Cape Cod Healthcare has first day with 0 positive COVID-19 tests since start of pandemic

This story has been edited to correct that Cape Cod Healthcare had its first day where it did not detect a positive COVID-19 test, not just Cape Cod Hospital.

Earlier this month, on April 3, Cape Cod Healthcare marked the first time since 2020 that it did not detect a positive COVID-19 test.

"More than four and a half years and we finally had a COVID-free day," said Cape Cod Healthcare President and CEO Michael Lauf. "It does not mean people weren't positive in our community, but for the very first time in over four years every test we ran was negative."

During a wide-ranging interview with the Times, Lauf reflected on the pandemic and its impact on the health care system. He said there are about 280 staff members across the hospital system who travel to work, which amounts to about 5% of the workforce.

Cape Cod Healthcare CEO Mike Lauf photographed on the sixth floor of Cape Cod Hospital where the new Barbey Patient Care Tower rises up behind him in Hyannis.
Cape Cod Healthcare CEO Mike Lauf photographed on the sixth floor of Cape Cod Hospital where the new Barbey Patient Care Tower rises up behind him in Hyannis.

Travelers in a hospital are not employed by a particular facility but take temporary jobs in high-needs areas.

"The pandemic really hurt us," said Lauf. "Every other spot in the country has seen a huge decrease in travelers, not the Northeast and certainly not the Cape. We were hoping that a lot of our per-diems would come back, a lot of employees, but there's many challenges."

He named those difficulties as a lack of affordable and available housing in the area, more people moving off-Cape in recent years, and pandemic-triggered burnout among medical staff.

Hospital officials are looking for opportunities to improve and strengthen the regular workforce, he said.

"We have partnerships with 12 colleges, community colleges, universities. We have partnerships with all the local tech schools. We are trying everywhere to produce our own," said Lauf. ".... Our turnover rate sits at 8%, the statewide average is 20%. So, we're keeping the people we have, it's just hard to bring on the new people that you need."

Lauf said he feels the system is ready if another pandemic struck because of how quickly health care professionals learned and pivoted, but he said that innovation needs to continue. He pointed to Cape Cod Hospital's new four-story tower under construction on the Hyannis campus as an example.

When it is completed in 2025, every room in the new building will be able to be converted into ICU capability and negative air capability.

"We would have never thought like that five years ago," said Lauf. "We had eight in the whole place. Tomorrow we could have 300 with the flip of a switch and that's empowering."

Zane Razzaq writes about housing and real estate. Reach her at Follow her on X @zanerazz.

The Cape Cod Times mobile app gets you to the heart of the matter — fast. Whether breaking news, sports, entertainment or weather get succinct, personalized coverage along with award-winning videos, captivating photography, and interactive user features. Download the app.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Cape Cod Healthcare has first day of zero positive COVID-19 tests