Officials expect Cape Cod to have a ‘banner summer season’

Cape Cod is bracing for a busy summer season.

“All indications — including advanced bookings both in the traditional lodging space and the short-term rental space — all those indications are that Cape Cod will have a banner summer season,” said Sen. Julian Cyr, who represents Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard, during a Cape Cod COVID-19 Response Task Force press conference on Thursday. “We expect this is due to the expectation that there will be a high vaccination rate and, certainly, the pent-up demand for easily-accessible leisure travel.”

As the summer season looms, however, several towns are currently considered high risk for COVID-19. Nearly half of Barnstable County’s 15 towns are considered high risk for the disease.

“We continue to monitor the situation that is going on on the mid-Cape,” said Scott O’Brien, of Barnstable County Department of Health and the Environment. “Last week we still had a lot of testing happening and that was good, we were able to identify a lot of cases and get folks into quarantine as well. Really, a lot of great work was done in the town of Barnstable and the town of Yarmouth and the other towns that have gone into the red. Those health agents in those communities have really become such heroes in responding to this and getting out there and getting into their communities and doing the best they can to control these numbers.”

The summer season will again look different on the Cape this year due to the pandemic, and visitors will need to adhere to health and safety protocols, Cyr said.

“There are some different factors that are going on now,” Cyr said. “One, I think is just COVID fatigue. There was broader adherence in the public last summer when we were maybe three, four, five, six, months into this as opposed to a year. And then, two, we do know that we have COVID variants that are present here on Cape Cod — they’re present across the Commonwealth, they’re present across the country. The transmissibility of COVID-19 with 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.”

Cyr said the Cape is “really pushing hard” to get residents vaccinated, and he’s increasingly confident that if the supply continues, most adults on the Cape will be vaccinated by summer.

Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said travel demand for the Cape hasn’t slowed down.

“It’s still very positive, even in the face of these changing case numbers,” she said. “We are not seeing any erosion or weakness in people canceling reservations or slowing down. So we’re trying to be ready for our guests and be able to service them safely.”

She said there’s a hiring boom on the Cape right now in the travel and tourism sector, unlike in other parts of the state and country.

“For the Cape to be bucking that trend, we’re very proud of that,” she said.

The task force is working on ways to remind visitors about good public health practices this season, Cyr said.

“We have heard of a slight uptick of people who have not been wearing masks, particularly on those main streets and busy thoroughfares,” Cyr said. “It’s anecdotal, it’s preliminary, but I think, for us, it’s going to mean that we’re only going to double and triple down on this messaging around masking.”

Cyr called refusing to wear a mask when visiting the Cape “really disrespectful” to the residents and employees working hard to make sure visitors can enjoy the area with relatively low risk of COVID-19 transmission. Visitors this season must follow all health and safety precautions, he said.

“If you’re not doing that, you’re just really being a jerk,” Cyr said.

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