‘Starting to tick up’: Cape Cod officials fear coronavirus clusters as summer continues

SANDWICH, MASS. (WHDH) - Cape Cod and the islands are seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases as a surge of visitors arrive for summer vacations.

Officials are searching for ways to slow the spread as summer tourism continues.

There have been 1829 confirmed cases on the Cape and the islands – with 156 deaths. The Barnstable County death rate is 72, one of the lowest in the state.

“We were in a pretty consistent place with numbers of new cases,” Senator Julian Cyr said. “Once you’re about two and a half, three weeks out from the Fourth of July weekend, we saw an increase in cases.”

There is no evidence of community spread on the Cape, however, there are concerns surrounding indoor house parties.

“I do not think large gatherings should happen unless social distancing is possible and certainly indoor house parties, it does not make sense at this time,” Dr. Vanessa Kerry of Director of Global Public Policy and Social Change at Harvard Medical School said.

The most publicized incident happened in Chatham on July 12 when more than a dozen people tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a large house party.

Another cluster popped up in Falmouth, where eight Beach Department employees have tested positive after attending a bash.

“I get the urge to hang out with your friends, to connect, to unwind,” Cyr said. “We’re really asking that you keep it small and you take it outdoors.”

Experts said that social distancing, washing hands, and wearing face coverings continue to be vital.

“That behavior pattern has certainly been decreasing I think because people are looking for a little bit of freedom after what has been a very hard spring,” Dr. Kerry said. “The cases are starting to tick up which is telling us that we are not taking the vigilance that we should be in this moment.”

In a press conference on Thursday, Governor Charlie Baker said he is monitoring the region closely.

“You talk to the folks on Nantucket and many of the other places where we have seen some of these clusters, recreational behavior has a lot to do with where some of these clusters are coming from.”

Cape Cod Health updates a COVID-19 map that tracks cases. Right now, it shows a high number of daily new cases — more than 10 a day this week in Brewster, Chatham and Harwich.

COVID-19 infections on Cape Cod remain relatively low, with only a handful of people hospitalized. Medical professionals want to keep it that way.

“This is hard. You know, we have always been able to enjoy a great deal of freedom. We enjoy summer, it’s a time for us to relax, step back, be outside and enjoy the weather in New England” Kerry said. “None of this is easy but, our fastest path to get back to some semblance of normal, to enjoy the things we want to be doing with some relative freedom is to buckle down in this moment.”

Governor Baker said he is considering amending the state’s guidelines on large gatherings which currently stands at 25 inside and 100 outside.

 

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