Hospital closes cafeteria and limits public access

MVFF, Chilmark forum, and other events are canceled as concern grows. Superintendent tells families to prepare for possible closures.

Photo Illustration by Lexi Pline

Updated @ 4:30 pm

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is limiting the number of visitors to the hospital and is restricting access to the building for anyone who is not a patient, according to a press release issued Thursday.

Tighter measures such as closing the cafeteria to the public, prohibiting non-internal business meetings, limiting visitors, and other precautions come as the latest precaution in trying to minimize the spread of novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

The hospital is taking the following measures effective Friday, March 13, at 7 am until May 1: 

  • The cafeteria will be closed to the public and will serve employees only with ID badges.
  • Use of the hospital facility for meetings other than direct internal business or patient care meetings will not be permitted.
  • Patients will be limited to one visitor at a time. Exceptions may be determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Patient visiting hours have been revised to end at 8 pm with some unique exceptions.
  • No group meetings outside of hospital employees will be allowed to use MVH or WNR conference space.
  • Entrances around the perimeter of the hospital will be locked at 6 pm. From 6 pm until 7am, access will be permitted through the emergency department entrance only.
  • There will be no public access after hours for use of restrooms, ATM machines, vending machines, etc.
  • Enhanced screening of any visitor at any time could occur by any staff member or security.
  • Windemere has canceled all outside entertainment groups and volunteers. 
  • Windemere access will be restricted to the main two Windemere entrances only and utilize the video doorbell. Screening will be conducted before allowing access to the resident floor.
  • The hospital ask that any visitor at any time refrain from being on the premises if they are showing signs of a cold, sneezing or coughing etc. without masks and simply continue to use good common sense and etiquette regarding handwashing to prevent the spread of germs.

“Overall, these steps are to minimize non-medical access to the facility that is not directly patient care related,” the release states. “We emphasize, it is business as usual for any emergency, elective, and regular outpatient care at this time and we also want to emphasize, there has not been a positive case identified at the Hospital or on Island to date,” the release states.

After May 1 the hospital will reevaluate its precautionary measures.

Schools consider options, more cancellations coming in

In a letter to parents, superintendent Matt D’Andrea wrote that schools and families should prepare for the possibility of school closures.

“I encourage parents to begin planning for the prospect of a long-term school closure and take the necessary preemptive steps for childcare,” D’Andrea wrote.

Schools are looking into online and remote learning for students. In addition, All out-of-state school field trips through April have been postponed.

“We will continue to monitor and assess this ever-changing situation and provide you with timely updates as well. Please know that these decisions are madea as precautionary measures recommended at the state and local levels by health officials and our school administration to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” the letter reads.

In a separate email to parents, principal Sara Dingledy sent parents and guardians a link to fill out a technology survey.

The survey that asks families if they have WiFi internet access, if they have a computer available for their children, and if they have enough devices for all their children.

“As you may be seeing in the news, several schools across the state have needed to close for varying lengths of time due to concerns around COVID-19. I want to let you know that the staff and I have been making preparations in the event we have to close Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for any length of time,” the email reads.

The Island joins a growing trend of cancellations and postponements of events, meetings, and gatherings across the country to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The forum to unveil and discuss designs for a new public safety building in Chilmark has been postponed.

Chilmark selectman Bill Rossi told The Times tonight’s forum to discuss designs for the new  fire station and Tri-Town Ambulance HQ has been canceled. This was a consensus of the selectmen based on concerns of the potential spread of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

Rossi noted a number of attendees were anticipated to be over 65 and the town did not want to potentially put those folks or anyone else in harm’s way. 

All of this comes as Island emergency leaders and health officials are participating in a conference call today. Originally, the same group had planned to meet together, but changed as a result of the growing spread of coronavirus in the Bay State and after Gov. Charlie Baker’s declaration of a state of emergency.

The forum cancellation is the latest in a growing list of events, meetings, and gatherings that have been postponed, cancelled, or closed due to concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19.

Late in the day Wednesday, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival decided to postpone its upcoming festival March 26-29.

“We are sorry to disappoint you and cause any inconvenience,” the email states. “After all the months we’ve spent preparing to connect with you, we are disappointed that the festival is being put on hold — but we strongly believe we need to do our part to protect our vulnerable community members from the threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and hope you will understand.”

The email goes on to suggest a modified version in May or June if the threat has passed and states that refunds will be given.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from fever and coughing to shortness of breath, and usually appear two to 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets landing on another person in close contact with an infected person who coughs or sneezes. There is currently no vaccine. People who feel symptomatic should call their physician ahead of their arrival at a hospital.

The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center has cancelled large gatherings for the month of March and Shabbat Services, replacing them with online offerings. A schedule of online events with instructions will be available in the next few days.

Classes at the Cape Cod Cod Community College West Barnstable campus are moving to an online format starting March 23 until April 13. This only impacts West Barnstable classes. The college remains open as will student services such as the library.

Updated to include hospital news and superintendent letter information. -Ed