For the fourth straight week, the number of newly reported COVID-19 cases continue a steady climb upward, according to numbers released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Wednesday, July 29.
For the seven-day period ending on Wednesday, 87 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Cape Cod, 32 of whom are from the Upper Cape.
The bulk of the past week’s cases were reported in Falmouth, where there have been 22 newly reported cases.
After nearly one week with no newly reported deaths from the disease, one death was reported on Thursday, July 30. This death brings the total on Cape Cod to 156. No other deaths had been reported since Friday, July 24.
The trend has not gone unnoticed by public officials.
State Senator Julian A. Cyr (D-Truro) said during a news conference Thursday, July 30, that many of the new cases can be attributed to people gathering for private parties.
Recent outbreaks have been attributed to house parties held in Chatham and Falmouth, which have been responsible for a combined total of at least 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The senator said that community spread still appears to be low at this time.
Sen. Cyr said the occurrence of these parties has been frustrating to officials.
“It’s profoundly disrespectful to those who have been working hard to slow community spread,” he said.
Vaira Harik, the deputy director for the Barnstable County Department of Human Services, said it is irresponsible to be gathering in large groups during a pandemic.
“If you can hear the frustration in our voices, you are not mishearing this,” she said.
Sean O’Brien, the director of the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, said it is vitally important for people to follow the health and safety guidelines that have been in place since March such as wearing facial coverings, socially distancing and maintaining proper hygiene. Not following the protocols will elongate the response to the pandemic, he said.
Mr. O’Brien noted many of the new cases have been trending toward a younger demographic than in the spring.
While the number of cases is increasing, hospital numbers remain fairly low. On Wednesday there were three people in area hospitals, one of whom is being treated in intensive care at Cape Cod Hospital.
However, Sen. Cyr said hospitalizations are considered a lagging indicator, meaning an increase in hospitalizations tends to follow an increase in cases.
Rising cases have result in several high schools on the Cape canceling their graduation ceremonies.
Last Friday, July 24, the Falmouth School Committee canceled Falmouth High School’s ceremony just one day before the event, stating that a graduate might have been exposed to the virus. Nauset High School officials canceled its ceremony on Tuesday, July 28, saying public health data did not support an in-person ceremony.
On Wednesday, Bourne school officials announced they were pulling the plug on the planned in-person graduation ceremony that was set for Saturday, August 1. Superintendent Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhou said new health information had come to light that would make it impossible to hold an event of that size safely. She would not elaborate on what that new information was.
Sen. Cyr said canceling these events makes sense, particularly because graduation ceremonies tend to be followed by graduation parties. However, he admitted he sympathizes with the graduates and their families, who will be missing out on this milestone.
As school districts are preparing to resume school in the fall, a collective of Cape Cod educators has signed a statement in support of the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that social distancing must be continued, personal protective equipment should be provided by the state or town to the schools and strict policies to control the spread of the virus should be in place.
The Cape and Islands Massachusetts Educator Actor Network president Cheri Armstrong said teachers want to get back into their classrooms; they just want to know that it is safe to do so. To that end, the group supports a phased reopening, as well as the rehiring of educators who have been laid off.
The collective has also asked that MCAS be waived for the coming school year so that schools and teachers can focus on the social and emotional well-being of students and staff.
“We all miss our students, and we want to see them face-to-face. We get the sense that it is highly unlikely that it will be safe,” Ms. Armstrong said.
The statement was signed by the teachers unions in all four Upper Cape towns, along with the Barnstable Teachers Association, Cape Tech Association, Dennis-Yarmouth Educators’ Association, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional Secretaries and Assistant Association, Martha’s Vineyard Educators’ Association, Monomoy Regional Education Association, Nantucket Teachers Association, Nauset Education Association, Provincetown Association of Educators, Truro Education Association and the Wareham Education Association.
The Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School’s union did not sign, nor are they involved with the collective. Ms. Armstrong said the union has so far not been involved in the conversations about reopening.
“Upper Cape Tech did decline to sign on,” she said.
As of press time, that school’s union did not respond to an inquiry as to why they declined to sign the statement.