Uncomfortable with M.V. testing site


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?

Anne Fuller
Oak Bluffs


    • I guess if it’s a gift horse, one might be tempted, but in this case, no way. To Ms Fuller, there’s a lot one can do to fight racism (which is what this privilege is about) by doing even simple things, like not letting anyone here in this special, privileged place, get away with their racist remarks, no matter how “politely” they present themselves or how they hide behind their religion. Also, a lot of the front line essential workers who are getting tested are not all privileged and certainly not all white and rich, or even well off. Cashiers, stocking clerks, postal workers, and delivery drivers who have been here for us for months, are an example.

  1. Last I checked, Dukes County was either the poorest of the second poorest county in the State. It has a lot of undocumented people who are probably not included in the “90% white” statistic, so I find that statistic irrelevant. Many of the lower income Vineyarders live in very tight quarters, with very little or no access to the recent governmental pandemic assistance, and have no healthcare insurance. Low income Vineyarders need to work to eat. Yet, nobody, rich or poor, wants to have Covid 19. Put this all together and free testing on this island seems very appropriate to me. Surely there are other regions of the state that should have such access to testing as well, but I don’t think that changes the appropriateness of widespread testing here.

  2. Sadly, this confirms that in this day and age, there’s nothing that someone can’t find a reason to get bent out of shape about. No good news or good deed is safe from hand-wringing, finger-wagging, and the grumble of malcontents.

  3. So….I’ve been struggling with this one. It was not a gift. Quest is getting insurance reimbursement in many cases, and that reimbursement has to be above the cost. And MV Savings Bank is covering other costs. So how is this a gift if Quest is most likely making money on the effort? Is it because we got them before other communities?

    • When you get something for free, it’s a gift. Someone pays for that gift, but it’s not you. For example, your birthday gifts don’t fall from the heavens. Someone buys them and pays for them. Even if someone stole something to give you as a gift, the rightful owner pays the price. I guess this testing is a gift horse, after all.

  4. “On behalf of the bank’s employees and the bank’s foundation, Martha’s Vineyard Bank president and CEO James Anthony said $100,000 of support will be given to the testing project to make sure all Islanders can be tested “regardless of their ability to pay,” he said.” (MV Times, May 15, 2020.) I have not yet read that these tests are a donation or a gift. That they are made available, if not a gift, is certainly cause for approbation. As Barney noted above, this is an offering – and a generous one at that. MVH, at the outset of the pandemic, would frequently use the term, “presumed positive” because the tests simply were not available. Tremendous, crushing, financial sacrifice by all who live here, the burdens born by those who are least able to shoulder them, have helped keep the numbers lower. The behavior of all, including those who are not wealthy, including those overwhelmed by incurring unavoidable debt for the safety of all, whose children and families are still going without, can be seen as a prophylaxis that has kept many from suffering and death. I work in health care, directly, as some have called, “on the front lines.” For anyone willing to put a shoulder to the wheel, I am grateful.

  5. We should all be grateful, those who have insurance that will pay for the test, and those who will have the test paid for by a generous offer of others, should be very thankful to have them available. Thank you Quest for making the tests available to our Island and Island people.

  6. I’m with Granny . . . Quest could do the right thing and donate the same number of tests to the four communities Anne mentions above.

  7. Anne– yes, money buys a lot of things–better schools, better health care, better roads.
    We live in an unequal inequitable capitalistic society. Some of us have been calling for change for decades to no avail. You have a good point, but the reality is that some communities are more equal than others (to paraphrase George Orwell’s line from the book Animal farm.) We should continue to demand better.
    I have to say though, I get really tired of people telling us that Dukes county is “poor” . Note my comment and link to Akyburg. I am sure I have had to correct that piece of misinformation a dozen times on this site.

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