Update: 21 new COVID cases reported Thursday

Three Windemere employees test positive for COVID-19.

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Hospital officials say 212 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to staff. — Jeremy Driesen

Updated Dec. 31 @ 5 pm

After several days of low COVID case numbers, the Martha’s Vineyard boards of health reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday.

The hospital reported 19 of those new cases. Since March, the hospital has conducted a total of 10,244 tests. Of those, 380 have come back positive, 9,862 negative, and two are pending results. The hospital has had one patient hospitalized with COVID-19 in the past week, but that patient has been released and returned home in good condition.

The other two cases were reported by TestMV. The asymptomatic testing site has conducted 28,406 tests since June as of Thursday. Of those, 164 have tested positive, 26,665 negative, 1,577 are pending results.

The town of Aquinnah has also conducted its own tests. In total, the town has conducted 355 tests, of which zero have come back positive, 348 negative, and seven pending results.

Of the Thursday’s new cases seven are females and 14 are males. The new cases consist of seven people in their 20s, four in their 70s, three in their 30s, three in their 40s, two are in their 50s, one younger than 20, and one in their 60s.

Of the 533 confirmed cases, 262 are female and 244 are male. Of those, 134 are in their 30s, 93 are in their 20s, 77 are in their 50s, 78 are in their 40s, 84 are younger than 20, 43 are in their 60s, and 25 are older than 70.

There are 37 probable cases that have been reported since March — 18 females and 19 males. Of those, 24 received positive antibody tests, and 13 have been symptomatically diagnosed. There are seven in their 60s, seven in their 20s, six in their 50s, seven in their 40s, four younger than 20, three older than 70, and three in their 30s.

Individuals may be tested more than once at the hospital and TestMV to confirm illness, or to be released from isolation. This sometimes results in a discrepancy between the number of positive individuals and the number of positive tests reported.

Vaccine rollout continues for hospital workers

The vaccination program is running smoothly at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, with more than 200 of its employees receiving the first dose this month. 

Chief nurse and chief operating officer Claire Seguin said the hospital has received doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, according to a recording of her press briefing Wednesday. The hospital administered its first vaccines to hospital staff two weeks ago, and since then has vaccinated 212 staff members with the first dose. 

Of those employees, 85 received the Pfizer vaccine and 127 received the Moderna vaccine. The hospital is working with its parent company, Mass General Brigham, to coordinate vaccine rollout based on supply and Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidance.

“We expect to give all of our frontline staff, those in contact with COVID-positive patients, the first dose of the vaccine by sometime later in January,” Seguin said. “From there we will branch out to other staff members who are not in direct contact with patients, but are working in another area of the hospital.”

Seguin added there have been a few reports of “mild reactions” to the vaccine, and one employee missed a day of work as a result of the vaccine. The employee, who has returned to work, was experiencing “malaise,” which Seguin said typically happens at the 24- to 30-hour mark after getting the vaccine.

Hospital CEO Denise Schepici said vaccines won’t be available to the general public until “springtime.” She thanked Seguin for her efforts and the staff’s efforts for the vaccine rollout. “This is such a hopeful sign of progress, but we’re not out of the woods yet. So again we keep reminding people to take all of the precautions,” Schepici said.

Schepici again stressed the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequent hand washing.

The hospital is also keeping a close eye on the number of COVID-19 cases on Martha’s Vineyard, due to the concern both on the Island and across the country with a potential spike of cases after the holidays.

Schepici also reported three Windemere employees tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week. The employees, who were all in administrative positions, did not have any direct patient care responsibilities with Windemere residents, according to Schepici. The hospital conducted additional testing of staff and residents, and none have tested positive.

Earlier this month, two employees tested positive for COVID-19, but no residents tested positive for the virus.

A federal vaccination program for all Windemere staff and residents will begin on Jan. 12 for the first dose and Feb. 2 for the second dose. A team from CVS will travel to the Island to administer the vaccine for the program.

There were seven new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday, all from the hospital.

Since March, there have been 512 cases of COVID-19 reported on Martha’s Vineyard. The vast majority of those cases were reported in the past two months, when the Island’s first cluster of cases was linked to a wedding in October. Since then, the Island has seen 443 cases of COVID-19 — four and half times the 89 cases reported on the Island between when testing began in March and Oct. 25.

In addition to the wedding cluster, which reported eight cases, clusters at Cronig’s Market with 19 cases and a Bible study group with 11 cases have also been reported. Only 40 of the Island’s 505 confirmed cases are still being followed by public health officials. Each of those active cases were reported between Dec. 6 and Dec. 26.

At the state level, Gov. Charlie Baker announced that Massachusetts is on track to receive 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the year.

Speaking on getting the vaccine, Baker said he will not be “cutting the line.”

“The lieutenant governor and I believe that while we work a lot we are not, from our point of view, worthy of ‘cutting the line,’” Baker said. “I don’t understand why a lot of people who cut the line cut it. I just don’t. It doesn’t make sense to me and I think it’s inconsistent with the message we’ve all tried to send on this…there are some people who are at a far greater risk from a health point of view than others and they really ought to be prioritized.”

Reflecting on the past year, Baker said COVID-19 has made 2020 one of the worst years on record.

“2020 at least in my lifetime is like no other year I can remember,” Baker said. “If you wanted to put together a virus that was as destructive physically, emotionally, and spiritually as it possibly could be, it would look like COVID-19,” Baker said. “It would be asymptomatic for a lot of people so they could spread it to others without knowing they were doing it and at the same time convince a whole bunch of people that it’s really not that bad and at the same time be an absolute murderous infection for many other people who were on the other end of this spectrum.”

On Thursday, the state reported a significant rise over the past week in new cases, deaths, and active cases. There were 6,887 new cases reported across Massachusetts, with a 8.60 percent positivity rate, and an estimated 80,359 active cases. There were 81 new deaths—a day after the state reported 118 new deaths, for a total of 12,423 COVID-19 deaths since March. The average age of those dead is 81.

  • Are other Frontline workers getting vaccinated? EMT’S . Police and Fire? Medical and mental health clinics? Or just the hospital?

  • I think it’s great that they’re is a vaccine available for Hospital employees but i worry because it seems like they are being used as lab rats. why is the vaccine not being distributed to the public? what is the hold up?

  • Ellen Reynolds asks good questions. I also wonder about who is going to organize the distribution plan. How will each person know when it’s his or her turn? Is anyone taking responsibilty for the overall process?

  • Operation Slow-Poke Speed, hurry-up-and-wait. Let’s hope that under the Biden Administration, the government manages vaccine distribution more quickly and efficiently than the current lame duck and all his empty, useless, ignorant, and unfulfilled promises of his administration. One in one thousand Americans have died of covid-19, over 343,000 Americans. Covid will not “just disappear”.

  • I am praying that MVSchools make the hard decisions necessary to keep MVTeachers, children and parents As Safe As Possible – NOW – when the risk is most severe. And that our teachers have a decisive individual voice, as well as collective voice, in that decision making process.

    Like medical care and public health infrastructure, education and school culture must be emancipated from the dictates of economic growth for its own sake. Where universal personal and public health, youth care and education are the top economic priorities – and our students, teachers, staff, administrators and parents get the full support they deserve – our students will be able to catch up.

    Chris Riger – 1/3/21

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