West Tisbury votes in mask signage

Selectmen punt on greater B.O.H. support after unanimous vote couldn't be reached.


Updated 7:46 pm

West Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday evening to recommend the board of health install roadside signs and affix or distribute business signs promoting mask usage. Unable to fully support a request made in absentia by health agent Omar Johnson to back a state initiative to better fund and develop local boards of health, the board tabled the subject until its next meeting, when Johnson would be present to take questions.

Mask-Up Martha and We Stand Together member Laura Silber told the board until there’s unified signage, West Tisbury should take initiative and post signs of its own. 

“What the Island has not done as a whole, as a region, is create a culture around wearing a mask,” she said. “There’s no regional effort on masking. We don’t have a … visible public health effort that’s consistent through the whole Island. So it varies from town town to town. So you see signs in Oak Bluffs, you see a roadside sign in Vineyard Haven, and you see nothing when you drive through West Tisbury.”

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell, who is CEO and founding director of Island Health Care, said the nonprofit’s chief public health nurse, Lila Fischer, is about to undertake a “mask campaign.”

“She’s hoping to have it be privately funded on a fairly large scale. I’m not sure that that funding will come through. At any rate, there will be a regional board of health project — the health agents have all agreed that these public health nurses that work for Island Health Care can begin such a campaign,” Mitchell said.

Silber said she identified the private donor Mitchell mentioned, and brought that person to Fischer’s attention. She confirmed the funding is not yet secured, and may take time, but that the need for signage is immediate. “The longer we wait, the less compliance we have,” she said. 

Silber praised Island Health Care for the COVID-19 testing signage it had throughout West Tisbury. 

Mask-Up Martha and We Stand Together member Joy Robinson Lynch praised the contact tracing Fisher has done via Island Health Care.

Robinson advocated for signage on town buildings. She mentioned the sign at Lambert’s Cove Beach was an effective example, and what she was hoping to see elsewhere.

We Stand Together member Nikoca Blake spoke in favor of mask signage. “My family in England are having a much harder time than we are now in New England, because nobody wants to be the first or the last person to be masked,” she said. “You know, I just think we need a strong, clear message.”

Mitchell said the signs seemed best covered by the board of health budget. 

Selectman Kent Healy said he would personally contribute “several hundred dollars” to creating signage. 

Selectman Skipper Manter expressed support for the board of health captaining signage in town. “I concur with the idea,” Manter said. “I think it’s a good one.”

Town administrator Jennifer Rand told the board Johnson sought endorsement of “state action … for additional support and funding for local boards of health.” 

When a vote on the subject was proposed, Healy demurred. “I’ve dealt with all the boards of health over many years, and I’m always worried about when they talk about improving things — what they mean,” he said. “Boards of health have a lot of power, and I worry sometimes that they do things they shouldn’t be doing. So I’m concerned by what they mean by improvement. I’m always in favor of improvement, but there’s different interpretations of what that means.”

Manter and Mitchell expressed support for the vote, but Manter said he wanted the vote to be unanimous. 

“Kent, would you make a motion to sign on in support?” Mitchell asked. 

“I would not,” he said. 

Manter asked Healy what could be done to gain his vote.

“Improvement is just such a broad statement,” Healy said. “I would like to know more about what they plan to do. Why do they think things need to be improved? What do they think they’re going to do?”

Rand said she believed the selectmen’s signatures on the matter were desired by Friday. 

“If Kent has questions,” Manter said, “and I respect him very much in these areas, I’d rather wait a week and get those questions answered.”

In other business, the board discussed a mask order, but took no action. 

Updated to correct what matter the board wasn’t able to vote on unanimously.




  1. The world is going through a horrible crisis, our country is leading in deaths, and we, as a small intelligent island, can’t work as one to even require masks and all health prodecures in each town? This is an embarrassment and, more importantly, against saving the lives of our own islanders. The Island needs to works as one unified group, and not divided by towns!!!

  2. I totally agree that the Vineyard’s response to Covid-19 has been hampered by the lack of coherence in public health policy and messaging. However, I’m reluctant to back a uniform mask mandate until I know what that mandate requires. At yesterday’s West Tisbury BoS meeting, the point was raised that West Tisbury and the other up-island towns don’t have the equivalent of Main Street or Circuit Ave. — a public center that’s too crowded for social distancing. (The path to Lambert’s Cove Beach was mentioned as a possible exception.) I spend a fair amount of time walking in the woods. Sometimes I don’t see anyone else, and when I do, it’s nearly always easy for us to remain well over six feet apart. I’d happily support a requirement to wear a mask in public *when social distancing can’t be maintained.* Without that qualification, I don’t think so. Not to mention — we’re not so good about enforcing leash laws in the great outdoors, and I rather doubt we’d be any more effective at getting people to wear masks.

    • Have you been to Menemsha lately? That’s an up island maskless zoo. I agree there’s no way to enforce sanity in an insane world, especially one on their vacation. I’ve been in places where I thought it would be easy to keep more than 6 feet apart. That doesn’t stop the maskless from coming up to ask for directions, where to get lunch, and can I pet your dog. What I do is tell them to put on a mask. It’s easy to keep a mask looped around your ears so that you can be prepared even when you think no one is around. Sometimes when I’m out walking and see someone who’s going to come nearer, i pull up my mask to cover my mouth and nose and they will sometimes put on their mask. But not often. Everyone should have a mask with them at all times, but as long as there are idiots who equate being considerate of others with having their freedoms taken away, we’re all sunk.

      • “It’s easy to keep a mask looped around your ears so that you can be prepared even when you think no one is around.”

        But that—taking the mask on and off—is “wearingn a mask incorrectly.”
        Every time you touch the mask you are potentially infecting it, or yourself, or something. So, the mask-looped-around-neck idea “breaks the rules,” my dear! And we would not want that!!

        • You would be correct if I had touched anything outside my house with my clean, sanitized hands, but I hadn’t. But nice try. And if I had the disease and touched everything in sight, I would still pull up my mask to help protect the friendly man. Courteous people wear masks.

  3. it’s easy to get past the thise’s and that’s of the laws– mask on at all times when social distancing applies. Are you gonna call the cops if someone gets 5 ft away from you without a mask on a land bank property? No– should the drunk idiot on the wharf in O.B who is slobbering all over them self while proclaiming their constitutional right to infect anyone be fined — Yes — Universal mask order, enforceable when necessary. It would be rare for the police to fine people– But I trust they would deserve it.

    • And who’s going to actually get enough info from the gross guy at the OB Dock to give him a ticket? How will his fine be enforced? I have zero confidence that any enforcement will be done.

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