Local officials have painted a stark picture when it comes to the rising COVID-19 cases across the state.
During a news conference Thursday, October 29, state Senator Julian A. Cyr (D-Truro) called the increases alarming. At the state level, daily new cases have been averaging at more than 1,000. Sen. Cyr said it is only a matter of time until the trend makes its way to Barnstable County.
The Cape is already starting to see daily case increases in numbers that have not been seen in the region since the spring.
In the seven-day period running from October 21 to October 27, 90 new confirmed and probable cases of the illness were reported in Barnstable County through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In that period, two days had more than 20 new cases each.
During the previous seven-day period, the Cape saw an increase of 25 new cases.
Sen. Cyr said despite the jump in new cases, community spread is still not evident. Some of the new cases are linked to what the senator called a “maskless” indoor event that took place in a Mid-Cape town. He did not specify exactly what type of event this was but did say that it was not a party.
While community spread is not evident at this time, Sen. Cyr said it is not a far leap to go from the virus spreading among family members to spreading within the greater community.
Despite the increase in cases, Sen. Cyr said hospitalizations on the Cape remain low, with no COVID-19 patients hospitalized in area hospitals as of Wednesday, October 28. He said he does not expect this to remain the case as the numbers continue to rise.
Youth hockey across the state has been shut down for two weeks as of last Friday, October 23.
Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. said 132 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, 220 close contacts and 30 clusters have been linked to the sport across about 20 ice rinks in the state. The cases have impacted at least 66 communities.
The governor said the number of cases connected to youth hockey is likely undercounted as a number of teams refused to make their rosters available to contact tracers and would not cooperate with efforts to trace the spread of the virus.
“This reason, among others, is why we took immediate action and shut down all rinks,” he said during a news conference on Tuesday, October 27. “It’s not clear if the spread is about hockey or all the stuff around it.”
He said people will often show up at the ice rink around 7 AM and will hang around until 7 PM, socializing and sharing food in addition to playing games.
Rinks are slated to open up again on Saturday, November 7.
Following the shutdown announcement, Gallo Ice Arena issued a statement on social media that no cases of the virus have been attributed to the Bourne rink. The statement also said once the rink reopens, following the COVID-19 rules will be mandatory for everyone who enters the building.
“Please come to grips that upon reopening, ALL rules will be followed by EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON,” the statement reads. “Without fail, and hopefully without distain [sic], evil glares or blank looks when a staffer or ambassador reminds someone of them.”
COVID-19 Among the Under-30 Crowd
When the pandemic started in the state earlier this year, the majority of people who were contracting the illness were over the age of 60, but the demographics have flipped.
Most people who have been getting sick with COVID-19 recently have been under the age of 30.
Gov. Baker said while most people in this age bracket will not become seriously ill with the virus, the older people they might spread it to could become ill. The governor blamed indoor parties and maskless events being held and attended by people in younger demographics.
“The science is quite clear that COVID spreads rapidly indoors,” he said, adding this is particularly true when people are not wearing masks or socially distancing. “COVID is a very contagious virus, and it will rear its ugly head wherever it gets the chance.”
He said young people in the state need to get serious about how they are dealing with the virus.
As Halloween approaches, officials have reiterated that safe trick-or-treating events are preferable to hosting parties.
“I have said many times over the past 10 days that organized, structured trick-or-treating is a much safer way to celebrate Halloween than to gather indoors, play games and share food,” Gov. Baker said.
Many towns have organized safe and socially distanced events such as drive-thru trunk-or-treat events, and town officials across the state have released Halloween-specific guidelines. Among the guidelines are to wear masks and carry hand sanitizer to keep hands clean between houses.
For people handing out candy, the suggestions include setting candy on a platter instead of in a bowl, or using prepackaged candy bags.
While some communities in the state have banned trick-or-treating due to a high incidence of COVID-19, none of those municipalities is within Barnstable County.
October has not quite ended, but the state has begun issuing guidance on how to have a safe Thanksgiving.
Gov. Baker announced the guidance during Tuesday’s news conference.
“There’s no way around it,” he said. “The holidays have to look and feel different this year.”
He said gathering indoors is the worst-case scenario for spreading the virus. When planning celebrations, Gov. Baker said people should be aware of how the disease might affect their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Additionally, he asked that people consider how much first responders have sacrificed since the outbreak began and the fact that children need to stay in school before taking unnecessary risks during the holidays.
Gatherings are recommend to include only people in the immediate household or people with whom regular contact has been had.
The state recommends wearing masks around those not in the household when not eating or drinking, frequent handwashing and keeping doors and windows open if gathering inside to improve ventilation.
Gathering limits are still in effect during the holiday and are limited to 25 people for indoor gatherings and 100 if the gathering is held outdoors.
People are advised not to share food, drinks or utensils, to consider having one person serve all food so that multiple people are not handling utensils, and to consider minimizing contact with other people for 14 days before and after the holiday.
Additionally, people are asked to reduce the length of their gatherings.
The entirety of the state’s Thanksgiving guidance can be found at www.mass.gov/news/thanksgiving-during-covid-19.
Barnstable County has surpassed 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak.
Since the first case on Cape Cod was identified in March, 2,004 cases of the virus have been confirmed on Cape Cod. An additional 220 probable cases have been identified by the CDC. This represents an increase of 93 cases over last week compared to an increase of 40 cases from the week before.
A total of 183 people have died from the disease in the region.
No one is hospitalized with the illness in either of the area’s hospitals.
Along the Upper Cape, three of the four towns are considered low-risk, while Bourne is at moderate risk with an average of 5.1 cases in the past two weeks.
This week the state released new information pertaining to clusters of the illness in the state. Of the 4,395 clusters that have been identified from September 27 through October 24, the majority have come from households, meaning two or more people within a single household have tested positive for the disease within a 28-day period.
Household clusters have accounted for 3,854 of all clusters. The second-highest number of clusters was identified in long-term care facilities, with 141 clusters.