Hospital CEO: Vaccine planning ‘well underway’

Tisbury reverts back to phase three, step one, of state reopening plan; three towns are now in the red zone.

The flu clinic held last month was a precursor to a coronavirus vaccine clinic. Vaccines for the public are expected to be available as soon as next spring. — Brian Dowd

Updated 5:10 pm

With a coronavirus vaccine on the horizon, officials at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital are in preparation mode to deliver it to staff and the public.

While having a vaccine in hand is still a few weeks out, hospital CEO Denise Schepici said Wednesday plans to get the vaccine are “well underway.” The vaccine is expected to be offered to healthcare workers first, as was voted by the Centers for Disease Control advisory committee. While planning is still taking place, chief nurse and COO Claire Seguin said a vaccine for healthcare workers could arrive as soon as mid-December.

“I would say this news alone is giving me hope,” Seguin said.

The Island hospital will then take direction from Gov. Charlie Baker and work with other hospitals across the Mass General Brigham system. Vaccines for the wider public are not expected to be available until the spring, and will roll out in stages.

When a vaccine is available for the public at large, people can expect the rollout to look a lot like the flu shot clinic held at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School last month, which had staging areas at Waban Park and the Agricultural Hall.

“The dress rehearsal we did for the flu clinic up at the high school will be exactly how we do it when it’s ready for the public,” Seguin said.

Seguin added that the hospital is “quite organized” for the vaccine, is ready to store it in freezers, and is stocked up on syringes and alcohol wipes. The vaccine will come in two shots, and may require a period of 28 days between each shot, but specifics on the time period between shots are still being sorted out.

Pfizer and Moderna are the top two pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines. Seguin said the hospital does not know which vaccine they will get.

Since the state is calling the shots on the vaccine, Schepici said it’s still not clear on how many doses the hospital will get for healthcare workers. ‘We don’t know how much is going to be available on these first releases,” Schepici said.


Shelter opens as COVID cases rise

Schepici was also happy to report the warming and overnight shelter operated by Harbor Homes at the Edgartown Whaling Church is up and running.

The shelter will be open seven days a week from noon to 2 pm for lunch. It will then open at 5 pm for overnight accommodations. For more information, contact Lisa Belcastro at 508-560-3678.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise on the Island, across the state, and around the country. Schepici said the country is seeing 160,000 new positive cases a day, up from 120,000 only three weeks ago. In Massachusetts, the average daily total of new confirmed cases is 2,500, up from 1,700 three weeks ago.

“We may see an increase over the next couple of weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday, resulting from travel to and from the Island. We are going to be keeping a close watch on those numbers,” Schepici said. “We hope everyone was smart and kept a social distance both indoors and outdoors, and continues to wash hands frequently.”

There were six new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday — three from the hospital and three from TestMV.

Due to some individuals testing positive at both the hospital and the TestMV site, the total number of positives does not equal the number of positives added from each testing site, resulting in a discrepancy.

As of Wednesday, the hospital has tested 8,237 individuals since testing began in March. Of those 223 have come back positive, an increase of 66 cases since Nov. 18, 7,946 negatives, and 68 tests are pending results. There are currently no patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Last week, the hospital admitted a patient, but Seguin confirmed the patient was discharged in good condition.

The Island has seen its worst spike in COVID-19 cases over the past month. In the past three weeks, the Island has reported 45, 63, and 62 cases respectively.

Also as of Wednesday, TestMV, which tests asymptomatic individuals, has tested 24,132 individuals since it began testing in May. Of those, 103 have tested positive, 22,636 negative, and 1,393 pending results. TestMV has returned to five-day-a-week testing to meet demand amid the surge in cases.

The town of Aquinnah is also conducting its own testing. Aquinnah has tested 343 individuals with zero positives, 339 negatives, and four pending results.

The new cases also come as the Island ends its fourth week of a jump in cases that began on Oct. 26, when public health officials reported a cluster of cases linked to a wedding at the Lambert’s Cove Inn. Since then, the Island has seen 229 cases of COVID-19 — more than all the cases reported on the Island between March and Oct. 25 combined.

Of the Island’s now 315 confirmed cases, 161 are female and 154 are male. Of those, 73 are in their 30s, 55 are in their 20s, 49 are in their 50s, 51 are in their 40s, 52 are younger than 20, 25 are in their 60s, and 10 are older than 70.

The boards of health are also keeping track of probable cases. There are 27 probable cases reported on the Island. Of those, 22 received positive antibody tests, and five have been symptomatically diagnosed. Of those, 15 are female and 12 are male. There are seven in their 60s, six in their 20s, six in their 50s, three in their 40s, two younger than 20, and three older than 70.

According to an expanded report from the Martha’s Vineyard boards of health on Friday, there are 37 active cases of COVID-19 that health officials are still following. All of the active cases are from individuals who tested positive between Nov. 15 and Nov. 27. All other cases are no longer symptomatic, and have been released from isolation. Of all the cases, 122, or 43 percent, are connected to at least one other case. A majority of these connections are within family and household groups or small social groups. Two groups are considered clusters — the October wedding, to which health officials connected eight cases, and Cronig’s Market, which has reported 19 cases.

Oak Bluffs has also joined Tisbury and Edgartown as communities with the highest risk of community spread, according to new data released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

According to the state data published on Friday, Oak Bluffs had 36 cases between Nov. 13 and Nov. 27, for a positivity rate of 6.46 percent. Oak Bluffs has had more than two-thirds of its overall 50 cases in that time period. Edgartown, which joined the high-risk category last week, has also had 38 cases in that same time period, for a positivity rate of 3.98 percent. Meanwhile, Tisbury, which has had the highest number of cases on the Island, showed some progress, with 33 cases in that time period and a positivity rate of 2.97 percent.

According to Tisbury health agent Maura Valley, Tisbury is required to revert to step one of phase three of the state’s reopening plan. This means indoor theaters and performance venues will have to close, outdoor gatherings at public settings are limited to 50 people, library capacity was decreased by 10 percent to 40 percent capacity, and retail fitting rooms are only allowed to be open where operation is necessary. 

The surge in cases is happening statewide, with confirmed cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations, and deaths all on the rise. On Wednesday, the Department of Public Health reported 4,613 positive cases — a 1,768 jump from the previous day and a 4.94 percent seven-day positivity rate. The number of active cases statewide continues to climb as well, with an estimated 45,390 active cases statewide.

The state continues to see new deaths as well, with 46 reported Wednesday, for a total of 10,824 statewide. The average age of those deaths is 81.


Updated with current case numbers on Island and across the state. — Ed.