Updated 2:10 pm
Island leaders are asking Vineyarders to voluntarily comply with the stay-at-home orders issued by the towns, despite Gov. Charlie Baker’s insistence that his advisory supersedes local jurisdictions in a letter to the towns. Island leaders have shot back with a letter of their own asking the governor to let the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket put their own orders in place.
This comes as all of the towns, except Aquinnah, were to be in their first full-day of a stay-at-home order and a construction moratorium, except for emergencies. Chilmark’s order went into effect on Tuesday.
Baker, asked at a press conference Thursday about concerns raised by Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, talked about Boston.
Aquinnah adopted its own version of the stay-at-home order Thursday that falls closely in line with the other towns, with the exception of an order that allows the board of health to regulate construction projects, instead of banning them altogether.
Town administrator Jeff Madison said Aquinnah’s order complies with Baker’s order, and does not have to be altered because it is not a blanket ban on construction.
“Our order does not have to be changed to meet the governor’s order. We are in a strange place because our board of health has done something which complies with the governor’s order but is slightly out of step with the other towns,” Madison said.
Madison said other towns have many construction projects going on, and Aquinnah doesn’t have that same concern.
Jim Glavin, chair of the board of health in Aquinnah, said the town is not stopping construction altogether, and instead regulating it to ensure the health of workers and the community.
“If it’s a small job, one or two guys working, go ahead. We have the right to inspect your job to make sure conditions are being met for the safety of the workers,” Glavin said.
Glavin said any work group larger than two people is required to submit a mitigation plan to the board of health. Depending on the health practices of the construction group, the board of health can issue a stop-work order.
“A one size fits all approach that the other towns are taking doesn’t really work,” Glavin said. “If there is a single guy working alone, do we really need to stop that? I mean come on.”
Karen Colombo, the town’s board of health assistant, will be overseeing the construction regulations.
“I know this is confusing, things are changing and happening really fast,” West Tisbury health agent Omar Johnson emailed. He went on to write West Tisbury is enforcing and asking its citizens to adhere to “[t]he Stay in Place and the construction ban until we hear back from the governor’s office.”
“At this time we are asking that people abide by the local orders while we wait for further guidance from town counsel and a response from the governor,” Tisbury health agent Maura Valley emailed.
“I am asking that all trades people and landscapers still abide by the local orders while we wait for further guidance from town counsel and a response from the governor on the request for an islands wide exemption to his order regarding construction and landscaping work being essential,” Tisbury building commissioner Ross Seavy emailed.
Oak Bluffs and Edgartown emailed separate statements with the same message that Island towns and Nantucket are working with Baker’s office to resolve the issues of the construction ban.
“Until that time we strongly urge that everyone voluntarily comply with our order,” the statements read. “The goal of the order is to keep the risk of infection on the Island as low as possible to avoid a surge in COVID-19 cases that the hospital simply does not have the capacity to handle.”
In a tweet, state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, criticized Baker. “Governor Baker’s efforts to subvert Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard policies preventing the spread of this deadly disease undermine best practices for social distancing and further put Island residents at risk. MV & ACK initiatives to flatten the curve must go forward,” Fernandes wrote using the abbreviation and popular Nantucket Airport call letters.
Reporter Lucas Thors contributed to this report. Updated to include Aquinnah approving a stay-at-home order.