Updated 5 pm
A woman between the ages of 40 and 49 is the newest confirmed case of COVID-19 on Martha’s Vineyard, according to the Martha’s Vineyard boards of health.
While the hospital is only reporting 22 cases, the boards of health report their cases in the late afternoon which causes a difference in reporting.
Of the 23 confirmed cases, 12 are female and 11 are male. Seven of the cases are aged 50-59 years old, seven cases are 60-69 years old, two are 30-39 years old, five are 20-29 years old, one is 40-49, and another is 20 years old or younger.
Meanwhile, The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is prohibiting the use of masks with valves in the facility. The valve allows unfiltered exhaled air to escape the mask, according to a press release from Russell Hartenstine, the public information officer for the Island’s regional emergency management association.
“These masks only protect the person wearing them and potentially expose everyone else to pathogens. For mutual protection in public, these are not beneficial. Instead, all patients and visitors entering the facility are provided one surgical or procedural mask immediately upon arrival and are required to wear the mask continually until they leave the building,” the release states.
A patient that previously tested positive for COVID-19 at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is being hospitalized.
The general care patient is in stable condition, according to hospital CEO Denise Schepici.
At the state level, after a drop in cases on Monday, there was a slight uptick in the number of confirmed cases reported by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. There were 1,184 new cases for a total of 70,271 statewide. There were 122 deaths bringing the statewide total to 4,212. Statewide hospitalizations remained steady at 5 percent of the total cases and more than 333,000 people have been tested for COVID-19.
Speaking to reporters in a conference call Tuesday morning, Schepici said the number of confirmed cases on the Island was at 22, following a spike over the weekend. Overall, the hospital has tested 506 patients with 465 negatives and 19 pending results.
While some hospitals such as Nantucket Cottage Hospital keep track of patients who recovered from COVID-19 and those still in isolation, the Vineyard hospital does not.
“We don’t trace that,” Schepici said. “So many people self-quarantine so we wouldn’t really know that … we hope they’re quarantining.”
The hospital has implemented new criteria for the tests. Schepici said the biggest change is the removal of the age criteria, allowing for testing of all symptomatic patients. Testing has also been expanded to anyone who is showing symptoms of a new cough, a new sore throat, a fever, new nasal congestion, new shortness of breath, new muscle aches, and new loss of smell.
“Earlier, as you know, the criteria was based on the testing available. The focus was high risk patients and patients who had multiple symptoms from the clinicians evaluation,” Schepici said. “Now it is a respiratory issue with one of the symptoms I mentioned along with a clinicians evaluation.”
Pieter Pil, the hospital’s chief medical officer, who was also on the call, explained that criteria for testing is based on the amount of supplies available, the scientific evidence, and then the direction of state and federal health officials. With supplies coming from off the Island and donations from Islanders, the hospital’s personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing is in good supply.
“The supply chain of testing has become more robust,” Pil said. “We continually adjust the criteria for testing and it’s based on sort of identifying the highest risk people first and then as more tests become available we can broaden that approach.”
With summer season around the corner, Schepici urged people to keep up social distancing, proper hygiene, and wearing masks around other people.
Over the past several weeks the hospital threw most of its resources into preparing for COVID-19. With a better handle on how to handle COVID-19 cases, Pil said the hospital has begun to allow for non-COVID-19 care. Low risk patients are directed to an annex ED where they can receive care. The hospital is still performing essential surgeries, but has halted elective procedures.
“This is a marathon not a sprint. Unfortunately, the virus has not gone away. We’ve sort of identified the issue. We’re trying to mitigate this, but the bottom line is the virus persists,” Pil said. “This is going to be an ongoing issue.”
As for contact tracing, the hospital submits patient information to a state health database called the Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiologic Network (MAVEN) which then coordinates with the local health agents who determine if family members need to be tested.
Schepici said that Wednesday is national nurses day and thanked the hospital’s many nurses including Carol Bardwell, a nurse who retired in March after more than 40 years of service. A scholarship fund was also set up in Bardwell’s name.
“They’re really the architects of comfort in a busy hospital setting. Simply put, I love them for what they do everyday, but especially now in this time of COVID,” Schpeici said, also adding how proud she was of chief nurse and chief operating officer Claire Seguin. “She is an extremely talented woman and we are lucky to have her.”
Updated with new information from Island boards of health and DPH.