President: ‘Blunt the infection now’

Federal limits on group size follow governor's ban on restaurants and bars.

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Schools continue to provide “grab and go” lunches for students starting on Wednesday. — Gabrielle Mannino

Updated 3/17

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.

19 COMMENTS

  1. The time has come to go into lock down. Do not wait for your elected leaders to tell you so. They have been late at every turn. The worst is coming and if you have not already,stock up and hunker down.

  2. well, what do you know– even the most entrenched deniers can buckle under public pressure and stark reality.
    Next, he might think about doing something about climate change.

  3. The worst of this virus is still to come. Preserve whatever cash you have. It will likely be a quiet tourist summer. On a side note — it’s prescient the Barn was able to get it’s takeout window approved.

  4. Crickets from the MAGA crowd. Microbiology doesn’t care what politicians and loudmouth propagandists say. The silver lining is that, when enough of the angry moron crowd dies or loses family members to this, or goes bankrupt from the economic fallout, their blather will lose currency and be relegated to the mental dustbin. Reality always has the final say.

    • Their blather has already lost all meaning. It’s important never to forget who the worst, most evil, most damaging, most irresponsible Americans are:
      https://www.mediaite.com/tv/supercut-before-pro-trump-pundits-took-coronavirus-seriously-they-downplayed-the-crisis/

      Watch the video if your stomach can take it. Then watch the video that follows.

      There are commenters at the Times who repeat this blather and make it even worse, adding more false, damaging pretend-religiousity. Remember this garbage:
      “Believers around the world said that they were praying for Trump’s election. God had answered our prayers and the impossible had happened. We had a new president: one we believed God had raised up for such a time as this.”

      We have the worst, most damaging President in the history of the United States. He has led us into a financial ruin, unemployment we’ve not yet seen in our lifetime, and medical hell, with people dying a tortured death from not being able to breathe. The coronavirus is not his fault, but his stupid, stupid response to it is absolutely his fault and his responsibility. What we’ve needed to prevent the freefall from lack of immediate, available early testing to aid containment was serious, competent, reilable, honest leadership. What we got instead was a corrupt buffoon who is a narcissistic pathological liar, incapable of understanding what he has done to us.

      There is no undoing what Trump and his MAGA followers have done to our country. How they dare talk about politicizing what they allowed to happen. No wonder not one can say a word on this page. Not a peep.

      • Simmer Down, Jackie. I’m a conservative independent, or at least try to be. That means that I see Trump as an unqualified buffoon unfit to deal with an issue that experts have seen coming for the last decade, a “Not If, But When” scenario. I have lost all respect for the gutless Republican party that looked the other way over the current insanity of the last 4 years out of convenience. I also hold the Democrats responsible along with their pseudo-populists who are completely disconnected from the lives and struggles of ordinary people, which allowed Trump’s message to resonate so strongly and give them a “What The Hell, Let’s Give It A Shot” attitude at the ballot box, allowing Trump a clear run to the end zone. The wacko left has done none of us a favor by shrieking that border security is racist and xenophobic. No, it’s just common sense. Throw that and an ignorant and anti-intellectual public who thinks science doesn’t matter into the mix and you have our current situation. Just screaming about Trump’s shortcomings gives credence to the Trump Derangement Syndrome argument. We need common sense and sensibility- wish us luck.

    • KAG– you have the same derangement syndrome that Andrew has– Always telling us what the Democrats think– you are wrong again. I am a democrat– a very liberal one at that. I still think the wall is stupid, useless, and damaging to the environment. I guess you conservatives thing that this “hoax” of a virus is coming from Mexico . It’s amazing that you can think that.
      In reality, Mexico is trying to limit the influx of infected Americans into their country.
      Their president never called it a hoax, took it seriously from the beginning, and started preventative actions very early on.
      As a result, at the time of this writing, the United States has 10,880 cases and 161 confirmed deaths.
      Mexico has 118 cases and 1 confirmed death.
      https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
      It clearly would have been better for us to invest in our health care infrastructure, rather than some stupid useless wall.

  5. January 11: Chinese state media report the first known death from an illness originating in the Wuhan market.

    January 15: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds a vote to send articles of impeachment to the Senate. Pelosi and House Democrats celebrate the “solemn” occasion with a signing ceremony, using commemorative pens.

    January 21: The first person with coronavirus arrives in the United States from China, where he had been in Wuhan.

    January 23: The House impeachment managers make their opening arguments for removing President Trump.

    January 23: China closes off the city of Wuhan completely to slow the spread of coronavirus to the rest of China.

    January 30: Senators begin asking two days of questions of both sides in the president’s impeachment trial.

    January 30: The World Health Organization declares a global health emergency as coronavirus continues to spread.

    January 31: The Senate holds a vote on whether to allow further witnesses and documents in the impeachment trial.

    January 31: President Trump declares a national health emergency and imposes a ban on travel to and from China. Former Vice President Joe Biden calls Trump’s decision “hysterical xenophobia … and fear-mongering.”

    February 2: The first death from coronavirus outside China is reported in the Philippines.

    February 3: House impeachment managers begin closing arguments, calling Trump a threat to national security.

    February 4: President Trump talks about coronavirus in his State of the Union address

    • I see you latched onto the latest right wing attempt to pin trumps bungling of coronavirus on Democrats.
      Just a heads up,on your Feb 4th line,you forgot to mention Pelosi tearing up the speech. And you forgot the Feb 5th Senate votes to acquit trump.
      Other then that,it’s pretty much word for word as the 4 or 5 copies of this I’ve seen in other newspapers or websites.

    • Yes, imagine if the impeached TrumpVirus-denying idiot was removed from office as he should have been, when he should have been, we could have had a leader who gave us weeks of testing and preparation that are now lost forever. Instead we are hunkered down with rolls of toilet paper and enough Clorox to clean every house in Aqinnah, and every one over a certain age or with an immune suppressed body wonders if they will survive. And Trump didn’t ban travel from China until the major airlines stopped their flights. Trump is only now beginning to deal with necessary action to confront the now inevitable results of this illness– and it’s too late to undo the damage from his denials and minimizing that leave us now, still, with a lack of easily available testing kits, let alone not enough medical equipment. Trump’s inaction and denials and wish to hide the numbers made the curve go straight up vertically. Let’s hope people stay home to try to flatten it. This is the new normal and it’s going to go on for a long time.

    • May, 2018: In May 2018, President Donald Trump’s biodefense preparedness adviser warned that a flu pandemic was the country’s No. 1 health security threat, and the U.S. was not prepared. Trump disbanded NSC pandemic unit.

      When he was asked by CNBC in an interview that aired January 22 if there were worries about a pandemic, he responded, “No. Not at all. And — we’re — we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

      Feb. 10: “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do — you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though. We have 12 cases — 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.” Trump

      Feb 26: Comparing the coronavirus to the seasonal flu, Trump claimed, “We have it so well under control.”

      Feb. 28: North Charleston, S.C., Trump accused the Democrats of using the coronavirus as “their new hoax.”

      March 4: “Now, this is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this and it is very mild… So if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work, some of them go to work, but they get better and then, when you do have a death like you had in the state of Washington, like you had one in California, I believe you had one in New York, you know, all of a sudden it seems like 3 or 4 percent, which is a very high number, as opposed to a fraction of 1 percent.” Trump

      March 6: Counselor to US President Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway went against the widely available statistics on the coronavirus in a gaggle with reporters, telling them “It is being contained.”

      March 7: Larry Kudlow urged Americans to “stay at work,” claiming the coronavirus “looks relatively contained.”

    • And here’s his State of the Union speech, with brags so pathetic and laughable now that it hurts: https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/donald-trump-state-of-the-union-speech-transcript-february-4-2020

      Here;s what Trump said about the TrumpVirus:
      Donald Trump: (43:39)
      Protecting Americans health also means fighting infectious diseases. We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the Corona virus outbreak in China. My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat. We have launched ambitious new initiatives to substantially improve care for Americans with kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, and those struggling with mental health. And because Congress was so good as to fund my request, new cures for childhood cancer, and we will eradicate the AIDS epidemic in America by the end of this decade.

    • notnew- Thank you for informing us about what congress was doing during the early stages of this outbreak, starting around the first of the year.
      Have you wondered what trump was doing ?
      I am sure you have, but in case you didn’t have time to look it up,since you were looking up what congress did, I will help you out:
      Jan 2 — 4 hours 46minutes at his West palm beach resort playing golf
      Jan 4 — 5 hours 16minutes at his West palm beach resort playing golf.
      Jan 5 — 4 hours 41minutes at his West palm beach resort playing golf.
      Jan 18 — 4 hours 16minutes at his West palm beach resort playing golf.
      Jan 19 — 3 hours 52minutes at his West palm beach resort playing golf.
      Jan 20 — 6 hours 24minutes at his West palm beach resort playing golf.
      Feb 2 — 5 hours 28minutes at his West palm beach resort playing golf.
      feb 15 — 6 hours 24minutes at his West palm beach resort playing golf.
      march 7 — 5 hours 53 minutes at his West palm beach resort playing golf.
      March 8 — 3 hours 18 minutes at his West palm beach resort playing golf.

      He also went off to India for a few days in February where he played golf, and ate lots of really great Indian food.
      In addition, he found time to go to 11 “rallies” in 11 different states Since the first of January 2020

      so since the beginning of the year, he has spent about 1/3 of his time playing golf, vacationing in India, or going to rallies..
      Yup- he’s really on it.

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