The small town that was key to the new mask guide

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. – The July 4 holiday is always a big celebration in the small town of Provincetown, Massachusetts. A host of parties and events generally draw thousands of visitors from across the country to Cape Cod.

“That’s what we say is the official start of summer,” said Christopher Roberts, owner of a game and puzzle store in Provincetown. “The 4th of July is full … and then, from that day on, it continues like this.”

Provincetown, home to about 3,000 year-round residents, became the national spotlight last week. This was because it was the case study that convinced the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to change their guidelines on mask use.

The study, which was released Friday by the CDC, said 469 COVID-19 cases were identified in Massachusetts residents who had traveled to Barnstable County, which includes Provincetown, between July 3-17. The cases were associated with “multiple summer events and large public gatherings,” the report said.

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About three-quarters of those cases occurred among fully vaccinated people. That finding suggests that inoculated people can also spread the virus, including the dangerous delta variant, which has been fueling the country’s latest surge.

There were five hospitalizations associated with the outbreak, four of which were fully vaccinated people, and no deaths were reported, according to the CDC study.

The agency updated its mask guide last week. He recommended that vaccinated people use them indoors, when in areas with “substantial” or “high” COVID-19 transmission to avoid further spread of that variant.

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“I personally had the impression that it would be difficult to get (COVID-19)” after receiving the vaccine, said Ken Horgan, a hotel owner in Provincetown.

“But I was quickly educated, since we were all here. Getting vaccinated doesn’t enable you to engage in high-risk activities or assume you don’t have to take any precautions,” she told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Friday.

To stem further spread, local leaders again mandated the use of face masks for Provincetown. Fully vaccinated residents and business owners say they are doing their part to double down on safety measures and push for more vaccinations.

They see the study as a wake-up call that while the vaccine is very effective in preventing serious illness and death, it works best when combined with other precautions.

“We were told that if you are vaccinated, you are almost invincible and I think … we wrongly assume that,” John Berman, city manager, told CNN’s Alex Morse on Friday.

‘A Petri dish for the country’

Debbie Nadolney, director and curator of the AMP Gallery in Provincetown, said that while she, her partner, and most of the people she knows in town have been vaccinated, she felt the requirements for masks and other safety measures were removed too much. early.

For that reason, she continued to wear her mask after receiving the vaccine and encouraged others to do so when they were in the gallery.

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“It just seemed like common sense to continue,” he said. “Only half the country … has been vaccinated, we haven’t reached, you know, the vaccination rate of 70 or 80% in the country yet. So why are we celebrating?”

About 57.5% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 49.5% are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.

In Barnstable County, about 76% of people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the latest state data.

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With the influx of people seeing the city in July and no widespread mask requirements, Nadolney said the outbreak did not surprise her.

Local leaders held an emergency meeting last week and issued an indoor mask mandate for Provincetown. The requirement applies to all restaurants with enclosed spaces, theaters or venues, bars, dance floors, accommodations, gyms, retail and personal services stores, offices, and other public facilities.

Nadolney said he now demands the use of face masks in the gallery and hopes the city mandate will not be lifted anytime soon. Removing the mask requirements was a “mistake” in the first place, he said, and he hopes other parts of the country will learn from the city’s experience and require masks in addition to pushing for more people to get vaccinated.

“Provincetown is such a small place, but obviously we have been a Petri dish for the country,” he said.

Roberts, who owns the puzzle shop, said he is enforcing the mask requirement and that if customers don’t bring one, employees will offer them one. Now that she knows that vaccinated people can also transmit the virus, Roberts said she is very careful not to get infected, as her 7-year-old son is not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

‘In the right direction’

Horgan, the hotel’s owner, said the outbreak was both a sobering and an eye-opening experience. Local leaders and business owners “got together” and implemented their own mask and vaccine requirements, he said.

Your hotel, like others in the city, now requires proof of vaccination. “If you plan to travel and are not vaccinated, please don’t come to Provincetown,” Horgan said. “We really take our health seriously. For our local businesses to survive, we must stay operational. And to stay operational, we must stay healthy.”

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In an update on Friday, the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment announced that 934 COVID-19 cases were associated with the Provincetown group as of July 29, of which 560 were Massachusetts residents and 231 of which they live in Provincetown.

There are now 103 active cases in the city, according to Morse, the city manager. The positivity rate of tests at the local level has plummeted since the start of the study. It went from a high of 15% on July 15 to 4.6% on July 29, Morse said in a recent Facebook update.

The latest numbers, in addition to the new mask mandate, mean the city is “going in the right direction,” Morse told CNN on Friday.

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“What we are deducing from here is that this delta variant is highly transmissible, more contagious, more prone to causing an infection in vaccinated people. But you are not likely to be hospitalized and you are certainly not going to die,” he said.

“The delta variant is incredibly dangerous for unvaccinated people. And while we have a short-term mask-wearing mandate, our long-term way out is really through vaccination.”

Dr. Jane Aronson, 69, was one of the fully vaccinated people who became infected in Provincetown. He said he developed symptoms that included shortness of breath, cough, and a low-grade fever. But the vaccine saved his life, he said.

“That’s exactly what happened,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday. “I thought, ‘I’m scared, but I know this vaccine is going to work.’

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