Incidences of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated individuals are rising across the U.S., spurring summer resort communities, major corporations and large counties to reverse course on the loosening of pandemic-related restrictions — and press pause on the return to normal.
So many “breakthrough” infections occurred in vaccinated individuals following July 4 weekend revelry in Provincetown, Massachusetts, that local health officials subsequently issued an advisory urging the public to mask up and practice social distancing again. These and other safety measures were in place early on in the pandemic to slow the spread of the coronavirus before vaccines were available.
As of July 16, Provincetown had reported 132 positive cases of COVID-19 to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Of these cases, 89 were among Massachusetts residents and 43 occurred in visitors to the Cape Cod tourist destination, popular with the LGBTQ+ community. By July 20, there were 256 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, all of them linked to the July 4 Provincetown cluster.
“People are so close”
Donald Edwards, owner of Governor Bradford, a Provincetown restaurant and nightclub that hosts popular karaoke performances, said the recent outbreak has caused him to backtrack after fully reopening for the summer season.
“We’ve gone back to eliminating a little bit of seating at lunch time,” he told CBS News.
And anyone who wants to attend his karaoke shows — usually a hot ticket in town — must now provide proof of vaccination. The only evidence he’ll accept is an individual’s, or a photograph of it, with an accompanying photo ID.
“With the club at night, people are so close that you have to require it,” Edwards said.
Even with these restrictions, he’s concerned about the virus spreading this summer.
“I’m doing 100 people a day versus the 500 a day I was doing two weeks ago,” he said. “Now my main worry is that people who come in to dine and claim they are vaccinated but they aren’t.”
He’s noticed that other Provincetown establishments are requiring proof of vaccination, too.
“As of three days ago, I believe every club in town is asking for vaccination cards,” he said.
Remember the days of outside dining only?
Local 186, another Provincetown bar and restaurant, is also reinstating dropped safety protocols after the recent outbreak, according to manager Oriana Conklin.
The burger joint even closed its doors for four days this week after two employees tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
“We shut down the restaurant and took everyone to get rapid tests, and stayed closed until this Thursday when we reopened,” she said.
Conklin has also reimplemented mandatory mask-wearing among staffers, who were briefly exempt from covering their faces at work after their vaccinations took hold.
“We are now all wearing masks and we’ll continue to do regular testing,” she said.
Given the season, Conklin is also open to closing the indoor section of the restaurant and only seating customers outdoors.
“I am absolutely considering going back to outdoor dining only if that’s what the numbers show,” she said.
Venues like Local 186 do most of their business during the summer months and that these setbacks are worrisome for their financials. But Conklin said she is thinking more about her staffers who test positive for COVID-19 and must then sit on the sidelines until they recover.
“I am more concerned for our employees because there aren’t that many employment benefits out there if you do get sick with COVID, and these are high money-earning weeks for those who are missing out,” she said.
Customers are also being asked to mask up, but do not need to provide proof of vaccination to visit the establishment.
The nearby island of Nantucket, also a popular summertime destination, is grappling with its own COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, all residents and visitors are being advised to wear masks while indoors and in public, even if they are vaccinated.
“The increased virulence of the Delta variant, and its high ability to infect even those vaccinated in some cases, means that masking and distancing are strongly recommended at this time,” the state’s Health and Human Services Department said in a statement. It also cited the Delta variant’s “breakthrough ability” in individuals who are vaccinated or have had COVID and acquired immunity through natural infection.
Return to office? Not so fast
Major corporations also are hitting the brakes on reopening as the more infectious Delta variant threatens to derail recovery hopes.
has said it will postpone employees’ mandatory , according to reports. The tech giant is moving its return-to-office deadline to October at the earliest from September, Bloomberg reported, citing people at Apple familiar with the matter. Apple did not immediately reply to CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment.
Masks are also required indoors once again in California’s Los Angeles County. The mandate went into effect again last week, with the Los Angeles Public Health Department citing a more than seven-fold increase in new cases since the county’s June 15 reopening, and will remain until transmission rates decline again.
“Masking indoors must again become a normal practice by all, regardless of vaccination status, so that we can stop the trends and level of transmission we are currently seeing,” Los Angeles County Health Officer Muntu Davis said in a statement.
Even White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci this week suggested that vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors.
“If you want to go the extra mile of safety even though you’re vaccinated when you’re indoors, particularly in crowded places, you might want to consider wearing a mask,” Fauci told CNBC.