Brewster Resident Believed to Be Cape Cod's First Coronavirus Death | WCAI

Brewster Resident Believed to Be Cape Cod's First Coronavirus Death

Mar 25, 2020

An 88-year-old Brewster man is the first to die from Covid-19 on Cape Cod. The Cape Cod Chronicle reports the Reverend Richard Ottaway, an Episcopal priest and college professor, died Sunday night at Cape Cod Hospital. WCAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Tim Wood, editor at the Cape Cod Chronicle to learn more. 

Eident Good morning, Tim.

Wood Good morning, Kathryn.

Eident Tim, thanks so much for joining us. The Chronicle is the first outlet to report this death. And as I'm sure you've learned throughout this process, with so many different health-based organizations, information is centralized, but also sometimes slow to come out. And that means we've been reporting some cases based on what we hear from town officials or other trusted sources instead of just the State Department of Health—that, too, of course, has been keeping tabs on numbers. So, how did you first learn of the death of Reverend Richard Ottaway?

Wood Well, this is a good example of really staying in touch with the community. We first were notified of this situation through an e-mail that I received from St. Christopher's Church here in Chatham. I'm on their email list so I get all their notifications. And, this one came on Monday from the rector, Reverend Brian McGurk, and he was announcing Reverend Ottoway's death. Reverend Ottoway had been a parishioner at St. Christopher's. And, it was stated explicitly in the email that Reverend Ottoway had died of COVID-19. So, of course, this piqued our interest. And we reporter Allen Pollack got in touch with Reverend McGurk, who confirmed the Reverend Ottoway had indeed died of the virus. And, actually told us that Reverend Ottoway's wife wanted that information out there, that she wanted people to know that this is a serious situation.

And, we were unable to confirm this with public health officials, like you said, Kathryn. Information is rather slow to trickle out. And there are also, you know, HIPAA requirements, which are privacy laws governing how much health officials can really say about specific patients.

But since we confirmed this with Reverend McGurk and with the rector at Christ Church Episcopal, which is where Reverend Ottoway had been assisting, we felt confident that that we could go with this with the story.

Eident Now, you mentioned that his wife wanted this information out there, as you said, and you felt confident to go forward with it and is certainly is important because, you know, obviously he was a member of an active church community. I'm sure he was active in the community in other ways. So, do we know how now officials are working with other folks in the church--are people needing to self-quarantine?

Wood Well, according to Christ Church Episcopal warden Deborah Aylesworth, Reverend Ottoway was last in the church on March 8th and March 11th, and the church reached out to all the congregants who would have been present at that time. And, they're all monitoring their health.

And, as far as she was able to determine, no one has shown any symptoms yet. So, we're getting close to the quarantine period for it for that, or for the incubation period. So we're  expecting that these people will have, you know, more clear information soon.

Reverend Ottoway was hospitalized on Friday. So, my guess is that public health officials who are tracking down contacts of folks who do test positive for the virus would have probably been in touch with his contacts outside of the church as well. And, you know, they're not telling us any of that because, again, because of privacy laws.

Eident Right. Right.

Wood He won't confirm any of this information.

Eident Yeah. And, you mentioned that you got this because, of course, you're deeply embedded in your community. And The Chronicle focuses kind of on the Lower Cape primarily, I would say. How are you managing to cover the towns and also be safe, Tim Wood?

Wood  Well, you know, we just put out our weekly edition last night. We finished it and all the staff is working remotely at home. We've been working the phones rather hard and keeping up with e-mail. We found that local officials have been very responsive to e-mail and phone calls. And, you know, it's a matter of really just keeping in touch with those sources.

And, you know, some of us have been out and about a little bit, not in any, you know, crowds or anything like that, certainly. But, you know, we've been going out to take photographs since to visit with some of the school officials who are giving the lunches out to kids, you know, keeping our distance, but keeping in touch also with those people and making sure the members of the community know that we're here to provide information in the past, information along if they have anything important, they need to get out.

Eident Tim Wood, editor of the Cape Cod Chronicle, thank you so much for the work you are doing, and for joining us this morning.

And of course, our hearts go out to the Reverend Richard Ottaway's family. Stay safe, Tim.

Wood Thank you. You too, Kathryn.

This transcript was lighly edited for grammar and clarity.