Two Boston researchers propose ‘circuit breakers’ to stem spread of COVID-19

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Lines were set up for COVID-19 testing and vaccination at Tufts Medical Center Boston. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe

Two Boston researchers are calling on the United States to implement a system that would urge local officials to temporarily pause certain activities like indoor dining or large gatherings in order to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed amid a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant.

In a memo to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two Harvard-affiliated researchers last week proposed the use of “circuit breakers,” which are temporary, local restrictions on “high-risk” activities like indoor dining, performances, or non-essential work outside of homes.

“Because many regions are entering this wave with higher hospital censuses (both due to Covid-19 and other conditions) than in previous waves, it is possible that uncontrolled spread of Omicron could quickly overwhelm hospital capacity, despite the existing immunity of the population,” Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School, and William Hanage, an epidemiology professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, wrote in the memo.


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