Updated Dec. 31 @ 3:30 pm
A Steamship Authority employee working in the parking and bus operations department has tested positive for COVID-19, the third employee of the ferry service to test positive in the last two days. All of the recent cases have involved employees working on the Martha’s Vineyard routes.
“The employee, who is based at the Palmer Avenue parking lot, last worked in a customer-facing capacity on Thursday, December 24, 2020,” a press release issued by the SSA states. “The employee subsequently developed symptoms of COVID-19 and was tested. After receiving the results, the employee immediately notified the Authority on Thursday, December 31, 2020.”
In a followup email, SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll wrote that the employee who developed symptoms “last worked on December 24th and then subsequently exhibited symptoms.”
According to the release, the SSA is in the process of identifying employees who may have been in close contact with the infected individual. “If any are identified, they will not be allowed to return to work until after receiving a negative test result or being cleared [for] work by a medical professional,” the release states.
This case follows two separate cases that were reported by the SSA on Wednesday. A crewmember of the Steamship Authority ferry Martha’s Vineyard tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Fellow crew members on the vessel have been sidelined as a precaution and trips were canceled while the SSA brought in a new crew for the vessel. Additionally, an employee at the Vineyard Haven terminal has tested positive for the virus. This employee’s test results aren’t considered connected to the crew member’s, a release states.
The SSA learned of the crew member’s test results Wednesday, Dec. 30.
“The [crew member] last worked on the vessel on the watch that began with the noon trip on Sunday, December 27, 2020, and ended with the vessel’s 11:30 am arrival in Woods Hole on Monday, December 28, 2020,” according to a release. “The crew member subsequently was informed of close contact with an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was then tested; after receiving the results on Wednesday morning, the employee immediately notified the Authority.”
The terminal employee was last on the job at the terminal on Christmas Eve, a release states.
“The employee subsequently learned that a relative with whom there had been close personal contact had tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was then tested, received the positive results Wednesday, December 30, 2020, and immediately notified the Authority.”
Following discussion with the Tisbury board of health, the exposure risk the positive terminal employee posed to the public or fellow employees was deemed very low.
“However, the [SSA] will work to determine if any employees or members of the public were in close contact with the individual and, as a result, should be tested,” a release states.
As to the positive crew member, because that person was set to take watch on Wednesday for a 12 noon departure of the Martha’s Vineyard, fellow crew members who’d worked with the positive mariner “were instructed not to report for duty on the vessel.”
A noon crossing from Woods Hole and a 1:15 pm crossing from Vineyard Haven were canceled.
Jim Malkin, the SSA’s Vineyard representative, said the ferry line has put into service the two lift decks on the Island Home in order to handle folks who missed their crossings on the Martha’s Vineyard. Additionally, Malkin said a scheduled hazardous cargo crossing on the Katama was repurposed because there was no hazardous cargo queued for that trip. Instead general traffic was loaded on the vessel to get vehicles across in a timely manner. Malkin said he was pleased the SSA took quick, proactive steps to cover for the Martha’s Vineyard.
“The Authority has notified vessel employees who were in close contact with the affected employee,” according to a release. “Those employees will not be allowed to return to work until after receiving a negative test result or being cleared [for] work by a medical professional.”
The Authority is not disclosing the names of the individuals to ensure their private health information remains confidential.
In the release, the SSA states that it continues to use hospital-grade disinfectants to perform cleaning of both public and employee areas at the Authority’s parking facilities and on its buses. The cleaning is part of the precautionary measures taken daily by the SSA to thoroughly clean and disinfect all high-touch areas, including hand railings, table tops, door handles, seats, faucets, and toilets.
“Employees have been instructed that, under no circumstances, should they come to work while they are sick, both for their safety as well as for the safety of other employees and members of the public,” the release states. “Additionally, all employees have been required to wear cloth face coverings and reminded to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer.”
Updated to inlcude the third case of COVID-19 reported.