Updated May 15
Thousands of COVID-19 tests are coming to the Vineyard, according to West Tisbury health agent Omar Johnson and Edgartown selectman Michael Donaroma. “Quest Diagnostics will be providing us with a large number of tests, and the health agents are in the process of coordinating this testing,” Johnson told the West Tisbury board of health Thursday night. “It will be held at the high school.”
Asked by board member Erik Lowe how many, Johnson said, “Up to 15,000, I’m told. We’re planning on doing testing six hours a day, six days a week.”
Lowe asked if there were any prerequisites to being tested.
“This is basically going to be testing for asymptomatic individuals,” Johnson said. “All they’ll have to do is register through Island Health Care in order to be tested. If an individual has insurance, their insurance will be billed. And if an individual does not have insurance, there will be funds to cover that testing. They will be prioritizing which individuals are tested initially, and that will focus on the first responders and individuals that work in grocery stores on the frontline.”
Details of the testing will be released during a press conference Friday afternoon.
Asked by Lowe if more tests would be coming when those are exhausted, Johnson said he didn’t know.
He added, “We’re just very pleased.” Prior to the opportunity, Johnson said, the boards of health were looking for just 30 tests to test grocery workers.
“It is my understanding that the CEO is an Edgartown resident,” Johnson said.
Edgartown selectman Michael Donaroma later confirmed in a telephone interview with The Times that Stephen Rusckowski, chairman, CEO and president of Quest Diagnostics, is a friend of his who lives in Edgartown. Donaroma said he asked Stephen and his wife Deb O’Hara-Rusckowski to provide tests to the Vineyard.
Donaroma said he tapped attorney Ron Rappaport and Island Health Care CEO Cynthia Mitchell to flesh out testing, and “it’s all blossomed from there.”
Donaroma said Gov. Charlie Baker is onboard, as is Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. “It’s really moving fast,” he said.
In a phone conversation with The Times, hospital communications director Katrina Delgadillo said hospital CEO Denise Schepici spoke with Rusckowski about the testing, and wanted to make it a collaborative effort. The hospital “has offered to help any way we can,” Delgadillo said.
Delgadillo said contact tracing is an important element to community testing. “The hope this helps give a little bit more information for the tracers to be able to track down if you’re asymptomatic and you test positive … It’s a great opportunity for our community.”
In an email to The Times, Schepici reiterated the hospital’s ability to help. “I think this is terrific for the Island. This combination of testing and contact tracing is in the right hands with our Island boards of health agents and Island Health Care, our public health officials. Martha’s Vineyard Hospital was involved in early conversations with Quest Diagnostics, and we are ready to be of any assistance as the program moves ahead,” Schepici said. “Martha’s Vineyard Hospital continues to test and treat patients who are symptomatic of COVID-19, and we remain focused on providing care to all our residents and visitors.”
A press release issued Friday morning confirmed frontline workers would receive the tests first.
“The first phase of the testing program will be targeted to essential frontline workers, first responders, municipal and commercial workers who frequently encounter the public, and vulnerable populations, such as those 65 and older,” the release states. “Test results will be available within one to two days.”
Full-time Islanders are expected to start receiving testing by the end of May, the release states. “The project, which will continue at least through Labor Day, will be centered on a widely accessible self-swab test that will be observed and collected by licensed and trained healthcare professionals,” the release states. “It will be offered by appointment only in a drive-[through] format at the Martha’s Vineyard High School.”
Island Health Care (IHC) will play a pivotal role in the testing program.
“The testing program will coincide with expanded contact tracing, overseen by IHC, to ensure those exposed to a COVID-19-positive individual follow proper protocol to self-quarantine,” the release states. “IHC will provide registration, screening, appointment scheduling, and results notification.”
“We’re proud to be working closely with Quest Diagnostics to increase access to COVID-19 testing to year-round Island residents during this health emergency,” West Tisbury selectman Cynthia Mitchell, chief executive officer of IHC, said through the release. “Our role in healthcare is to serve the uninsured and underinsured, and by working together with companies like Quest Diagnostics, we can fulfill our purpose of transforming the health of Islanders. We’re grateful to seasonal Edgartown residents Steve Rusckowski and Deb O’Hara-Rusckowski for their leadership in bringing this opportunity to life.”
Martha’s Vineyard Bank has provided $100,000 to the endeavor.
“Martha’s Vineyard Bank and the Martha’s Vineyard Bank Charitable Foundation is proud to be working collaboratively with Island Health Care, Quest Diagnostics, and the Island’s boards of health by providing $100,000 in support of Island-wide COVID-19 testing,” James Anthony, president and CEO of Martha’s Vineyard Bank and Charitable Foundation, said through the release. “As we approach summer, a time critical to the financial well-being of many Island businesses, we feel deeply that it is our responsibility to support efforts to safely and carefully reopen for business.”
Though much is still taking shape, Donoroma said he believed the tests will be dispensed in a drive-through manner at the high school, and that folks will only open their window a crack, and will perform the test themselves. He confirmed the cost of the test will be covered, and those with insurance will have their deductible covered, too.
“It really is spectacular,” he said.
Updated with more details from an official press release after breaking the detailed story Thursday night. -ed.