Provincetown Outbreak Just the Tip of the National Iceberg?

Saturday July 31, 2021
Originally published on July 30, 2021

Provincetown Outbreak Just the Tip of the National Iceberg?
  (Source:Getty Images)

Provincetown is being called the canary down the coal mine in understanding how virulent the Covid Delta variant has become.

"Findings from the investigation into the Provincetown COVID-19 outbreak helped formulate the CDC's decision to recommend that all Americans, even if they are vaccinated, wear masks indoors, according to an internal report by the agency," writes NBC News.

"All indications now are that the Provincetown outbreak investigation is among the pieces of new evidence behind the CDC's decision to ask Americans to once again put on their masks indoors, even if they are vaccinated," adds ABC News.

As of Thursday, 882 people were tied to the Provincetown outbreak. Among those living in Massachusetts, 74% of them were fully immunized, yet officials said the vast majority were also reporting symptoms. Seven people were reported hospitalized.

"The initial findings of the investigation led by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seemed to have huge implications," ABC adds.

The assumption prior to these findings was that a vaccinated person was largely protected from the virus and they wouldn't pass the virus to others, such children who do not qualify for the vaccine or people who are vulnerable due to co-morbidities.

"What has changed is the virus," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and Biden's chief medical adviser.

"In recent days I have seen new scientific data from recent outbreak investigations, showing that the delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that causes COVID 19," CDC director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Tuesday announcing the new recommendations.

On Sunday, Provincetown issued new guidelines regarding the wearing of masks. "Provincetown officials during an emergency meeting late Sunday afternoon approved a new indoor mask mandate and a measure clearing the way for stricter capacity limits on local businesses amid a surge of new COVID-19 cases since the July Fourth holiday weekend," reported the Boston Globe.

On Friday Town Manager Morse posted new data on Facebook that offered a capsule of the infection and rate of infection in Provincetown, pointing out that the number of cases is decreasing.

"As of July 30th, there has been a total of 220 cases among Provincetown residents. There are 103 active cases in town, and 170 cases have been released/recovered (total is higher than 220 because some cases that don't have local address have stayed to recover).

"73% of the cases are among vaccinated individuals, 89% are men with a median age of 39.

"The test positivity rate (the number of tests that come back positive in relation to the total number of tests) have improved since surveillance of the Provincetown cluster began, from a peak of 15% on July 15th to a new low of 4.6% reported on July 29th, see chart below. A test positivity rate of <5% is considered progress towards cluster containment, while a testing positivity rate of <1% is considered contained.

"Seven hospitalizations have been reported to date associated with this cluster — 5 in MA and 2 out-of-state. No deaths have been reported.

"Outer Cape has administered 110 vaccinations since July 1st, and the Fallon van has administered 54 vaccinations since they began offering the vaccine on July 14th."

At present, the infection rate in Provincetown is headed in the right direction, though still above the testing positivity rate of <1%, which is considered the rate of containment.

In a Thursday release, "Morse added that the mask mandate will be reduced to an advisory if there is a test positivity rate below 3% for at least five days and will be lifted if the rate drops below 1% for at least five days."

In the release, Anthony Fuccillo, director of Tourism for the Town of Provincetown writes: "Provincetown continues to be the most welcoming, safe and inclusive community on the planet. Wearing a mask indoors again is a small ask in the scheme of things. Everyone who visits or lives and works in Provincetown deserves to feel safe and healthy while enjoying this extraordinary place."