The vigilantes have come out on Cape Cod.
Earlier this week some 4,000 people had signed a petition on change.org calling for limited access across the bridges. The signers don’t want “tourists and summer residents” coming here for fear they will get sick and overrun the hospitals.
Governor Baker has instructed travelers who come to Massachusetts to self-quarantine for two weeks. That’s not enough for this crowd; they want to stop anyone from coming over the canal except for year-round residents, medical workers and trucks delivering supplies.
The motivation for this petition is pretty clear. People are scared. Most of us are. We get daily updates on the number of Cape residents that have tested positive for the virus, and the number keeps climbing. But we know virtually nothing about how and where they contracted the disease. We don’t know how sick they are. We don’t know how many in the community have the virus but don’t realize it’s not the flu or common cold.
If social media is any indication, fear and phobia are rampant.
Most troubling is the prejudice about summer residents. “The privileged think they are exceptions,” read one social media post. “Elitist ignorance! Believe they’re untouchable,” read another. Many who post are reasonable, but the list of complaints is long.
The lack of empathy is appalling. It shouldn’t be so hard to imagine what it might be like to live in a city where contagion is far more rampant than on Cape Cod. Who could blame anyone for wanting to escape to a place that is rural by comparison?
The selfishness and arrogance of this petition are unseemly enough, but it is more to the point that petition signers have no place in dictating public health decisions. Those decisions are based on many factors. The petitioners are worried about the capacity of Falmouth and Cape Cod hospitals. Do they know anything about the hospitals’ capacity? What about Jordan Hospital? What about Tobey? How about the big Boston hospitals?
Cape Codders who get sick from the coronavirus do not necessarily need to be treated on Cape Cod, do they?
Government is hardly perfect, but pulling together data from disparate sources is one thing it can do, and it appears it is doing it well in Massachusetts. The petitioners should let it do the job.