Islands plead with governor for special dispensation

Vineyard, Nantucket predict 'humanitarian crisis' without Baker's action

Oak Bluffs selectmen Brian Packish, right, is one of six Martha's Vineyard selectmen chairs to sign a letter responding to the governor. — Gabrielle Mannino

Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have united against Gov. Charlie Baker’s position on measures the Islands took to curb the spread of the novel corona virus. After receiving pushback from the Baker-Polito administration following votes for their own, more comprehensive local restrictions, the Islands have drafted a letter asking for an exemption from the governor’s order designating, among other things, construction and landscaping as  essential services. Signed by the chairs of the boards of selectmen, the six towns of the Vineyard and the town and county of Nantucket expressed the belief that without the local restrictions they enacted, their limited medical and municipal resources would be overwhelmed by mounting numbers of infected people leading to a possible “humanitarian crisis”. 

“It is the sincere and measured concern of the elected and appointed leaders, public safety and public health officials of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, and of the President of the Nantucket Cottage Hospital and the CEO of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, the only hospitals on each island,” the letter states, “that failure to follow through with the construction bans and stay-at-home orders as approved will put the Islands on an irreversible course, leading to an excessive strain on the medical system, law enforcement, EMTs, and potentially to a humanitarian crisis where doctors are forced to make difficult choices about who can be saved. Unlike hospitals on the mainland, there is nowhere else to send people who need treatment for the virus. There is also no ‘stepdown’ facility available to address the needs of other people who have other urgent medical problems. The Town and County of Nantucket, and the Towns of Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury are explicitly and fervently requesting your help now by modifying the application of your order to provide that on the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, construction and landscaping services are non-essential services and must remain closed.”

The letter explains the Islands have “limited or no mutual aid” for public health and public safety,   swollen out-of-season populations, and limited fire and police personnel.

“Police and fire department capacity in Nantucket and on Martha’s Vineyard is calculated to address public health and safety needs of a winter population,” the letter states. “The Islands are very concerned about potential exposure of our first responders. Nantucket already has at least three self-quarantines of public safety personnel and that number could easily rise as more people need to be transported. There are also three public safety personnel on Martha’s Vineyard in self-quarantine.” 

The letter goes on to state that if social distancing falls short or regulations are relaxed, the resultant community spread would infect a “significant portion of the population” with COVID-19. It emphasizes the small size of both Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and Nantucket Cottage Hospital and their finite amounts of relevant medical equipment. If these institutions are overwhelmed, which they predict if their local restrictions are overruled, Island leaders fear Boston hospitals are unlikely to take transfer patients due to being swamped too. 

“The Islands are also aware that there is a possibility that the hospitals’ partners in Boston could be at capacity when the Islands need them most, leaving the Nantucket Cottage Hospital and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital with severely limited or even no ability to transfer patients needing ICU-level care,” the letter states. “Moreover, the need for COVID-19 treatment will make the need for other types of hospital care acute, and further stress an already stressed system.” 

While some contractors have expressed acceptance for the local restrictions imposed on them,  the letter points out others have sought permission to return to work following the gubernatorial opinion. The letter argues if they return to work, the contagion will get out of hand. 

Officials implored Gov. Baker to change his stance on Nantucket and Vineyard’s restrictions. 

The letter was signed by Dawn E. Hill Holdgate, chair, Nantucket Select Board, Juli Vanderhoop, chair, Aquinnah Board of Selectmen, Warren M. Dotty, c/hair, Chilmark Board of Selectmen, Margaret E. Serpa, chair, Edgartown Board of Selectmen, Brian Packish,chair, Oak Bluffs Board of Selectmen, Melinda F. Loberg, chair, Tisbury Board of Selectmen, and Skipper Manter, chair, West Tisbury Board of Selectmen.

15 COMMENTS

  1. There has to be balance, not outright bans. Solo construction workers or landscapers pose no risk? If one can walk around stop and shop for two hours without a mask how does one landscaper raking your leaves compare as a threat? Make rules but have them make sense.

  2. Stop trying to limit our rights and our freedoms and start acting like you trust the People to come together and do what must be done. You don’t get to force us into our home or fine us for being outside. Wake up….this is the USA not China.

  3. The biggest threat to spreading any viruses we have now are the grocery stores, liquor stores and pharmacies. Those are the places people congregate. Obviously, they have to be open because there are no home delivery systems in place. With up island cronig’s closed it makes the problem all that much worse. The construction shutdown is only adding to that problem. It’s adding, significantly, to the number of people going to those locations throughout the day. A construction site, where social distancing takes place naturally, is a much safer place to be for the workers and the island population in general.
    The workers that come back and forth on the boat daily, whether they work in the trades or at the hospital, is a different issue and should be addressed separately.

  4. I don’t agree with the Governor’s plan, but I do agree that we need at least statewide uniformity to prevent catastrophe. Apparently Baker is following the lead of our inept president in believing that we have to let people die in order to spur the economy, which is a false assumption. Collapsing our medical system while bodies pile up is not an economic stimulus plan. Since we have no leadership willing to make the hard and correct decisions based on science, it is up to each one of us to do the best we can and stay and home to save lives.

  5. Good Morning, all. in my opinion, after listening to the world’s experts, we need a complete shut down for the two weeks advised. No exceptions, except food, drink, medical. That is that. Get a grip and do it.

  6. If all potential transmission of the virus from the mainland had been stopped in its tracks 2 weeks ago, islanders could safely go back to work today. It’s still not too late. Yet. The single best step to defend the island population from contagion is: END ALL FERRY TRAVEL – food and medical only. Now. Immediately. No more blathering about civil liberties…. we are at war… with. three. ICU. beds. We all need to accept how bad it can get if we don’t defend ourselves now. Even if it means defying orders from afar.

  7. The biggest threat to spreading any viruses we have now are the grocery stores, liquor stores and pharmacies. Those are the places people congregate. Obviously, they have to be open because there are no home delivery systems in place. With up island cronig’s closed it makes the problem all that much worse. The construction shutdown is only adding to that problem. It’s adding, significantly, to the number of people going to those locations throughout the day. A construction site, where social distancing takes place naturally, is a much safer place to be for the workers and the island population in general.
    The workers that come back and forth on the boat daily, whether they work in the trades or at the hospital, is a different issue and should be addressed separately.

  8. How about stopping off islanders from coming to island, I am on boat now and a third of the cars on the boat have out of state tags and a uhaul with a guy that’s never been to the island moving here. Could we start there.

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