March 2020 was the month Covid got real for many of us. I remember office memos about our Cambridge headquarters closing up. The Portsmouth office was days later. Then shuttering of businesses, parks, and our day to day lives. The uncertainty was at times all-consuming. Information was muddled, and the disinformation was just ramping up.
As our officials from local, state, and federal levels attempted to formulate plans and systems to work towards the least bad outcome from a public health perspective our community came together. Mask making groups collected fabric and worked their magic with sewing machines. We checked on our neighbors. We assured ourselves and our friends that “we got this”.
This “event” that we are now ~18 months into has changed us and our community in subtle and obvious ways. We have learned the tools and strategies to best mitigate this disease. This virus is both global and local. As a municipality our scopes are limited but that doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and let this wash over us.
Covid protocols be they distancing, or masking, or vaccines - none of them are particularly pleasant. No-one likes wearing masks, or avoiding public places all the time. The reality is that this virus is not a thing we deal with and move on. The severity of risk is constantly changing. It is affected by holidays, variants, vaccine rates, times of the year etc. Our approach to mitigation should understand these vectors and optimize for reducing the spread. No mask or vaccine is perfect, but they work to mitigate the risk - just like a seatbelt won’t always save your life in an accident.
As a Portsmouth City Councilor my approach to this will be by the numbers and based on the science. I am not interested in, nor do we have time for, pseudo science and conspiracy. Vaccine requirements for city staff will be on the table. I will support changes to the state school inoculation requirements as well. Masking in schools and other municipal buildings should follow the rate of infection and other key indicators. As a council we need to listen to the business community and understand how we can serve their needs. Operating in Portsmouth has never been a frictionless process, what can we do to reduce friction and allow our businesses to adapt quickly.