Updated 5:20 pm
A staff member at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is one of the 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Island.
Claire Seguin, chief clinical and quality officer, confirmed the case during a conference call with hospital officials and reporters Tuesday morning, but did not elaborate on details citing privacy rules.
“Our numbers remain very low of positives because of all the hard work people are doing with PPE,” Seguin said, referring to personal protective equipment like gloves, masks and face shields.
The hospital’s infection control team is spearheading contact tracing, a process to monitor people that have come in contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19. The process inside the hospital is similar to contact tracing for people outside the hospital.
Seguin added that there has been no other impact on staffing at this time. The hospital has been testing doctors and nurses if they meet criteria that requires them to be tested.
“They’re stressed. This is a hard time,” Seguin said of the hospital staff. “With that said, to this point they have superseded any of our expectations. They come to work everyday, they are proud, and they’re doing their part.”
As of Tuesday, the hospital has collected samples for 159 tests, with 11 positive, 126 negative, and 22 pending results. No patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 are currently hospitalized.
Boards of health spokesperson and Tisbury health agent Maura Valley confirmed Monday that of the 11 cases, seven are female and four are male. Six of the positive cases are aged between 50-59 years old and two are in the 60-69 age bracket. The 20-29 and 30-39 brackets each have one case. One person’s age is unknown.
The number of confirmed cases continues to rise across the state. On Tuesday, the Department of Public Health confirmed it has tested nearly 81,000 people. DPH also reported 1,365 new cases to bring the total confirmed positive case count to 15,202. A reported 96 new deaths brings the state total to 356.
The hospital is taking strict steps at Windemere to ensure the safety of its 47 residents. There have been no positive COVID-19 test results for residents at Windemere. All staff and residents are required to wear masks, all residents have been isolated in individual rooms, staff must self-attest everyday that they have no symptoms, and there are separate entrances for staff to come in the building. The hospital’s team at Windemere is also in daily conversation with the Department of Public Health (DPH) to make sure they are following daily guidelines.
“I think that we’ve done really all the things we can possibly do right now for those residents,” Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici said.
While numbers on the Island have remained relatively low, the hospital is preparing itself for a surge in cases, which Schepici said could happen in the next couple weeks.
“I think we’re in a very critical time with our numbers being low. I want to make sure there isn’t a false sense of confidence or protection. I still want everyone to take great, great, great cautionary care,” Schepici said.
Schepici stressed the importance of continued social distancing and proper hand washing.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Schepici said. “But it’s not a time for complacency.”
Hospital officials have also been in daily communication with their parent company, Partners Healthcare, about staffing, supplies, and surge planning.
Schepici said the new field hospital being set up at Joint Base Cape Cod was on the hospital’s radar, but at the moment the hospital is only working with Partners on where patients should receive care.
The hospital is also receiving a shipment of N95 masks for their staff, Schepici said.
The masks are part of the shipment of more than one million masks brought to Massachusetts by the Kraft family with use of the New England Patriots private plane. Schepici said she doesn’t know how many masks the Vineyard’s hospital will receive, but she does expect a shipment. She also said about 25 percent of the masks will be kept in storage should hospital’s need backup supplies.
Schepici thanked the Kraft family for their efforts in bringing the much needed supplies to hospitals across the state.
Unemployment benefits, new supermarket rules
At a Tuesday press conference, Gov. Charlie Baker assured that the state was getting closer to allowing those who previously did not qualify to apply for unemployment benefits.
“We’ve gotten some guidance from the feds about how they’re thinking about the gig workers, the folks who aren’t currently in the [unemployment insurance] system, who don’t have a W2 basically have 1099s,” Baker said. “That has made it easier for us to start thinking about how we would stand that up, but there’s additional guidance we’re waiting for and that we need to actually implement the program.”
The incorporation of people who have a 1099 tax form, are self-employed, or work as gig workers is part of the federal government’s $2 trillion CARES Act signed by President Donald Trump on March 27.
Baker added that he would like to have the program worked out this week, but said it all depended on guidance from the federal government.
The state is also going to be issuing guidelines Tuesday evening on how to provide safe environments for customers and workers at grocery stores.
Guidelines will include allowing only 40 percent of maximum occupancy at grocery stores, which includes workers and customers.
Updated to include information from Baker press conference and confirmed cases in Massachusetts. — Ed.