Cape Cod Reopening Task Force Discusses COVID-19 Economic Impacts

The sign at the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce welcomes visitors.

HYANNIS – Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr spoke this week about the major impact the coronavirus is having on the region’s economy.

“We see a disproportionate level of unemployment across the region. The information is gathered by zip code, so particularly zip codes in Provincetown, Truro, Dennis Port, West Yarmouth, and Hyannis are among the hardest hit in the region,” said Cyr.   

“The unemployment rates in those zip codes are each slightly above 30 percent. Provincetown actually has the highest percent of unemployment in the Commonwealth.”

The unemployment data was gathered by the task force through Applied Geographic Solutions and the numbers are estimates.

The data did not come from the federal government, as the federal government only has the unemployment data available through April 2020.

Applied Geographic Solutions estimated statewide unemployment is at 24 percent.

According to Cyr, only two towns on Cape Cod have unemployment rates that are under that estimated state average, Orleans and Brewster.

The majority of towns on Cape Cod are at or above the 30 percent unemployment rate.

“From an economic perspective our communities are being harder hit from an unemployment perspective than other parts of the Commonwealth,” he said.

“I think that’s reflective of the nature of our seasonal economy and a combination of those with year-round work being furloughed or laid off due to the pandemic and the slower start to our season.”   

The task force has also been working to get an accurate sense of how much the regional population has increased since the pandemic began.

“We’ve seen a sustained population influx here since about mid-March,” Cyr said.

“There were initially concerns that the population influx would lead to community spread but if you look at the health surveillance numbers here we did not see any significant spread or cases here because of that population influx. I find that encouraging.”

Cyr said that to continue to prevent a community spread the task force needs to keep up with good public health communication, risk communication, and getting consistent information out to the public.

Population data was gathered with the help of municipal partners who have been looking at different metrics to measure the population.

One such metric that has been helpful is the use of municipal water.

“Water use for the communities that do have municipal water is a good barometer and so we asked several town managers to send us year over year water data use for 2019 and 2020 if they had that data accessible,” Cyr said.

“We received information from two towns, Mashpee and Brewster, both towns saw an increase of around 10 percent in comparing April 2019 relative to April 2020.”

According to the task force, if the trends hold true for other towns it would indicate that the population has increased faster on Cape Cod in 2020 than it has in previous seasons.

Cape Cod Healthcare has also been working closely with the task force as the state slowly reopens.

Cape Cod Healthcare CEO Mike Lauf said that the organization and the task force have been working to make sure that COVID-19 testing on Cape Cod is robust.

He added that Cape Cod Healthcare can do testing in-house with a turnaround time of 4 hours.

Cape Cod Healthcare will test anyone on Cape Cod who needs a test, regardless of physician, according to Lauf.

The organization is also in good shape with personal protective and testing equipment moving forward.

“We have 52 days worth of supplies to be able to test upward of 200 people a day,” Lauf said.

“In terms of PPE, we have enough equipment right now, our supply is well north of 30 days across the board, so overall our preparedness is strong.”

The PPE includes n-95 respirators, surgical gowns and isolation gowns, gloves, mask, and disinfectants.

Cape Cod Healthcare has brought back 50 furloughed employees to date.

Lauf said that Cape Cod Healthcare has not been given the clearance to go into stage two by Governor Charlie Baker and services are still restricted.

“We have certainly not seen the level of activity with our patient population that we would normally see this time of year,”

“Between restrictions still being in place in terms of what can and can’t be done in terms of an elective perspective and the populations still being somewhat leery of the virus, we are still kind of where we were a month ago but we did bring back 50 people so far.”

For more information on the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force, click here.

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