What’s an Islander to do?

With an order and advisory at odds, Vineyard residents asked to voluntarily comply with Island’s orders.

Towns ask residents to obey their order while issues are resolved with the Governor. — Lexi Pline

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.



  1. This is an emergency. Not a day should be wasted, Governor Baker. I stand in support of our hospital and staff, who are the most at risk, and our Selectmen. The longer we take to knock this virus down, the longer it will stick around and do unknown damage to our lives. For now, buck up.

  2. As long as the ferry continues bringing potential virus carriers to the island, we’re sitting ducks. Imposing self-quarantines is pointless if we don’t suspend travel from the mainland. Monitor the very few who MUST come here to make certain they adhere to two week isolation, followed by testing. We’re at war with an invisible enemy… and islanders can’t just sit around waiting for state government to defend us. Stop boat travel immediately, before it’s too late! Food and medical only!

  3. Im going to have to take a boat trip and walk to Falmouth soon. Still no tp , hand sanitizers, or bleach at the stop and shop. Why are the shelves empty?

  4. 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 social distance recommended is a minimum, a minimum of 6 feet. The West Tisbury shelter in place video is a perfect example of what not to do. Those two people are sitting much too close together and well under the 6 foot minimum recommendation. It’s up to all of us to set a good example.
    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.

  5. Hey, concerned elitists and oldfarmerguy. The steamship cannot regulate who comes and goes to the island.
    It is not their job and not in their charter. There are more people in Cronigs market at any given time than on the boats lately. Who do you think is going to carry out the policing of your 14-day isolation demand? This is not a police state. Stay at home be safe, shut off your TV and stay away from the SSA.

  6. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/grieving-in-the-midst-of-the-coronavirus-what-to-know-and-how-to-help-others-2020-03-25
    Denial (it’s a hoax, it’s a flu), anger (it’s those off-islanders bringing it), bargaining (if we just shut down the ferries…), depression (how can i feed my family, I’m out of TP), acceptance (I need to stay home for the next few weeks, only going out for food, medicine or solitary walks, always staying at least 6 feet away from others and wiping down everything that I need to bring into my home).
    It’s time to accept we all have to stay home. It’s so far beyond who is coming to the island. Everyone, please, stay home. Accept reality, as difficult as it is on everyone. Italy warned us 3 weeks ago, New York is warning us now.

  7. Down here in Atlanta, our Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are limiting the numbers of customers in their stores to 50 and 40 respectively. Whole Foods, Kroger and Publix all have senior shopping hours for an hour before their regular opening – limited to those over 60. You have to show an ID.

  8. A large concern, addressed by closing the job sites, is the daily influx of subcontractors, from off-island.
    No job site open means no daily influx.
    I’m a contractor and I heartily endorse the voluntary closing of construction sites.
    I have an idea, which I hope won’t be labeled “Elitist”.
    How about all those who afford to do so, donate the incoming “Corona” checks to an appropriate on island charity? Food Pantry? Community Services? Etc etc?

  9. When local Boards of Health overstep their mandate and the Selectmen endorse their actions. Regulation of passage to the Island is not theirs to partake in.

  10. Finally an official with some sense. Glavin saying 1-2 workers is not a threat is very true. A complete ban is more harmful than being reasonable as an unemployed worker will more likely mingle in a public place. A job site is safer. I hope Baker does not cave into a full ban but forces reason.

  11. Finally an official with some sense. Glavin saying 1-2 workers is safe is right on. An unemployed worker will more likely mingle in a Public place . A job site is A safer.

  12. Too many sick, lame, and lazy people on the Vineyard who have no respect for people who work for a living.

    • There’s no laziness behind encouraging people to stay home. It’s just a plan to deal with the reality of the situation. The hospitals can’t afford for us all to get sick at once. I understand this is very hard on many financially, but complying with the recommendations would have helped things to move faster. With so many defying them, the situation will drag on.

  13. Containment becomes realistic only when Americans realize that working together is the only way to protect themselves and their loved ones.

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