Outbreaks like that, Baker said, tend to last two or three years, leading experts to forecast another possible spike in cases this summer.
Officials said the state’s EEE preparations including surveillance and spraying of hot-spots, are currently underway. And Baker urged the Legislature to quickly pass a bill his office filed in April that would allow the expansion of EEE prevention efforts statewide. The state Senate has already taken up and passed a bill similar to Baker’s aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus, said a spokesman for Senate President Karen E. Spilka via e-mail.
Tuesday’s briefing came after EEE was found in a mosquito sample collected July 1 from Orange in Franklin County, according to a statement released July 3 by the state Department of Public Health.
On Tuesday, Dr. Monica Bharel, the state’s public health commissioner, told reporters July 1 was “the earliest that EEE has been found in mosquitoes in the last 20 years. Yesterday, we confirmed EEE in a mosquito sample collected on July 5 in the community of Wendell in Franklin County. That increased the risk levels of EEE to moderate in the communities of both Wendell and New Salem. No human or animal cases of EEE have been detected yet this year.”
Bharel stressed that while it’s necessary to take precautions, officials still want the public to safely enjoy the outdoors.
“We’ve all been spending a lot of time indoors related to COVID-19,” Bharel said. “And we want the residents of Massachusetts to go outside and enjoy outdoor time with their families. But just like we asked you take precautions against the other virus that causes COVID, we ask you to take enhanced precautions against EEE so that we can protect ourselves and continue to enjoy the outdoors.”
State energy and environmental affairs Secretary Kathleen A. Theoharides also spoke and reminded horse owners to vaccinate their animals against EEE, which can be fatal to the equines. A EEE vaccine is available for horses but not for humans, she said.
Theoharides said it’s important that “we all remain personally vigilant” against EEE.
Regarding COVID-19, Baker said more than 7,700 tests for the virus were processed Monday, bringing the state tally to around 1.2 million. The seven-day average of positive tests in Massachusetts remains at 1.8 percent, a 94 percent drop from mid-April, Baker said.
Returning to his now-familiar mantra that COVID-19 does “not take a summer vacation,” Baker advised residents to continue wearing face coverings in public when they can’t socially distance, practice social distancing whenever possible, maintain good hygiene, and stay home if they feel sick.
During a separate briefing later in the day Tuesday outside Boston City Hall, Mayor Martin J. Walsh sounded a similar alarm about COVID precautions, telling reporters that disabled residents are particularly vulnerable to the virus. Residents who don’t wear masks, Walsh said, could be “sending a message to many people that the area may not be safe for them.”
He urged Bostonians to wear masks, socially distance, avoid crowds where distancing isn’t possible, frequently wash hands with warm water and soap, and wipe down and disinfect surfaces, all measures that he said have had a “big impact” on combating the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re going to keep doing all of them for as long as it takes,” Walsh said.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.