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Outer Cape's Rapid COVID-19 Tests Extended Through Feb. 28 as Surge Continues

COVID-19 cases are trending upward in many communities on the Cape, Coast, and Islands as the second surge in infections continues.

The rate of new cases — the number of cases per 100,000 people — has stabilized on Cape Cod but continues to rise in Dukes and Nantucket Counties, according to Vaira Harik.

Harik is deputy director of the Barnstable County Department of Human Services and has been tracking regional data. 

She said the state is finding that households represent the biggest risk for new COVID-19 clusters.

“Household clusters that they're investigating continue to be far, far and away the most predominant setting for transmission of new cases — clustered new cases,” she said.

Hospitalizations on Cape Cod have dropped somewhat since a peak around New Year’s Eve, but county data show the number of patients in intensive care remains higher than at any time this fall or winter.

Meanwhile, Outer Cape Health Services has found a significant number of COVID-19 cases among people who seek asymptomatic testing.

Over the last two weeks, asymptomatic tests have accounted for about 60 percent of the positive tests, according to CEO Patricia Nadle.

That’s why opening asymptomatic testing was important, she said.

Outer Cape Health Services is now testing an average of more than 100 people a day at each of its sites in Harwich Port, Provincetown, and Wellfleet.

Outer Cape has received state permission to extend rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 through the end of February. It was previously set to end Jan. 10.

The rapid test is not considered as accurate as a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test, but can deliver results in 15 minutes.

Nadle said the rapid test is helping the health center meet demand for testing in the community.

“Which is a huge help for us, to keep up with the testing, and also be able to provide rapid results to the individuals,” she said. “I think we've learned a lot over these last two weeks, and we hope that the community has felt well served.”