Officials Optimistic Cape Population Will be Vaccinated by Mid-Summer

Task force member and Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr.

HYANNIS – COVID-19 variants have been detected across the region, but thanks to continued vaccination efforts, the Cape Cod COVID Response Task Force is expecting a fully inoculated Cape population by the height of the summer season. 

Seven Cape towns are designated as in the red category by the state health department, and three different kinds of “variants of concern” are being tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the state.

There have been over 80 cases of the P.1 Brazilian variant. 

Barnstable, Brewster, Dennis, Harwich, Mashpee, Yarmouth and Sandwich remain in the state Department of Public Health’s highest risk category. 

“We remain extremely concerned about the situation and the task force continues to work collaboratively and diligently to mitigate the impacts of the outbreak and stem the outbreak,” said Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr, a member of the task force.

He said that the current surge in cases is likely driven by more contagious variants beginning to spread throughout the region.

“We have been able to scale testing resources to meet increased demand, and we are receiving a significantly higher number of vaccine doses here on Cape Cod,” Cyr said.

He asked residents and visitors to continue to take all health precautions, including wearing masks, socially distancing, avoiding gatherings and getting tested if individuals believe that they have been exposed to the virus.

Being vaccinated is not a “get out of jail free card” said Cyr echoing Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross’s comment during the previous week’s meeting, and those inoculated must still practice safety precautions to avoid possibly spreading the virus to those not yet vaccinated. 

Vaira Harik, Deputy Director of the Barnstable County Human Services Department, said that the third wave outbreak peaked around the end of March, with a small ebb in the daily average case numbers recently.

She also said that the region is not out of the woods yet, as the slowdown in testing data may be due to the recent Easter holiday.

Barnstable County Director of Health and Environment Sean O’Brien said vaccine efforts across the region including the Cape Cod COVID Consortium have been smooth and efficient.

He said that essential workers are the next main target for vaccination efforts by the county. 

O’Brien also applauded the recent mitigation efforts of the Towns of Barnstable and Yarmouth as well as the other municipalities entering the red category of COVID spread.

“Those health agents in those communities have become such heroes in responding to this. Getting out there and getting in their community and doing the best they can with trying to control these numbers. The contact tracers, the same thing. They’re identifying people and it’s really helping us,” said O’Brien. 

He said that the county is receiving about 4,800 doses of COVID vaccine each week, most of the Pfizer brand.

Cyr said that advance booking of lodgings is showing an upcoming busy summer season, which he chalks up to growing confidence in higher regional vaccination rates. 

He warned that the summer will still look different, including continued COVID safety guidance.

Cyr also strongly advised against large parties this summer like those in Chatham and Falmouth last year  where party-goers attended without masks indoors.

Cyr said that if vaccination rates continue apace, all Cape residents should be vaccinated by the height of the summer season.

Local businesses in the region are responding to the confidence in this upcoming season with a “hiring boom” that Northcross said is a welcome sight.

“The cities have just been decimated and are still shedding jobs in the travel and tourism sector which would be largely retail, restaurants, food and beverage services, accommodation and also some of our attractions like museums and cultural institutions,” said Northcross.

“For the Cape to be bucking that trend, we’re very proud of that. Probably any sector of the Cape economy, whether it’s construction trade or healthcare, people are looking for people to work. We’re trying to get the word out.”

She said that employers are still prioritizing health and safety as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. 

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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