Vineyard to get up to 15,000 COVID tests

Michael Donaroma says Quest Diagnostics CEO and spouse chose to help the Island.

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Michael Donaroma helped arrange to have thousand of COVID-19 tests brought to Martha's Vineyard. –MVT File photo

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.

24 COMMENTS

  1. At the beginning of the week, articles about antibody testing began appearing online. I chatted with a customer service rep from Quest who said I’d have to go to their lab in Falmouth to get my blood drawn. I suggested that she communicate to management that the cost would be prohibitive and suggested the blood could be drawn by a visiting nurse whose samples of bodily fluids leave the Island in a cooler at the end of every day by ferry and are picked up by the Falmouth lab in Woods Hole. Obviously the right person got the message.

  2. When you have no competent leadership at the top, and when that fake leader pronounces that more tests mean more cases ( and we don’t want more cases, so best not to know), we must rely on the kindness os strangers. Thank you, Stephen Rusckowski!

    • Jackie I feel sad for you. You’ve taken a good gesture and tried to make it into something else.

      • This is far more than a good gesture. It is an amazing, life-saving act of generosity and of working together on a local level. Don’t feel sad for me because I recognize how the federal government has failed us all in this very regard. Feel sad for the victims of community spread who will die from this virus after being infected by asymptomatic people. If you fail to remember that our President says that testing is “overrated”, you fail to understand the life-saving importance of the generosity and kindness of this gift.

        • Jackie take your head out of the fake news clouds. No amount of testing will be good enough for the likes of you. Those tests are available because of President Trumps promoted funding for the creation of them. Also before he created the Task force there were 85,000 tests,now there are over 10million and climbing
          The federal government has approved millions for the researchers to make these tests. Now stop you rediiculius
          Liberal, divisive ranting. The government hasn’t failed just ask Cuomo.

          • Sorry to burst your bubble, Crayon, but #Obamagate isn’t real, either. Most Americans, Republicans and Democrats and Independents, understand Trump’s chaotic, dishonest, and ignorant handling of this pandemic has been abysmal. He is responsible for the needless deaths of tens of thousands of Americans because he sat on his hands and dismissed the seriousness of the virus for nearly 3 months, giving the virus the chance to spread exponentially. Do you want to listen to experts in their fields or do you want to listen to someone who wonders if injecting disinfectants is a good idea? Cuomo is tactful because he understands his obligations are to his state, not to himself. Cuomo represents what a leader should be. Trump is the antithesis of leadership. Others have stepped up and stepped in to act intelligently and effectively, with little regard for any of the latest nonsense Trump spews.

      • Brian,

        Indeed.

        Jackie also stated: “.. we must rely on the kindness os strangers.”

        I wish she would speak for herself instead of saying, “we“, all the time. Geez.

        Stephen and Debbie may be strangers to her!

        :-^

  3. Good news is good news, I do wish we had available antibody testing I believe the article is reffering to a nose swab test which checks for presence of covid-19 virus at the time of testing. It will not detect if you already had the virus and have stopped shedding virus. This type of test is best given to sub groups, first and foremost those that are currently suffering symptoms of infection and those they have cohabitation, for individuals not displaying symptoms there are groups that should be widely tested on an going basis. Workers that work with the elderly in their homes in outreach or at Windemere, emergency responders, health care workers at hospital and all the health care clinics, food distribution workers, restaurant workers, postal workers, home delivery workers and I am sure I am leaving some group out. Testing is a tool which when used properly with expressed purpose is invaluable in helping to keep the speed of the spread of infection in check. As I said good news is good news.

  4. A godsend! Thank you Stephen, Debbie And Michael. Thank you, thank you. I trust all goes well.

    • barr_sunshine, I am glad that this testing capability is comming here, it will help employers of restaurants and bars to have their workers tested so that the summer crowd can be made to feel safe, (or staff are 100% tested) come spend your money without dread. There is politics in all motives some which we can benefit from, but a God Send, no.

  5. “When you test, you have a case. When you test you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”
    — President Donald Trump

    • Exactly what will you do differently on a daily basis with a negative result? Think you are invincible? Think you are safe? I would contend that a negative on that one time point tells you only that you were negative at that time point. Not that you won’t be exposed and contract Covid 10 minutes later. Testing is great but it should not lead to everyone dramatically thinking you can flip the switch back to full freedom. It just doesn’t work that way. Get tested! Know you were negative at the time of test and continue with social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. Please, please!!!!! The pandemic doesn’t stop because 1500 got tested.

  6. rspcbfan, do you have symptoms if not are you working with the public such as emergency response, health care, food distribution if no to all of these there is no sense getting tested it will only show if you are sick at that point. the tests we need are antibody testing, look it up and do some reading. and these tests are not free, the government and insurance will be paying which means us

    • Check out the gazette. They are free, first responders are first, then frontline workers , then the old people. Im one of the old people. 🙂

      • I did again, it says no copay your insurance will pay , and donations will pay for those without insurance , I pay for my insurance that means I pay, you on medicad, or medicare I still pay, maybe if you read the article you would understand what your talking about

  7. barr_sunshine, I am glad that this testing capability is comming here, it will help employers of restaurants and bars to have their workers tested so that the summer crowd can be made to feel safe, (or staff are 100% tested) come spend your money without dread. There is politics in all motives some which we can benefit from, but a God Send, no.

  8. just for the record , in March trump said that a vaccine was very close . The scientist said it was 12 to 18 months away.
    Now trump says he( and he alone) has come up with the ‘warp drive” program to accelerate the development of a vaccine, and it will take “years” off the effort to develop a vaccine.
    let me be clear– he said we could have one “soon” the scientist said 12- 18 months–
    Now he says he will develop this, and it will be “years ” sooner.
    I think i know a little about a calendar– It might be a tough sell, but shaving “years” off of an effort that the real scientist say will take 18 months and trump says is “very close” might even make the trump supporters take notice.. Alt facts, i guess–
    And of course, to his supporters,trump is a hero, because those 15 cases that would all go away in April only turned into a few hundred thousand dead Americans, and a trashed economy.. It would have been so much worse if trump hadn’t ignored all the warnings, hadn’t disbanded the pandemic task force, burned the existing pandemic response playbook fired leading infectious disease experts embedded in the Chinese cdc, cut funding for every major organization looking for solutions to this, and undercut the confidence of American citizens in the advice of our leading medical experts.
    Yup, we’re # 1

    • “A few hundred thousand” – DonCubed usually your arguments are a bit more factual than this. Orange man bad living rent free in both yours & Jackie’s head has caused you to skew your numbers up just a wee bit.

      • You’re right, Brain, Don misspoke on the number of USA deaths. He made a mistake. We have, at latest count, 1.5 million cases, and we are ONLY up to 90,000 dead human bodies. Did you want to say thank you to the nice people for the tests we’re able to get? Or maybe you’d like to tell us what a fine job Trump has done and we don’t need no stinkin’ tests? Better yet, do tell how you can support a president, who thinks out loud and on camera, that ingesting or injecting disinfectant could be a good way to kill the virus. Or is having Don and me live inside your mind all you care about as far as discussion goes? What’s worse to you: seeing an error in a comment in the MV Times, or seeing a dangerous, lethal suggestion come out of the mouth of the president?

  9. Thanks Teehump. I still consider these tests a godsend; a very helpful or valuable event.

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