Covid Cases On The Rise In Barnstable

Coutinho+in+full+gear+while+working+on+the+Covid+floor+at+Cape+Cod+Hospital.

Photo by Ana Coutinho

Coutinho in full gear while working on the Covid floor at Cape Cod Hospital.

Christmaelle Vernet, Staff Writer

As we approached the end of this tumultuous year, it seemed like the end of this pandemic could be near. But with winter’s arrival, a dangerous spike in COVID-19 cases has made the path to recovery seem farther out of reach. Barnstable was soon considered a high-risk zone and due to this, Barnstable County went back to Phase 3 of reopening on Monday, Dec.7, in an attempt to stop the spread. 

Throughout the Cape and the nation, many are beginning to see the widespread tole this virus is taking on so many aspects of day-to-day life. Nurses at Cape Cod Hospital have been working overtime to manage the surge.

“I think there’s so much to say about working the frontlines on a COVID floor. But in a nutshell, it’s not easy and it’s exhausting. I personally work 36 hours a week, meaning a 12-hour shift from 7 is to 7 pm, three days a week. But what makes it so difficult, especially this time around in this second wave, is how sick the patients are as opposed to earlier this past spring. Having patients who fall very ill to a virus we don’t even know much about is the hardest thing I personally have had to deal with.” said Ana Coutinho, a registered nurse in the Covid-19 unit at Cape Cod Hospital. 

At Barnstable High School the protocols and precautions taken will remain the same through the surge. “We are really staying the course. Continuing mask-wearing, constant reminders to cover both the nose and mouth, hand washing, continuing six-foot distancing, and sitting with six seats/desks between them,”  said Kristen Harmon, assistant superintendent of Barnstable Public Schools and administrator in charge at BHS. According to the school district, of all the students who have tested positive, no cases have come directly as a result of close contact within the school.

At the end of most long and exhausting days, my co-workers and I look at each other and say, ‘I wish people could see the things we go through every day’…”

— Ana Coutinho

Now that Christmas break has passed, numbers are on the rise nationwide in response to the millions of people who traveled during the holidays. For this reason, Barnstable, and several other Cape school districts, stayed remote for the first two weeks of January. “The goal is to return to in-person learning on January 19. It causes us great concern that community spread could start to enter our schools. If we start to get in school transmissions, we will be closed for a period of time,” said Superintendent Meg Mayo Brown in a taped video community update sent to Barnstable families on January 8. Brown has made numerous Covid-19 update videos which are available to watch on the Barnstable Public Schools website.

Many fear a repeat of the lockdown from last spring, although Harmon does not anticipate this due to vaccines being administered and the careful following of protocol. “There was a phone call sent out telling people to not travel over the holidays. Communication is proactive and helps,” Harmon said. 

According to the BPS COVID-19 dashboard, there are currently 23 in-person students in isolation with COVID-19, 156 in-person student cases since September 16, 2020, 30 cumulative remote student cases, 6 remote students in isolation, 7 staff members in isolation, and 32 cumulative staff cases, all as of January 17, 2021.  If a student does contract the virus, “Students’ parents reach out and notify school nurses; they are then put into isolation for 10 days,” said Harmon.

There have been two vaccines authorized for widespread use, the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines. Cape Cod Hospital has already begun distributing the vaccine to healthcare workers. 

Myself and my co-workers on the COVID floor were the first to be offered the vaccine and a majority of us already received the first dose when it first arrived at the end of December. Most of us just finished receiving the second dose as well, so now we’re all fully vaccinated. I think the fact that Cape Cod Hospital was able to get the vaccine and administer it to us so quickly is monumental in going forward with the spread of the virus on the Cape.said Coutinho, a BHS graduate.

They are both received in two doses, the Pfizer 21 days apart and Moderna at 28 days to a month apart. The most common side effects of both vaccines are soreness, redness, and swelling in the arm that received the injection, while other side effects include, chills, tiredness, and headaches, according to CDC.gov. 

At Cape Cod Hospital protocols remain similar to those of other hospitals across the country. As more and more Americans begin to receive the vaccines, many have begun to look back at the difficulties they have faced during these unprecedented times.

 “At the end of most long and exhausting days, my co-workers and I look at each other and say, ‘I wish people could see the things we go through every day’. That continues to hold true. It breaks my heart when I take a report in the morning and find out I have a patient who just came back from visiting family in a different state/country and ended up getting the virus. Or a patient who attended a huge family get-together and ended up getting it there. It’s so disheartening to see all these people who were once walking and talking now debilitated in a bed and nearly receiving a tube down their throat all for not wearing a mask or social distancing until this pandemic is over,” said Coutinho. 

As the one-year mark on the start of the pandemic approaches, the isolation and social distancing are affecting not only physical health but mental health as well.

“To be honest it feels so suffocating. I don’t like it. I feel as if I took school and my teachers for granted. If I could go back to school I would. The work and the lessons can be a lot to handle sometimes because teachers aren’t here to physically help with the work. I can’t wait to go back to school. I miss my friends and my teachers. I used to complain a lot but now I would give anything to go back,” said sophomore Destinee Powell, who is in Cohort D.