A lot of summer what ifs

Cautious optimism on Cape Cod

What will the summer look like amid the COVID-19 threat? July 4 concerts are out, but will we be able to enjoy beaches and barbecues? What about pools, camps, and zoos?

That is the question all Massachusetts residents are asking, but nowhere is the question as urgent as on Cape Cod.

In Massachusetts’s premiere summer vacation spot, businesses and municipalities earn most of their revenue for the year in July and August, when vacationers eager to escape the city flock to the region’s seashores and restaurants.

Last week, the Boston Globe reported that town managers on the Cape were looking to Gov. Charlie Baker for guidance on how to reopen.

That guidance came Monday, when Baker said beaches could reopen, with restrictions, as soon as Monday, May 25 – marking Memorial Day as the official start of summer. The Cape Cod Times reports that towns on the Cape are all also developing their own guidelines regarding beaches, which could affect things like parking capacity.

Restaurants, however, cannot reopen until the second phase of the state’s reopening – at the earliest June 8, depending on public health data.

Restaurants are starting to prepare. In Falmouth, for example, the Board of Selectmen is asking Baker to loosen restrictions on liquor licenses and zoning to allow restaurants to expand outdoor seating.

Members of Cape Cod’s own reopening task force have expressed “cautious optimism” that the Cape can have some semblance of a normal summer season.

In a statement, the group said accommodations are cleaned and stocked, and hoping to reopen in June. (Lodgings cannot accept non-essential workers until phase two of Baker’s plan.) Restaurants are already offering takeout and hoping to begin with outdoor and possibly indoor dining in June.

The group notes that because Memorial Day falls early and Labor Day falls late, there is actually an extra two weeks of summer this year for businesses to make up some lost revenue.

And yet…will the ferry be safe? A Steamship employee who works at the Nantucket Terminal and commutes from the mainland just tested positive for COVID-19. The Cape Cod Times reports mixed news daily – the Heritage Museums and Gardens Rhododendron festival is on, but Chatham’s Independence Day parade, fireworks, and weekly Friday concerts are off.

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

In the LGBTQ hotspot of Provincetown, the Globe recently reported, some hope the town can be a site of healing this summer. Others worry about the devastating toll COVID-19 could take if it spreads in a community with many older and immunocompromised residents — Provincetown already has the state’s highest rate of HIV infections. Second home residents coming to Provincetown have experienced animosity from year-round residents.

And on the topic of animosity, it was a Cape Cod ice cream parlor that made national news after it was forced to close when rude customers harassed staff over social distancing guidelines.

And, of course, the biggest unanswered question lingers: Even if the Cape reopens, will visitors come?