How the Cape is preparing for an influx of summer vacationers as COVID-19 lingers

How the Cape is preparing for an influx of vacationers this summer as COVID-19 lingers

As Cape Cod rentals book up for the summer, some locals are concerned about the influx of visitors with COVID-19 still lingering. But as vacationers plan ahead, so too are those in health care and government.

Mike Lauf, the CEO and president of Cape Cod Healthcare, said he is confident his facilities can handle whatever the summer brings.

“You can never get comfortable in relation to this treacherous disease, but we are really in a good spot,” Lauf said. “We feel like we made it beyond the Christmas surge. And now we’re trying to make sure that we do everything in our power to treat appropriately our patients, protect our staff and make it to the spring where we can get outside a little bit more.”

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Lauf spoke to Boston 25 News by Zoom last month as Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital were at 92% capacity, treating more coronavirus patients than during last spring’s surge and making plans for a step-down unit in case more beds were needed.

But there has been some relief; coronavirus cases have been declining across the region and the state.

“I think we in the Cape have proven that we know how to handle this disease and this pandemic well,” Lauf said. “If you go back to last April or May right through the summer into the fall, we dealt very well with mitigating this disease, with making sure that we were all socially responsible to each other.”

Indeed, the Cape’s coronavirus numbers last summer were not as high as many had feared.

“When we were in that last reopening phase last April and May and into early June, I was predicting a really catastrophic summer for the region,” said Mass. Sen. Julian Cyr of Truro. “We were able to welcome tens of thousands of visitors to Cape Cod this past summer with very little to no evidence of community spread.”

Businesses could use the boost that a wave of vacationers would bring. Many closed to the pandemic and some remain shuttered. But some Cape residents fear the sheer volume of visitors will be problematic, particularly as new variants of the virus are detected.

“People not paying attention, not doing what they’re supposed to do,” said Cape resident David Easa. “Coming to the Cape, they don’t care because they’re going to leave.”

Cyr, who represents the state’s oldest district, said he is focused on protecting those seniors. He said the top priority for him is getting enough vaccine on the Cape and making sure his constituents get access to it.

“I’m less worried about the more tech-savvy folks who are able to sign up online and to get access to the vaccine that way,” Cyr said. “But I’m particularly concerned about the most vulnerable and the oldest in our community, [which] we have a pretty significant number.”

More than 13,000 Cape seniors participated in a vaccine robocall earlier this month. A hotline last month was flooded with calls with many seniors confused and frustrated by the rollout.

Cyr told Boston 25 News Tuesday that hundreds of his constituents have reached out to him angry about their inability to get vaccinated. He is calling on the state to prioritize the Cape.

“We have over 27,000 adults over the age of 75 who need access to a vaccine,” Cyr said. “But we are really concerned in this crucial part of the vaccine rollout Cape Codders are being left out.”

Lauf also wants to see a large-scale vaccination site run by the state on the Cape.

“We need to protect [our seniors], and we need to make sure they understand the safety of the vaccine, the effectiveness of it,” Lauf said. “It is really key that we ensure that our elderly population gets vaccinated.”

Whether vacationers and locals are vaccinated or not by summertime, Cyr urges everyone to protect themselves and each other.

“To be honest, I think we’re going to be in this for quite some time,” Cyr said. “I’m urging my constituents, Cape Codders and islanders, we’ve got at least a solid six months, probably nine months more of social distancing, mask-wearing, all those protocols.”

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