Tisbury goes into COVID ‘red zone’

30 of the Island’s 54 new cases linked to one town. Eight new cases Friday.


Updated 4:50 pm

The recent spike in cases on Martha’s Vineyard is centered in Tisbury pushing the town into the red — meaning highest risk — in the state’s town-by-town data collected by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The town has accounted for 30 cases over the past 14 days, according to the data. Based on a population of 100,000, that would translate into 51.3 cases. The positivity rate is at 4.04%, which is above the overall positivity rate statewide of 2.90%.

It’s a sea change for the Island, which only saw 29 cases in the first 3½ months of testing.

Tisbury joins 30 other communities on the list at higher risk for community spread. Edgartown is in the yellow with 16 new cases, and Oak Bluffs had six new cases. West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah remain unchanged in the data.

Earlier this week, Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said the Island is in the midst of community spread. She and other health agents have said the current spike can be attributed to complacency or “COVID fatigue,” as well as some Island contractors and tradespeople not following the protocols set forth to wear masks.

Valley explained that through communication with the individuals they track down residential addresses, rather than postal addresses which could skew the numbers of Martha’s Vineyard.

Two clusters have been reported on the Island — one tied to Cronig’s Market where 14 employees, including owner Steve Bernier, and four relatives are tied to that cluster, and a wedding in October where 10 Island cases originated.

Cases have been linked to the closing of The Ritz in Oak Bluffs, the temporary closure of Tony’s Market recently, and several cases in the schools. Edgartown School delayed its return to in-person instruction by a week as a result of a recent case there.

At least one of the cases on the Island is a crew member at The Ritz in Oak Bluffs. 

“One of our crew has tested positive for COVID-19,” a message from the restaurant states. “Out of an abundance of caution we are having the rest of our gang tested, and we are sanitizing the store front to back. Stay healthy, take good care of yourselves and our community.”

According to the message, The Ritz and Dilly’s Taqueria will be closed until Tuesday, Nov. 17.

On Friday, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital reported 4 new cases and TestMV reported four new cases, bringing the Island’s total number of cases since Monday to 62.

Over the past week, the Island has reported 20 new cases on Monday, four on Tuesday, and 19 on Wednesday, and 11 on Thursday. The 62 new cases is the highest case total the Island has seen in a week.

Vineyard Medical Center was closed Friday. Owner Michael Loberg said the practice has transitioned to telehealth until an assessment can be made about the “needs of our patients and the safety of our staff.” On the Vineyard, he said, “it seems as if things are changing rapidly,” he said. He described the transition as no different than what was done in the spring. Earlier, a Times employee was called by the office and told her appointment on Tuesday was canceled. The office cited the spike in COVID-19 cases as the reason. Loberg said appointments already scheduled will be rescheduled via telehealth. 

The past several weeks have been the worst the Island has seen since the pandemic began. This week’s 62 cases alone make up 33 percent of the 183 total cases the Island has reported since the pandemic began. 

Of the Island’s 183 total cases, 55 are still being followed by public health officials. Those 55 cases are all cases reported in the month of November. Of all the cases public health officials have linked 71 or 39 percent to another case on the Island — including one group of 19 individuals.

In total the hospital has tested 6,965 individuals since testing began in March. Of those 124 have tested positive, 6,813 have tested negative, and 30 are pending results.

As of Thursday, TestMV has now tested 20,332  individuals since it began testing in May. Of those, 61 have tested positive, 19,549 negative, and 722 pending results. 

TestMV, which is only open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday tested 402 individuals on Tuesday. On Friday, officials at TestMV said there were 450 scheduled tests, the most tests the site has seen since the site opened. Friday is also expected to pass 20,000 total tests conducted at the site since testing began in May.

The town of Aquinnah is also conducting its own testing. Aquinnah has tested 316 individuals with zero positives, 312 negatives, and four pending results.

The surge in cases is happening statewide. On Friday, the Department of Public Health reported 2,674 positive cases. The state continues to see new deaths, as well, with 23 reported Friday for a total of 10,038.

On Friday a stern and at times lecturing Gov. Charlie Baker implored everyone in Massachusetts to get on board with the safety protocols of wearing masks. “People need to change their behavior and get serious about who they spend time with, how they act, and why Massachusetts is at risk — primarily because of the things people do when they put down their guard. And this isn’t a guess or a warning, there’s a growing base of evidence across the country that a big part of what’s been driving the increase in cases and hospitalizations is in many respects what I would call the individual acts of many people engaged in familiar activity on a casual basis with people their familiar with.”

One week ago, Baker’s new mask-policy went into effect as did the 10 pm curfew. With the growing number of cases in the state, Baker said people have to be vigilant about mask use even among their extended families and close friends.

“If you’re not around members of your immediate family and I mean immediate family, you should wear a mask — indoors and outdoors,” Baker said. “I know that sounds aggressive but the simple truth is this expansion of people’s social circles and this desire to get back to something like normal is a big part of what’s driving case growth and ultimately hospitalizations.”

The governor made no drastic announcements, but once again warned about the possibility of Thanksgiving driving up cases. He pointed out what happened in Canada, which celebrates Thanksgiving in October. “Two weeks later,” he said making the sound effect of loading a gun and shooting, “their numbers spiked for exactly the same reason.”

Baker also addressed so-called COVID-fatigue. “I know people are tired of dealing with COVID… and the vast majority of people in Massachusetts, the vast majority of time, are doing the right things and it has made a difference.”