HYANNIS, Mass. — Her license plate says TEXAS. But a bumper sticker pasted to the rear of her SUV is a dead giveaway that Cape Cod visitor Carey Mitchell is a Massachusetts native. 'Wicked Pissah,' it reads.
Mitchell, who now lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, frequently vacations on the Cape.
"My mother passed away and left us her house here," she said.
Two weeks ago, Mitchell left Texas around the time COVID-19 began to spin out of control in the Sun Belt.
"We didn't wear masks as much. It wasn't mandated," Mitchell said. "So we didn't have to wear masks to go into stores and stuff."
That wasn't the only thing contributing to the dramatic rise in cases in Texas. It was among the last states to shut non-essential businesses down and the first to open them back up.
Mitchell suggested that perhaps some misinformation also fueled the rise.
"They said the sun and the heat would help fight the spread of it," she said.
While there was some thought early on that heat and/or humidity might curb the spread of COVID-19, those effects, if they exist at all, have been proven to be minimal given the explosive growth of cases in southern and western states.
In fact, just a handful of states have stabilized growth in weekly coronavirus cases, and Massachusetts is one of them. Health officials would like to keep it that way, of course, but there is concern about vacationers to Cape Cod, especially, triggering another wave of infections because some tourists have been seen not physically distancing and not wearing masks.
“You do notice it and you just say to yourself, ‘why the hell don’t they have it on?’” said East Sandwich resident Bart McKay.
McKay is thrilled to see tourists coming down for Independence Day weekend, given the rough shape of the local economy, but he does worry the same thing that is happening in Florida, Texas, California and Arizona could happen in Massachusetts.
"If they open it up too much, too fast it's going to go right up again. No doubt about it," McKay said. "And if people just get crazy and start not doing what the government thinks you should be doing, they'll go back up again. It's happening all over the country."
For Massachusetts residents, 'crazy' in these COVID-19 times wouldn't, in the recent past, seem all that crazy at all. It's a gaggle of teen girls, maskless, taking selfies like it was any other summer day. It's a group of friends walking maskless into an outdoor seating area to request a table.
To account for the expected increase in pedestrian traffic and perhaps the possibility of 'crazy' behavior, Hyannis expanded sidewalk space by placing concrete barriers in Main Street. That will also allow restaurants to offer more outdoor seating, spaced safely apart.
"I think the hope is that we can get people complying with the regulations that have been communicated by the health authorities," said Cape resident Russell Walker.
With apparently no way to enforce physical distancing or the wearing of masks in public, hope and personal responsibility are among the few ways the Cape can keep the coronavirus at bay.
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