COVID Task Force Anticipates Busy Summer, Watching Increased Cases

Courtesy of Peter Schmeck

HYANNIS – Despite a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, Cape Cod COVID-19 Response Task Force members and business leaders said that they anticipate a busy summer season on the other side.

Vaira Harik of the Barnstable County Department of Human Services said at the task force’s weekly meeting that Barnstable County is detecting about 97 new COVID cases a day, while Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are experiencing 9 new cases a day—all three high spikes given the counties’ total populations. 

“We do suspect that some of this is driven by variants of COVID-19 which are more transmissible variants. This is an emerging area of deep and urgent concern,” said task force member and Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr. 

He said that low-barrier, no-questions-asked COVID testing for the community and in schools will be key to mitigating the spread of the virus across the region, especially given new variants.

Amid the rising case numbers, Cyr and Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment Director Sean O’Brien urged the public to continue to exercise COVID safety precautions, including mask wearing, hand washing, and socially distancing.

Cyr also emphasized the importance of avoiding large gatherings, especially those held indoors, as vaccination efforts continue.

According to the task force, the Cape Cod COVID Vaccine Consortium has pivoted its focus towards vaccinating essential workers, but efforts will continue for K-12 educators and school staff and other eligible groups.

Despite the rise in new case numbers, task force members said that they anticipate a busy summer season on Cape Cod similar to 2020’s.

“We were expecting a very muted season [in 2020], and yes it was off, but we fared far better than many other destinations in the state or across the country,” said Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross. 

“Our Labor Day weekend last year was busier than the previous year, the non-pandemic year. You can tell that the Cape’s tourism industry is rather resilient.”

She also said that the Cape is currently experiencing heavy booking traffic and year-over-year growth in anticipated travelers.

Northcross said that the likely factor for the increase in visitors is the recently-passed federal stimulus as well as a desire in travelers to stay in-state and avoid longer trips.

When it comes to employment, she also said that Cape Cod is experiencing a “hiring boom”, with many jobs being added to hospitality, food service, retail and other sectors.

Managing Director of Chatham Bars Inn Gary Thulander, one of several business representatives at the meeting who echoed Northcross’ statement, said that they “had a record summer last year.”

“There’s pent-up demand. People want to travel. People feel more comfortable travelling with getting vaccinated and with more people getting vaccinated every single day now. Even though we have a blip right now that we have to be very, very careful with, the demand is extremely strong.”

About Grady Culhane

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