On Wednesday morning, the first ferry arriving at the Steamship Authority’s Vineyard Haven terminal let out a big group of passengers who largely adhered to mask protocols put in place by the ferry line and by Gov. Charlie Baker, whose mask order goes into effect today.
One man in a green coat could be seen in the midst of other passengers with a scarf or bandana covering his mouth but not over his nose. Another man in a hooded sweatshirt had no mask at all. The masks worn by disembarking passengers were far from uniform, some being contractor types, others surgical types, and still others simply a cloth wrap.
All terminal personnel wore masks as they oversaw passengers and vehicles exiting the MV Woods Hole. Among the vehicles staged for the next crossing, a lone Stop & Shop trucker stood by his rig without a mask, but also without anyone else nearby. Under the governor’s order, face coverings are required in public places like supermarkets and public transportation, but not out in the public if social distancing can be maintained.
Passengers who’d disembarked in their masks kept them on as they filtered into the town. Several streamed down the sidewalks on Water Street and Beach Road. Two men who arrived at the terminal for the 8:15 am ferry walked side by side across the terminal tarmac without masks but donned them as soon as they queued at the transfer bridge at Slip 2.
Police are used to looking at people covering up their faces with suspicion, but with the governor’s order their role is to help provide compliance.
“I was actually going into Reliable to do some shopping and saw a guy without a mask. I said, ‘You need a mask.’ … He walked to the car, got it, and came back in,” Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake said. “I think we’re going to find people will be compliant with it.”
Blake and other Island chiefs have been talking on a regular basis about all aspects of the pandemic and their role in providing assistance to the local boards of health.
“Our officers are going to focus on educating the public,” Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said. “We have some donated masks, so we’ll hand those out if people need them.”
In West Tisbury, Police Chief Matt Mincone said he’s hopeful the community will voluntarily comply. “I can tell you today we didn’t get any calls about it at all,” he said. “I expected to have some.”
One of the places where he hopes people will wear a mask, even when they’re outside, is at Lambert’s Cove Beach because of the narrow path from the parking lot to the beach. “You need to bring a mask if you’re going to the beach because people are shoulder to shoulder on that path, you can’t social distance there,” he said.
At a meeting Thursday morning, Mincone said he will review with the governor’s order with officers telling them to give a warning on the first offense. A second offense could result in a fine of $300.
“That’s really the last step on something like this,” he said. “We’re not becoming the mask police.”
In a text message, Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio echoed what the other chiefs said. “We are looking for voluntary compliance,” he said, adding that the department has not received any complaints. “Hoping education works as opposed to enforcement . . .”
Blake said there’s a need for police to be understanding. “It’s been a long few months for everyone,” he said. “I’m certainly not going to use the hammer approach to this.”
During a visit to Reliable Market by The Times, customers came and went — some with surgical masks and N95’s, others with homemade cloth face coverings. Folks driving down Circuit Avenue that were two to a car were also wearing masks, as required by the guidelines for driving with passengers. Outside the Oak Bluffs Post Office, protection was also prevalent, and one woman could be seen rubbing her hands with hand sanitizer after swinging open the door after picking up her package.
Over at the Airport Shell gas station, everyone was going about their daily routines, but all seemed to be using proper face coverings. Folks gassing up their vehicles were wearing masks, and lone drivers would remove them after entering their cars. One woman could be seen vacuuming her car, and she too was wearing a blue surgical mask.
George Brennan and Lucas Thors contributed to this report.