New Travel Rules: Impact on Cape Tourism Uncertain

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It’s been a rough year for the accommodations industry and it’s not over yet.

Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker outlined an executive order affecting travelers coming into the Bay State, designed to curb an uptick in COVID-19 cases the state is starting to see since summer began.

The order, effective Aug. 1,  states that all visitors entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, who do not meet an exemption, are required to:

  • Complete the Massachusetts Travel Form prior to arrival, unless you are visiting from a lower-risk state designated by the Department of Public Health. The low-risj tates include all of New England, plus New York, New Jersey and Hawaii.
  • Quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to your arrival in Massachusetts. If your COVID-19 test result has not been received prior to arrival, visitors, and residents must quarantine until they receive a negative test result.

Failure to comply may result in a $500 fine per day.

Cape Cod’s influx of summer tourism has long been a concern to state and local officials since the pandemic hit in March, based on the fear that visitors would be traveling from states still battling the virus and potentially causing cases to spike here. However, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Wendy Northcross said most of the region’s visitors come from the lower-risk states.

“Hawaii is new to the list.  And if other states reduce their case numbers, it could actually open up more states for travel here,” she said. “The quarantine requirement is now a mandate, and not a recommendation – and the form is new.  What remains to be seen is if this action dampens future demand, and some of the accommodations members are concerned about that.  They are also concerned about the virus spreading and causing a roll-back of business or another shut-down, so we have to continue to be vigilant.”

Bill Catania, president of Cantania Hospitality Group, which operates restaurants in Hyannis, South Yarmouth and Weymouth and hotels in Hyannis and Sandwich, warily agreed.

“This will hurt a bit but hopefully will not get too much coverage,” said Catania. “Most of our feeder markets are exempt but it will scare away a piece of Cape business and we can little afford to turn away any bit these days.”

Harwich and Chatham, two Cape Cod towns with heavy summer foot traffic, have implemented mandatory outdoor face coverings along their busy Main Streets.

I believe that the increase in population and poor social distancing has impacted our case count,” said Harwich Health Director Meggan Eldredge Friday. “We are following eight active cases right now and three are the result of a private party gathering in Chatham.  No restaurants or shops are currently closed due to COVID-19 in Harwich.”

Wearing a face covering and social distancing remain two of the most important and impactful tools we have to prevent the spread of this virus, she added, echoing the governor’s continuing advice.

The governor also noted Friday he was upset by reports of crowded beaches and that if people didn’t comply with social distancing, beaches would start to curtail the number of visitors.

The state’s positive cases rose slightly to 230 Thursday, a 1.6 percent increase since Wednesday.

 

 

 

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