Summer on the Vineyard has arrived, and so have the seasonal visitors. On Saturday, under blue skies and warm sun, Oak Bluffs was packed with people, especially near the harbor, where restaurants and bars were already configured to accommodate outdoor dining.
The area near Nancy’s Restaurant & Snackbar looked as it normally does on a beautiful June afternoon, with long lines stretching out from Donovan’s Reef and toward the marina boardwalk. Walking along the harbor, folks were gathering near the concrete benches and forming large groups. Although a scattering of masks could be seen, normally shrouding the face of an elderly person, young people near Nancy’s and spread about the marina were largely lacking in that department. Many who did have masks on-hand wore them around their neck, or pulled down below their mouth. And the six-foot social distancing safety measures that have been strongly advised by state and local health officials when not wearing a mask seemed to be absent.
Although a number of police officers regularly drove by and inspected the scene, no foot officers could be seen in the area asking people to social distance or wear masks.
Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake was not immediately available to comment.
When the pandemic first hit the Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici warned the Island’s hospital could become overwhelmed should there be a surge in COVID-19 cases. While the hospital’s number of positive cases has been low — as of Sunday morning they remain at 28 positive cases out of 1,196 people tested — Schepici has regularly warned Islanders not to let their guard down. At Island Health Care’s new testing site, 875 people have been tested and there has yet to be a positive result as of Saturday afternoon. At the state level, positive results have been showing a downward trend. As of Saturday afternoon, the state reported 336 new confirmed cases.
Across the country, there are reports of a new surge in cases in places like Florida and Texas where businesses reopened weeks earlier than businesses in Massachusetts.
Reacting to photographs sent showing the scene in Oak Bluffs, Katrina Delgadillo, a spokesperson for the hospital wrote: “We encourage everyone to follow the governor’s guidelines to social distance and wear a mask when around others.”
The scene in Oak Bluffs, which shows people on boats tied up in Oak Bluffs and people crowded onboard, is creating a buzz on social media. On the MV Times Social Network, Bob Kimberly posted photographs of boat scenes prompting three dozen comments from alarmed Islanders. “Not going there,” Anne D. Grandin wrote. “Why are people being so careless?”
The scene on Circuit Avenue was more socially distanced, but the number of masks was still low, and people would regularly pass close by each other on the sidewalk. At Post Office Square, a large group congregated by the wooden benches, the majority of whom did not have face coverings.
In a video interview with ABC World News, physician and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, pleaded with members of the public to wear masks when out and about. “Don’t throw all caution to the wind. That doesn’t mean that you walk around without a mask, that you jump into a crowd, that you stop washing your hands, that you stop doing the things that are important,” Fauci said.
Gov. Charlie Baker voiced similar concerns at a COVID-19 press briefing Monday afternoon. “Our progress to date is encouraging, but it doesn’t mean the virus has left town. Until there’s a medical breakthrough with a treatment or a vaccine, it’s up to all of us to continue to do the things that we know can kill COVID,” Baker said. “Face coverings, hand washing, distancing, monitoring for symptoms, and getting tested when appropriate is how we fight COVID-19.”
The governor urged those who have recently participated in large gatherings to visit a local testing site to check for the virus.
Shelby Regan contributed to this report.