It’s probably safe to say that most Harvard residents would be interested in knowing the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in town. Whether to release that number was the subject of considerable debate at the Select Board and Board of Health meetings this week.
There are good arguments on both sides of the question. Opponents of releasing the in-town figure say the numbers are misleading and even irrelevant: One confirmed case could represent any number of contacts capable of spreading the disease, and Harvard residents have to go out of town for even the barest necessities. On the other hand, proponents—including most of the Select Board members —argue that in a time of crisis, transparency builds trust and that trust is essential in convincing people to make sacrifices for the common good.
We already know there are at least two confirmed cases in Harvard. Would we behave differently if we knew the number was five? Even if there were no confirmed cases, would we be foolish enough to think there is no risk, that nobody in town is a carrier?
As journalists, we at the Press strongly believe in the importance of transparency. We believe that our readers are fully capable of understanding the validity of numbers. We believe that understanding the numbers will be critical in the difficult weeks and months ahead.
This is no time for town officials to keep this information under wraps. Releasing the figures is the right thing to do.