What a difference a week makes. My last column was all about the fun social activities happening on-Island and this week, everything has been cancelled due to COVID-19. Social distancing is the new hot topic and epic battles have already taken place on social media in response to summer people coming to the Island early to ride out the virus away from the cities. Spoiler alert: Some Islanders are fine with this strategy, and others are enraged.
Since the entire country does not have enough tests for this virus (our state included) and public health officials need to decide who gets tested judiciously, we must obey the laws of social distancing if we want to arrest the spread of this highly contagious virus. As I write this (on Monday, March 16) there are no confirmed cases on the Island. I’m guessing that will change and I’m operating on the assumption that it is here and spreading. What gives me hope for the residents of the Vineyard, is that hunkering down and isolating is something we are all really good at. Think of how many storms we’ve prepared for, how many times people got stuck in their homes due to snow, etc. We know how to do this; we just need to take it seriously and do it.
I know that there are many people in town and around the Island who would like to help. Island agencies are working to ensure that everyone has food, medication, and shelter. If you would like to help in Aquinnah, please contact our CERT team at Aquinnahcert@gmail.com. As those 60 and up are in the high-risk category for this virus, they are being told to stay home and not to go out, even for groceries. This means that they will need food delivered to them, especially if they have no family who can help. People over 60 also make up the bulk of our volunteers on Island, so there will be empty slots to fill. Meals on wheels will need drivers, the Island Food Pantry will need help, really most of the entities on-Island that provide free services to people will need volunteers and/or money. Consider donating now to any of the Island nonprofits and consider making many donations if you can.
The Island libraries are all closed until at least March 28. Rosa will be at the Aquinnah library and the catalog can be accessed at clamsnet.org. Patrons can download materials on Overdrive and request materials via email at email@example.com or by calling the library during their regular business hours at 508-645-2314. The library staff can leave items on the deck for pick up or bring to your car. Home delivery is available for those who cannot leave their homes.
Some good news: when last I checked, the Orange Peel Bakery was still open.
The 2020 U.S. Census is expected to begin this week. Keep an eye on your mail for the initial notification letter, and be sure to fill out your census form online, or by phone or mail. The online and phone versions are available in 13 languages, including English and Portuguese, and the mail-in version is available in English and Spanish. All responses are strictly confidential. The census will determine about $16 billion in federal funds to Massachusetts, so an accurate count is essential. The census also affects political representation at the local, state, and federal levels, including the redrawing of legislative districts. For more information, or to get involved in your community, contact Keith Chatinover, chairman of the Dukes County Complete Count Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The March birthday extravaganza continues apace. Happy Birthday to: Amera Ignacio who celebrates today, March 19, Deborah Metros who celebrates on Sunday, Cristina Vasquez on Monday, and both Aretha Taylor and Beverly Wright on March 24. Happy Birthday ladies and I’m sorry we can’t all get together to celebrate your collective fabulousness. Stay solitary everyone! We will get through this.