Hospital urges patients to not delay care

Baker relaxes restaurant seating requirements.

Martha's Vineyard Hospital says a hospitalized patient has been released. — Kyra Steck

The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is urging people to not delay their medical care, and to receive flu shots ahead of the fall and winter seasons.

The hospital has tested 4,850 patients since it began testing in March. Of those, 46 have tested positive, 4,717 have tested negative, and 87 are pending results.

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici stressed the importance of patients seeking their regular medical care and not allowing their conditions to worsen.

“We are continuing to see patients in our emergency room because they’ve delayed their care,” Schepici said. This results in increased transfers off-Island. “It’s when care is delayed that we see the greatest challenges, and they have to ship you off-Island.”

While there has not been a drastic increase in these types of cases, Schepici said things that could normally be treated at the hospital can’t be because the patient waited and their condition worsened.

The hospital is also encouraging people to get their flu shots, as flu season is around the corner. This week the hospital is offering employees and hospital patients flu shots. Schepici is in talks with boards of health spokeswoman and Tisbury health agent Maura Valley to make flu shots available for the public, but it all depends on the number of doses the hospital has available.

While logistics for flu shots are still being figured out, Schepici said no one would be turned away if they want a flu shot and don’t have insurance. “We want to get everyone vaccinated, as many as we can,” Schepici said.

Flu shots can be scheduled by calling 508-684-4500 for adult care or 508-693-3732 for pediatrics.

Schepici has been in talks with Nantucket Cottage Hospital CEO Gary Shaw about the recent surge in cases on Nantucket. She applauded the Island for sticking to the guidelines, but warned that it “only takes one” case to cause a rapid spread.

“What happened on Nantucket is exactly what we feared could happen here, where people would let their guard down and asymptomatically spread this thing,” Schepici said. “That’s what happened with a public gathering. People weren’t wearing masks, and it spread like wildfire.” Schepici stressed the importance of wearing masks and hand washing.

“We’re not over the hump yet,” she said. “We all look forward to a vaccine and whenever that might be available, but in the meantime, we better take care of each other, take care of our community, and just keep people safe by following these simple rules.”

In a piece of good news, Schepici gave a special shoutout to Paige Regal, a young girl who donated $45 — 50 percent of her profits — from her lemonade, cookie, and dog treat stand to the hospital.

On Wednesday, Island boards of selectmen and boards of health, along with the hospital and Island Health Care, released a letter of thanks to the community.

“This has been a very challenging time for all of us; you have done an amazing job following the state and local guidelines that have left us in the excellent position we are in now. Our infection rates are some of the lowest in the state thanks to you,” the letter says in part. “But the work isn’t done.  As we have seen this past week on Nantucket, a relaxation of vigilance, especially by those in the trades, has caused the infection rate to spike. Nantucket, which once had the lowest rates in the state, now has community spread, which on a small Island like ours can lead to catastrophic results. We do not want to go back to earlier lockdowns, including the construction ban. We want to stay open for business and keep everyone working. We urge you all to maintain your high standards, follow the guidelines, stay safe, wash your hands, and wear your mask. We will get through this.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday morning that restaurants can expand their seating from six to 10 people per table, and use bar seating, beginning Monday, Sept. 28.

“While bars remain closed in Massachusetts, restaurants with bar seating may now use those spaces for food service with the right distance measures in place,” Baker said while speaking at Mill City BBQ in Lowell.

Tables, both indoors and outdoors, must be placed at least six feet apart, unless separated by protective barriers. The state is still encouraging restaurants to operate outdoor seating as much as possible.

TestMV reported one new case of COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases tested at the asymptomatic testing site to 27.

TestMV, which is located at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, has tested 14,325 individuals with 27 positives, 13,922 negatives, and 376 pending results.

The town of Aquinnah has tested 283 individuals. All of those tests have been reported negative.

The Martha’s Vineyard boards of health have confirmed another case, bringing the Island’s total number of confirmed cases since March to 74.

Through contact tracing, the cases of 25 individuals, or 34 percent of the Vineyard’s cases, have been linked to another individual. Only three of the cases are still being monitored by public health officials. All of the other cases are no longer symptomatic, and the patients have been released from isolation.

Due to the hospital, boards of health, and the town of Aquinnah all reporting their own data at different times of day, and due to some people being tested at multiple sites, exact numbers can be difficult to calculate.

Of the 74 confirmed cases, 46 are female and 28 are male. Of those, 17 of the cases are 50-59 years old, 16 are 20-29 years old, 11 cases are 60-69 years old, 13 are 30-39 years old, nine are 20 years old or younger, four are 40-49, and four are 70 years or older.

The boards of health are also reporting on probable cases. The Island’s total number of presumed positives is 24. Of those, 21 were positive antibody tests, and three were symptomatically positive.

Of the probable cases, 14 are female and 10 are male. Of the 24 presumed positive cases, seven are aged 60-69, five are aged 50-59, three are aged 40-49, five are aged 20-29, two are under 20 years old, and two are over the age of 70.

At the state level Tuesday, there were 143 newly reported cases, bringing the state’s total to 125,866. The state also continues to see COVID-19-related deaths. On Tuesday, 11 new deaths brought the total number to 9,118.