Vaccine booking to take place on Saturdays at 8 am 

Hospital hopes to vaccinate 65+ and people with two chronic health conditions in the next couple of weeks.

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Because of a supply issue, the hospital is unable to offer any vaccine appointments for next week. -Jeremy Driesen

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s plan going forward is to open appointment booking on Saturdays at 8 am on its website, mvhospital.org.

The hospital chose Saturday morning because it is told on Friday how many vaccines it can expect from the state. The next round of sign-ups will be on Saturday, Feb. 27. The hospital booked 1,235 vaccine appointments in its first round of sign-ups for those 65 and older, and those with two or more chronic health conditions.

Chief nurse and chief operating officer Claire Seguin reminded individuals they must have an appointment to get a vaccine, and there is no waitlist for extra doses.

Those who have to cancel an appointment should do so through Patient Gateway or through the hospital’s call center at 508-684-4500. Seguin said the fastest way to get an appointment is to use the hospital’s website sign-up, but if people are struggling with signing up or want to cancel, they should use the call center. She stressed the importance of clicking “confirmed” when signing up for an appointment.

The hospital has estimated there are 5,000 individuals 65 years and older on the Island, but on Saturday, the hospital’s website received 9,000 clicks, according to hospital CEO Denise Schepici. The hospital also made several back-end fixes to the website to improve user experience on the site.

The hospital depends on vaccine supply it gets from the state. The state depends on supply it gets from the federal government.

“We know everyone wants to get their doses right away. This is why we ask for your patience as we move as quickly as we can to deliver, based on what is sent to us from the state,” Schepici said. “We’ll get to everyone, but it will take time. Probably a few weeks in this phase.”

The hospital has administered 3,324 first doses and 1,115 second doses as of Tuesday. The hospital expects to vaccinate 688 more people this week with their first dose.

She said the hospital is hopeful the hospital will be able to vaccinate teachers in the next phase. 

The hospital is using a proxy of 19,500 for its Island population. The hospital has had a few people from off-Island who have come for a vaccine, but not a significant amount. “We actually had someone come over from Nantucket yesterday,” Schepici said. “We are a Massachusetts state site. We can’t prevent people from coming over.”

Meanwhile, Island Elderly Housing is conducting its own vaccine clinic for staff and residents. The clinic will be held by CVS. The first doses will be administered on March 7 and 8, and second doses on March 28 and 29.

The Martha’s Vineyard boards of health reported only two new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, in a downward trend for the Island. An additional nine cases were reported on Tuesday, for one of the lowest totals the Island’s seen since the fall.

 

Baker: Open up schools

Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday that the state is planning to return elementary school students to full, in-person learning five days a week in April.

Education Commissioner Jeff Riley will ask the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for permission next month to instruct school districts to offer five-day-a-week, in-person classes for all students.

A return to in-person learning will be a phased approach, with elementary schools first, followed by middle schools, and possibly high schools. Schools that can’t comply will be given a waiver option.

Parents will have the option to have their children remain remote through the end of the school year.

When asked about teachers being vaccinated, Riley said due to social distancing requirements, mask wearing, and other measures, in-person learning at schools has not caused outbreaks of COVID-19.

Massachusetts moved educators in early education and K-12 up on its priority list for COVID-19 vaccines. Educators are first in line to be vaccinated, after the current phase of those 65 and older and those with two or more chronic health conditions.

Currently, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School is in a hybrid four-block model, with a fully remote day on Friday which consists of eight shorter blocks. For the hybrid model, the general student population is split into two separate cohorts. On Monday and Tuesday, the first cohort is learning in-person, while the second cohort is learning remotely. On Wednesday and Thursday, that schedule alternates, and the second cohort learns in-person. Friday consists of an all-remote day with eight blocks, including a mentor meeting for each student. Flex period and lunch blocks are in the middle of the day for each schedule.

Island schools are on break this week, and there was no immediate response from school officials on how the governor’s plan would be implemented. The district has implemented a COVID-19 testing program aimed at allowing more in-person instruction. The Martha’s Vineyard public schools have tested 5,239 individuals. Of those, three have tested positive. The public school data is updated once a week.