Is Boston truly ready for Coronavirus?

Just the other day I was at one of the busiest malls in the Boston area, it was a nice warm pre-spring day, the kind of day you look forward to after a long New England winter. Instead of being packed to the gills like it would usually be on a day like this, the mall was unusually empty and quiet. As a matter of fact, the quiet was a little unnerving.
The TVs in the place were blasting the news that Massachusetts, like so many other states, is now under a state of emergency because of Covid-19, also known as the Coronavirus, which for months has seeped into cities around the world. It has already caused its share of panic and paranoia, no doubt helped along by the mainstream media. Conferences, parades, and conventions have been cancelled. Universities have closed up shop and sent kids packing. Major league sports and the NCAA tourney are either thinking of holding games with no fans, or cancelling their seasons all together.
With my COPD I’m at risk, as is anyone with severe lung issues. But my biggest fear is not for myself. I’m thinking about the homeless, and what will happen once this virus hits them. I was always fearful of something like this hitting the homeless population, just not this way. For those of you who are not aware, in the poorest neighborhoods of Boston there is a level four bio-lab located at the Boston University Medical Center which is surrounded by the South End, parts of Roxbury, the South Bay Correctional facility, three of the city’s shelters, and right on top of Methadone Mile. The things that are researched in this lab make Covid-19 seem like the common cold.
I was always fearful of something getting out of that lab if there was some kind of accident. I didn’t think the city would be ready for that, and I wonder if it’s ready now. They claim to be, and I’m sorry but the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) saying that it has “distributed materials to its shelters and engagement centers outlining best practices for preventing the spread of the coronavirus among Boston’s homeless population,” doesn’t exactly boost my confidence. After all, they were in charge of the Long Island Shelter controversy. Yes, I hear the whole “we’ll keep the shelters clean mantra,” but what happens when people are sick? They just can’t stay home! What will become of those who don’t stay in shelters? Is anything being done for them? How will those folks get hand sanitizer?  Has anyone at BPHC even thought about that? Will there be a place for sick people with no homes to go?
Like I said, I’m not oozing with confidence.
Then there’s the other side: The overreaction, the fear that if and when the virus hits the population on the street that they will be rounded up like cattle and locked away somewhere. They should be treated like human beings because that’s what they are. Boston claims they are ready. Let’s pray to God that they are. Stay Safe.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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