‘We are well on our way to containment’: The Provincetown COVID-19 outbreak winds down

"The number of people recovering each day far exceeds the number of new cases being added. We are optimistic this will continue."

Vacationers visit Commercial Street in Provincetown, on July 24. Photographer: Craig F. Walker/Boston Globe/Getty Images

Things are finally starting to look up in Provincetown after a COVID-19 outbreak impacted hundreds of residents and visitors, most of them vaccinated.

On Monday, Provincetown Town Manager Alex Morse shared that the total number of cases among residents decreased to 59 from 231 cases.


“We are well on our way to containment,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “The number of people recovering each day far exceeds the number of new cases being added. We are optimistic this will continue.”

The abrupt increase in cases showed up after the Fourth of July. Data quickly showed that the majority of those testing positive were vaccinated. Since then, over 900 cases have been connected to the Provincetown cluster, considered to be an outbreak of the Delta variant, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited these events as key to its decision to issue indoor mask guidance. According to The New York Times, the CDC said viral loads in vaccinated people were found to be as high as in unvaccinated people.


“I personally was under the impression that it would be difficult to contract [COVID-19]” after getting the vaccine, Ken Horgan, a Provincetown hotel owner, told CNN. “But I was educated quickly, as all of us were here, getting vaccinated does not give you the ability to engage in high-risk activities or otherwise assume that you don’t have to take any precautions.”

Provincetown issued indoor masking guidance on July 19, and then a mandate on July 25, after the town hit a peak 15 percent positivity rate on July 15. A new low of 3.3 percent was reported July 31, Morse said, and 4 percent on Aug. 1. A positivity rate below 5 percent is considered progress towards cluster containment, while a rate below 1 percent is considered containment, he said.

“We really thought we had beat COVID,” Morse told The New York Times. “We had internalized those messages, that life will be back to normal. We beat this. We are the most vaccinated community in the state.”

July 31 was the last day someone with symptom onset could be added to the cluster, Morse said, so this specific outbreak is behind us. Morse reported there have been seven related hospitalizations and zero deaths.

“We are learning to live with the virus, and nothing is occurring that we didn’t expect,” Morse told the Cape Cod Times. “This is further proof that vaccines are working. We have more people in town than we have had since the pandemic began, and the symptoms are incredibly mild according to local medical professionals.”


Provincetown also instituted a mobile testing response and local vaccination effort. Outer Cape Health Services has been providing free tests to people with possible symptoms, and has administered 110 vaccinations since July 1, Morse said. A Fallon Health mobile vaccination van has administered 57 vaccinations since July 14.


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