Nantucket has issued a shelter-in-place order on the Island. The order was issued by selectmen and the board of health. It takes a step beyond what Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered statewide, and comes after the hospital presidents on both Islands implored people not to come to the Islands.
Nantucket Cottage Hospital reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Sunday, according to the hospital’s website.
It also comes as Martha’s Vineyard towns are considering how to react to nonessential travel to the Island. The difference between the two islands is that Nantucket has one centralized government, while the Vineyard has six individual towns, and a county commission that also covers Gosnold.
Dukes County commissioners have scheduled a meeting for Tuesday at 4 pm to consider an emergency declaration. But that has more to do with getting disaster relief through Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and making a statement on just how serious the crisis is, according to the commission’s chair, Tristan Israel. The governments of the two islands are different, and so Dukes County could not issue a similar order to Nantucket’s.
Two Island towns have issued construction bans, Oak Bluffs is considering a broader ban, and Edgartown, Tisbury, and Aquinnah have yet to act.
The Nantucket order goes into effect at 5 pm Monday. Nantucket had already banned construction.
The order requires all individuals living on the island to stay in place, except to “engage in certain essential activities and work for essential business and government services.” The order further requires all business and government agencies to cease nonessential operations on Nantucket, and prohibits “all nonessential gatherings of any number of individuals; and … cessation of all nonessential travel.”
The order does allow people to go outside, but reminds people about the need for social distancing in those situations. “Failure to comply with any of the provisions of this Order constitutes an imminent threat to public health,” it states.
Essential businesses, which are outlined in the order and include supermarkets and pharmacies, are asked to remain open. Nonessential travel of any kind is banned. Some people, including first responders and healthcare workers, are exempted.
The order makes reference to why hospital officials and other leaders are calling on people, even seasonal property owners, not to come to the islands. “Importantly, the island has limited medical care options and availability, including but not limited to the number of hospitals and other healthcare operations, the number of beds available generally and in intensive care units, as well an extremely limited number of ventilators,” the order states. “Additionally, the Town acknowledges that the size of the island population is driven by seasonal residents and visitors; during the winter months, including early spring, the food supply, services industry, public safety personnel, general governmental staff, and more, are at minimum levels.”