Two older couples sat in a booth on the Island Home. They had masks and face coverings nearby, but not one of them was wearing a mask as a Steamship Authority employee passed by. He said nothing to them.
But should he have to say something? There are signs. There are announcements. At this point, it’s just plain common sense and decency to wear a mask, and as of Friday, it will be mandatory via an order of Gov. Charlie Baker.
Based on their conversation, which could be easily overheard because their voices weren’t muffled by face coverings, it became clear they were visiting Martha’s Vineyard for the day — some shopping, lunch, and sightseeing.
We certainly welcome and encourage visitors to the Island. It’s the lifeblood of our businesses, and the shoulder season is typically the cherry on top of the summer sundae. This year, it was a very small sundae, and the cherry is being threatened by an uptick in COVID-19 cases on the Island — many of them tied to a wedding held over the long weekend in October.
That event is disappointing on so many levels, because Islanders and many of our visitors have worked really hard to keep the spread of the coronavirus to a minimum. Businesses were locked down in the spring, restaurants only did curbside pickup and takeout for months until the weather warmed and they could entertain outdoor dining, and some businesses never opened because they couldn’t do so safely.
Meanwhile, the community rallied around the idea of wearing masks and making sacrifices for the greater good. So for groups of people — the wedding, the visitors on the ferry — to come in and pull this kind of selfish stunt is discouraging and demoralizing.
We hope that it’s a reminder, as it gets colder and we move indoors, that people remain vigilant. Despite what the president has said in recent days about “rounding the corner,” we are very much in the thick of this pandemic, and it has the feel of what things were like in late March and April. We all have to do our part until there is a safe vaccine.
It’s a good time to reflect on why the Island has been fortunate for so long. Strong leadership from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Island Health Care, and the Island boards of health. And a tremendous volunteer effort — something we’ve come to expect, but don’t take for granted on the Island — has also been at play.
The Corona Stompers, a band of merry sewing enthusiasts led by Amy Upton, made and distributed hundreds of cloth face masks. And 3D printer enthusiasts used their skills to make plastic face shields.
They weren’t alone. As we reported last week, it was a volunteer effort that led to the successful Masquerade campaign in Oak Bluffs. Amelie Loyot, a seasonal resident of the town, worked with Christine Todd and Jeremy Driesen to — in Loyot’s words — ”flip the script” on mask wearing. Together they created a vibrant campaign that heralds mask wearers as superheroes.
We’re going to have to do Thanksgiving differently, and probably Christmas, too.
We’re all tired of this, but we have to stick to the CDC script — use good hygiene, social distance whenever possible, and wear a mask. Listen to the science, not the fiction.
We’ll get through this — together.