President Donald Trump has introduced limits on Americans across the country to “blunt the infection now” by limiting groups to 10 people or less.
But perhaps the worst news out of Monday’s briefing, from the Island’s perspective, is that this pandemic could last through July and August, according to Trump. He added that at this point he’s not looking at a national lockdown.
The new federal guidelines are the latest step in attempting to stop the spread of novel coronavirus, which leads to the COVID-19 disease. The briefing was particularly focused at young Americans to do their part to stop the spread of the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the best way to deal with the outbreak is for it to look like an overreaction. “They will fail if people don’t cooperate with them,” Dr. Fauci said of the guidelines.
The federal guidelines come one day after Gov. Charlie Baker introduced much more stringent guidelines in Massachusetts to shut down schools for three weeks and telling restaurants and bars they won’t be allowed to do in-restaurant serving after Tuesday. Take out service will be allowed.
Baker has also banned gatherings of more than 25 people and visits to both nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The Vineyard courts will close down for at least two days, according to Edgartown District Court Clerk Magistrate Liza Williamson. “The Edgartown District Court and all trial court offices within will be closed tomorrow and Tuesday,” she wrote in a statement. “For emergency restraining orders please go to your local police department where they will be able to assist you. This is an unprecedented time, and we are working together and working diligently to support our community.”
Both the Dukes County Registry of Deeds and the Dukes County Administration Building will be closed until further notice, according to Dukes County Manager Martina Thornton. Business will be done by phone and mail to the extent it’s possible, she noted.
Island restaurants are gearing up for the impending closure and looking at ways to continue to feed people while keeping them safe.
Ben DeForest told The Times he is going to revamp his menu a bit at the Cardboard Box starting Thursday and have offerings for families of four to order whole meals. “I saw this coming,” DeForest said. “We all want the public to be safe…It’s important.” DeForest also praised his fellow restaurateurs for coming together to continue keeping people safe and well fed. “We’re just going to circle the wagons for the health and safety of the public.”
Michael Santoro, who owns The Oceanview, The Net Result, and The Lookout Tavern, said that in his 40 years of experience he always expected some type of shutdown, but not for this long. “I’ve gone through hurricanes and shutdowns but not for this long of a period,” Santoro said.
As for his restaurants, Santoro said The Net Result and The Oceanview do a lot of take out and will continue to do so. Santoro said he was most concerned about his employees at The Lookout Tavern which was set to open April 1, but said he is meeting with managers for all his restaurants on Monday to figure out logistics. “I was anticipating it, but not for the length but if that’s what it’s gonna take to get it over and done with and be ready for May and the start of the summer, I’m all for it,” Santoro said. “We’ll get through it, we’re hardy, and we’ll survive.”
In a Facebook post Sunday night, JB Blau, who owns Sharky’s Cantina, Copper Wok, The Loft, and MV Chowder Co., wrote that he is closing his company’s dine-in service immediately, but will continue to offer to-go service. “Thank you to the governor for taking the immense pressure off us to make this terrifying decision,” Blau wrote. “We have some very hard decisions to make with our staff of 75+ people. We have promised them that they will be taken care of, more on that soon in another update.”
Blau added that the immediate closure is out of an abundance of caution. “There are no concerns or worries regarding our dining rooms — hell, they are cleaner than an operating room (before the surgery) lol. Thank you!”
Offshore Ale in Oak Bluffs announced curbside pickup is available to customers.
Robert Sawyer, of the Sawyer Group, said in a press release that the Barn Bowl & Bistro in Oak Bluffs will offer take out through its new window, bringing back a customer favorite — buckets of fried chicken. “These are strange and perilous times as we address this scary and unprecedented health crisis,” he wrote. “The Barn is bringing back and offering buckets of fried chicken at our new drive up, pick-up window which will remain open for lunch and dinner. The Barn, proudly, has the same special pressure cooker fryer equipment that exists in every Kentucky Fried Chicken kitchen.” Curbside pickup is also available.
It’s unclear how the governor’s ban would affect the Steamship Authority, which has food service aboard its ferries. “Gov. Charlie Baker’s March 15, 2020 order, ‘Prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 people and on-premises consumption of food and drink,’ does not mention transit agencies in its limitation of the number of people who can gather in one place,” the SSA said in a social media post. “We will inquire with the state on Monday as to the applicability of the order to concessions operations on board our vessels as well as any other new guidance that may have been issued by the state at that time. We ask our customers to maintain precautionary measures, such as frequent hand washing and maintaining ‘social distance’ while on board authority vessels and buses.”
This came as President Donald Trump announced a national emergency on Friday. As of Wednesday, cases in the United States were at 4,226, resulting in 75 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In Massachusetts, the number of cases was up to 218 on Wednesday as The Times went to print, though there are still no cases on the Vineyard, according to health officials.
Meanwhile, in a letter to parents on Sunday, Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent Matt D’Andrea wrote that school administrators and staff will begin working this week “to prepare educational resources for our students.”
D’Andrea announced Friday that schools would be closed for two weeks as the school district does its part to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Then that was superseded by Baker’s order to close the schools statewide for three weeks.
In an email to families, D’Andrea said that by the end of the week, parents should be hearing from teachers about alternative learning opportunities. “We intend to have resources available to all students by Monday, March 23.
D’Andrea suggested that folks reach out to schools if they are in need of assistance. School staff will be available by email and you can call building offices between 10:30 am and 1:30 pm, Monday through Friday.
Pickup meals are currently available at the high school, the Oak Bluffs school, the Edgartown school, the Tisbury School, and the West Tisbury school, from 11 am to 1 pm. Food will be delivered directly to your car by staff upon pulling up at the curb.
The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School began serving similar meals Monday.
The superintendent urged families to take this time to do their part in reducing their contact with others by practicing social distancing. “If students and families continue to meet together in groups outside of school, this initial 10-day closure will not have the desired result,” D’Andrea wrote. “It is critical that students and families refrain from meeting in large groups as recommended by the [Centers for Disease Control].”
According to D’Andrea, if the school closures continue past the 15 days, it will not impact the last day of school, which is scheduled for June 26.
“I know that this situation has created difficult challenges for our families, and the school district will work with our community partners to provide support,” he wrote.
Reporters Lucas Thors and Brian Dowd contributed to this story.