Oak Bluffs: the effectiveness of quarantines


So sorry not to have a column last week but I finally gave in and realized that I needed to take a break and rest to recuperate from this stubborn cold and cough I have been plagued with these past few weeks. Now all of us are apparently going to have a break whether we want to or not according to the new rules and regulations set by local, state, and federal government.

And a big shout out of support for the frontliners in this battle who are not provided with the protection of being quarantined. This group includes EMS and OBFD members, medical personnel, OBPD, social service helpers, and so many more. A special recognition to Trulayna Rose and Matt Bradley for taking the helm of the OBFD and EMS to lead them through this latest crisis. Truly they are the best persons that could lead in a calm, patient manner.

I can speak on the effectiveness of quarantines as when I was growing up in the 30s and 40s, that was the only action available to us to survive and keep at a minimum the many diseases that we now have vaccines or medicine for. If someone came down with mumps, measles, chicken pox, polio, or whooping cough, the dreaded red quarantine sign was quickly attached to the door of their house. No one could enter or leave that house until the patient was disease-free. As most mothers did not work outside the home, this was not a problem for them, but fathers had to make other sleeping arrangements as long as that sign was displayed.

In the spring of 1941, when my younger sister was almost 2, I was 5 and my older sister 6, my Grandmother Gates drove down from New Hampshire to visit us. The day before she was leaving to return home, she took my older sister and me to see the movie “Dumbo.” We were thrilled, not only just to go to the movie but this one was in color too. By the time we returned home, I remember I had an earache. Within two days the three of us were diagnosed with scarlet fever. The red quarantine sign alerted everyone that we were isolated at home. We were living in a two-family house at the time, with the top floor not being occupied. My father moved in there but could not visit us or help my mother with the care of their children. There was a curtain hung over the interior of the door and a basin of disinfectant right next to it. 

My mother could not go shopping for groceries, but Cronig’s Market or kind friends would deliver what we needed and leave them on the porch. When groceries were left on the porch, my mother would scrub her hands with the disinfectant, pull the curtain step outside to retrieve whatever was there and repeat the process when she reentered the house. The three of us were confined to one room, but my mother had to repeat the handwashing everytime she entered or exited our room. 

There was only one doctor on the Island at the time, I believe, as this was the start of wartime and doctors were swept up to serve the military as soon as possible. But still the doctor came to see us most every day. The only medicines available to treat us were sulfa drugs for the fevers and paregoric for the nausea. We had very few things we could play with as everything we played with had to be burned so we were mainly limited to paper dolls and coloring books. We were all very sick. How my mother managed everything I cannot imagine. As our conditions became critical, I lost my hearing. The doctor told my mother that if I survived, I would be sent to Boston to see what they could do to restore my hearing. As we began to recover, my hearing was suddenly restored when an undetected abscess deep in my ear burst and relieved the pain and I could hear once again. My two sisters ended up with eyesight problems and had to wear glasses the rest of their lives. However, not one other person on the Island got scarlet fever. It was believed that my grandmother was a carrier of this disease and the quick quarantine of our family prevented it from spreading outside our home. 

 I also remember how furious we were when the next year our best friend’s brother came down with the fever and after a weekend of treatment of penicillin was cured and as free as a bird. Scarlet fever is a strep infection, but the drug to cure it was not available the year before when we were so sick. So stick to the quarantine orders in place now as it does work.

Here are a couple of more cancellations you might not be aware of: The League of Women Voters has decided to cancel all the candidate forums. And the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse is closed until further notice. There will be no shows, poetry readings, musical performances, movies, or classes for children or adults in March or April. Our P.A. Club will also be closed for the next three weeks.

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 kchatinover@gmail.com

However we will still celebrate birthdays, so birthday smiles to Woodside Village residents for the month of March: March 11 Joan Fennell, on the 13th Austin Cargill, March 15 John Ellis, March 17 Michael Haydn, March 23 William Thorp, and on March 26, Dorothy Grant. Belated smiles to Jenny Hart on the 13th, Jib Ellis on the 15th, Edith Rousseau, Kelsley Debettencourt, Joe Moujabber, and Jaime Leon on March 18, smiles to Bo Fehl on the 19th, Cherrie Nunes and Goldie Godthwait on the 21st, Ross Peters on the 22nd, Marcelle BenDavid on the 23rd, Hunter Ponte on March 25th, and June Manning on the 26th.

Enjoy your week. Peace.