Painting a picture of a hopeful Island

Locals optimistic, but concerned about what summer will bring.

Circuit Ave. is blooming. – Lucas Thors

Some days, you may be hard-pressed to find an uncovered face on the Island, and that’s a good thing.

It’s a hopeful thing — especially for Islanders who struggle to conceptualize the possibility of a summer not filled with nights out with friends and family, or challenging other beachgoing groups to a game of Spikeball at Norton Point.

But another, more serious concern looms on my mind, as well as the minds of many others. We are in a public health crisis, and despite ongoing economic devastation, many locals fear for their family, neighbors, and themselves.

Walking down Circuit Avenue is a strange but reassuring sight. Everyone in view is wearing purple nitrile gloves and surgical masks; sometimes a walker with a patterned cloth mask will pass by.

I’ve noticed that even if you pass by someone with a mask on, you can still tell they’re smiling.

Down at Post Office Square in Oak Bluffs, Rita Barse rested next to her husband for a moment at a bench to soak up some sun.

Barse said the couple had just moved to Oak Bluffs in March from Connecticut, but she has had family here for many years. Her daughter is the founder and owner of the Green Room in Vineyard Haven.

She acknowledged all the work that local health officials on the Island are doing to handle the situation, and noted the optimism of the entire community. “From what I’ve seen, people are pretty positive. I think everyone is doing their best, and it’s good to see that everyone is trying to be safe,” Barse said.

When asked what she hopes for most this summer, Barse said, “Sunshine,” and smiled behind her floral mask.

Another woman, one of Barse’s neighbors, walked by and greeted the couple. The woman, who wished to be identified as Ms. M, said she was a longtime educator on-Island, and is trying to focus on the positives. “You just have to make it the best. I am doing chores and being as productive as I can at home.” She walked away and laughed, “I’ll see you back at the ranch.”

A short walk from the Post Office, Giuliana Casalino checked in to see if her friend Samantha Church was working at Driftwood, her art shop that promotes local artisans and craftspeople.

Casalino, who has lived on-Island since 2008, said she usually travels a lot for work, but is happy to be spending more time at home, and more time enjoying some of the simple, yet most joyous pleasures of life. “I’ve been meeting friends for walks, and really just spending more time outdoors,” Casalino said.

She noted how lucky folks here are to have open spaces, and urged the importance of maintaining our especially delicate natural world.

Recently, Casalino has been working on a home garden. She advocated for food security awareness, and said that starting a garden is enjoyable and also provides a healthy, consistent food supply.

“As difficult as it can be to do the simple things right now, they are so important. It makes you think about what you don’t need,” Casalino said.

When asked what she thinks might happen in the coming summer months, Casalino said she is feeling uncertain about the massive seasonal economy on Martha’s Vineyard that sustains thousands of people. But she also worries about the numbers increasing here, and what that might look like in terms of the pandemic. 

“I am already scared to go to the grocery store, and I’m really scared about an influx of people coming here,” she said. “We already get overwhelmed every summer.”

Even with these worries, Casalino said, she has been trying to connect with nature and appreciate the little things in life as much as possible.

At a trailhead off Little Pond Road near Goodale’s pit, Kris Ward walked briskly down the paved pathway with his pitbull. Ward said he traveled from Vermont to the Island last month to visit a family member who owns a house in town, and is taking as many precautions as possible.

Donning a checkered face wrap, Ward said he has been staying in a sequestered apartment of his family’s home, and not leaving that space much, except for fresh air and exercise.

“I basically have been keeping to myself and living away from anyone else for a while now. It is scary, the idea of getting sick or getting someone else sick,” he said.

As for the future, Ward said he is staying put and trying to focus on getting out on bike rides and walks with his dog, Gibson. “You have to focus on what makes you happy that doesn’t involve a whole lot of other people. Play an instrument, or pick up a hobby,” Ward said. “Take the time to do things for yourself and with yourself, because that’s pretty important to consider, even without a pandemic.”


  1. I have struggled to understand the fear people have about the virus. I didn’t understand it, back when we first found out. For me that was when Pres. Trump stopped allowing Chinese travel. Once I checked reliable sources on China, one is the Epoch Times, I realized it was important to screen entry into the Country. But to fear a virus, especially when we are seeing by the increase in positive cases recovered, which my wife & I are in that group, we should not fear it. The bigger fear should be shutting down the economy & society at large. Nursing homes should be off limits to anyone other than workers, and elderly may choose to stay home IF they have a caretaker. But otherwise, life must go on! Those masks are a waste, if it’s not an N95, no reason to wear it. Are we going to shut down again when the glue season starts again? Death is part of life for the old & sick. The rest of us should live our lives as we were in January.

    • The misguided absurdity of your statement is indicative of what the heart of the problem is that our nation faces today. People will cling to any garbage news and propaganda and the feedings of televangelists as long as it reinforces their currently held beliefs no matter how cursory.

      These are the facts: The coronavirus has killed 279,565 people worldwide in only a few months. 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 0.1% of those infected. 80,000 people in the USA have died from COVID-19 which is nearly 1/3 of the worldwide total. You should consider yourself lucky to have recovered from the virus(even though it’s doubtful you’re telling the truth about that). COVID-19 is much more contagious than the flu. A person with the flu infects an average of about 1.28 other people, but a person with novel coronavirus infects an average of about 2 to 3 other people.

      I’m glad people such as yourself are running things, because this pandemic could be a whole lot worse.

      • Correction: “I’m glad people such as yourself AREN’T running things, because this pandemic could be a whole lot worse.”

    • I’m glad to hear you survived the illness, but I think you need to be careful about equating your own experience with that of the 80,000 people who have died from it in just a little over two months. It’s important to keep in mind that meat packing workers ARE living their lives as they did in January and now at least 10,000 are infected and 45 of them have died — and most of them are just regular middle-aged people, not “old & sick”. Yes, death is a part of life — for ALL of us — but I’m not sure we should all do it at the same time and stress the system beyond capacity. I hope you will do a little more reading about what the dying process has been like for people with covid-19 AND what it has been like for the workers caring for so many people dying at a much higher daily rate than is normal. It is not a situation that can continue without consequences. Otherwise, I LIKE the idea of Glue Season! 🙂

    • epoch times? really? that has to be about the most biased source there is when it comes to china

    • Survivor, know what would help the COVID fatality rate and the economy in the long run? If those OBSESSED with flu comparisons would get over it and/or finally figure out the obvious differences between this and the flu and start supporting a cautious re-opening instead of chaos. There is no vaccine here. There is no proven medication to shorten duration and severity. This virus is more transmissible. Has more complications. Hospitalizes a broader spectrum of people, making it hard to separate the public according to risk factors. Is new and unpredictable. And it is easily transmitted by the asymptomatic. But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln…

    • Taking caution to avoid spreading and contracting a potentially deadly virus that is many times more deadly than the flu is not “fear”, it is common sense. Shocking that you are willing to sacrifice the “old and the sick”, asking them to embrace death as a natural outcome of the virus, just so you can go on living as you were before. Also, your self-serving anecdote of a problem-free recovery from Covid19 is not evidence of anything, including the risks. We are happy you survived, but simply because you claim to have been spared the worst outcome doesn’t provide any credible prediction for the rest of us. There are plenty of people out there who claim survive the most horrific ordeals, but that doesn’t mean the ordeals aren’t real and we should just throw caution to the wind.

    • So many false statements “Those masks are a waste, if it’s not an N95, no reason to wear it.’ wrong, masks are not a waste they protect the people around you which if you want to participate in the civic nature of our society we try to help and look out for one another. There is no I in team boy we are all in this together.

      • Actually, mostly wrong. The N 95 protects the wearer by filtering inhalation; exhalation is directed downwards from the check valve unfiltered affording only minimal protection to those nearby.

      • Hanley, “thought police” is a useless statement. People responded in a comments section. The horror. Besides. Better thought police than life police. Some want to tell us “What’s everyone upset about? Just a bunch of old and sick people, let ’em die”. Which infringes more? Which is more dismissive? My question is whether Survivor would’ve sought medical treatment if he or his wife had been unable to breathe. I’m betting that of course they would. Which would kinda undercut the point about how death is natural. The “thin the herd” crowd doesn’t apply that standard to their own lives.

        And to answer your original question, Survivor, I’m personally not afraid of the virus itself. Concerned for everyone, yes. Cautious, yes. But the only thing that has scared me since the beginning of this is people. That some would refuse to accept facts or act quickly enough, causing unnecessary harm.

        • “Thought police” squarely and accurately describes posters here who ridicule and marginalize others even suggesting they should have no right to post here. If the shoe fits, wear it.

    • covid– nice that you survived.
      Have you noticed 80,000 Americans did not ? Ridiculous comment.

    • Epoch Times is the very epitome of fake news. About as fake as your claim to be a Covid Survivor. It’s obvious you are just trolling, most likely to line your own pockets. I wish the Times wouldn’t print dangerously misleading comments such as this.

  2. Locals optimistic but concerned about what summer will bring. You bet I’m concerned, today hiking I passed several groups out walking one group eight people one mask worn by one person the rest all adults no masks and a unleashed dog who tried to come right up on me until I dissuaded it. Clueless self intitaled fools who have decided to visit here and not show others in this community any respect as basic as respect for our lifes.

    • Did they were t-shirts that said they were just visiting or did they just not look like they belonged? Maybe they told you as you engaged in friendly conversation.

  3. Dear COVID-19 Survivor,
    Would you feel differently if your wife died as so many have or if you had passed the virus to your children and they suffered a painful experience? I only ask you to exercise some degree of kindness in this life. You appear to possess some intelligence, so do not blame anyone for your callousness. I wish you the same peace you show others.

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