Officials: Great Barrington ‘not a herd immunity destination’

Berkshire County

Downtown Great Barrington, Massachusetts on May 19, 2014. (Joseph / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. (NEWS10) — In a statement released Thursday afternoon, officials from Great Barrington said theirs is a COVID-safe New England town, not a “herd immunity” destination. This after the American Institute for Economic Research, a private and independent libertarian think tank located in the Berkshires town, released “The Great Barrington Declaration.”

“We are among the lowest-risk towns in the state, and we hope to keep it that way.”

Selectboard Chair Stephen C. Bannon

Residents, business owners, and town leaders have come out against the controversial Declaration, which argues that young or healthy individuals should not follow lockdown procedures. Instead, they ought to go about their daily lives, building an immune response to the virus that eventually leads to population-wide immunity, according to AEIR.

Meanwhile, cases are spiking across the country, including in Massachusetts. Vermont officials have argued that infections within schools are actually due to transmission taking place outside of schools. Throughout the pandemic, Capital Region officials have pointed to young people carelessly spreading the virus as a major source of infections, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo echoing their sentiments.

Some in Great Barrington dislike being associated with the Declaration when the town itself played no role in developing, distributing, or naming the Declaration. Officials say it undermines the months of hard-fought COVID-safe efforts, and want to set the record straight:

“We are a COVID safe community, we are not tossing off our masks,” said Town Manager Mark Pruhenski. “This Declaration has gained national headlines and has created harmful misperceptions—just as we are doing all we can to protect residents, employees, and visitors.”

The townspeople of Great Barrington have honored CDC and state public health guidance, and local businesses have followed the town’s GBSafe program to keep workers and customers safe.

“We wear masks, keep safe distances as we can in public,” said Bannon. “We find enjoyment in our vast open spaces, trails, lakes and rivers, hiking, biking, and exploring. We have safe social pods with neighbors, family, and friends.”

Many town leaders say they believe pursuing herd immunity—a term used to describe the effectiveness of vaccines in a community where some are unvaccinated—to be a dangerous strategy. They say that the Declaration may convince people to avoid Great Barrington, due to confusion over the Declaration, is invited to visit and see how COVID-safe works in a small New England town.

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