The owners of a West Tisbury inn where a wedding tied to a cluster of COVID-19 cases was held reacted to an article in The Times, saying they did all they could to make sure safety protocols were followed by the wedding party and guests.
As The Times reported Wednesday, a wedding featured by Vogue online — then removed from the website after questions were raised — was held the same day and in the same location where health officials say the cluster of 10 cases originated. In the weeks since, the Island has witnessed a spike in cases that dwarfs the number of cases it had in the first seven months of the pandemic. Martha’s Vineyard has seen a 128-case surge in COVID-19 that began with reports of the wedding cluster on Oct. 26. Five of the cases were reported to be workers at the wedding, who presumably went about their daily lives before realizing they were infected. The wedding was held on Oct. 11, 17 days before public health officials alerted the public to the cluster.
“We have reviewed an article in The MV Times regarding the wedding featured in Vogue magazine that we feel presents inaccurate information designed to create controversy with little regard for the confidentiality of parties involved,” a statement from Lambert’s Cove Inn owners John and Keya Cain states. “We strongly dispute any insinuation that the recent spike of COVID cases on the Island began with the wedding held at Lambert’s Cove Inn; there had been many individual COVID cases on-Island before anyone associated with the wedding tested positive, and several larger, independent clusters reported since. All who tested positive immediately quarantined and cooperated with contact tracers, and all have since made a full recovery. The inn closed for the season shortly after the wedding, which limited exposure. With the significant contact tracing efforts underway on-Island, we are confident that anyone who was exposed was contacted by an individual testing positive or the board of health.”
A West Tisbury resident raised issues with contact tracing with The Times, saying emails about possible exposure to the Tisbury health department went unanswered for days. When there was a response, the employee asked whom the West Tisbury resident represented, before confirming the cluster of cases at Lambert’s Cove Inn.
“Lambert’s Cove Inn has worked hard to balance public safety and privacy concerns; we did not provide more information to The MV Times because of the accusatory manner in which we were approached,” the Cains wrote in their statement.
The email sent to the Cains from a Times reporter stated, “I’m writing a story about the cluster of COVID-19 cases linked to a wedding at your inn over the long weekend in October. Could you provide me with a contact for a manager or owner to provide the inn’s side of the story?”
The Cains issued a statement after receiving that email, then attempted to rescind it after Vogue pulled its feature on the wedding from its website. The Vogue story never mentioned the cluster of cases, and painted an upbeat picture of the event.
“The MV Times has criticized chairs at tables being inches apart; there is no guidance requiring such chairs to be distanced, and all tables were the required six feet apart, with no more than 10 to a table. Nearly half of the 68 photos in the Vogue article were taken off-property, and the statement made about groomsmen gathering from different parts of the country ignores that they were sharing living quarters prior to the wedding,” the Cains wrote. “We believe that individuals who were photographed not social distancing in photos were part of the same household. Furthermore, as a venue, we advise out-of-state guests to quarantine or take COVID tests, but we have no means to verify this that would not violate HIPAA requirements.
“We are disturbed by reports that the location for the cluster event was disclosed in error and then reported in the press. We believe transparency is important for those impacted by COVID-19, but we also feel that efforts to blame and shame undermine a public health crisis that must be dealt with empathy and tact. We are disappointed that The MV Times chose to foment the discord and fear that exist currently on the Island. We care deeply about our staff, our guests, the Island community, and all those who have taken on tremendous risk to maintain their livelihood in these difficult times.”
Other Island businesses have routinely alerted customers to COVID-19 cases. The Steamship Authority, Cronig’s, the Ritz, Nancy’s, and Tony’s Market have all let customers know about incidents of the virus.
The statement came after the Cains declined repeated requests for an interview. They were also asked to provide examples of inaccuracies after issuing this statement, and have failed to do so.
In an email to The Times, executive director of communications at Vogue and Condé Nast Jill Weiskopf wrote that before covering the wedding, Vogue ensured appropriate measures were being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“However, as no gathering has zero risk, we found out afterward that guests had contracted COVID-19 — and believe they did at the wedding — and so the editorial decision was made to remove the piece,” Weiskopf wrote.