UPDATE: Three ferry workers test positive for COVID-19

SSA cancels ferry trips and alters its schedules on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.




Updated August 31 at 4:50 pm

Three Steamship Authority employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The most recent positive test for a crew member involves someone who last worked on the MV Woods Hole during a shift that ended in Hyannis at 11:30 pm Friday, according to a release. Some SSA service was already curtailed Sunday when the second positive case was announced for an employee who worked on both the Woods Hole and the MV Governor,  which was ferrying passengers between the Vineyard and Woods Hole.

On Friday, the SSA reported an employee who worked on the Nantucket route aboard the Woods Hole tested positive. The SSA took the two ferries out of service for several crossings. Later in the day, the SSA announced that the Governor would remain out of service. 

SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll declined to say if the employees that tested positive previously failed thermal scans performed daily on SSA personnel. Driscoll also declined to identify the positions of the employees. 

Monday afternoon, the SSA announced “schedule changes announced Sunday will remain in effect through at least Friday, September 4, 2020.” 

  • The MV Sankaty will run two round trips per day on the Hyannis-Nantucket route in place of the M/V Woods Hole. The third scheduled round trip, which was slated to leave Hyannis at 5:30 pm and leave Nantucket at 8 pm, is canceled.
  • As the MV Sankaty will be servicing the Nantucket route, all scheduled trips of the MV Sankaty on the Vineyard route are canceled through Friday.
  • The MV Woods Hole will continue to service the Vineyard route and run the first four (4) scheduled round trips in place of the MV Governor starting Tuesday, September 1, 2020. The last three (3) round trips of the day (leaving Woods Hole at 2:50 pm, 5:20 pm, and 7:45 pm and leaving Vineyard Haven at 4:05 pm, 6:30 pm and 8:45 pm) for that vessel are canceled. The M/V Governor will be secured in Woods Hole during this time.
  • Reservation activity has resumed for trips on August 31, 2020, and September 1, 2020. Reservation activity remains on hold for trips from September 2-8 as staff continue to assess the schedule and any changes that may need to be made.

“These changes are being made in the interest of the safety of the Authority’s crews and passengers and due to its reduced manning capabilities as it awaits testing of employees who may have had contact with the two (2) COVID-19 positive crew members,” the SSA said in a press release. “The Authority has arranged with its partners at Cape Cod Healthcare to have 23 of its employees tested for COVID-19 on Monday at a CCH facility. After those results are known, the Authority will make further determinations about the schedules for the remainder of the week. The Authority extends its thanks to Cape Cod Healthcare, as well as local public health officials, for their assistance in this matter.”

The second employee who tested positive last worked on the MV Governor on Saturday, August 29, 2020, and on the MV Woods Hole on the shift ending with the vessel’s 11:30 a.m. arrival in Hyannis on Friday, August 28, 2020.”

The two ferries will be cleaned by contractors.The cleanings will be in addition to the cleaning and sanitizing already performed by SSA crew members.

“As with Friday’s reported positive test result, this employee was unlikely to have prolonged exposure with any member of the public during the employee’s work hours due to their typical work duties,” the SSA said in a press release. “The Authority will continue to work closely with public health officials in Barnstable County to guide its efforts to share information and public health recommendations with passengers and Steamship employees who may have come into contact with the employee.”

The SSA instructs employees to stay home if they are sick, according to the release. “Employees have been instructed that, under no circumstances, should they come to work while they are sick, both for their safety as well as the safety of the crew and traveling public,” the release states. “Additionally, employees have been instructed to wear cloth face coverings, to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer. Vessel employees also undergo a health screening by a medical professional prior to each watch.”

On Friday, the SSA reported that an employee who worked aboard the Woods Hole tested positive. The last shift the employee worked on the vessel was noon Aug. 25 at Hyannis to 11:30 am Aug. 26 at the same port, according to a release. 

“The employee subsequently learned of a possible exposure to COVID-19, was tested, and learned of the results on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020,” according to that press release. “The employee then immediately informed the Authority of the results. The Authority has subsequently informed other crew members who were on that watch, as well as any other employee who may have been exposed, so those individuals may arrange for testing through their primary care physicians.

The names of the employees and have been withheld by the SSA to protect their privacy.

“Although I know the inconvenience Sunday’s trip cancelations will cause for our customers, I believe it is a necessary step to take for the general welfare of our customers and crews,” general manager Robert Davis said in the release. “Our employees have done an extraordinary job following our COVID-19 protocols thus far, for which I am grateful. However, given the proximity of these two test results and the number of crew members who have potentially been exposed, these temporary operational changes are the best way to ensure the health and safety of everyone.”

This is not the first time SSA employees have tested positive. Two SSA employees tested positive earlier this month and another one tested positive in May.