The springtime COVID-19 outbreak on Cape Cod "remains a deep and urgent worry" for officials in the region, particularly given the rising presence of more highly infectious variants across the country.
One day after U.S. Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the B.1.1.7 strain is now the "most common lineage" in the United States, Cape Cod elected officials and health experts said that variants of the virus have played a role in driving up the area's case counts.
"We do know that we have COVID variants that are present here on Cape Cod, present across the commonwealth, present across the country," Sen. Julian Cyr, a Truro Democrat, said during a Cape Cod COVID-19 Response Task Force call on Thursday. "The transmissibility of COVID-19 of these variants now really may impact us this summer, so that's why we are working really hard to prepare and communicate what we're expecting."
About half of the Cape's towns fell into the Department of Public Health's highest risk designation, color-coded in red, in the most recent report last week, Cyr said.
Between Monday and Wednesday, Barnstable County recorded 213 new cases while Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket each counted 14 new cases, according to Barnstable County Department of Human Services Interim Director Vaira Harik. She added that it is still too early to tell how the Easter holiday weekend might have impacted the infection arc or the timeline of posting test results.
Cape officials are optimistic about the summer season — unlike other parts of the state and country, the Cape's travel and tourism sector is rapidly hiring workers — but stressed that residents must continue to abide by familiar precautions such as wearing masks to avoid imperiling those hopes.
"We often work really hard to make sure that you can enjoy this really special, beautiful place and do so safely with relatively low COVID-19 transmission risk," Cyr said. "You really should respect the people who've been working so hard to serve you and help you enjoy this special place and steward this place year round. If you're not doing that, you're really just a jerk at this point."