Updated March 19, 5:40 pm
The Tisbury board of health has been notified of a suspected case of COVID-19, according to town Health Agent Maura Valley.
Valley confirmed the suspected case was a Tisbury property owner and said all close contacts and family members had been notified and are self-isolating.
“We have reached out to close contacts,” Valley told The Times in a phone conversation. “We wanted to let the public know.”
Valley added that more information would be provided as it comes available.
At a Chilmark board of selectmen meeting Thursday, Edgartown health agent Matt Poole referenced the Tisbury case.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say there are several cases in the pipeline here locally that are going to surface as positives. Good likelihood I am underestimating what has surfaced today. It’s not official yet, but there is absolutely a positive in Vineyard Haven related to a traveller to the Island from out of state that came here to purchase real estate and now has an attorney’s office with some folks quarantined,” Poole said in part at the meeting. “One patient at the hospital, and Tisbury has been very on top of addressing everyone that was involved in that. Good news is that is an isolated pocket and is not someone who has woven into our community. The numbers don’t really reflect what is arriving at the various healthcare facilities Island or statewide.”
The suspected case comes as confirmed cases in Massachusetts jumped to 328 as of Thursday afternoon.
Loans available, childcare centers close
Massachusetts has received approval as an economic disaster relief area by the Small Business Association (SBA), according to state Rep. Dylan Fernandes.
Small businesses, many of them closed, or in the case of restaurants, serving a limited number of patrons, affected by COVID-19 are now eligible for low-interest loans. Restaurants and bars were ordered to close by Gov. Charlie Baker, and others have decided to close on their own to keep employees safe and heed the warnings of health officials about social distancing to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Affected businesses are encouraged to apply. The SBA can be contacted by calling 800-659-2955, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The loans could help Island businesses suffering from closures stay afloat.
Restaurants in particular are being hit hard. On the Island, J.B. Blau recently laid off 75 employees so they could start collecting unemployment. He’s also offering them free meals and interest-free loans.
Fernandes has said Island businesses should also apply for the $10 million in small business relief the state has set aside.
On Wednesday, Baker announced all early education and family childcare providers must close by March 23, according to the State House News Service. Instead, they’ll be replaced by emergency centers that focus on the needs of families on the front lines of fighting the novel coronavirus, like first responders and hospital workers.
Elizabeth Bonifacio, director of First Light Child Development Center, told The Times in an email the decision to close the school was a hard one. First Light closed on March 13.
“When doing so, we took into consideration the hardship some parents would face not having childcare, due to our closure, but ultimately felt the health and safety of the students, staff, and their families were of higher priority,” Bonifacio wrote.
All tuition paid for the weeks the school was closed would be credited to parents as soon as they reopen.
While the school is required to close, Bonifacio says they are “blessed” to stay connected through FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom.
She is also staying in close contact with each family, and is making short learning videos with activities and games parents can play with their children. The videos, instructions, and photos are available on First Light’s Facebook page. In addition to the videos, she’s working on a time for parents to join a Facetime chat so her oldest daughter, Wren, 10, can read books to the preschool students.
“This has brought great joy to everyone. I love all the families at First Light, and want them to feel connected and supported through this uncertain time,” Bonifacio said.
A previous order had excluded daycares and preschools from closure, but they will now be required to close in five days. Providers that must close under the order will continue to receive their regular subsidy payments from the state to ensure they can reopen once the state of emergency Baker declared last week is lifted, according to the State House News Service.
The state has conducted over 2,200 tests since testing began three weeks ago. By the beginning of next week, state officials want to see 3,500 tests conducted every day, according to State House News Service.
On Thursday, state officials toured Quest Diagnostics in Marlborough.
“We believe that over the course of the next several days and weeks, there will be an enormous increase in the amount of testing that takes place on a daily basis here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Baker told State House News Service. It “can’t happen fast enough, but I do believe that with the pivots and the adjustments that are being made by organizations like Quest here in Marlborough and by many of our hospital partners, and by the state lab and other organizations, we will get to the point where we’re doing the amount of testing every day that we believe that we need to be doing.”
Peter Pan Bus service is making cancellations on a day-to-day basis. Several Thursday and Friday trips from Woods Hole to Boston and Falmouth to Boston have been canceled.
Meanwhile, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is continuing to test anyone who meets strict Department of Public Health criteria for the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.
Starting Thursday, Martha’s Vineyard Bank is also taking precautions, and has closed its lobbies to the public. People are still able to use the drive-through locations in Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Falmouth. ATMs are also accessible at all bank locations. For in-person meetings, the bank asks for people to call and schedule an appointment.
In a press release Thursday, communications director Katrina Delgadillo wrote the hospital is redeploying staff between departments to meet community needs.
“We have created a triage area at the entrance of the Emergency Room (ER) for patients with respiratory symptoms. Upon arrival at the ER, you may be escorted to an alternative clinical space for your safety if you have non-COVID-19 related symptoms. Signage and a triage nurse will help guide you on-site,” she wrote.
As of Thursday morning, there are 256 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health reported.
The release also reminded people to call their primary care physician if they are sick or believe they have been exposed to COVID-19. People with scheduled outpatient appointments at the hospital should call ahead to the specific department and confirm their appointment.
“Continue to practice social distancing, washing your hands, and follow guidelines from your federal, state, and local officials. Please do not be cavalier about this. These practices will save lives,” Delgadillo wrote.
Updated to include quotes from Matt Poole and First Light, information from MV Bank, and state testing. — Ed.