Defending the Oak Bluffs health agent


To the Editor:

About a year ago, the entire world was plunged into a crisis the likes of which hardly anyone now living could remember or even envision, an infectious pandemic that swept the globe, killing millions, including over 500,000 in our country. Every part of society was impacted, from global companies, national governments to cities, businesses, and local communities like ours. At the forefront of our defense were healthcare workers who risked their lives daily providing hands-on care to those infected and sick, but just behind them were public health officials orchestrating community responses to what needed to be done to protect all of us with common-sense public health measures like handwashing, mask wearing, and social distancing. While these do make sense and they do work, they were not so easy to implement and enforce. Many did not believe the pandemic was real. Many refused to abide by the tried-and-true methods to prevent spread to flatten the curve, and avoid surges. Many refused the simple measures that would protect us all, instead opting to continue to live as if nothing serious was happening.
But it was and is serious. We are not done with the pandemic. Vaccinations are here, and there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we must not let our guard down. As the members of one of the six boards of health on Martha’s Vineyard, we applaud the efforts of our health agents and their offices in all six towns. They were instrumental in setting up the testing center at the high school, which has continued out of necessity well beyond the initial plan. They have enforced public health measures in all of our towns, worked with the schools, and tried to enforce the public health measures that we know are effective.
We note this because we are disappointed that the Times chose to write an editorial that we feel demeans and belittles the efforts of our health agent and our health department in this battle against the COVID virus. All of the Island health agents have been swept up in this fight, and have worked tirelessly on behalf of a sometimes unwilling public to keep us all safe. Our Oak Bluffs health agent worked many seven-day weeks early on in the pandemic, and this was added to her regular responsibilities, which other towns’ health agents also have. This includes perc tests, septic design reviews, restaurant inspections, addressing complaints, running our biweekly meetings; and then add COVID. All of our Island health agents deserve acknowledgement and praise for their efforts. In particular, Meegan Lancaster has done and continues to do what we feel is an extraordinary job handling all of her normal responsibilities and being out front and available in our fight against COVID. The issue brought up by The Times is important, and we are taking it seriously, despite the unfortunate attitude expressed in your recent editorial. Likening her to the inept and bumbling mayor of Amity in the movie “Jaws” just seems an entirely unfair and inappropriate response for her remarkable efforts on behalf of the citizens of Oak Bluffs.

William White, chair
Tom Zinno and Jim Butterick, members
Oak Bluffs board of health