Provincetown reinstates indoor mask requirement amid rise in cases


PROVINCETOWN, Mass. (WPRI) — The Provincetown Select Board voted unanimously on Sunday evening to enact an emergency indoor mask mandate, effective immediately.

The decision follows a COVID-19 cluster with hundreds of positive cases linked to the popular Cape Cod resort town.

Last week, a mask advisory was issued asking people to wear masks indoors when social distancing was not possible.

Morse said as of Friday, 430 positive cases of COVID-19 reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health were associated with the Provincetown cluster. Of these cases, 342 are Massachusetts residents, 153 of which reside in Provincetown. However, the remainder of individuals who tested positive reside in other states.

According to Morse, 71% of cases among Massachusetts residents are symptomatic, with 69% of affected individuals reported to be fully vaccinated. Aside from three hospitalizations (two in state and one out of state) associated with the cluster, “symptoms are known to be mild and without complication.”

The board also voted Sunday to delegate additional authority to Town Manager Alex Morse.

This includes enacting further restrictions such as capacity limits or relaxing active restrictions like the mask mandate, based on public health data in consultation with the Barnstable County Department of Health & Environment.

In a Facebook post Sunday, Morse said if the town has a test positivity rate below 3% for a period of at least five days, the mandate will shift to an advisory, and if under 1% for a period of at least five days the advisory will be lifted. However, if test positivity goes over 1%, the advisory is reimplemented, and if the test positivity rate goes over 3%, the mandate is reimplemented.

Daily testing of wastewater, which town officials say “has been a valuable surveillance tool,” also resumed over the weekend. The town says it utilized the testing throughout the pandemic, but the last time it had done so was sometime this spring.

“Going forward, the wastewater testing data will indicate the presence of COVID-19 in the 50% of the buildings in Provincetown connected to the town’s sewer. Given the current cluster, presence of COVID-19 in wastewater sampling tests is expected,” a town update read Saturday night.

Though testing and contact tracing has identified more cases associated with the Provincetown cluster, town officials say test positivity rates have improved since surveillance of the cluster began, dropping from 15% to 9%.

The town says a test positivity rate of <5% is considered progress towards cluster containment, while a testing positivity rate of <1% is considered fully contained.

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