For months, the Town of Great Barrington has strived to be a COVID-safe community according to the town. This work is now challenged by the controversial “Great Barrington Declaration.”

The Declaration, advocating a herd immunity COVID-19 solution, was developed and distributed by the American Institute for Economic Research, located in town. According to the town, Great Barrington had no role in, or forewarning of, the declaration bearing the town’s name.

Many local residents, business owners and town leaders, riled that the town is now associated with the Declaration, wish to clarify the record.

Great Barrington Town Manager Mark Pruhenski had the following to say on the matter:

We are a COVID safe community, we are not tossing off our masks. 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.”

According to the town, townspeople have been following protocols for preventing virus transmission, following CDC and other public health guidance, and common sense. Businesses are following our town’s GBSafe program, for both employee and customer safety.

Selectboard Chaor Stephen Bannon also offered the following comments on the matter:

We wear masks, keep safe distances as we can in public. 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. We are among the lowest risk towns in the state, and we hope to keep it that way.

Many town leaders believe herd immunity is a dangerous COVID-19 strategy: They believe achieving herd immunity levels could cost millions of lives, and this is unacceptable, particularly in a nation where far too many people live with risky, underlying health conditions. Many hospitals and front-line workers have been overwhelmed by vast waves of stricken patients.

The town shares aspect of the Declaration: great empathy and concern for the pandemic’s toll on communities, businesses, families, children, isolated elders.

Great Barrington is working to mitigate some of these impacts: A ride and shopping service helps seniors. Small, supervised, in-person learning pods support essential workers’ children. The town's food banks are full with donations.

The town wants the public to know that anyone who might 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 and of course you are requested to wear a mask.

Image Caption: Great Barrington Town Manager Mark Pruhenski

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