Barnstable County officials have confirmed that community spread of COVID-19 is being seen again on Cape Cod. Community spread of the virus had not been seen in the region since spring.
During a news conference Thursday, November 12, state Senator Julian A. Cyr (D-Truro) said the rate at which cases are increasing in the region is indicative of community spread, meaning that people are now testing positive for the disease without knowing how they became sick.
The increased rate means the county might soon be considered an at-risk area based on the metrics outlined by the state. Currently, no individual Cape towns are considered to be in the high-risk category.
Since the summer, officials had been connecting outbreaks to isolated events such as house parties. Several Cape communities, including Falmouth, had seen evidence of community spread in the spring.
While this type of spread is being seen again, clusters of cases continue to be traced to privately held indoor events. Sen. Cyr pointed specifically to an outbreak in the Mid-Cape region that has been connected to a Bible study group.
While community spread is happening, he said it does not appear to be linked in any way to schools or childcare centers at this time.
“A vast majority of cases are tied to what individuals are doing,” he said, adding that these actions are outside the scope of businesses and public services. “We’re really relying on individuals and families to be vigilant and to make sure they do everything they can to reduce the spread of COVID-19, particularly indoors as it relates to private gatherings.”
Face Covering Order
Massachusetts residents are now required to wear a mask in all public places, indoors or outdoors, per an order from Governor Charles D. Baker Jr.
Masks and face coverings have been a part of the lives of most residents since March, but a revised order from the governor means masks are required almost any time residents are outside their own homes.
The order states that all residents over age 5 need to wear a face covering whenever they are in a public place. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 are encouraged—but not required—to heed the order.
Coverings must also be worn properly, covering the wearer’s mouth and nose.
Under the order, owners and operators are permitted to deny entry to any customer who is not wearing a facial covering for nonmedical reasons.
Additionally, those riding in a car with people who are not members of their immediate household are also required to cover their faces.
The order allows for some exemptions, including for medical reasons. However, in some cases, proof of a medical exemption can now be requested.
The order is enforceable through local health departments. Violations can cost up to $300 for each offense.
On Thursday the Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners discussed a potential transfer of approximately $125,000 from the county’s emergency fund to help initiate a Cape-wide COVID-19 testing center. The center would also receive state funds.
“Cape Cod could step up and engage in this issue because it’s critical, especially with people coming and going,” Commissioner Ronald Bergstrom said. “We’ve been lucky so far, but there’s going to be people coming in for Thanksgiving and the holidays—so whatever it takes.”
As of Thursday morning, there was $340,766 in the county’s emergency fund.
Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment Director Sean O’Brien said the center will most likely be located in Falmouth.
“This will be accessed by travelers, asymptomatic people, people that are unable to get a test from their physician—if there’s a concern and somebody feels like they may have been exposed but their physician is not looking at them as a close contact, then that would be the population that we’re looking to assist,” Mr. O’Brien said.
The discussion was brought to the commissioners because of a need for affordable COVID-19 testing.
“Wherever we can, we’re going to try to bill insurance companies; there would be a fee as well, but also we have the ability to go in and look at other sources for people who are unable to pay,” Mr. O’Brien said.
An ordinance would still need to be voted on by commissioners once the county knows exactly how much money is needed.
The pandemic has again impacted youth hockey with several state governors, including Gov. Baker, suspending interstate play.
A statement released by Gov. Baker’s office said that due to recent coronavirus outbreaks connected to interstate youth hockey, interstate play will be suspended from Saturday, November 14, until December 31 at the earliest.
The suspension will affect both public and private schools, as well as recreational youth hockey organizations. It will not affect interstate play for collegiate, professional or national hockey teams.
COVID-19 By The Numbers
The number of COVID-19 cases reported in Barnstable County by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the past week shows a significant increase over last week’s numbers.
From Thursday last week, November 5, through Wednesday, November 11, a total of 124 confirmed and probable cases of the virus were reported on Cape Cod. No one on the Cape was reported to have died from the virus during that time.
During the previous seven-day period, 79 confirmed and probable cases were reported, and three people were reported to have died from the disease.
While the number of hospitalizations across the state have been increasing steadily over the past few weeks, hospitals on Cape Cod are not seeing the same trend at this time. The most-recent numbers available from county officials indicate that one person is hospitalized at Cape Cod Hospital with COVID-19 and Falmouth Hospital is not treating any patients with the virus.