COVID cases continue to climb

Hospital CEO warns of ‘COVID fatigue.’

Harbor Homes will use the Edgartown Old Whaling Church as an overnight and warming shelter.

Updated 5:10 pm

The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital reported four new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday.

In total, the hospital has tested 6,486 since March. Of those, 68 have come back positive, 6,312 negative, and 107 are pending results.

During a conference call Wednesday morning, hospital CEO Denise Schepici and chief nurse and COO Claire Seguin said the hospital was reviewing its surge planning amid the rise in cases. Plans include staffing patterns, safe space for patients, and processes for screening and testing.

“This afternoon we’re going to start reviewing our plans again, and making sure that we are ready to handle it should we need more patients in the hospital,” Seguin said.

Schepici said she was concerned with the recent spike in cases on the Island, especially heading into the winter months.

She urged anyone contacted by a contact tracer to answer the call and answer questions truthfully. She added that testing is not a safety net.

“I call where we are right now a state of COVID fatigue,” Schepici said. “We know people are tired of this virus, but this is just not the time to let our guard down. We’re at a critical time.”

Schepici thanked Harbor Homes of Martha’s Vineyard for securing the Edgartown Whaling Church as a space to accommodate those without a permanent home. Now that the space has been identified, they are looking for volunteers. Those interested should contact Karen Tewhey at

The church is expected to provide enough space for those seeking shelter at night. The plan is to keep the space open 24/7, serving as a warming shelter during the day, and providing food. The space will be able to sleep 13 to 14 people every night. “This will happen because of the generosity of our Island community,” Schepici said.

Schepici said the church’s board of directors voted to approve the historic building as a shelter. 

Last month, the hospital approved a $150,000 grant to be managed by Harbor Homes for a warming and night shelter. The grant will subsidize stipends for staff, cost of renting space, and the purchasing of necessary supplies and services, such as personal protective equipment (PPE).

Schepici did not have specifics on when the shelter at the church would open, and directed questions to Tewhey, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

The hospital has been working with the Dukes County Health Council to reopen Island warming and overnight shelters. The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult to reopen shelters.

The hospital’s new cases continue an upward trend of positive cases, following an Oct. 26 report of a cluster of cases linked to a wedding.

Since the report of the wedding cluster, the Island as a whole has reported 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19. These 25 cases in the past nine days make up 22 percent of the Island’s now 113 confirmed cases. The other 79 percent of cases were reported over the course of eight months, when testing began back in March.

Also on Wednesday, TestMV reported 19,182 individuals with 18,367 negative results and 768 pending results. 

The town of Aquinnah has tested 305 individuals. Of those, 301 have tested negative, and four are pending results.

Of the 113 confirmed cases, 65 are female and 48 are male. Twenty-one of the cases are 50-59 years old, 24 are 20-29 years old, 14 cases are 60-69 years old, 23 are 30-39 years old, 14 are 20 years old or younger, 10 are 40-49, and seven 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.

The Island’s new case comes as Massachusetts has seen case totals this week that have rivaled April and May during the pandemic surge. On Tuesday, the state reported 923 new cases — totaling 157,308 cases since testing began. The seven-day average positivity rate is 1.78 percent, and there are 16,681 estimated active cases.

The state is also continuing to see COVID-related deaths, with 12 new deaths on Tuesday, totaling 10,035 since the pandemic began.

At the state level, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a slate of new orders this week, including a stay-at-home advisory from 10 pm to 5 am, with gyms, theaters, and casinos to close at 9:30 pm, and liquor stores and restaurants to stop selling alcohol and stop table service at 9:30 pm.

Baker also said that gatherings at private homes are capped at 10 people for indoor and 25 for outdoor, and that all private gatherings need to end at 9:30 pm. All the orders and the stay-at-home advisory go into effect at 12:01 am on Friday, Nov. 6.

In addition to the stay-at-home advisory, Baker issued a new face covering order requiring all people above the age of 5 to wear a face covering or mask while in public, regardless of social distancing.

“We’d really like people to be home by 10 o’clock with the people they live with,” Baker said.

Baker described the stay-at-home advisory as “reasonable, responsible, doable, and explainable,” and the goal is to stamp out private gatherings, which he blamed for the rise in COVID-19 cases. He added that a plurality of the cases have been from young people, and that private gatherings that do not comply could face civil fines from local enforcement.

“Too many of us have become complacent in our daily lives,” Baker said. He stressed the importance of not attending unregulated gatherings such as parties, watching sports with neighbors, baby showers, and big birthday parties.

“Right now we’re requesting you make real sacrifices to keep our schools open, our economy operating, and our healthcare system functioning fully and without disruption,” Baker said. “We do need to adjust how we live, and accept the responsibility that we all have every single day to fight COVID, and if we do it, we can and will stop the spread.”

Updated to include newly reported fourth case at the hospital. — Ed.