TRURO — New Covid-19 infections here, some connected to the July Provincetown cluster, have led officials and business owners to reinstate pandemic protocols.
At the beginning of July, Truro had reported only 57 cases through the entire pandemic, according to the Massachusetts Covid-19 dashboard. By July 31 (the most recent data for cities and towns available on the dashboard), Truro’s total had jumped to 94, about a two-thirds increase in just one month.
In response, the Truro Board of Health enacted an updated mask mandate for the town on Aug. 3, requiring everyone to wear masks while inside any business or place of assembly. The previous order, which had been in place in some form since early in the pandemic, required masking in municipal buildings and in any business that had its own mask rule. The updated order also says that masks are required in any outdoor gathering of more than 100 people, or where physical distancing is not possible.
On the day of the health board’s meeting, there were 30 active cases of Covid-19 in town. That, according to Truro Health and Conservation Agent Emily Beebe, is the largest number of active cases the town has seen.
“For our little town, it’s a bigger impact,” Beebe said at the meeting.
The rise in cases, Beebe said, is at least partially connected to the Provincetown cluster. But relaxed behavior by residents was also a factor, she said.
According to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated people should wear masks in areas with “substantial or high” levels of transmission. Barnstable County has had substantial or high levels since July 19, according to the CDC’s Covid-19 data tracker.
At an emergency meeting on Aug. 6, the board of health unanimously approved amendments to the order, adding specific language about what venues require masks. The draft of the order considered at the Aug. 6 meeting also said that the mandate would be in place until rescinded by the board, which was expected to happen after Sept. 7.
All language about an end date for the mandate was removed at the request of Beebe. Board of health chair Tracey Rose agreed with Beebe: “As we know, it’s an ever-changing situation,” she said.
Beebe previously told the Independent that a stricter mask mandate was unlikely, despite Provincetown adopting an indoor mask mandate on July 27. But as cases continued to rise in Truro, she said, she was seeing unmasked customers in stores. That changed her thinking.
“When we see community case counts going up every day, we have to look at the risk,” she said. “It became evident that folks weren’t going to do this willingly.”
Beebe also said she had heard from business owners that a mandate from the town would help them with customers who were resistant to masking.
“It’s easier to have the power of the town behind you,” said Kristen Roberts, one of the owners of Truro Vineyards, a week after the mandate was enacted. “When it was just our rule, it was a little bit more of a struggle with some customers.” Truro Vineyards began requiring masks again a week before the town adopted the new mandate.
Not all customers were happily compliant with the rule: Roberts said that one customer walked up to the front door, read the “masks required” sign, and left.
Frank Grande, owner of the Truro Box Lunch, said he had also seen customers leave after being asked to wear a mask.
“I think everyone is fed up,” he said. “Some people are going to fight it.”
But Grande said the board of health made the right call on the indoor mask mandate “for everybody’s safety.” He finds masks uncomfortable, but “I can deal with it a little bit longer if it will keep everybody safe,” he said.
At Savory and the Sweet Escape, masking was required before the order. Owner Diane Brigham-Costa said the mandate was “the right thing to do.”
In some ways, Brigham-Costa said, being in business this year is more challenging than last year. “Last year, everyone was understanding of changes as they came,” she said. “This year, they don’t really care.”
As of the Independent’s deadline on Aug. 10, there were 13 active cases in Truro, and there had been no new infections since Aug. 6. Beebe said the declining case number was a good sign that people had become more cautious with their behavior.
“It looks like people remembered the mitigation methods that worked,” Beebe said. What’s important now, she added, is that people remain vigilant so that the town does not see another spike in cases.