The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital expects to administer 1,245 more first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week — surpassing 8,000 total doses.
News of the hospital reaching 8,000 doses administered comes on the one-year anniversary of Gov. Charlie Baker declaring a state of emergency as the state braced for the oncoming pandemic.
Speaking at a press conference at Shawmut Advance Materials Wednesday, Baker reflected on the difficulties of getting personal protective equipment in the early days of the pandemic, and called it a “happy anniversary” for the commonwealth, specifically thanking the workers and the Fallon Co. and Shawmut Corp. for the creation of a new domestic manufacturing operation to produce N95 masks.
Baker said CEO Joe Fallon told him he was a developer who “didn’t know the first thing about how to actually create a N95 facility.”
“[Fallon said] I’ll be damned if I’m going to live in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, one of the great centers of research and medicine and development on planet Earth, and have us struggle ever again” to get PPE, Baker said.
Baker also announced a new system for signing up for off-Island mass vaccination centers. Meanwhile, on Monday, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital booked 544 appointments, which included the recently expanded eligibility for teachers, school staff, and childcare workers. The hospital received permission from the state to set up a special clinic for school staff on March 11. So far, 250 people have signed up.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning, hospital president and chief executive officer Denise Schepici and chief nurse and chief operating officer Claire Seguin said the hospital had an initial estimate of 600 school employees. The hospital is working on a second special clinic. At a school committee meeting Monday, D’Andrea said he expects all interested staff to be vaccinated by the end of the second clinic.
“We’ll open up the scheduling if we have more doses,” Schepici said.
The hospital has administered a total of 7,136 vaccine doses. Of those, 4,827 are first doses and 2,310 are second doses.
The hospital is dedicating Mondays at 5 pm and Saturdays at 8 am for vaccine sign-up. Sign-ups on Monday, March 8, at 5 pm were for appointments scheduled for March 11, 12, and 13.
The next available sign-ups are on Saturday, March 13, at 8 am, for appointments on March 16 and 17, and on Monday, March 15 at 5 pm for appointments on March 18, 19, and 20.
To sign up for a vaccine, go to mvhospital.org and click the yellow bar at the top of the page. From there, follow the instructions for appointment sign-up.
The state is currently in phase two, step two, of its vaccine rollout plan, which includes individuals aged 65 and older, those with two or more chronic health conditions, and residents and staff of low-income and affordable senior housing. State-designated chronic health conditions are asthma, cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Down syndrome, heart conditions, immunocompromised, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking, and type 2 diabetes.
Educators and school staff were able to begin booking appointments for vaccines on Monday, but are not eligible to receive the vaccine until March 11, per state guidelines.
Following educators and school staff, the state’s list of eligible individuals includes, in order of priority: workers in transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works, and public health workers. After that group will be individuals with one chronic medical condition.
On Friday, the hospital compiled age demographic data of those who have received the vaccine. Vaccine recipients range in age from 16 to over 100. There are 1,631 aged in their 70s, 1,314 in their 60s, 601 in their 80s, 4,113 in their 50s, 275 in their 40s, 260 in their 30s, 141 in their 90s, 134 in their 20s, 23 aged 19 to 21, seven over the age of 100, and five aged 16 to 18.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration gave the greenlight to the Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, but Schepici said there has been no news yet on when the hospital will receive a shipment. Once the hospital does get the single-dose vaccine, people will not have the option of choosing which vaccine they get. “We’re going to get what we’re going to get, and that’s what we’re going to give,” Schepici said. “As Dr. Fauci says, the best dose is the one we get.”
Last month, the hospital’s vaccine sign-ups were stalled amid a supply chain issue. During Wednesday’s conference call, Seguin said the hospital is encouraged from talks with the state that they will receive the expected number of doses for next week, but she added it’s “hard to know.”
Seguin said no vaccine doses have been thrown out. In the event of someone not showing up for a vaccine appointment or a cancellation, the dose goes to another individual, such as an eligible inpatient at the hospital. “We’ve had a very low no-show rate on this one,” Schepici said.
Schepici said the hospital is struggling with parking, and asked those coming in for a vaccine to try to organize a ride where they can be dropped off and picked up after getting their shot. She also said she was open to any parking suggestions.
Reflecting on the past year and thinking about the year ahead, Schepici said she was proud of the hospital staff and its collaboration with the community. “We had to make tough decisions together, but the most important thing is we made them together to keep the Island safe,” Schepici said. “That lesson should carry through, that as public health issues arise, we need to work for the good of the community together and not our self-interests.”
She also stressed the continued importance of social distancing, washing hands, and wearing masks.
“More than 16,000 people in our state have lost their lives from this virus. As COVID guidelines are loosening across the country, it doesn’t mean we should let our guard down,” Schepici said. “We should really double down on following all the guidelines for our continued protection, so we can continue building on a sense of hope and optimism that we will return to some state of normal.”
CDC releases new guidance
A glimpse of what a new normal might look like arrived Monday as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released guidance for fully vaccinated individuals.
The guidance gives those with full vaccinations the freedom to socialize, and no longer quarantine after a known exposure.
The CDC considers people fully vaccinated two weeks after they have received a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or social distancing. They can also visit unvaccinated people from a single household who are at a low risk for severe COVID-19 indoors, without masks or physical distancing.
Fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine or get a test following a known exposure to someone who was symptomatic. The guidance only applies to non-healthcare settings.
Precautions should still be taken for visiting public settings, such as indoor dining or going to the gym.
While the guidance shows an end in sight to the pandemic, the CDC has not updated its travel recommendations and requirements, which recommend delaying travel and staying home.
The CDC still recommends wearing a mask, social distancing, and being outdoors if a vaccinated person visits an unvaccinated person who is at risk of severe COVID-19, such as older adults, pregnant people, and those with medical conditions.
The guidelines request that even after getting both doses of the vaccination or the single shot, people should continue to wear masks in public, practice social distancing, avoid medium-size and large gatherings, get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and adhere to other prevention measures.
One new COVID case Wednesday
The Martha’s Vineyard boards of health reported one new case Wednesday — the second day in a row of only one new case. The case came from Cape Cod Healthcare.
The hospital has conducted 14,416 tests for COVID-19 since March. Of those, 664 have tested positive, and 13,728 negative. There are 17 tests pending results.
As of Tuesday, TestMV has conducted 34,667 tests since June. Of those, 258 have tested positive, 33,788 negative, and 621 are pending results.
The town of Aquinnah has conducted 442 tests, of which one has come back positive, 431 negative, and 10 pending results.
The Martha’s Vineyard public schools have tested 6,132 individuals. Of those, four have tested positive. The public school data is updated once a week on Mondays, and this week there were no new cases.
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has reported a total of seven 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.
Baker announces preregistration vaccine tool
Gov. Baker announced a new preregistration sign-up system for vaccine appointments at mass vaccination sites that will go live Friday.
The preregistration will only be available for the state’s seven mass vaccination sites, but more sites will be added in April, according to Baker.
The system is a queue that will alert eligible residents when they can book an appointment online. Preregistrants will receive a weekly status update, and an alert when they are able to select an appointment. They will be notified via email, text messages, or phone call. If registrants do not choose an appointment time, they will be sent back to the queue.
Anybody can preregister Friday, but appointments will only go to eligible individuals based on their place in the queue and geographic location.
The Baker administration is also designating four days at mass vaccination sites for K-12 teachers, school staff, and childcare workers to be vaccinated.
Those dates, exclusively for school staff, are Saturday, March 27; Saturday, April 3; Saturday, April 10; and Sunday, April 11.