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Provincetown Coronavirus Case Load Doubles in Two Days

Jennette Barnes

130 people in Provincetown had tested positive for the virus on Monday. That’s from a cluster believed to be from the Fourth of July weekend.

By Wednesday, that number jumped to more than 250.

Local health officials say this cluster is likely the result of the more contagious Delta variant.

190 of the people who have tested positive are Massachusetts residents, and a little more than half of those are from the Cape.

The people that are vaccinated have had milder cases.

Contact tracers have also connected the cluster to 32 different establishments in Provincetown.

The Provincetown health and select boards issued an advisory early Monday morning recommending that residents and visitors wear a mask when indoors. It also suggests that some venues check proof of vaccination before admitting patrons.

Town officials decided to enact an advisory instead of an emergency declaration after talking with state and county officials.

But not everyone agreed. Selectboard member Bobby Anthony was the most outspoken on this issue.

He said the advisory doesn't go far enough, because Provincetown may only be at the beginning of a surge, and he says the town needs to do more to limit the spread.

The majority of both boards, however, decided to stick with the advisory, saying anything stronger could be an overreaction.

But the health board decided it would circle back in a couple weeks. If cases continue to get worse, and hospitalizations go up, then Provincetown might enact tougher restrictions.

County health director Sean O’Brien told the boards that there have been outbreaks following holidays before. The outbreaks typically peak right around the 2nd or 3rd week, sometimes four weeks later. But he said that cases then begin to drop. O'Brien said we may continue to see these peaks and valleys throughout the pandemic.

The state and county are supplying resources to Provincetown in the form of testing and contact tracing.

County officials say that thousands of people in Provincetown have been tested in the last two weeks.

The town has by far the highest test positivity rate in the state. The percentage of people testing positive in Provincetown is a little higher than 12 percent. The state average is less than 1 percent.

The increase of cases in Provincetown has brought about a mindset change for many.

Provincetown health board chairperson, Stephen Katsurinis, said at the meeting that when he first got vaccinated, he thought the pandemic was essentially over.

But he said that he realizes now that the coronavirus might be with us for a while, and that could mean at certain times these mask advisories will be necessary.

Provincetown town manager Alex Morse said he's already seeing that attitude change. He says more people are wearing masks at the grocery store.

And anecdotally, he said, more people seem to be getting vaccinated. He said he's seen more employers asking about getting their staff vaccinated, particularly workers on a visa.

This surge in Provincetown has had a ripple effect on other communities.

In Boston, the city issued guidance for anyone returning from a visit in Provincetown. It advises that everyone get tested after a visit and to self-isolate until a negative test is received.

Also, the Truro health board decided this week not to end a mask requirement at town buildings. That's after an uptick in cases in that town as well.

Truro is also reminding residents that the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, saying that’s it’s a personal choice to wear a mask in public, and that unvaccinated people should wear a mask.

And also this week, health officials on both Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are advising people to wear masks in public, regardless of their vaccination status.