Update: Confirmed cases rise to 23, patient hospitalized

New criteria for testing focuses on patients with new symptoms.

With an increase in supplies, testing has been expanded at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital. — Lexi Pline

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.



  1. The answer to whether or not they are quarantining or not is a resounding. NO.
    I have had my eyes on a couple.houses in my usual driving pattern. They came here from New Jersey ,New York and Connecticut sometimes.the cars are there other times
    They are out and about. How is it that the hospital trusts them and not the construction.workers. From what I have seen on the jobs all the contractors have taken the right step. Every construction worker I see are wearing PPE in stores and on the job.
    The aforementioned visitors I have seen not so much. There is so much opposition to opening up the economy here and the real problem is the visitors. When there is a spike
    they will blame it on the blue collar workers. Total BS.

    • Can we please stop this license plate discrimination? What are you trying to prove? It is everyone’s responsibility to follow the rules, regardless of the plates on their vehicles. This is a social contract. There are many islanders following the rules as well as some that are not. This blame game based on license plates has to stop.

    • She was referring to people that have tested positive for Covid-19 but have not needed hospitalization. They are sent home to self-quarantine but there isn’t much follow up.

    • What does any of your dubious detective work have to do with the content of the article? No mention of a hospitalized patient. No mention of nurses. Why the whining?

  2. I dont trust the CEO anymore since she did a complete 360 degree turn around with the Chamber of Commerce

    • I think you mean 180 degree. If she did a 360 degree turnaround, she’d be going in the same direction she was originally

    • This article does not reference the Chamber of Commerce. There is no mention of business types. “The supply chain of testing has become more robust.” This from the article, and it is a big deal, and a big deal in a very good way. The implications of broader testing can equate to accurate patient diagnosis and better control over a pandemic that has already killed 71,000 people in The United States. More testing can be seen as a ray of hope in all of this.

    • She did? It was my understanding that she repeated what she has been saying all along about our need for caution. Then the Chamber decided to retract the letter after being pressured by the town. That doesn’t mean Schepici’s take is now any different, unless I missed something. (Which I could’ve. My brain is a fried egg lately.)

      • To clarify. Though she apologized for how the letter went out (without consultation with the towns in advance), she made no apologies for the message.

        • Thanks, George! That makes sense. I trust that our hospital is doing all they can to protect the public.

        • The executive director of the chamber may not have apologized in the article, but she did certainly did apologize to business owners in an email whose subject was: We Owe You an Apology.
          The text of that letter is as follows….
          We owe you an apology.

          When we were originally approached by our state legislators to help create a regional response with our hospitals and regional chambers, it felt like the right and responsible thing to do.

          As an organization that has prided itself as advocates for our members and our local economy, the truth is we fell short today.

          In thinking we could support our community in this public health crisis, we forgot that our focus is not public health.

          Our focus is you. Its business. Its our Island’s prosperity.

          We have removed this letter from our website, and, together with the MV Hospital, have asked the Vineyard Gazette to take down the post.

          Navigating this crisis is hard.

          As we continue to move forward with you, we re-commit to be here for you – to put your needs first..

          This was our mistake. We own it, we regret it, and we apologize for letting you down.

          Nancy Gardella, Executive Director

    • tis native– who cares about what she did with the chamber of commerce ? According to you , she apparently did nothing as she did a full spin and wound up in the same place.
      What’s her position on the trump regime confiscating 5 million face masks last week that were destined for VA hospitals? We still have no idea what happened to them, but they didn’t get to the VA .
      And, by the way, I would still like to hear from you as to what Bill Keating did that upsets you so much.

    • Where are the New Jersey ,New York and Connecticut people working?
      Are they so brazen that they actually go out and buy food?

  3. Imagine that the island boards of health lead an effort to distribute masks instead of only posting regulations that do not remain consistent across all-island business types.

    • Imagine if the Trump government and useless pandemic task force provided PPEs to frontline warriors so there wouldn’t be these appalling shortages for any of us.

    • Do you mean posting regulations that people must wear masks.
      Boards of health are in the regulation business.
      Not the distribution business.
      Distrubition is always done best by private enterprise.

  4. “With supplies coming from off the Island and donations from Islanders, the hospital’s personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing is in good supply.”

    Great to hear!


  5. We will see a continued rise in diagnosed Covid 19, especially now that they are WILLING to TEST more people and not just the high risks group. I know positive case people and I know people who think they had it before this became a global crisis.
    If we had readily available anti body testing, I presume that WAY MORE PEOPLE have had it but didn’t know because their symptoms were so mild.

  6. They were always willing to test. The problem has been that tests, labs, and PPE’s necessary to conduct the tests have been in very short supply due to the failure of our government to be prepared, even when they were given early warnings, but were told the 15 diagnosed cases would soon be zero. Meanwhile, Trump want to spend 500 million tax dollars to paint his border wall black. The priorities of our failed government should be obvious.

    • He sees a border wall and he wants it painted black. ???? ???? I hadn’t heard this yet. Can’t think of a worse waste of money when so many are out of work.

      I agree about the tests. Those who would like everything open sooner rather than later should use their online protesting powers to demand more tests. Every detailed, decent plan I’ve seen from experts in medicine and economics will require a ton of them. Am glad our hospital was able to get more supplies.

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