Provincetown officials vote for mask mandate after coronavirus cluster surpasses 500 cases

Provincetown officials vote for mask mandate after coronavirus cluster surpasses 500 cases


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Provincetown officials on Sunday voted for an indoor mask mandate after the Cape Cod town’s coronavirus cluster surpassed 500 cases with a majority of those infected fully vaccinated.

The Provincetown Select Board and the Board of Health voted to authorize the town manager to issue a mask mandate for everyone inside public places, regardless of their vaccination status. Provincetown last week urged mask wearing following the spike in cases amid the emergence of the delta variant.

“We’re a somewhat transient community, and people come and they go, but for the people who live here there needs to be attention paid to their protection and safety,” said Board of Health Chair Stephen Katsurinis.

The mask mandate would be relaxed to an advisory if the positivity rate on virus tests drops below 3%, and the advisory would be lifted if the positivity rate goes under 1%.

“I feel like this is the best way for us to proceed,” Katsurinis said while proposing the mask order.

The boards held an emergency public meeting on Sunday in the wake of the cluster from the Fourth of July weekend that has led to 551 positive cases, as of Friday.

There was an influx of visitors in the Cape town over the Fourth of July weekend. There were some packed venues, “making transmission amongst persons very, very easy,” said Vaira Harik, deputy director of the Barnstable County Department of Human Services.

Of the 551 positive cases, 394 are Massachusetts residents and 171 are Provincetown residents. There are 157 out-of-state cases.

Overall, 71% of cases are symptomatic, and 69% of the affected individuals are fully vaccinated.

Apart from three hospitalizations associated with this cluster, peoples’ symptoms have been relatively mild. People who are vaccinated are significantly less likely to get severe symptoms.

The positivity rate peaked on July 15, when there was a 15% positivity rate. The rate has since improved to 9%.

“We are entering this endemic stage of COVID,” said Provincetown Town Manager Alex Morse. “COVID unfortunately, and I think it’s depressing for many of us, isn’t going away anytime soon.”

The more highly contagious delta variant has been detected in the Provincetown cluster. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said genetic sequencing of initial samples associated with the Provincetown outbreak tested positive for the delta variant.

The total number of cases among vaccinated people in Massachusetts remains “extremely low,” at 0.1% or 5,166 cases out of more than 4.3 million fully vaccinated residents, the DPH said.