New cases of COVID-19 have sharply increased on Cape Cod in the past week, as have the number of people hospitalized with the disease.
During a news conference Thursday, November 19, Sean O’Brien, director of the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, said the county is firmly in the second wave of the virus—a wave expected since the pandemic began.
A total of 224 new cases of the disease was reported in the county during the seven-day period running from November 12 through Wednesday, November 18. The previous week, there were 124 new cases reported. The week before that, there were 79 cases reported.
This week’s total includes a single-day increase of 69 cases on Tuesday, November 17, that was the second highest single-day increase that Barnstable County has seen. The only larger daily increase was back in June when all probable cases were added to the confirmed caseload in a data dump by the state.
Of the 224 newly reported cases, 20 were reported as being from Bourne, 16 from Falmouth, 7 from Mashpee and 11 from Sandwich in the weekly health report put out by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Thursday.
The bulk of the new cases came from Barnstable, where 108 new cases were diagnosed in the past week.
Over the past week, four people on Cape Cod have died of the disease for a total of 190 deaths since the outbreak began in the region in March.
Vaira Harik, deputy director of the Barnstable County Department of Human Services, said it is possible that some of the larger single-day increases during this past week have also been the result of a data dump caused by a delay in information sent to the state from Cape Cod Healthcare. However, she said her department thinks the numbers connected to the data dump are somewhat small.
Local officials have again expressed frustration about the lack of available COVID-19 testing on Cape Cod.
In a map released by the state last Thursday that displays the rates of testing in each town, much of Cape Cod is labeled as being just one step above not testing anybody.
By the numbers, much of the Cape is seeing PCR tests done at a rate of 600 to 6,235 tests for every 100,000 residents. This level of testing is a sliver of the state average, which is about 14,711 tests for every 100,000 residents. Some communities are seeing even higher testing rates, up to 95,507 tests for every 100,000 residents.
State Senator Julian A. Cyr (D-Truro) said he has been consistently pushing at the state level for more testing capacity on the Cape and is disappointed that little has yet been done.
He said many people on Cape Cod do not know where to go to get tested and there are many barriers when someone wants to get a test. For example, getting a test while asymptomatic can be expensive, and it can be difficult to get an appointment at a testing site without having health insurance.
Sen. Cyr noted, however, that about $750,000 will be coming to the Cape to provide more robust testing in the region. Of those funds, $300,000 secured by Representative Dylan A. Fernandes (D-Woods Hole) have been specifically granted for use in Falmouth. Another $200,000 secured by Sen. Cyr is going to be used to bolster testing capabilities across the Cape.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has seen a significant increase as well, with Sen. Cyr saying 11 people are hospitalized on Cape Cod with the disease.
At least one patient is being treated in intensive care. This represents the highest number of hospitalizations in the region since June 21.
One week ago, one person on the Cape was being treated in an area hospital with the virus.
The senator said hospitalizations are a lagging but significant indicator when it comes to the virus.
“I’m very much concerned about the hospitalizations that we’ve had,” he said.
He said while the healthcare system is not yet seeing the numbers of people in the hospital that were seen in the spring, he expects more hospitalizations are to come.
Much of the county’s conference call with media Thursday was centered around the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, with Cape Cod residents being urged not to travel and to spend their holiday only with the members of their own households.
Sen. Cyr said if people are not following these guidelines, he expects to see a further spike in COVID-19 cases two weeks following the holiday, which will be followed by an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.
Additionally, he said college students returning home for the holiday break should be considered family members who live outside the household during this time and people should be mindful of the COVID-19 situation in the municipalities where their college-aged students go to school.
“Thanksgiving must look different this year,” Sen. Cyr said.