HARWICH PORT— In an emergency order issued Tuesday, the board of health mandated that masks be worn in the heart of the village. The emergency order is based on an uptick in COVID-19 cases reported since Friday.
Masks are required along Route 28 from Bank Street west to Lower County Road. The area is a small but busy section of the village with a lot of pedestrians, said Health Department Director Meggan Eldredge.
The new mask zone order takes effect on Thursday, July 23 at 1 a.m. Face covering is mandatory from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., except when people are eating or drinking. The emergency order provides for a warning with the initial violation, but a second violation will bring a $200 fine, and a $300 fine for a third violation.
Eldredge told selectmen Monday night there were five new cases related to businesses in Harwich Port since Friday. The increase has impacted several businesses here and in communities across the Cape, she added.
A server at The Port restaurant tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and the owners of the restaurant took quick action to close the facility and have the restaurant professionally cleaned and disinfected, Eldredge said. She was notified a week ago Tuesday that a server in the restaurant became sick the previous day and tested positive for the virus that night. Eldredge said the owners closed the restaurant for 24 hours and followed all the required safety steps, including hiring a professional cleaning company to “deep clean and disinfect” the restaurant.
The owners of the restaurant notified staff members of the situation and informed them they should monitor their health and watch for signs of symptoms, Eldredge said. The owners also encouraged staff members to get tested.
The attorney for The Port, Raymond Tomlinson, reported that many of the staff members have been tested with no further positive results, Eldredge said. The restaurant also reached out to anyone who had reservations there during the shift the person was working to alert the customers to the potential of exposure.
“Our department was in constant contact with The Port owners to assist with this situation providing guidance and support,” Eldredge said. “The Port followed all required safety standards and was cleared to reopen on Wednesday. This situation is unfortunate, however this business handled it professionally and safely.”
It has been two weeks since the July 4 weekend when a lot of people were gathering together, Eldredge said.
The health department has received “many, many complaints” about people not wearing masks, she said. The sidewalks along Route 28 are narrow and create tight quarters for people to pass, she said.
Businesses have been compliant with COVID-19 reporting provisions, and several have contacted the board of health and closed for a 24-hour period after positive or potential exposures to allow cleaning in compliance with state regulations. The businesses affected included both restaurants and retail stores, she said.
“We need to continue to assume everyone is positive and keep the masks on.” Eldredge said.
Senator Julian Cyr, D-Truro, a member of the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force, told task force members last Thursday that new cases were emerging in Harwich and in Provincetown tied to workers, particularly restaurants.
Generally numbers are down, but “any uptick in cases does not indicate good things and I think we need to be ready and prepared to take action,” Cyr said.
Specifically, Cyr said, the state may need to re-evaluate allowing indoor restaurant seating. He said officials are waiting for data that comes through the reporting system 14 days after the July 4 weekend (see story, page 5).
Workers in the hospitality industry and retail employees in Provincetown were being offered the opportunity to be tested on Wednesday afternoon for coronavirus at an Outer Cape Health Services facility. The goal is to test asymptomatic workers after the first couple of weeks in July. The cost of the testing is to be split between the town and business owners.
In Harwich, Eldredge said the number of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic has risen to 136, with seven active cases in isolation. She said 71 of those cases are related to the Wingate of Harwich nursing home, where 21 of the 24 deaths in the community occurred.