Tisbury, Chilmark approve COVID construction regulations

Katie Carroll, Chilmark health board member, during a meeting Wednesday to approve new work site regulations.

Tisbury and Chilmark joined Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury in approving revised construction site health protocols to stem the spread of COVID-19 among Vineyard workers.

The guidelines, which were presented to town boards Islandwide and are now in effect, include mandatory mask wearing regardless of social distancing, notifying the board of health of a positive case within 12 hours of a positive test result, stocking hand sanitizer stations, and naming a required COVID-19 safety officer for each work site.

At their meeting Wednesday, Tisbury select board members approved the guidelines as revised by the board of health, with little discussion.

Larry Gomez was the only select board member to make a brief comment, asking what he should do if he walks by a group of workers who appear to be violating the health regulations.

“What if we are walking by a site, like on a walk last week toward Tashmoo Beach, where I noticed a construction site with about six or seven fellows sitting, talking, and having coffee with no masks?” he wondered. “Am I supposed to call it in to our agent?”

Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said individuals can call either their board of health office, or the building inspector’s office for their town. “We will follow up and make sure that everyone on that site is following the rules,” Valley added.

Gomez said he wouldn’t consider approaching workers who are violating the health mandate “because [he] is afraid to get punched in the mouth, just walking down the street.”

“I just have to bite my lip under my mask and keep moving,” he continued.

At a short meeting Wednesday evening, Chilmark’s board of health and selectmen unanimously approved the tightened guidelines.

“The nice thing about adopting these regulations is it puts all of the towns in unison,” board of health chair Katie Carroll said.

“I would say congratulations to the board of health, all the Island’s boards of health, for doing this,” selectman Warren Doty said. “You’ve really pulled this together.”

Aquinnah board of health assistant Karen Colombo said the Aquinnah board has not yet voted on the updated construction guidelines, but could make a decision at a hearing as The Times goes to print. She added that Aquinnah has been following the state mandates for construction site protocols.

Health board member Matt Poole, who is Edgartown’s health agent, said last Thursday the regulations were well received at a meeting of 300 builders association members

“It’s definitely an impressive number,” selectmen chair Bill Rossi said, “300 people agreeing with this.” Rossi said he didn’t think such support was evident in the spring, so the number “really says a lot to me.”

In addition to being grateful for the effort to establish the tightened guidelines, selectman James Malkin said he wanted the board of health to know “you have the support of the selectmen in enforcing this if we find people are not doing what they’re supposed to do, including all of the penalties that have been raised. We can’t fool around with this. We have to be serious about it.”

Reporters Rich Saltzberg and Lucas Thors contributed to this story.



  1. Gomez said he wouldn’t consider approaching workers who are violating the health mandate “because [he] is afraid to get punched in the mouth, just walking down the street.”

    This comment alone is ridiculous. Gomez should think before he speaks. What are all tradesmen barbarians ? These are the same people that are trusted in and around your home. Gomez get a grip. You are supposed to represent the people that elected you, not degrade them.

    • Mattie– you are spot on with this comment.While some people react violently to reasonable suggestions, it is very rare. I have, for years, been asking people to turn their trucks off while getting lumber in such places as Cottles. It seems the biggest trucks with the most “macho” guys are the ones that feel the need to leave their trucks running on days when it’s below 50 degrees, so they don’t have to get into a cold truck. of course, in 15 minutes, the cab will only drop a few degrees.
      If you approach them with any degree of reasonableness, humor, or perhaps even facts like” you just burned $1 worth of gas that someone worked really hard to get into your tank” they almost always see the point. I have never felt physically threatened.
      If Gomez is that afraid to even discuss an important issue with scofflaws, he has no business being a select board member. Under the new regulations on this site, I apparently cannot refer to him in any way that may sound derogatory. But ;
      I am reminded of the movie “The Wizard Of Oz”
      Both the scarecrow and the lion were afraid to confront the problem they faced, but with a little thinking and courage, they prevailed.

  2. This whole mandate seems illegal. You are isolating construction workers and placing higher standards on them or threatening them with fines and stop work orders. Supreme Court ruled last week that standards must be uniform and not isolate groups.

    • John. You have a point, but I am not so sure this is about isolate groups. It seems to me that every store I go into employees are almost universally 100 % compliant. I am certain that if an establishment that was owned by a family that does not support the mask mandate, and their employees did not wear masks, the board of health would likely step in and enforce compliance. Can you cite any group that is exempt from this mandate ?
      In short. I think the standards are in fact uniform, and construction workers just happen to be the most non compliant group.
      I know the great majority of them do comply even though that is logistically more difficult for them than your average retail clerk or office worker.
      But as we know, it only takes a few cases of a monentarillary dropped guard to pass this virus along.

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