As Summer Approaches, Cape Cod Faces Workforce Shortage

HYANNIS – The Cape Cod COVID-19 Response Task Force said at its weekly meeting that it is still on track to reach its regional vaccination goal ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

But they warned that travelers might be waiting a bit longer than usual for that ice cream or fish sandwich due to ongoing workforce shortages. 

Task Force Public information Officer and Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr said that he is optimistic about the task force’s mission to get doses to 75 percent of the population before the unofficial start to the Cape’s tourist season.

“The Cape and Islands region will be one of the safest, if not the safest, summer destination in the United States for visitors, residents and workers alike,” said Cyr. 

He said that having 75 percent of the population vaccinated ahead of Governor Charlie Baker’s August 1 date that all industries will fully reopen will help provide strong protection for the Cape’s frontline workers. 

“Especially the large number of Cape Codders and Islanders who work in hospitality, who work in restaurants, who work in tourism. We’re in the business of welcoming people and these high vaccination rates are really going to do a lot to keep Cape Codders and Islanders safe, and our visitors safe,” said Cyr. 

The state senator said that if federal officials approve vaccination for 12-15 year old adolescents, it will likely further improve the vaccination rate significantly in the coming weeks. 

All members of the consortium are also now providing walk-in vaccination clinics to residents in response to recent increases in vaccine supply, including Outer Cape Health, Community Health Center of Cape Cod and Cape Cod Healthcare.

Despite the growing vaccination rates and declining case numbers, the task force said that a new issue is looming in the form of a workforce shortage.

Cyr said that the shortage has reached a “crisis level,” and can be mostly attributed to the slow opening of embassies overseas and the lack of foreign student workers who have become a mainstay of the summer workforce. 

A lack of affordable housing on Cape combined with skyrocketing real estate prices has also contributed to the steep decline in available workers as well, said Cyr. 

“This was a place that was unaffordable for most working people before the pandemic, and now we are becoming profoundly unaffordable. If we don’t arrest the housing situation here on Cape Cod and the Islands, we will not have year-round sustainable communities,” said Cyr.

Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross said that it’s not just the hospitality industry that’s been hit hard by a labor shortage. 

“Construction, trade, healthcare, finance, everyone has got the help wanted sign out. It’s a good time to be a prospective employee,” said Northcross.

“If you’ve got an interest in changing careers, this might be the time to do it.”

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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