By Brian Dowd and Lucas Thors
Two Island businesses are closed as the Island has seen its biggest increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the past few months.
Positive COVID-19 cases at Shirley’s Hardware in Vineyard Haven have grown to five positive cases and is now considered a cluster. Shirley’s was closed down for two weeks on March 27 after when the initial two employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Tisbury health agent and boards of health spokesperson Maura Valley told The Times in an email if customers are concerned they should get tested, but with retail businesses customers are not at high risk.
A cluster is defined as more than two people from different families or households with a shared source of infection.
Meanwhile, the Barn Bowl & Bistro closed its doors Friday for two days after a kitchen employee tested positive for COVID-19 Friday.
“As of right now I closed, everyone’s quarantining, and getting tested,” Barn general manager Mike Sawyer told the Times in a phone conversation.
The Island saw a jump in cases on Monday with 47 cases reported by the boards of health between March 21 and 27. The Island boards of health switched from daily COVID reporting to weekly reporting on Mondays.
The Island has had six other clusters, including King’s Barbershop (seven cases), October wedding (eight cases), Cronig’s Market (19 cases), a Bible study group (11 cases), MV Hospital (five cases), and Project Headway (four cases).
Meanwhile, as of Thursday, the hospital has administered more than 11,000 total vaccine doses — 6,850 first doses, and 5,028 second doses.
On Monday, April 5, vaccine eligibility will expand to those ages 55 and older.
The next round of vaccine appointments at the hospital will be made available for sign-up on Saturday, April 3, at 8 am. Those eligible for vaccines include those over the age of 60, individuals over 18 with two chronic health conditions, adults working in public and private senior housing, K-12 educators and staff, child care workers, and workers in the following categories: restaurants, cafes, food, agriculture, retail, food service, grocery, convenience stores, food pantries, transit, public works, sanitation, public health, court system, and funeral services.
After that, new appointments with the expanded 55-and-older eligibility will be available for sign-up on Monday, April 5, at 5 pm. Eligible individuals can sign up at bit.ly/mvhospitalvaccine.
Schools to return to full in-person learning
With pool testing in place and the vaccine rollout progressing on-Island, elementary schools will be increasing the amount of in-person instruction available to students.
In mid-March, Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley issued guidance and a mandatory timeline for when elementary and middle schools will be required to return to full in-person.
According to the memo, students in grades K-5 will be required to return to a full-time in-person learning model by Monday, April 5, and students in grades 6 to 8 must return by Wednesday, April 28.
For some Vineyard schools, this means adding one day of in-person instruction to the school week. For up-Island schools that are already offering in-person, full-time, only minor alterations will have to be made to the daily schedule.
Guidance and a timeline for high school students has not yet been released.
As of April 1, 13 students and 13 staff at the Edgartown School were in quarantine due to being a close contact with a person who tested positive, according to a report on the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools website. Seven students at the school were in isolation due to a positive COVID test, with one staff member in isolation.
Students and staff are required to quarantine if they come in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID.
The report shows that 11 students at the high school are in quarantine due to being a close contact, and five students are in isolation due to a positive COVID test.
Beginning Monday, the pick up and drop off process at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will change.
The high school provides bus transportation to Island elementary school students, as well as high school students, so pick up and drop off times will need to correspond with the additional students using school transportation at the Island’s elementary schools.
According to a memo from the high school, which is also available in Brazilian Portuguese, adjustments to the pick up and drop off times are meant to increase safety and alleviate congestion at the intersection of Sanderson and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.
In the morning, all drop offs should be in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) lot at door 31. Parents will use the PAC lot entrance to enter and continue around the lot’s perimeter, then use the PAC lot exit to leave. Buses will be dropping off at the front of the school, and will continue to drop at the gym, as well.
In the afternoon, all pick ups should be in the PAC lot. Parents will use the PAC lot entrance to enter and continue around the lot’s perimeter, then use the PAC lot exit to leave.
Buses 1-5 will be staging and picking up at the front of the school in front of the main office. Buses 6-10 will continue to stage and pick up at the gym. Vehicles will not be allowed in the front of the school while the buses are staging for pick up.
CDC updates vaccination guidance
On Friday, updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control says those who are fully vaccinated can now travel at low risk to themselves. The guidance states that people who are fully vaccinated can travel within the country without getting tested beforehand or self-quarantining after.
Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their last required dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 tests are also not required for fully vaccinated individuals traveling internationally unless their destination requires it, and don’t need to quarantine after returning. Fully vaccinated international travelers should still produce a negative test before boarding a returning flight to the United States and have a follow up test three to five days after their return.
Regardless of vaccination status, the CDC still recommends all Americans wear masks, wash hands, and practice social distancing while traveling.