What we know about the summer right now: No Cape Cod Baseball League; no Barnstable County Fair; no Paw Palooza; no summer concerts at Nauset Beach; no Chatham Harbor Run; no Mashpee Powwow; no Figawi.
What we don't know: What other summer events—band concerts, July 4 parades, arts festivals, fireworks, theater performances—will happen and which won't, whether beaches will be open or restricted, whether we'll all be wearing masks in shops, restaurants and strolling along Main Street, if summer camps and recreation programs will be held.
What we can expect: Long lines at restaurants with limited seating, lots of traffic as the Cape becomes a major “driving destination,” fewer international visitors.
Local residents and businesses are waiting anxiously for Gov. Charlie Baker's reopening advisory board to issue its report, expected May 18. As is happening now in other states, openings of businesses and public places will likely be phased over a period of weeks, perhaps even months, and are expected to be allowed in conjunction with other measures to protect health and safety, such as the wearing of face masks and maintaining social distancing.
For Chatham, Harwich and Orleans, and the Cape in general, the timing is not great. May 18 is less than a week before the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional opening of the summer season. But there may not be much to prepare for; while no doubt some visitors and especially second home owners may converge on the Cape that weekend, the likelihood of a surge of folks from off Cape is low.
But by June and certainly July, as more and more restrictions are lifted, more and more people are going to want to come here. Will we be able to accommodate them? What will they do once they're here, if there are no activities and limits on gatherings and occupancy of shops and restaurants?
Those are some of the questions Chatham selectmen hope to gain feedback about at an online forum scheduled for Monday, May 11. Before board members make decisions on whether to cancel or postpone summer events and other possible restrictions, they want to hear what stakeholders, including year-round and summer residents and businesses owners, have to say. We're tempted to say the session is a bit premature, as we won't know what the state will or will not allow by then; but it will, in fact, be important to get a broad understanding of how people feel about the summer, whether they see a need to open up as much and as quickly as possible (since so many rely so much on the summer months for their livelihood) or err on the side of caution and move more slowly than may be allowed, for the sake of health and safety. Resolving these potential conflicts now could ease many people's minds and dispel anxiety causing uncertainty.
If you can, attend the May 11 session and make your voice heard. For login information, see the story on page 1 of this issue or visit the town's website, www.chatham-ma.gov. We've all got a vested interest in what happens during summer, and this promises to be the most unusual one in generations. It will take us all to figure out how to manage it.