjha) February 1, 2022

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