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Barnstable County Commissioners Address Broadband Expansion and Digital Equity on Cape Cod

Wendy Judd, Public Health Nurse, Shares Insights on Fall Vaccination Planning

September 13, 2023 (BARNSTABLE COUNTY, MA) Today, the Barnstable County Regional Board of Commissioners convened their regular meeting to address several issues, including the expansion of broadband access and digital equity on Cape Cod, the official recognition of September as Suicide Prevention Month, and an update from the public health nurse on vaccinations.

Cape Cod Commission Deputy Director Steven Tupper presented an update on the Commission’s broadband work, which includes a regional broadband assessment, municipal digital equity planning, and coordination with the statewide digital equity plan. The regional broadband assessment will examine fixed and mobile broadband networks in the region to quantify service availability, quality, and gaps in access and make recommendations on policy and program options to improve connectivity and access. A phone survey has been completed, speed tests are ongoing, and an existing conditions analysis is underway. Results will be presented later this calendar year and in early 2024.

The Commission is also working at the local level as a pre-qualified planning service provider for the Massachusetts Broadband Institute’s (MBI) Municipal Digital Equity Planning Program. At no cost to the town, the process results in a document that details community needs regarding reliable and affordable internet access, appropriate devices for an individual’s civic, social, and employment needs, and the skills necessary to engage digitally. The final plan also identifies solutions towns can further through other state and local efforts to bridge the digital divide.

Finally, the Commission is working to ensure the region is well-represented in the state’s Broadband & Digital Equity strategic plans by spreading the word about the Digital Equity Survey and upcoming region listening session. The Cape and Islands Internet for All session will take place on Thursday, September 28th, from 3:00 to 5:00 PM at Barnstable Town Hall, with available satellite and remote options.

Chairman Mark Forest expressed, “We are eagerly awaiting a blueprint, and we are deeply invested in this process because, quite frankly, it’s crucial that once a plan is formulated, we garner substantial political support and advocacy for its effective implementation.”

During her presentation, Wendy Judd, Public Health Nurse, addressed ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, seasonal flu, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). She emphasized the importance of flu and COVID-19 vaccinations for regular health maintenance, and encouraged individuals aged 6 months and older to receive annual flu and updated COVID-19 vaccines this fall. A flu clinic for individuals 12 and up is scheduled in the Harborview Conference Room at the Barnstable County Complex on October 11, from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. Registration will be available online via a link on The County anticipates offering both flu and COVID-19 vaccines at this clinic, which can be administered at the same time.

Additionally, Ms. Judd discussed a new RSV vaccine for high-risk adults, advising consultation with a healthcare provider, separate administration from other vaccines, and a $300 cost for the uninsured. It’s important to note that the RSV vaccine will not be offered by the County but will be available through other agencies such as CCHC pharmacy, VNA, Walgreens, and CVS.

The Commissioners unanimously recognized September as Suicide Prevention Month, pledging their support for mental health wellness in the community.  Beverly Costa-Ciavola, a founding member of the Cape and Islands Suicide Prevention Coalition was present and spoke about the coalition, which was established in 2009 under the auspices of Barnstable County and focuses on raising suicide awareness and combating stigma surrounding mental health.  During her presentation, Ms. Costa-Ciavola highlighted the importance of reducing the stigma of suicide, making it safer for people who are struggling to share and be heard, decreasing the likelihood someone would take their own life.

Ms. Costa-Ciavola added, “We know that depression and anxiety are on the rise, particularly since COVID. People are not socializing the way they used to, especially young people. We understand that community and connectedness are two protective factors in suicide prevention.”

Chip Reilly III, Director of Emergency Management at Barnstable County provided an update on Hurricane Lee, stating, “Although uncertainties persist regarding the storm’s trajectory, potential effects are expected from late Friday through Saturday, including some coastal flooding.” He also mentioned that regional coordination efforts are in full swing, with daily calls, and MEMA has initiated statewide communications. Barnstable County is fully prepared with its resources, and Mr. Reilly emphasized the importance of individuals reliant on electricity for life support equipment notifying Eversource. He urged residents to be aware of their evacuation zones.