A lot of health and school officials are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief this week now that NOAA’s National Weather Service and local health boards confirmed that last weekend’s frost was hard enough to dramatically ease the threat of mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illnesses.
With that, all four of Cape Ann’s communities had lifted their ban on outdoor activities between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. — the peak time for the pests to strike with infections of West Nile Virus or Eastern equine encephalitis — by Tuesday night. So school officials can return to their normal schedules for athletic contests, and anyone planning other weekend outdoor activities will no longer have to shut down at 5 p.m., as has been the case the last few weeks.
In the end, there was not a single report of any Cape Ann resident coming down with one of these diseases — a relief in its own right, given that the state’s toll tragically included a Georgetown man and an Amesbury woman who died after contracting EEE. Yet, before dismissing what emerged as a recognized “critical” threat, city and local town officials should look ahead to plan for dealing with a similar scenario next summer.
Gloucester and Essex are already doing that. Essex voters will face a warrant article on their Nov. 19 Fall Town Meeting warrant to sign on with the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control District, the state agency that can confirm the presence of infected mosquitoes and allows communities to perform ground spraying. And Max Schenck of Gloucester’s Health Department said this week that the city will also consider joining the district, while also discussing other prevention techniques. That’s good news.
Manchester is the one town that had the benefit of mosquito district help this year. That leaves Rockport the only community along with Lawrence in the Northeast region not part of the regional service — and that’s a proposal officials there should consider, as well.
After all, neither they nor the infectious and hungry mosquitoes are about to go away.