Covid US: CDC U-turn on masks is based on busy July 4th weekend on Cape Cod

The CDC’s new guidance that vaccinated people need to wear masks again is based on a busy two week period in the summer hotspot of Provincetown on Cape Cod, where thousands flock every summer and pack out bars, restaurants and clubs.  

The CDC changed its position suddenly last week, instructing people to wear masks indoors again regardless of vaccine status because of the numbers of people who tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting Provincetown between July 3 and July 17 – some of the busiest weeks in the summer.

There were 882 confirmed cases of people ‘associated to the cluster, as of July 29. 

Only 220 of those are people who live in Provincetown; 311 live elsewhere in Massachusetts, and 351 were from other states. Eighty-seven percent of those who tested positive were men with a median age of 40 and 74 percent of the total number were people who had been fully vaccinated. 

The CDC is most concerned about 469 fully-vaccinated Massachusetts residents who are among the cluster. 

It says the numbers show that the virus can be transmitted among vaccinated people – something scientists have never hidden. 

After the outbreak was reported locally, bars, restaurants and stores in some Cape Cod towns like Provincetown brought back mask mandates out of an abundance of caution. Now, the numbers have gone down again. 

But there’s no telling if that is down to people wearing masks or if it’s because there aren’t as many people in the area anymore, especially gathering together.

Provincetown, Massachusetts, on July 20. The seaside town on the tip of Cape Cod attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year and 2021 was no different. But the CDC is using it as reason to recommend a mask mandate across the entire country because some 400 people who went to the small town got COVID, even though they are vaccinated. Only 5 of them were hospitalized and none died 

Provincetown is known for its party scene and the seaside resort’s population increases by tenfold every summer because of it. Some say it’s not a fair representative of the country because people are far more likely to cram into crowded bars and restaurants to party over the two busiest summer weeks in Provincetown than they are in  general life elsewhere. Above, the Boat Slip Resort on July 16th 

A photo from inside one of Provincetown’s many clubs after the July 17 weekend. Locals say the town returned to a pre-pandemic state because so many people have been vaccinated. The COVID-19 numbers afterwards spooked officials, even though hospitalizations are low, and now mask mandates have been brought back in the town

An image from the Provincetown Bear Boat Cruise on July 17, the last day of the ‘Provincetown cluster’ time frame. 

 We had tens of thousands of people in densely populated indoor environments for extended periods of time,

‘The first few weeks of July are among he busiest in the summer. 

We had upwards of 60,000 in the summer, particularly those two weeks. 

‘It was very crowded and it was a rainy few days, which brought more people indoors. 

‘We had tens of thousands of people in densely populated indoor environments for extended periods of time,’ Alex Morse, Provincetown’s town manager, told on Monday.

‘I’ve said all along that the positive news here is that the vaccine is clearly working. 

Many of the town’s venues were enforcing vaccine passes for people to get into events

‘There have been zero deaths, only seven hospitalizations and overwhelmingly, most people had very mild symptoms.

‘We are entering a new phase here where we have to learn to live with the virus,’ he said. 

He added that people had to come to terms with the reality that the vaccines don’t stop transmission of the virus.

‘Many folks were here thinking, if you’re vaccinated then you can’t get COVID or transmit it and both of those things are not true.’  

He said he’d keep the indoor mask mandate in Provincetown until cases went down again but that it was not the way forward.

This is how Provincetown’s infections compare to the rest of Massachusetts after the two-week summer blowout which caused a spike in COVID cases but has now gone down

The CDC based its guidance on masks  indoors, even if you’re vaccinated, on this report which says the spike in Provincetown was worrying because the infections were among vaccinated people 

Provincetown Town Manager Alex Morse said he’d lift the mask mandate once cases drop 

‘The outbreak is contained and Provincetown is safe,’ he said. 

Provincetown’s population grows from 3,000 in the winter to more than 50,000 in the summer, according to the town’s website. 

This year, 60,000 flocked to the tip of the Cape to celebrate July 4. 

In the first week of July, the local businesses in Provincetown had their best weeks since the start of the pandemic.  

‘There was a collective feeling that everyone had been through so much, individually and collectively, over the last 18 months,’ he told The New York Times. 

By the end of the first week, Steve Katsurinis, the chair of the town Board of Health, said he’d started seeing a spike in cases among gay men who had gone to the doctor for other reasons then been surprised to have tested positive. 

The mask mandate that was brought back is now going to become an advisory if cases keep decreasing. 

Provincetown will lift it once the test positivity rate drops beneath three percent. 

The national average in America is 7 percent but it varies drastically by state, as does vaccination rates. 

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