With his fist in the air, Dave Caron, director of pharmacy at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, took possession of the first 40 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive on the Island Wednesday morning. The doses were brought off the Island Home on a dolly.
The first of those COVID-19 vaccines on Martha’s Vineyard will be administered to two Martha’s Vineyard Hospital employees Thursday morning, according to hospital officials.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call, hospital president and CEO Denise Schepici and chief nurse and COO Claire Seguin shared the encouraging news that the hospital is receiving 40 Pfizer vaccine doses this week, with another 45 doses arriving next week. The vaccine comes in two doses, with a 21-day period between doses, so the hospital expects to give its first doses to 85 people by the end of the year.
“It’s an exciting day,” Schepici said.
Seguin said the hospital is ready to administer the vaccine once it arrives, and has a system set in place for which and when employees will be vaccinated.
“We have more staff who want to get the vaccine than additional doses that we will receive. This is certainly a marathon, not a sprint,” Seguin said.
There is cold storage at the hospital, where the vaccines will be kept. The hospital is working with its parent company, Mass General Brigham, to obtain vaccine doses.
The hospital has set up an IT system to track when people receive their first dose and when they need to return for their second dose. The first round of doses will go to employees in high contact with COVID-positive patients. Once employees in direct contact are vaccinated, other employees will be vaccinated.
The vaccine is not mandatory for hospital employees. Seguin said this was due to supply. “Unlike the flu shot, there’s not enough for everyone. We’ve heard from people, ‘Well, it should be mandatory, it’s such a high risk,’ but that way if someone decides not to take that vaccine, we can offer it to someone else,” she said.
Seguin added that hospital employees, even those who are vaccinated, will be wearing personal protective equipment for the foreseeable future, which will also protect them.
The arrival of the vaccine comes at a sobering moment for the state and the entire country, as COVID-19-related deaths surpassed 11,000 in Massachusetts and 300,000 nationally. Schepici stressed the importance of social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands to curb the spread of the virus, even as the vaccine becomes available: “The surge in cases and deaths reinforces the point we continue to stress — we’re still not out of the woods.”
All staff and residents at the Windemere Nursing & Rehabilitation Center have tested negative for COVID-19.
Last week, the hospital reported that two asymptomatic nursing assistants at Windemere tested positive for the virus earlier this month. Since then, staff and residents have been tested twice — all producing negative results. To err on the side of caution, the hospital is keeping the resident care areas in quarantine.
Going forward, Windemere will be receiving vaccines through a federal program for long-term-care facilities. A team from CVS will come to the Island to administer the vaccines to staff and residents.
Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread across the Island.
There were 10 new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday, which makes 44 new cases of COVID-19 since Monday.
As of Wednesday, the hospital has administered 9,248 tests since testing began in March. Of those, 316 have tested positive, 8,931 negative, and one test is pending results. There are currently two COVID-19 patients hospitalized, and both are in “fair condition.”
As of Tuesday, TestMV has tested 26,012, with 24,422 negative, 139 positive, and 1,451 pending results. Aquinnah is also conducting testing — 348 people have been tested with no positives, 346 negative results, and two pending results.
An expanded Island COVID report on Friday showed that of 62 recent cases, 29 were symptomatic, 26 were asymptomatic, and seven are unknown. Of those cases, 58 were still being followed by public health officials, and four were no longer symptomatic and have been released from isolation.
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.
The nine new cases on Wednesday consisted of three females and six males, of whom four are younger than 20, two in their 60s, one is in their 30s, one in their 40s, and one in their 20s.
Of all the Island’s 443 confirmed cases tested since March, 223 are female and 220 are male. Of those cases, 109 are in their 30s, 77 are in their 20s, 66 are in their 50s, 64 are in their 40s, 75 are younger than 20, 36 are in their 60s, and 16 are older than 70.
The Island is now in its seventh week of a spike in cases since 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 347 cases of COVID-19 — more than all the cases reported on the Island between March and Oct. 25 combined.
The boards of health are also keeping track of probable cases. There have been 30 probable cases reported since March. Of those, 22 received positive antibody tests, and eight have been symptomatically diagnosed. Of those, 15 are female and 15 are male. There are seven in their 60s, seven in their 20s, six in their 50s, four in their 40s, two younger than 20, three older than 70, and one in their 30s.
The surge in cases is happening statewide, with confirmed cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations, and deaths rising or staying at high numbers. On Tuesday, the Department of Public Health reported 3,720 new positive cases, with a 5.88 percent seven-day positivity rate. The number of active cases statewide fell slightly, with an estimated 72,587 active cases statewide. The state saw 55 new deaths Tuesday, for a total of 11,443 statewide. The average age of those deaths is 82.
Gov. Charlie Baker pleaded with Massachusetts residents Tuesday to celebrate the holidays with household members only.
Baker noted the “significant increases” in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It has put a significant strain on our healthcare community,” Baker said at a press conference.
According to Baker, 10 days before Thanksgiving, the state was averaging 2,500 new cases per day. Now, 13 days after the holiday, that number has nearly doubled, to 4,800 cases per day. In the past three weeks, ICU patients have increased by 73 percent, hospitalizations increased by 93 percent, and deaths have increased by 84 percent.
Baker asked residents to reverse that trend for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s. “I’m here today to say that we really can’t have them be the kind of consequential event that Thanksgiving has been here in Massachusetts,” Baker said.
The state also rolled back to phase three, step one, of the state’s reopening plan as of Sunday. The rollback has reduced outdoor gatherings to no more than 50 people; outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people will require notification to the board of health; indoor theaters and performance venues, and indoor recreation will be required to be closed to the public. Capacity for museums, libraries, offices, retail stores, and gyms has been reduced from 50 to 40 percent. In offices and gyms, people must wear masks at all times when not in their own workspace or alone.
At restaurants, all patrons must wear a mask at all times except when eating and drinking, restaurants can seat no more than six people per table, and restaurants must impose a 90-minute time limit on tables.