UPDATE: Votes on shelter-in-place coming today

Ferry restrictions rejected; Island towns move toward stricter lockdown.

SSA chairman Jim Malkin wants to limit ferry service, but the state has so far balked at the idea. - Rich Saltzberg

Updated 12 noon

Martha’s Vineyard officials would like to slow the number of people coming to the Island and control the movement of those people on the Island in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Thus far state leaders have been unwilling to help with the Steamship Authority. Gov. Charlie Baker has urged people not to come and instituted a ban on nonessential businesses, but has stopped short of issuing a travel ban.

Meanwhile, the SSA has reduced service because of volume, but has said repeatedly that it won’t curtail service to the Island without a government order.

“I am exploring every legal avenue to restrict the transportation of people to this Island [in order] to limit the spread of the coronavirus,” Jim Malkin, the Vineyard representative to the Steamship Authority board, told The Times. “But we cannot get the legal authority to do so. And we’re not done trying.”

Three Island towns have also imposed construction bans, in part, to restrict workers commuting back and forth to the Island. The governor’s ban on nonessential business exempts home construction, so Oak Bluffs is considering more stringent restrictions when it meets on Tuesday, Oak Bluffs selectman Brian Packish told The Times. Tisbury selectmen also meet Tuesday afternoon and have revised their agenda to include a “shelter-in-place” order for the town.

Chilmark has scheduled an emergency meeting at 1 pm Tuesday to consider the shelter-in-place order. West Tisbury has also posted a meeting for 5:10 pm Tuesday to consider it and Edgartown meets at 5 pm.

Tisbury Town Administrator Jay Grande said town counsel David Doneski of KP Law is at work with Ron Rappapport of Reynolds, Rappaport, Kaplain, and Hackney, town counsel for the other five Vineyard towns, on draft language for a document each town can use to potentially enhance stay-at-home orders and limits of assembly. Grande said Doneski penned Nantucket’s recent security statement. Speaking for Tisbury, Grande said, “the town can be more restrictive” than what Gov. Baker outlined. Grande said assembly of “no more than two people” is on the table. 

On Monday, selectmen from every Island town held an emergency teleconference and agreed to draft the stay-at-home order similar to an order adopted by Nantucket. If voted, the order is likely to go into effect by the end of the day Wednesday.

The teleconference meeting included members of each town’s board of selectmen, all six town administrators, some town health agents, and other members of the boards of health. 

Oak Bluffs selectman Brian Packish told The Times by phone Tuesday that the members of the meeting wanted to use Nantucket’s stay-at-home order as a guide. 

“The action Nantucket developed is very dialed-in to an Island region,” he said. “The intent would be to put in place a policy that is consistent with what Nantucket did.”

Packish added that it was time for the Island to take action especially since the hospital can only take on so many patients.

“The goal is we need to flatten the curve. The surgeon general made it clear it was make or break it moment. Flattening the curve saves lives,” Packish said. “We have a finite amount of resources when they’re exhausted they’re exhausted.”

Aquinnah selectmen and members of the board of health agreed to support other Island towns Tuesday by endorsing a construction moratorium and the concept of an Island-wide order. Because there was no official document to vote on, Aquinnah is scheduling a meeting for Thursday to formalize it.

“We want to fall in line with other towns on the Island without upsetting the apple cart,” said town administrator Jeff Madison.

Malkin said he would like to see the ferry limit put in place for two weeks. Freight and emergency service would still be available to keep the supply chain to the Island running.

Nantucket issued a stay-at-home order effective Monday. The Times polled readers of its daily newsletter, The Minute, to ask if the Vineyard should follow Nantucket’s lead and the response was resounding yes, with 76.3 percent approving of that idea.

While islands across the country have issued advisories limiting access to visitors and seasonal residents since coronavirus hit the shores of the United States, Martha’s Vineyard has witnessed an uptick in seasonal residents coming to the Island to seek a safe haven.

That’s demonstrated in such anecdotal evidence as reports of seeing six cars parked at the Lambert’s Cove Beach lot and three of them having out-of-state plates; in the analytics from the MVTimes website and the Minute newsletter, which reveal the location of readers in numbers that look more typical for June. In the online comments on The Times site some year-round residents have expressed anger about the insurgence and seasonal residents have defended themselves as taxpaying-citizens with every right to seek refuge on the Island.

On Sunday, the Steamship Authority released statistics that show more activity. According to the data, compared with the first 15 days of March last year, there have been 264 additional vehicle trips to the Island with Massachusetts addresses and 102 additional vehicle trips by customers with New York or New Jersey addresses. Customers from other New England states, besides Massachusetts, were down 21.

On Friday, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici issued a joint statement with her colleague at the Nantucket Cottage Hospital asking seasonal residents to stay away because of the hospital’s limited capabilities.

In the meantime, the SSA “will have signs up in ticket terminals, on the tickets, and on the receipts for passenger tickets, advising the hospital’s advice to stay away,” Malkin said.
In the background, state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and state Sen. Julian Cry, D-Truro, pushed for state assistance, as well.

According to Malkin, the two legislators have also been “actively trying to assist on this.”
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) didn’t comment on whether it would intervene in ferry service but issued an unsigned statement indicating it would continue to help the Steamship Authority maintain a lifeline.

“In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) continues to coordinate and communicate with our transportation sector partners, including the Steamship Authority, to ensure movement of critical supplies and resources needed during this outbreak,” the agency said through a statement.

“There have been no shortage of conversations with them,” SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll said. Patriot Party Boats president Jim Tietje, whose company runs the Patriot ferry to Oak Bluffs, said he plans to reduce his schedule from eight runs per day to four. Tietje said while it’s hard to forecast what passengers his boats may convey in the coming days, those trips from Falmouth also carry everything from “fresh-baked goods to auto parts” and he expects that to continue to bring over such cargo unless more drastic restrictions are imposed. Boat-sanitation-wise, Tietje said, “we are wiping them down as best we can.”

George Brennan, Brian Dowd, and Lucas Thors contributed to this report. Updated to include more details. -ed.


  1. It would be pretty easy to restrict SSA travel to island residents. Just require a profile number, island auto registration, Or island driver’s license.

    • You tell em, loise…we don’t need no Government handouts for disable people or people over 62. In fact, we should do one better…just put all the disabled people and people over 62 on a boat and deport them off the island, never to return. That’ll show SSA who’s boss.

    • Totally illegal. I think you have to have a board meeting to change the bylaws. Do you think you live in a dictatorship?

  2. On what basis can you block people from going to their own home? Many second homeowners live in apartments in cities and need a place to go to ride out the storm – or would you suggest they just stay in infected areas while natives stay safe? I’ve thought I’ve seen animus towards wash-a-shores but this is too much.

    • Yes, they are supposed to ride out the storm where they are. The leaders have asked people not to travel and spread the disease. The hospital has asked people not to come as it only has two ventilators and not enough beds. It should be common sense at this point, they are not supposed to come.

    • No one is safe! Especially not on an island with a wonderful but small hospital with limited staff and even more limited resources this time of year! It is really disturbing to me that people think this island is somehow immune to this insidious virus! Please, heed the warnings it’s for your own good! “Riding it out” may not be possible if you become symptomatic, and if you do, I pray you can get tested and if you have trouble breathing one of the 3 ventilators we have is still available. Please heed the warnings friends, no matter where you come from, pay taxes, own, rent etc.! Old and young, Stay where you are recommended to stay please dont travel! Protect yourself and your loved ones! Hunker down, the worst is yet to come!
      Wishing Good Health to all!

      • Ask yourself, did I get this worked-up over west nile virus, avian bird flu, ebola, or SARS? Do you think it’s because it co.es from China…and they stole all your jobs?

    • Lakeclouds, you sound like a broken record… I’m not sure why the reality of the situation is so hard for you to register. The issue is not in the fact that you have constitutional rights to your cherished property, the issue is that we do not have the recourses in our limited hospital to serve all of the selfish washashores who are so concerned with their tax money. We have a year round population that is accounted for in the US census. Our infrastructure is accordingly based around that number. The address that is listed on your drivers license is where you belong during this pandemic. That is where you are counted in the population and where there are more recourses. Get off of your high horse and stop repeating yourself. We do not care about your tax money right now. Get over yourself.

      • WHOLE COUNTRIES don’t have the resources, so what’s your point? It’s so nice to see all of your benevolent sides. I’m sure some of the people making these comments go to church every Sunday and pray to God to help thy neighbor and bring love and peace to the world. What a bunch of hypocrites.

        • Actually the governor has said NOT TO GOTO THE ISLANDS. No validating a stay at home order has nothing to do with arrogant home owners foolishly putting people at risk by traveling to second homes… it means you can’t be forced to stay in the home you are currently at… pay more attention

    • This has nothing to do with “washashores” it has to do with a deadly pandemic. If I had a second home in New Rochelle, guess what, the N.Y. National Guard wouldn’t let me in.

      • NG hasn’t seen this much action since those weapons of mass destruction (WMD) turned up in Iraq. Wait…were there WMDs in Iraq? I forget, but there must have been because why would the Government tell us that? Politicians never lie during an election year.

  3. The SSA has reduced its daily number of trips by 21%. Big deal. And for a total of 13 days only, March 22 to April 2. The SSA’s cavalier attitude in terms of bringing yet more cases of coronavirus to the Vineyard only reflects its blinding focus on revenue. The SSA is going to fight and scream against reducing trips further.

  4. There needs to be a wartime effort here. A travel ban on the ferry is the essential key to averting a massive outbreak and chaos. If it’s not already too late. All selectmen and selectwomen need to make it their absolute top priority to demand – in the most possible strong language – that Gov Baker immediately enact a travel ban on the ferry. Today. That’s my opinion. Personally, I’m infuriated that this has not happened yet. Leaders must lead NOW.

  5. It’s not about island residents or second home owners, it’s about restricting travel by anyone, wherever you call home! Someone arriving on island from away is no more likely to be carrying anything than an islander who went to the Cape for the day and returns at night–one and the same, and equally dangerous to the entire population at this point. It’s the same over most of the country, rural or urban, big or small community, island or ashore, limiting travel outside of wherever you may be living is important to protect all of us.

  6. Do all work crews on island fall under the stay order from Gov. Baker? I know many of my friends, family and neighbors who left their work sites today at noon.And will have no work for 2 weeks. Yet, I just drove by a site where 2 small homes are being built and their were 3 guys on roof and 1 on ground.

  7. For the home owners that do not live here year round, where the Vineyard is not their primary residence and those that reside in highly infected areas, especially New York PLEASE STAY HOME! The Vineyard is NOT a safe haven https://www.mvtimes.com/2020/03/13/marthas-vineyard-safe-haven/. You are putting us and our high population of elderly in grave danger https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications/older-adults.html . We do not have the resources here to accommodate you https://www.mvtimes.com/2020/03/21/hospital-issues-statement-please-dont-come-marthas-vineyard/ and protect our seniors https://www.mvtimes.com/2020/03/23/one-mans-attempt-tested-covid-19/ The Coronavirus has been confirmed to transmit to others without the host showing symptoms https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-asymptomatic-transmission-chinese-woman-relatives-2020-2 https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/health/coronavirus-asymptomatic-spread/index.html and can persist in the AIR FOR HOURS and on SURFACES FOR DAYS https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-study-idUSKBN2143QP.

    For the Island health departments, selectman and Steam Ship Authority board members, SHUT THE BOATS DOWN to all non essential travel. Massachusetts virus outbreak https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-12/biogen-outbreak-makes-boston-a-case-study-in-coronavirus-spread?utm_campaign=news&utm_medium=bd&utm_source=applenews. To Robert Jones, overreaction is exactly what we need now https://www.mvtimes.com/2020/03/17/ssa-full-steam-ahead/ The World Health Organization Head Says Nations Must Attack As ‘Pandemic Is Accelerating’ https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/03/23/820290984/coronavirus-who-head-says-nations-must-attack-as-pandemic-is-accelerating. The US Surgeon General Jerome Adams has said this week “it’s going to get bad” https://www.nbcnews.com/video/us-surgeon-general-jerome-adams-on-coronavirus-this-week-it-s-going-to-get-bad-81091141801. COVID-19 is not like a mild cold. Mild case symptoms can be pretty severe and anything less than needing oxygen puts you in this category. Severe cases will need supplemental oxygen and critical cases are defined by respiratory or multi organ failure https://www.businessinsider.com/novel-coronavirus-covid-19-symptoms-day-by-day-2020-3.

    As of right now New York alone has half of the confirmed cases in the US and is sixth in the WHOLE WORLD https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html. All Steam Ship Authority and Air Port passengers who traveled to the Vineyard from March 1st on should be contacted, questioned and forced to quarantine per CDC guidelines. YES, THIS SITUATION WARRANTS THIS. Current coronavirus death rates, based on the known number of cases and deaths https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-death-rate-by-country-current-fatalities-compared-to-cases-2020-3.


  8. Governor Baker has to stop dithering! This emergency requires more than piecemeal efforts from each town and county. There should be a statewide order to shelter in place with a drastic reduction in the number of essential businesses. Package stores and restaurants do not need to be open, even if just for takeout. Every business that is open means more people picking stuff up, more deliveries, more ferries, more spread of the virus.

  9. The U.S./State census helps the government decide how to distribute funds to hospitals for things like medical supplies ect. and many other things of corse. If you are not on the census for any of the island towns, you should not be here. It’s that simple. If you are a resident of MV, your previsions for this pandemic should be here. If you are not a resident of MV, your previsions and medical supplies are wherever you are from. By coming to this island you are taking away from everyone here. Pay taxes for your vacation home? Doesn’t matter. Your previsions are wherever you are from i.e the U.S. census. Not here. You are putting our lives at risk and foolishly you and your families too. You will most likely not get the medical help you need (me either) if this gets out of hand. It is the most selfish decision to come here and put OUR residents at risk. Normally if you needed medical help on vacation, perfectly acceptable. This is not a vacation. Repeat this is not a vacation. You “refugees” put our lives in danger. Us islanders are treated like dirt by you in the summer and looked down upon and we look the other way to keep our economy strong. Things are about to change. Threaten to sell your house. Go for it. Think someone else won’t just buy up in no time? Hopefully it will be someone who has some consideration and doesn’t feel entitled to treat others like dirt and consume all that is good.

    • “Us islanders are treated like dirt by you in the summer and looked down upon and we look the other way to keep our economy strong.” Wow – so they us how you really feel. And where did you get the BS about hospital provisions based on the census? Partners which owns the hospital is a private company and what they do has nothing to do with the census.

  10. This isn’t about residents, part timers, washashores, tourists or anything like that.

    Try going into New Rochelle, NY right now because you “have a right to go there.” The National Guard will turn you right around. We need the same restrictions here if anyone wants the Vineyard to weather this storm.

  11. Making America great again? You chose where to live. That is your primary residence. You should be there. You are not safe here. You will not be entitled to a cut in line here if you need a respirator. Think about sharing one with one to three other people. This is not about you! We islanders are happy to have you here at any other time. This is an emergency. Hopefully these discussions will end with “better safe than sorry” and “so glad we listened.”

    • Forget the tourists and the seasonal residents, does it not concern you that your local government has failed to provide sufficient medical services and care for the “16,000” full time residents on the island? Why isn’t anyone up in arms about the poor medical services and lack of adequate planning for your community? What a shame.

  12. Omg after this I will NEVER again post anything on this ridiculous site….. you people sound insane….. limiting people coming over will not protect you….. it’s already there…. you think that only 2 people on the sacred island are the only ones infected….. wake up…. all this is showing is how hateful and uneducated you all sound….. why in the world would I ever want to visit the vineyard once this ends and why would I want to continue to own a house there…… the hatred and uneducated nasties shows just how inbreed you people really are…… Good luck and when you need help don’t ask the commonwealth for help because it’s evident you are your own country.

    • Spegial, the commonwealth has specifically said DO NOT goto your second homes on Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket… maybe on this subject you are the one who is uneducated… you talk of people being ”nasties” then call us inbred… feel free to sell your second home here and not return… you won’t hear argument or pleas from us.

    • Per your, ahem, “reasoning,” being in agreement with the governor, our state representatives, our hospital chief, and anyone else with expertise on the issue is “insane….hateful and uneducated.” Never mind that, while excoriating the local population for intellectual deficiencies, your use of grammar and spelling in the sentence “the hatred and uneducated nasties(sic) shows just how inbreed(sic) you people really are” is less than stellar. We will miss you but find a way to carry on as a community without your wisdom to set us straight.

    • Yeah, just a few weeks ago all you could hear was the raging against Trump closing the border. Now the open border medicare for all (including illegal aliens) Bernie Bros and Sisses are yelling “raise the drawbridge”!

    • It’s a wharped sense of entitlement and a bogus concept that pulling up the bridge will save the natives. Maybe the Cape Cod people will feel the same and not let people off the boats – just send them back to the island.

  13. Shelter where you are for safety. If you are traveling to MV , there is no telling who you might come in contact with, don’t jeopardize your health. The same goes for island residents, don’t go off island. We do rely on the second homeowners, the day trippers and the tourists in general….I will welcome you all with open arms after this crazy time is over! We do need you!

  14. Anyone from anywhere has as much right to be on the island . No questions asked. Least that’s the way they used to do it in the USA.

    • Mean Eugene, are you really still on the “rights” thing? Is it really that hard for you to get the limited resources of our small island hospital point through your entitled head? Be realistic for two seconds. Maybe you should exercise your right to come here, and hopefully be the one with no access to a ventilator, or have no bed in the icu… your entitlement won’t get you any of those medical necessities…

      • It’s the fact that islanders are being jerks!!!! Maybe if you were a tad nicer, people would listen. Honestly. I don’t get your vitriol for seasonal residents!!

  15. So this is what’s going to happen:
    The number of cases of C19 are going to spike, because it’s doing that everywhere. When that happens, SOME islanders are going to yell and scream that the SSA should not have let off islanders on the island! It’s the washashores fault!!!
    You already have 2 cases. Guess what, as far as I know they are islanders. Maybe the SSA shouldn’t let YOU off the island. It works both ways.
    Each community in this country has infrastructure that is geared toward the existing population. That includes hospitals. So if you go off island you are dangerously increasing that communities ability to fight C19, right?
    They built this beautiful hospital for all of us. That’s why it got much bigger. To accommodate all of the residents, seasonal or otherwise.

  16. Many comments on here and other article comment sections say it doesn’t matter if we leave and don’t come back. Someone will just buy our houses and it won’t matter. What if all of us seasonal residents didn’t come for a season? What would happen out here?
    Unfortunately, we may all find out this year.

  17. Thought you might enjoy this: “Go, my people, enter your interior rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for a brief moment until the denunciation has passed by.” — Isaiah 26:20

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