While clusters of COVID-19 cases have been identified among employees at restaurants on Cape Cod, officials say there does not appear to be any community spread from these isolated outbreaks.
At least seven employees from the Chatham Squire and one employee from the Chatham Bars Inn tested positive for the disease, which temporarily shut down both establishments. Both restaurants have since been thoroughly cleaned and have been cleared to reopen.
The affected employees are residents of Chatham, Eastham, Yarmouth and Harwich.
Chatham town doctor Robert Duncanson said on a news conference call Thursday, September 10, the cases have remained isolated to the employees at the restaurants. He said the chance of catching the illness from the brief interaction someone would have with a server at a restaurant is very small, and those interactions do not qualify as being within close contact of an infected person.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a close contact as an individual who has been within six feet of an infected person for a period of at least 15 minutes. The exposure period begins two days before the infected person tests positive for the disease and runs until the person is isolated.
Dr. Duncanson said there is no indication any member of the general public has been impacted by these cluster of cases.
When asked if it was known how the affected employees contracted the virus, Dr. Duncanson said the working theory is the infection might have originated at a recent business-related gathering the employees attended.
“It is sometimes hard to pinpoint where those cases originate from,” he said.
Senator Julian A. Cyr (D-Truro) said the cluster in Chatham appears to be an isolated incident, and there has not been a drastic increase of cases in surrounding towns.
Sean O’Brien, the director of the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, said his department wants to emphasize flu season is about to begin.
The flu vaccine remains mandatory for students returning to school this fall unless they are being homeschooled. Students are required to be vaccinated by December 31 unless they have a medical or religious exemption.
Several Cape Cod towns, including Falmouth, have had higher rates of COVID-19 this week compared to last week based on data released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Wednesday, September 9.
The state releases a color-coded map each Wednesday that identifies how each of the 351 communities is handling the virus. Gray signifies there are fewer than five cases in a given community, green represents an incidence rate of four or fewer cases per 100,000 residents, yellow indicates between four and eight cases per 100,000 residents, and red is representative of more than eight cases per 100,000 residents.
This week, Chatham is red; Barnstable is yellow; and Harwich, Yarmouth and Falmouth are green.
Last week, the only town that was highlighted as a color other than gray was Barnstable. Both Barnstable and Chatham have rates that are higher than the state average of 4.6, with rates of 5.1 and 8.5 respectively.
Since the first case in the county was diagnosed in March, there have been 1,667 confirmed cases of the disease and an additional 239 the Barnstable County Department of Human Services has identified as being probable cases of the virus. A total of 168 people on Cape Cod have died from the illness.
One death was deducted from the Barnstable County total from Wednesday to Thursday, though no reason was given for the change.
Upper Cape towns account for about 38 percent of all of the cases that have been diagnosed on Cape Cod.
Bourne has had a total of 173 cases with four positive tests reported in the past two weeks. Bourne has fewer than five active cases of the disease. Falmouth has had a total of 252 total cases with 10 positive tests in the past two weeks and 10 active cases. Mashpee has had 78 cases of the illness with one positive test in the past two weeks and fewer than five active cases. A total of 107 cases have been diagnosed in Sandwich with two new positive tests identified in the past week. Sandwich has fewer than five active cases in town.
Falmouth Hospital is treating one COVID-19 patient at this time, and that person is not in intensive care. Cape Cod Hospital is not treating any patients with the disease.
Across the state over the past two weeks, the average age of someone diagnosed with COVID-19 has been 37 years old, while the average age of someone who has died has been 80 years old. In the past two weeks, the majority of people who have been infected are in their 20s, and no one under the age of 20 has died of the disease in Massachusetts.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. was asked about his decision to remain in the third phase of his four-phase reopening plan, particularly as it pertained to bars and nightclubs having to remain closed.
“I’m as frustrated as anybody about the fact that there are still elements of our economy that for one reason or another aren’t open,” he said.
However, when it comes to industries such as bars and nightclubs, he pointed to the role those establishments played in southern states in spreading the virus. He said when it comes to the pace with which the majority of industries in the state have been able to reopen, he has not had to roll back those plans, and no industries as a whole have had to shut down again once they have reopened.