Baker announces reopening for low-risk communities

Low-risk communities like Vineyard can open indoor recreation.

Updated Sep. 30

Beginning Monday, Oct. 5, low-risk communities — which include the six Island towns — can transition to step two of phase three of the state’s reopening plan.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker said lower-risk communities are the gray, green, and yellow towns on the state’s weekly COVID-19 risk map. Step two of phase three allows for performance venues, retail dressing rooms, skating rinks, and other indoor recreation to open. Lower-risk communities will also be allowed to increase capacity limits for gyms and museums to 50 percent.

Baker also announced new orders for gatherings. The indoor gathering limit for low-risk communities remains at 25, but the outdoor limit increases to 100 people.

Higher-risk, or red, communities, including Nantucket, are not permitted to move forward with the state’s reopening process.

Despite Baker’s relaxing of state regulations, some Island institutions are keeping their doors shut.

Mike Sawyer of the Barn Bowl & Bistro said the No. 1 priority for his business was the health and safety of his employees and guests. The Barn is offering outdoor dining and takeout, but not bowling. “We’re really conflicted on whether to open inside or not, because there’s no vaccine,” Sawyer said. “We’re not going to make any decisions until the outside dining kind of disappears, and it gets too cold for that.”

The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse is also not opening its doors, but will continue with its virtual programming. “The thing that we pride ourselves on the most, which is a small, intimate theater, is the exact kind of thing that’s going to keep us closed longer than anybody, probably,” Playhouse artistic and executive director MJ Bruder Munafo said. “The playhouse isn’t planning to return to in-person programming anytime soon.”

Baker also acknowledged that the Department of Public Health has reported a slight increase in new positive cases. He said the biggest increase in cases is through informal gatherings across the state.

Overall, the state has seen a positive trend in attempts to contain COVID-19. The seven-day average percent of positive COVID tests is below 1 percent for 35 days in a row, according to Baker.

Meanwhile, TestMV, which is located at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, reported a new confirmed case Tuesday, bringing its total number of confirmed cases to 28. The new case reported is a man in his 30s.

The asymptomatic testing site has tested 15,087 individuals with 28 positives, 14,715 negatives, and 344 pending results.

As of Wednesday, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital reports 46 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the hospital began testing in March. In total, the hospital has tested 5,044 individuals, with 4,963 negative results and 35 pending results. The town of Aquinnah has tested 283 individuals. All of those tests have been negative.

The Martha’s Vineyard boards of health have confirmed another case, bringing the Island’s total number of confirmed cases since March to 75.

Of the Island’s 75 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 71 are no longer symptomatic and have been released from isolation. One case was lost to a follow-up check-in and three are being monitored.

Through contact tracing, the cases of 27 individuals, or 35 percent of the Vineyard’s cases, have been linked to another individual.

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 75 confirmed cases, 46 are female and 29 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, 14 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.

Nantucket Cottage Hospital (NCH) has reported 19 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday, according to a statement from the hospital issued Monday.

Nantucket officials have linked a cluster of the 19 cases to a church gathering, according to the statement. The church was not identified.

These new positive tests have increased Nantucket’s seven-day positive rate to 4.3 percent. The patients were all tested at the hospital’s drive-through testing site.

Nantucket has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. As of Wednesday, NCH has tested 9,068 patients, with 126 positive cases. There have been 62 confirmed cases on Nantucket in the past 17 days. By comparison, the Vineyard has seen 75 confirmed cases since it began testing in March.

Nantucket‘s year-round population is approximately 11,400, according to the U.S. Census, compared with Martha’s Vineyard’s year-round population of 17,300.

The NCH statement urged people to avoid large gatherings and to wear masks when out in public. “Nantucket remains classified by the state of Massachusetts as a high-risk (red) community for COVID-19 transmission, based on the average daily cases per 100,000 residents. To bring this current surge in new cases of COVID-19 under control, we will need the entire Island to work together to keep cases down,” the statement reads.


Updated with information and local reactions — Ed.