A Vineyard contractor called out Patriot Party boats, operator of the ferry Quickwater, on Facebook for lax pandemic precautions that may have infected one of his employees. Jeff Melanson alleged in a post that one of his employees contracted COVID-19 from his commute on the ferry.
“They put masks on and social distance as much as they can on such a small boat,” he wrote. “They informed me when they board the boat everyone has their masks on, but when they get down below they remove them, and the boat crew says nothing. So my guys get up and stand outside to be safe. This went on all week till Thursday. Friday morning I got the call that he was sick which were the same symptoms of the virus. I told him to get tested and not to come in to work. I went down to the boat Friday morning to tell the boat what happened, and of course didn’t have a care in the world. My worker got tested Friday, heard last night he was positive. So now my whole family is quarantined and getting tested today, and my other worker and his family.”
Melanson said his company is now shut down for an undetermined amount of time, just after he was able to restart it following work restrictions.
Jim Tiertje, owner of Patriot Party Boats, defended his company. Tiertje said he’s recently pulled services up from a low point of four trips to Oak Bluffs a day back to eight. He noted the mate on the Patriot has been vigilant on masks. “He has been asking people to wear masks if they’re not wearing them,” Tiertje said.
He said he was at a loss as to how Melanson is sure a person’s infection started on his boat. “That’s his conjecture,” Tiertje said. “I don’t know how he can prove it.” Tiertje said he spoke with Oak Bluffs health agent Meegan Lancaster. “She herself said it’s impossible to say where a person got coronavirus,” he said.
Lancaster could not be immediately reached for confirmation.
Tiertje said his crews regularly wipe down controls, knobs, handles, and handrails on the boat.
He said he’s appreciative of help offers he’s received from SeaStreak and J.B. Blau. SeaStreak owner Jim Barker offered to carry his service, if need be, should his crews get ill, he said. Blau offered to connect him with the disinfection company he uses for his restaurants.
In a message to The Times, Melanson said he’s getting tested for COVID-19.
Tiertje said while he remains skeptical, he wasn’t above an olive branch. “We’re really sorry someone might have caught it on the boat,” he said.