Updated 5 pm
Five Martha’s Vineyard Hospital employees — all of them having been fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19—tested positive for the virus this week, according to hospital officials.
Speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, hospital president and CEO Denise Schepici and chief nurse and chief operating officer Claire Seguin said they learned of the results Thursday.
Three of the COVID-positive employees are believed to have contracted the virus from a patient that was admitted Monday for a routine appointment. Per hospital protocols, the patient was tested for COVID-19. On Monday, the patient tested negative, but was tested again 72 hours later per protocol and the results came back positive.
“Looking at the timeline it appears that the patient was likely already infected and it wasn’t until a few days into the admission that they turned to positive,” Seguin said.
Schepici and Seguin said this was not the first time a non-COVID patient was admitted to the hospital and later tested positive for COVID-19.
“This virus is very much with us on-Island,” Schepici said.
The two other COVID-positive employees worked in the hospital, but were not exposed to the COVID-positive patient. Schepici said those employees reported not feeling well and most likely got the virus through community spread.
“We are confident that the situation is contained through our immediate steps of tracing, testing, and sanitizing the hospital on a continual basis,” Schepici said. “One point I want to stress for our community — they can be assured our hospital is safe. We continue to take all precautions.”
No other patients in the hospital were exposed to any of the five employees. All other hospital staff that came in contact with the five employees have been notified and are being tested, according to Schepici. So far 20 staff members have been tested with 12 confirmed negative and eight pending results. The eight pending results are in self-quarantine.
The five COVID-positive employees are a sobering reminder of the unknowns of when the vaccine becomes effective for each individual.
Four of the employees received their second dose of the vaccine. One received only the first dose. Aside from the employee getting their second dose, the employees do not need to take the vaccine again.
The hospital reported Wednesday that 432 of its employees received the first dose of the COVID vaccine. Of those, 207 have received the second dose.
Schepici said a person who gets the vaccine may no longer be at risk of the virus’ effects, but that person can still be a carrier.
“It depends on the individual on when the vaccine becomes fully effective,” Schepici said. “Which is why it’s so important to continue to follow all protocols and precautions.”
Seguin said it takes a couple of weeks after receiving the second dose for it to be fully effective and that the employees were still within that window.
“What this speaks to is just how virulent this is,” Schepici said. “Despite all our precautions exposures can happen.”
In other news, in collaboration with the state and the hospital’s parent company Mass General Brigham, the hospital was officially approved to start phase two of the vaccine. The hospital already vaccinated 20 of its high risk patients in phase two.
Patients aged 75 and older cleared for appointments are being notified by the hospital. Schepici said the hospital expects to administer 570 vaccines at its clinics next week — 200 more than what the hospital expected earlier this week. Clinics will be open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday 8 am to 4 pm for those who sign up.
Eligible individuals on the Island can sign up for a vaccine one of two ways. Hospital patients will be contacted via Patient Gateway when they become eligible for a vaccine. Patients will be able to schedule an appointment. If patients do not use Patient Gateway, they will receive a call from the hospital’s parent company, Mass General Brigham, confirming eligibility and scheduling a vaccine appointment.
Non-hospital patients should monitor the state’s COVID-19 vaccine website to learn when they are eligible. Once eligible, individuals can fill out and submit a COVID-19 vaccine attestation form. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will then email eligible individuals, who should forward that confirmation by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individuals needing assistance can pick up and drop off printed attestation forms at the hospital. Communications director Marissa Lefevbre told The Times she is working with the councils on aging to make printed attestation forms available at their facilities.
In an email to The Times, State Sen. Julian Cyr pointed the blame at the Trump administration and an unrealistic state rollout plan.
“A significant amount of the blame for vaccine shortages lays at the feet of the outgoing Trump administration, who were cavalier about the logistical challenges it would take to safely inoculate enough residents to end the pandemic,” said State Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “The Baker-Polito Administration made a strong case for the tiered approach that focuses on vulnerable populations. However, opening up the Phase 2 cohort while we have persistent shortages wasn’t realistic. We can’t offer what we don’t have, and this week, heightened expectations have crashed into a cruel reality. And people are reasonably angry and frustrated.”
Also in an email to The Times, state Rep. Dyaln Fernandes was blunt about the state’s vaccine rollout.
“The governor has botched the vaccine rollout from its communication to administration to distribution, however, I am confident he and the administration are working hard to get back on the right track,” Fernandes wrote. “Compounding state rollout issues is the federal government’s very low vaccine supply given to Massachusetts. While supplies are thin, out of the 14 counties in the state, Dukes County has received the third most vaccines per capita. The legislature does not control the administration of the vaccine, but we will continue to advocate for equitable distribution and are deeply thankful to the frontline workers and healthcare centers working to get shots in arms.”
Eight new cases reported Friday
The Island boards of health reported eight new cases of COVID-19 Friday — five from the hospital, two from TestMV, and one from another provider.
As of Friday afternoon, the hospital has conducted 12,175 tests for COVID-19 since March. Of those, 574 have tested positive, 11,569 negative, and 32 are pending results.
There are currently two patients hospitalized with COVID-19. They are both in fair condition.
On Jan. 12, the hospital sent a patient in “serious condition” off-Island by MedFlight. There have been four total COVID-19-related transfers since the pandemic began.
As of Friday, TestMV has conducted 31,494 tests since June. Of those, 241 have tested positive, 30,353 negative, and 900 are pending results.
One probable positive case was reclassified as a confirmed positive, for a total of 49 since March.
The town of Aquinnah has conducted 409 tests, of which one has come back positive, 405 negative and three pending results.
The Martha’s Vineyard public schools have tested 2,000 individuals. As of Jan. 25, there have been three positive cases. The public school data are updated once a week
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) reported a new case Tuesday, for a total of five positive cases of COVID-19.
Due to how tests are conducted, there can be a discrepancy between the number of positive individuals and the number of positive tests reported.
In an expanded report Friday, the Martha’s Vineyard boards of health reported that there were 79 active cases of COVID-19 on the Island. Two active cases tested positive between Jan. 3 and Jan. 16, the rest tested positive between Jan. 17 and Jan. 22.
Of the positive cases, 325 or 40 percent are connected to at least one other case. Most connections are within family/household groups, according to the boards of health. There have been 48 instances of two-person groups testing positive for COVID-19.
Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury are all in the “red” or highest risk category, according to the state Department of Public Health.
According to state data, there have been 34 positive cases of COVID-19 in Edgartown in the last two weeks and the town’s positivity rate is 5.29 percent. Oak Bluffs reported 36 cases in the last two weeks and has a 8.82 percent positivity rate. Tisbury reported 39 cases in the last two weeks with a 4.35 percent positivity rate.
According to Tisbury health agent and boards of health spokesperson Maura Valley, getting an immediate repeat test is not recommended, but she said it can be done at the discretion of a healthcare provider. Per Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines, if an individual tests positive for COVID-19, they should quarantine and take precautions.
Since March, there have been 810 cases of COVID-19 reported on Martha’s Vineyard. Of those, 410 are female and 400 are male, with the majority of the cases being in individuals under the age of 40. Only 33 cases have been reported in individuals over 70 years old.
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 726 cases of COVID-19 — several 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.
On the state level Friday, there were 2,781 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. The state’s seven-day average of percent positivity has dropped to 4.28 percent — a steep decline from 8 percent high in early January. There are an estimated 74,595 active cases statewide. There were 98 new deaths, for a total of 14,154 COVID-19 deaths since March.
According to weekly vaccine data published by the Department of Public Health on Thursday, 496,103 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts. The state has shipped 728,400 doses of the vaccine to various facilities.
Updated with COVID testing data. — Ed.