Is Martha’s Vineyard a ‘safe haven’?

As the country cancels events, meetings, and venues, people are coming to the Island and stocking up on supplies.



Martha’s Vineyard is seeing a rush of traffic, as people are heading to the rural Island earlier than usual to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

Jeff Kristal, a selectman and owner of Crocker Inn in Vineyard Haven, said the Island is seeing a trend similar to what happened after 9/11. “In October, we seemed to be a safe haven for people from the New York area,” Kristal said. “People felt safer here. We had one of our best Octobers we ever had in 2001.”

Crocker Inn isn’t open for the season, but what Kristal and others are seeing is that second homeowners are opening their seasonal homes early. “I’m hearing that from a lot from other people,” Kristal said.

Steamship Authority spokesman Sean Driscoll said the SSA hasn’t had a rush of new reservations, though he couldn’t necessarily attribute it to the COVID-19 news getting more intense. “Preliminary numbers show we’re up in several categories, including vehicle reservations and passengers, on the Vineyard route [year to date], but I haven’t seen final figures yet for February or the first part of March,” Driscoll said.

In a phone conversation with The Times, Ruth Faden, founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, spoke about the ethics behind people deciding to come to the Vineyard to leave areas where there’s been an outbreak or a growing number of confirmed cases.

Faden is a specialist in ethical issues in medicine, biomedical science, and public health. “In some respects I think it’s better if everybody stays put,” she said. Faden, a part-time Island resident, has been wondering herself whether to return to the Island. “The less movement the better, and that’s because it’s just unclear what is happening.”

As for non-full-time residents coming to the Island from areas with outbreaks or growing numbers of cases, Faden said, it depends on what they know about their chances or likelihood of bringing COVID-19 to the Island. “How are you supposed to proceed in the absence of testing?” Faden said. “Did these people do something ethically wrong? It’s something that is maybe not ethically ideal, but it’s hard to fault people. This is their home too, and they love it.”

As to whether people have a moral obligation to try not to facilitate the transmission, Faden was blunt: “The answer is yes. We should be really careful.”

With people coming to the Island, including seasonal residents, college students returning early, and others, the Island’s grocery stores are experiencing an uptick in business, and are selling out of certain foods, along with cleaning supplies such as hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and other disinfectants.

An August blend of out-of-state license plates can be seen on the Steamship and Vineyard roads. At Island grocery stores, aisles are packed with people filling up shopping carts. “I’ve been doing this for 56 years, and I’ve never experienced this before,” Cronig’s owner Steve Bernier told The Times by phone Friday. “Business is a little crazy.”

While Bernier didn’t have exact numbers, he said the stores were busy and that he has lots of replenishment orders in place. Bernier wants people to know he still has paper towels and toilet paper, but has sold out of hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and liquid aloe. “Things are in a precarious state,” Bernier said. “But people are wonderful … I just wish I had more people to help. Everyone is watching for flu symptoms.”

In order to keep up with demand, Bernier is closing up-Island Cronig’s to better staff the down-Island store.

Shelves at Stop & Shop are becoming barren as people stockpile meat, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and nonperishable foods. Maria Fruci, Stop & Shop’s manager of communications, told The Times in an email that sales of certain cleaning supplies have increased. “Stop & Shop is seeing increased sales on items like hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, Lysol sprays, bleach, antibacterial soap, and other cleaning products. We’re working diligently along with our suppliers to keep these high-demand products in stock. In addition, customers are stocking up on nonperishable items like rice, canned soups, canned vegetables, and pasta sauce. These sales trends are similar across all states in which Stop & Shop operates,” Fruci wrote.

At Leslie’s Pharmacy in Vineyard Haven, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and other cleaning supplies are being “wiped out,” according to owner Warren Holmberg. “We’re doing the best that we can,” Holmberg said. “Our wholesaler is completely wiped out of those products. We’re checking their site all day long.” People have also been picking up extra prescriptions. “We do have a few people picking up extra medications,” he said.

Due to the frenzy over certain supplies, Eddie Pacheco, who runs Reliable Market in Oak Bluffs, posted in the Islanders Talk Facebook group that his store had plenty of toilet paper and sanitizing wipes. “All team members are working diligently, replenishing the shelves and constantly sanitizing surfaces, push carts, baskets, and checkout counters. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this unprecedented time,” Pacheco wrote.

The Harbor View Hotel and its Bettini Restaurant have decided not to accept guests starting Sunday, March 15, through Thursday, April 2. “We’re taking this precaution in consideration to our guests, associates, and the greater Martha’s Vineyard community,” a release from the hotel states. “While the hotel will be closed to our guests, we will remain open to our associates in order to continue to keep the team employed and continue our efforts to prepare the hotel for the season ahead. Our current plan will be to reopen to guests beginning Friday, April 3.”

The Martha’s Vineyard Bank is asking customers to use online banking. Bank president James Anthony told The Times the bank has a COVID-19 action plan in place as the situation continues to evolve.

“The best thing individuals can do from a banking perspective is to get on mobile online banking. Get the app on their phone,” Anthony said.


  1. I would have hoped that our Public Health Department instituted at least a minimal amount of screening at the SSA and the airport. The only way to curb the illness is to know who might be infected. There is no doubt that if it was not her before by some miracle it is now. It defeats the purpose of imposing other measures such as canceling school.

    • What are you going to screen for, people with fevers? That doesn’t tell us much. We can only know who is infected by testing, which we still cannot easily do thanks to the federal government’s lax response in preparing for the virus. Imagine if drive-through testing were available for all, like flu shots are available at pharmacies? It’s out of control now, so we have to resort to closings and no large gatherings. It’s too late to stop the spread and our best bet is slowing it, “flattening the curve,” by getting as many people who can stay home, to stay home. And the hoarding thing has got to stop. Islanders’ behaviours are no different from anyone else’s, good and bad.

  2. All the closings of schools,work places,churches,sports events,etc. are to keep the large numbers of people out of crowds and not getting or spreading the virus. Why are they putting themselves and all the rest of us at risk by filling grocery stores in large numbers, and wiping out the shelves, leaving those of us only going when we have to,and getting what we really need at a loss of everyday supplies?

  3. Questioning if the island is a “safe haven” (it’s not) is not only unhelpful, it fuels an ongoing ugliness of islanders who have such a love/hate relationship with the hand that feeds many: seasonal islanders and vactioners. The FB page, Islanders Talk, is already blaming the 2nd home crowd and expecting them to bring over the virus. Yesterday one of my Facebook friends posted while on the ferry and said she saw a lot of NY and CT cars. She later remarked that maybe there should be a ban on crossing state borders, indicating she wished to stop out of staters from coming here. I reapeat, she was ON THE FERRY. I wondered if she was coming from Boston, where there is an outbreak. Maybe it was a medical trip, a toilet paper run, some family business, I don’t know, but I know that she and every other person on the boat was not practicing social distancing. The moral obligation is not just for other people. Travel is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. What makes year round islanders think that going on or off island is safer for THEM alone, or any less likely to bring over the coronavirus than a seasonal islander? The virus sits on surfaces for days, not hours. The SSA person hands you your ticket to get on the boat. And if you get out of your car? What if you don’t even bring your car on the boat and sit upstairs, buy a coffee, use the restroom. Where have you been that you were not exposed and bringing virus droplets to the island? I understand not encouraging vacationers at this time, but there is also a moral obligation not practice the paranoid musings about who among all the off-islanders, (NOT US), is going to be the one to bring the illness to the island. What’s the point of trying to find someone “other” to blame? The idea that the Island is cocooned somehow, with families already having been in DisneyWorld and flying all over, with medical and social trips to the Cape and Boston, with college students coming home as we speak, with friends and family who live on the island traveling to get off the rock in January, February, and March, visiting other countries and taking cruises, only to come home to a rush on toilet paper and wondering who is coming from somewhere else to infect us? The virus is probably already on the island, brought here by at least one islander who did not intend to bring it. Practice social distancing, wash your hands, wear disposable gloves and a mask if you are high-risk and need to go out, clean and disinfect regularly, be smart and don’t try to pin blame on anyone…. other than Trump for not dealing with this 2 months earlier, instead of minimizing it. The virus was confirmed in this country in January and health experts have been warning us since then. If, heaven forbid, our hospital is overrun with coronavirus cases, people will be making a bee-line off the island to where there is more available than what the island can offer by way of ventilators and intensive care. Don’t be so blindly self-absorbed. We are all part of the larger world. And this may come as a shock, but toilet paper is a modern convenience, not a necessity like food and water. Soap and water work just fine for all your bathroom needs.

    • @Jackie, it was a useful comment until you choose to use the opportunity to make one of your usual anti-Trump comments. Lets not forget he was called a racist and nasty alarmist by the left wing fake news propaganda when he banned travel from Wuhan. Or other countries.. Or appropriately referred to it as the Wuhan virus. Or when he tried to control the borders. The Obama administrations overbearing regulatory controls impeded the ability to have lab testing implemented in time.Give it a break for once.

      • And why do you think the outbreak in Wuhan was so bad? Trump has done an about face now, a far cry from all his lies on the dangers to Americans. He has tweeted “SOCIAL DISTANCING” and is no longer carrying on about a hoax or saying it will go away. He even now claims to have been tested, within a few hours of his doctor publicizing a notice that he did not need to be tested. I don’t wish to insert politics into this nightmare, but it remains foolish to believe any of the lies coming out of the WH. I listen to the science and medical experts. The bungling of not dealing decisively in the beginning, instead of minimizing and downplaying by the President, Fox News, and the GOP cannot be denied. It’s still going on. On Friday, the treasury secretary claimed he’d have no problem getting on a commercial flight to LA. That isn’t just stupid, it’s dangerous to how we all are supposed to behave responsibly. The only silver lining in this disaster is that Trump has destroyed his reelection bid. Financially ruined Republicans and Democrats will never vote for him— and that’s a lot of people. I only hope you and I live in good health to see that happy day, and this global tragedy is over.

        • Its absurd to blame the President of the United States for what happens in China but the fake news left wing media will go full forward on that. China chose to hide the extent of its infections. The good that will come out of this is that the american public will finally agree what the President has been saying all along about China. They cheat, they steal, they lie. We depend upon them for antibiotics protective face masks, and they have threatened to withhold both. Production of essential goods will return to this country and we will not be beholden to others. Just as we saw with the oil production increase here, we are no longer beholden to the Middle eastern countries such as Saudi arabia. I’m sure the Democrats are praying for a recession so they can blame Trump, but given the choice of the probable Democrat nominee , the American people won’t vote for a communist or a Dementia case who can’t keep his hands off children. So much for the ‘party of diversity and inclusion’, they are putting up 2 old white men while pushing aside the women and minority candidates. And i do wish you and all Democrats good health. This thing will be a memory in a few months. And it should be noted, we are at about 60 covid deaths in the USA vs 18,000 for the flu so far this season.

          • Who blames the US President for what happened in China? I haven’t heard that one yet. It was the Chinese government’s bungling and lies, just as most people recognize how our own govt has bungled and lied to us about what has been happening here since January’s first case in Washington on the west coast. The virus could have been contained when it got there, but it was not. And surely you are not proud of your President’s behavior throughout this growing crisis. Or maybe you are proud of how the President lied and hid the facts that he was either too stupid to understand, or too evil to honestly bring to the public’s attention. Why can’t this country make our own face masks? Easy to make and easy to answer why. Why weren’t testing kits available from day one, and still arent’? Why have we been blatantly lied to so much about it? Why is S Korea so much better equipped than we are? We could have started testing in January on the West Coast. We don’t have enough ventilators, either. Whose fault is that? Who lied about cuts to the CDC? Should we end up like Italy where those who do not have a lot of years left anyway don’t get put on one of the limited number of respriators here? Ivanka’s junk clothes were made in China, as were Donald’s ties, so your guy ain’t no American hero when it comes to China. Dems don’t have to pray for a recession, it’s already guaranteed, thanks to your guy, that good Americans will suffer from it. We don’t have to look at China to see that Donald Trump lies, cheats and steals. The fear and anxiety in this country now proves that Trump has destroyed his own presidency. He can’t even read words off a teleprompter without lying. Been to Stop and Shop lately? All this craziness has been created by your inept, corrupt guy who has brought this great country to its knees in less than 4 years. Old people are confined to home and unable to battle the hoarders in markets anyway. But don’t take my word for it. You want to believe the lie that Biden has dementia, go for it. America will tell you in no uncertain terms, come November. Joe Biden will be our next President because he is what our country needs at this time. And may you live in good health to see it happen.

          • not new– yes,it is absurd to blame the president for what happens in China.
            So let me talk about what he has done here.
            He claimed all 15 cases of this virus in the U.S. would “go away in a few weeks” . That comment certainly undermined the seriousness of the situation. Corona deniers like yourself , Andrew, and the majority of the idiot’s followers who listen to hate radio and fox news ignored the recommendations of the medical professionals, thereby accelerating the spread of the disease.
            He claimed it was a “hoax” to hurt his chances for a second term .
            In 2018 he disbanded the NSC’s pandemic unit.
            he has attempted to cut the budget of the CDC every year he has been president.
            He was slow to come up with funding to deal with it. Only after the dems pushed through a major emergency funding bill, did he approve it.
            He preferred to keep 3,500 people offshore in a floating petri dish so that the number of cases would not increase in the U.S.
            That delay in getting those people into port and receive proper medical attention may have help the spread of it on board.
            He told people to go to work if they were sick.

            I am in no way blaming him for what started in China, but this crisis clearly highlights his lack of understanding about epidemics, his inability to develop a coherent and coordinated response on a level federal level that requires careful planing and communication between various agencies and, most of all, it clearly demonstrates his lack of compassion and a wanton disregard for the well being of the public.
            He stated that he takes no responsibility whatsoever for any of it.
            Unless of course, someone else does something right, then he will claim the glory for that.
            One thing for sure, the buck does not stop with this president.

        • Also, even Fox News is behaving somewhat more responsibly in reporting the necessity of all taking precautions. But it’s now also a reality that Republicans, especially older republicans are less concerned about the virus and are less likely to make changes to their daily habits, endangering themselves and everyone else. Why do you suppose that is, notnew?

  4. It is likely that the virus is on the island. People only show symptoms after they have had it for up to 2 weeks. I can’t imagine the schools re opening 2 weeks from now, when we actually have some confirmed cases here. Officials , parents, and all persons affected here should prepare for the long haul.
    That does not mean panic buying of milk.

    • The Chinese government did not contain the virus when they had the chance. And neither did our government. But it’s true that catching up with actively sick people who are publicly spreading the virus would help. What would really help is if everyone practiced social distancing, went out only when necessary, and did not touch anything they weren’t going to buy in the market. And washing hands, of course.

  5. Let’s all get a grip folks. Massachusetts has a population of nearly 7 million. 10 people are hospitalized due to this virus. 123 people have it. Exactly 99.999984% of our residents don’t have it.

    • BS, I don’t believe many have been tested, so accurate stats aren’t really possible. My friend’s entire family is sick on the Cape. They were told it’s probably cold or flu. No test to confirm. I pray that’s the case, but given how long a person can be carrying corona around before showing signs, and how few have even been evaluated, we have to be as cautious as possible.

      • Aquinnah– Sorry to hear about your friend’s family. Why don’t they just get the test ? On March 7 th trump said that “anyone who wants a test for Covid-19 can get one.” The democrats in congress even mandated that it be free. At least one person there should get a test. Or just perhaps, if there are no tests available,then cases can’t be confirmed and the numbers will be lower, and trump will continue to be great.

        • Don, I haven’t talked to him in a couple days, don’t know if anything has changed, but he said their PCP told them to just “wait it out” and see if they feel better after a week of rest and fluids. I thought that was terrible advice. He’s 31 and otherwise perfectly healthy, so this coronavirus could easily present the same as a bad cold. No way to know without a test. I hope more will get one soon and give us a better picture of what we’re dealing with. I don’t believe the low figures are remotely accurate, especially given how long it can take to develop symptoms. We can’t have a healthy economy without healthy workers, so if Trump’s main concern is a strong economy, he should support all efforts to keep the public safe. I mean, people not dying is also a pretty good incentive, but I’m just saying, if anyone needs another…

    • bs– your statistics were correct for a change. I guess you believe them ? You even got the percentage correct, based on the outdated number that you used about 24 hours ago. However, there has been a 12 % increase in cases over the last 24 hours.
      It’s good you are believing the statistics. — keep on believing them.
      The number of cases nation wide are up slightly from the 15 cases that were confirmed on Feb 28 when trump told the nation that “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear”.
      The graph on this cdc site does not look good. Unless of course, you think trump is correct and they will just disappear in some sort of miracle. In that case, just don’t look and it will go away.

  6. Bs agreed if everybody’s all up in arms and worried why don’t they cancel the boats? The great race for toilet paper is on !!

    • If the folks hoarding toilet paper bought one of these, there might be enough left around for the rest of us. No joke here if you’re a camper or go off grid or 3rd world its useful for the price of a few rolls on amazon:
      Brondell GoSpa Travel Bidet GS-70 Easy-to-use Portable Bidet with Convenient Nozzle Storage, Travel Bag, 400 ml Capacity, and Angled Nozzle Spray

  7. salt– mine is not an old stale argument– I am stating recent facts– real facts, not alternative facts.

  8. not new— your comment bringing up an accident that Ted Kennedy was in over 50 years ago is for what purpose ? Does this have something to do with the current pandemic ?, or is it just some childish comment to distract the willfully ignorant trumpettes ? You need some new material.
    As salt says
    “stoooopppppo!!! Your argument is old, stale and frankly fake. Just stop.”
    And unless you are stuck in some Stephen King horror story, no one is likely to be riding in a car driven by Ted Kennedy, since he has been dead for over 10 years. ( Sorry to break that news to you )
    Let me repeat myself– you need some new material.
    May I suggest you try a joke or 2 about Mark Foley? In case you missed it, he was a republican congressman from Florida who resigned because he was allegedly molesting teenage boys who were his pages from 1995 to 2005. He’s even still alive– don’t let your teenage son take a ride in HIS Oldsmobile…

    • @Dondondon12. I am not the one that interjected politics into this discussion. I’d prefer it stayed on point but others chose to go off topic, not me. Taking swipes at “old Republicans’ is the bait I willingly took, and responded in kind. I realize there are posters here, yourself being one of them, that cannot and will not ever let a chance go by to take a swipe at Trump. Its obvious you hate him and that’s your right. Make sure you vote for the Democratic nominee, whether it be the Communist or the Dementia Case who likes touching children. Would you have allowed your teenage son go to washington as a congressional page for Gerry Studds? If everyone could stay on topic without interjecting their political views, I’d be glad to do the same. Take a cheap swipe and expect a reply.

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