Coronavirus

Parties criticized after 8 Falmouth lifeguards test positive, possible case surfaces at Spencer bash

Meanwhile, the positive COVID-19 case count for the Chatham cluster has risen to 13 following a party there.

A lifeguard. David L Ryan/Globe Staff, file

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In Falmouth, eight lifeguards have tested positive for COVID-19, causing some of the town’s beaches to go without lifeguards over the weekend.

A party is to blame, according to what the Cape Cod Times was told by a former lifeguard. The gathering was held two weekends ago.

Meanwhile, a party in Spencer has drawn concern there as police say it could have been purposefully set up to spread the virus, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported.

The reports of these two gatherings come after Chatham officials received a COVID-19 cluster notification from the state last week. As of last Wednesday, 10 people had tested positive after reportedly attending a house party where 30 to 50 people congregated, many of them restaurant workers. That number has since risen to 13, according to the Associated Press on Wednesday.

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In Falmouth, eight lifeguards had tested positive as of the town’s select board meeting Monday night, Maggie Clayton, the town’s acting beach superintendent, told town officials. The beach department has 117 employees total.

The first case was reported at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

“This was shared via social media with other staff and it set off a vested interest in getting tested,” she said during the meeting. “This testing meant that we were short staffed, we have been running shorter staffed for the past three days.”

Two of the town’s beaches did not have lifeguards on Saturday, and she and one of the lifeguard supervisors took their place, Clayton said. On Sunday, just four beaches had lifeguards. On Monday, staffing was extended to eight beaches.

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With the first case reported on Friday, the positive case count increased to four on Saturday, six on Sunday, and then to eight on Monday.

Free testing was being set up for all beach department employees as of Monday, with a planned turnaround of 48 hours, according to a statement from Town Manager Julian Suso. He said information on temporary reduced staffing will be posted.

“We are guardedly optimistic that beach parking monitor positions can continue to be regularly staffed,” he said.

While Suso said during the meeting that there’s been some “conjecture” over the origin of the COVID-19 infections, he said the town is waiting on contact tracing to confirm a source. The Times reported that there was a party with beach staff the weekend prior to the reports of positive cases.

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In Spencer, there were upwards of 30 people found at an underage party on Mechanic Street early Saturday morning. Participants were aged between 16 and 23, were not wearing masks and were drinking, according to the Telegram and Gazette. Police were called by someone who was at the party who said they’d been exposed to the virus and tested positive. However, police found later that the man was still waiting for his test results.

“It seems that one person had a close contact with someone who was infected and advertised that,” Sgt. Norman Hodgerney Jr. told the newspaper, noting that the party came together after people found out someone had it with the idea of exposing others.

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However, one of those responsible for hosting the party says that isn’t true.

“It was definitely an overhype, definitely overexaggerated, but it was definitely an irresponsible move on our part,” Noel Casiano told NBC 10 Boston on Tuesday. Casiano added that a woman at the party first said she had strep, then later told other partygoers that she actually had tested positive for COVID-19. One of the party attendees told the news station that everyone who went to the party and was tested for COVID-19 tested negative.

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