Spread cheer, not the virus


Hello Martha’s Vineyard visitors, we’ve been expecting you. We welcome you every year through our ferry terminals, our public docks, and our airport. We embrace the additional traffic at Five Corners and the Triangle. We understand that our rituals of coffee at Mocha Mott’s, lunch at Art Cliff Diner, and a burger at Dock Street Cafe will take longer now that you’re here.

We knew this year would be different. We still hoped you would come, because our business community depends upon it — particularly the hospitality industry.

We worried that you would come and unknowingly spread COVID-19 after we worked so hard to flatten the curve, and by all accounts did a phenomenal job with that.

We hoped you’d be respectful and follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to wear a mask or face covering when social distancing is not possible. For those of you from out of state, we hoped you’d do some research ahead of time and realize that in Massachusetts it’s not just “please” wear a mask, it’s an order of the governor punishable by a fine.

So that first beautiful weekend of the summer — the weekend of June 13 and 14 — was a test. And some of you failed miserably. You showed up in Oak Bluffs not wearing masks, not keeping your distance, and partying like it was 2019.

The scene was terrifying, because of what’s happened in other parts of the country — Florida and Texas, for example — where businesses opened sooner than Massachusetts. There has been a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and Apple has closed retail outlets in four states for a second time. 

We don’t want to go backward. Our businesses have been hurt enough.

As we’ve been saying all along, it only takes one asymptomatic person in a big crowd to spread this virus like wildfire. Last week, the Island Health Care testing site had its first positive test for COVID-19 — important because that site is for people not showing any symptoms of the virus.

It only takes one, and they’ve had three.

We asked Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici about the scene at Oak Bluffs harbor that weekend. “Masks and social distancing are the only way we’re going to get through this pandemic and keep the curve flat,” she said. “You would hope that people would just have some common courtesy and common sense, and not leave it over in Woods Hole when they come to visit us.”

Town leaders were disturbed by the scene, too. They met and formulated action plans such as a stronger police presence and improving signage. This week was better. One business owner we spoke to suggested that Oak Bluffs hire bouncers for the harbor area, and set up picnic tables in nearby parks so that people could easily keep their distance. That seems like a great idea to us.

Bottom line: We want you to come. We want you to buy food and drinks at our restaurants and to browse our shops and galleries. We’re happy to share the Vineyard and all its beauty. There are great hiking trails, plentiful fishing spots, and our beaches are unrivaled. It’s a place of recreation and respite, where great memories are made.

But we want you to share the Vineyard while respecting the health and safety of the workers who are waiting on you, and the Islanders who are welcoming you into their communities.