PROVINCETOWN — Gov. Charlie Baker announced three new executive orders on Monday, Nov. 2, and a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, all of which will go into effect on Friday, Nov. 6.
The three orders involve wearing masks, the size of public and private gatherings, and the mandatory closure of 16 types of businesses between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. The orders are enforceable by boards of health and police depts; the curfew is advisory only.
The new rules narrowly target late-night socializing.
“As a policy nerd, I appreciate that the governor is making data-informed policy decisions,” said Morgan Clark, director of the Provincetown Health Dept.
“We can assume that they are seeing spread when people are out late drinking,” added Clark. “Instead of punishing the entire economy, they are trying to enact policies that get at what is contributing to the spread.”
The categories of business that must close by 9:30 p.m. include in-person dining and sales of alcohol and recreational marijuana. Takeout food service may continue past 9:30, and stores may continue to sell products other than alcohol and recreational marijuana.
Also obligated to end by 9:30 are events of all kinds, including movies, sporting events, and live performances.
The maximum size of public and private gatherings was also reduced. Indoor gatherings, capped since Aug. 7 at 25, will be dialed back down to 10 at most. Outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people will still be allowed in “lower-risk communities” — those that have not been designated “red” during the last three weeks. In the 54 towns that recently turned red — with more than eight active cases per 100,000 people — outdoor gatherings will be limited to 50 people.
No town on Cape Cod has been coded red in the last several months, though Nantucket had an outbreak recently, and is currently red.
In addition to numeric limits, the new order requires that public and private gatherings end at 9:30 p.m. These restrictions apply to weddings, conferences, concerts, and private parties — one-time events that might not otherwise be regulated. The limits don’t apply to standing operations such as restaurants, theaters, and medical facilities, which are already covered by their own guidelines.
The expanded mask order requires a face covering anywhere open to the public, whether indoors or outdoors, even if six feet of social distance can be maintained. Because it applies to “public streets and ways,” it also applies to town beaches, which are a “public way,” according to Provincetown Board of Health Chair Steve Katsurinis.
The Cape Cod National Seashore is not bound by the governor’s orders. It currently instructs visitors to wear a face covering whenever social distancing cannot be maintained.
Fortunately, the sun now sets before 5 p.m. on the Outer Cape. By 10 o’clock, it feels much later now than it did in July, and there’s far less late-night activity. But the rise in cases on the mainland could still find its way to the Cape. Provincetown currently has four active Covid cases, after months of having zero. Due to patient privacy, Clark couldn’t say much about the cases, except that they “are all travel-related.”
Truro has two active cases, and Eastham has three, with only Wellfleet still reporting zero cases. In all of Barnstable County, there have been 119 new positive tests in the last 14 days.
Provincetown is participating in a wastewater testing experiment, run by Columbia University and AECOM, in which the town’s wastewater is tested twice a week for coronavirus RNA, Clark said.
“We generally hover right around the undetectable threshold — one sample might be just over the threshold of detection, but then the next one isn’t,” Clark said. “Recently, we had a slight rise in the results that didn’t go back down. We were able to get an indication from the wastewater before we saw the individual test results come in.”
Nearly 150 frontline workers in Provincetown were tested last Thursday, Oct. 29, as part of a free asymptomatic testing program by Concentric by Gingko in the Massachusetts schools. Clark said she couldn’t comment on the results of those tests — but she reiterated that the four positive cases in Provincetown are all connected to recent travel.
“I would also like to mention — we’ve published a resource guide going into the winter,” Clark said. “We’re focusing on mental health and connection, and on food and security. We’re working with the social service groups, the churches, trying to identify gaps and fill them.” The guide can be found at provincetown-ma.gov/1324/Resources.
“I also want to encourage people to be outdoors, see your friends outdoors, and don’t use the change in daylight or the change in rules to isolate further than you have to,” said Clark. “We still need to connect as we move into these colder, darker months.”