To the Editor:
Why is Martha’s Vineyard, where 30 or possibly 45 people have to date been confirmed with the coronavirus, a priority for coronavirus testing? Why not Chelsea, Massachusetts, where cases this week reached 2,779, the highest rate in the state? Chelsea has seen 148 COVID-19 deaths, and the Vineyard none.
Fifteen thousand coronavirus test kits have been donated by Quest Diagnostics to the Island, which has a year-round population of 17,000, and is the summer residence of Steve Rusckowski, the president and CEO of Quest, who along with Island institutions, has facilitated the program. People are grateful for the gift, nervous about the reopening and the danger of summer visitors bringing a further spread, but I’d be willing to wager I’m not the only one who feels uneasy about it.
The Vineyard is nearly 90 percent white, and has a considerable number of wealthy summer residents who help sustain our strong health and social support systems. These facts undeniably contribute to the low rate of coronavirus infections the Island has seen.
We all know that black Americans and other people of color are contracting and dying from the virus at double the rate of whites. This pattern is evident in Massachusetts, where the hotspots are poorer, often heavily immigrant communities. Chelsea, Brockton, Lawrence, Lynn: These are the towns with the worst outbreaks. Only Brockton, to my knowledge, is offering testing as widely as we now can. The governor has announced 20 new sites in what he calls the state’s “testing deserts,” but this won’t happen until July.
Should Martha’s Vineyard be accepting this generous offer, knowing that it further tips the balance in favor of a rather privileged population?