Health officials on Cape Cod are continuing to monitor a jump in COVID-19 cases in several towns.
The outbreak started on the Mid-Cape and has now spread to parts of the Upper and Lower Cape. Officials believe that the spike in cases is linked to the emergence of several variants of the virus in the region.
This third wave of cases seen in Barnstable County is being described as “mountainous” compared to the rest of the state.
Given that case numbers continue to increase, Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. urged residents to celebrate religious holidays such as Passover and Easter with caution. He said people should not be “throwing caution to the wind,” even as many people across the state are getting vaccinated against the disease.
Starting on Monday, April 5, the next step in the phased vaccination plan will begin, opening up eligibility to residents age 55 and older and people with select medical conditions.
COVID-19 cases have been on the rise on Cape Cod.
High case increases were noted in Barnstable and Yarmouth two weeks ago, labeling the two towns as the highest risk in the state. Last week, a total of seven towns in the county were labeled as being the highest risk, including Sandwich and Mashpee.
As of Thursday, seven towns on the Cape remain on the highest risk list. No new towns have been added this week.
In the latest report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Barnstable County has the highest positivity rate in the state at 6.25 percent—about three times the state average.
Vaira Harik, the deputy director of the Barnstable County Department of Human Services, said the spike during this third wave on Cape Cod looks mountainous compared to what she said looked like a blip for the state as a whole.
“This is why we have attracted the attention of the DPH,” she said.
During a news conference Thursday, state Senator Julian A. Cyr (D-Truro) indicated that the outbreak is believed to be due to the highly infectious variants of the virus that have emerged on Cape Cod. These variants include the P.1 variant first discovered in Brazil and the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom.
Neither variant is believed to be more deadly than the original virus, but both have been found to spread more quickly.
Several testing clinics have been sponsored by the DPH as a result of the outbreak, including one held at the Human Services Building in Sandwich on Wednesday.
Sean O’Brien, the director of the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, said that during this spike it remains imperative that residents continue to socially distance, wear masks and maintain proper hand-washing protocols.
During a news conference Thursday, Gov. Baker urged residents to take the usual COVID-19 precautions when it comes to celebrating religious holidays this week.
With Passover and Easter being celebrated this week, he once again asked that people spend these holidays with the people they live with and avoid large gatherings. If people choose to gather, they are asked to wear masks, maintain social distancing and hold small celebrations.
He said even doing something simple like cracking a window a small amount will help to improve airflow indoors.
“This virus, as we know from previous holidays, has the opportunity to spread in those environments,” he said. “We saw it happen during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let’s make this holiday different.”
Starting on Monday, people age 55 and older will become eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Additionally, people who have one medical condition from an approved list will also be eligible.
This list includes asthma, cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, Down syndrome, heart conditions such as heart failure and coronary artery disease, a weakened immune system due to organ transplant, obesity or severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, are smokers, or have Type 2 diabetes.
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding are encouraged to discuss vaccination with their healthcare providers so that they can make an informed decision.
All residents over the age of 16 will become eligible two weeks later, starting on Monday, April 19.
By The Numbers
In the past week, 667 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 on Cape Cod.
This is up from last week when 626 people were diagnosed with the virus.
Of the cases reported in the past week, 34 were from Bourne, 76 were from Falmouth, 39 were from Mashpee and 57 were from Sandwich.
Additionally, eight people in the county died from the disease in the past week.
As of Wednesday, 37 people were hospitalized in area hospitals, including six people who are being treated in intensive care.
The latest report from the DPH indicates that 44 percent of Cape Codders have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. About 27 percent of residents in the county are considered to be fully vaccinated.