Hospital tests for COVID variants

Officials worried about a sharp rise in cases.

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The hospital is working with the state to test for COVID variants. — Kyra Steck

With the rapid surge in confirmed cases of COVID-19 — 101 over a seven-day period reported by the boards of health and then 32 more in the last four days — Martha’s Vineyard Hospital officials have reached out to state officials to begin testing for COVID variants, which are known to be more contagious.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, hospital CEO Denise Schepici and nurse and chief operating officer Claire Seguin said it is not known if any COVID variants have made it to the Island.

“We have asked the state to help with some further testing of our current COVID positives to find out if that is the case,” Schepici said. “We do know that the so-called P-1 variant first found in travelers from Brazil is prevalent on the Cape.”

She said the P-1 variant has been detected in Massachusetts more than in any other state in the country. 

Seguin said the hospital reached out to the state epidemiologist, who is conducting the only variant testing in the state. The hospital worked with the boards of health to send samples to the state, and expects to hear back by the end of this week.

“What’s concerning about the variants is they’re known to be more virulent, more contagious, and also they are linked to people getting sicker, higher mortality and morbidity,” Seguin said. “We’re very worried about it; especially when you have a lot of cases come back positive all at once, you do worry there is a more virulent version of COVID-19 on the Island.”

The majority of cases from the recent surge are people 40 years old and younger, according to Schepici. “I think it’s a lot of the workers coming back to the Island. I don’t have absolute proof of that, but it seems that’s related to it,” Schepici said. “Also I think people are also having a little false sense of security because the vaccination is out there.”

She stressed that even when someone gets a vaccine they can still be carriers of the virus, and urged people to wear masks, socially distance, and wash their hands.

The hospital booked 673 first-dose appointments on Monday, but does not know how many to expect for the next set of appointments available Saturday. It is dependent each week on how much vaccine supply the federal government ships to the state, and what the state supplies the hospital. Seguin said the hospital is getting roughly 1,200 to 1,300 vaccine doses each week, but that number fluctuates. 

The hospital has administered a total of 14,140 vaccines — 7,125 first doses and 7,015 second doses. Seguin estimates that 40 percent of Dukes County has received the first dose, and 28 percent are fully vaccinated. Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting a second dose. 

As of Tuesday, the hospital has administered 15,863 tests since testing began in March. Of those, 800 are positive, 14,963 are negative, and 92 are pending results. There have been no hospitalizations in the past two weeks, and no COVID-related transfers.

“Patience is perhaps the best antidote for those who have not received their vaccine dose yet,” Schepici said.

She did add that if Islanders can get a vaccine appointment off-Island, they should absolutely take it.

For now, the hospital is also sticking with its current sign-up process on Saturdays at 8 am and Mondays at 5 pm. Seguin said that while the hospital understands the public’s frustration, the current system is the best option for the hospital.

 

Cases, clusters rise

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 skyrocketed over the last 11 days, with the Martha’s Vineyard boards of health reporting 133 new cases between March 28 and April 7, 101 of those cases during a seven-day period.

The 101 new cases are more than double the 47 new cases reported during the week of March 21 to 27, and more than the next highest weekly total this year, which was 99 cases reported during the first week of January. 

Clusters of cases continue to appear and grow across the Island, with a new seven-case cluster connected to the Barn Bowl & Bistro — four staff members and three family members. On Monday, boards of health spokesperson Maura Valley reported that there were nine cases, but said Tuesday two individuals were incorrectly entered into the database.

According to a Facebook post, the Barn restaurant remains closed for the next few days. A cluster at Shirley’s Hardware has grown to six cases, and a cluster of cases linked to King’s Barbershop grew to eight.

The Island has had five other clusters, including an October wedding (eight cases), Cronig’s Market (19 cases), a Bible study group (11 cases), M.V. Hospital (five cases), and Project Headway (four cases). 

A cluster is defined as more than two people from different families or households with a shared source of infection.

In total, there have been 1,129 confirmed positive results on the Island since testing began in March — 564 males and 565 females. There have also been 67 probable cases — 38 male and 29 female. There have been 398 cases — 36 percent of the total — that have been linked to at least one other case. In most instances those involved family members or small social groups.

Meanwhile, TestMV, which is located in the parking lot at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, has now administered 36,318 tests, with 295 positive results, 35,525 negative results, and 498 tests pending.

The town of Aquinnah has conducted 444 self-administered tests, of which one has come back positive, 441 negative, and two pending results.

The Martha’s Vineyard public schools have administered 9,469 tests. Of those, seven have tested positive.

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.

Vaccine eligibility expanded Monday 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 10, at 8 am. Eligible individuals can sign up at bit.ly/mvhospitalvaccine.

Those eligible for vaccines include those over the age of 55, individuals over 18 with two chronic health conditions, adults working in public and private senior housing, K-12 educators and staff, childcare 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, the court system, and funeral services.

 

10 COMMENTS

  1. Herein lies the problem – “Seguin estimates that 40 percent of Dukes County has received the first dose and 28 percent are fully vaccinated” – This would indicate that the Vineyard is well supplied and vaccinated. The problem is that the denominator in this equation is the according to a census or some other “official” count. It is well known that the Island population is much greater due to the number of immigrant workers and the new work-from-home cohort. It is assinine that there is plenty of supply in MA and so many islanders are individually going off island in their cars (like me) when the supply could come in one shipment in the other direction. No surprise that there is a surge. I think patience is actually a bad idea, especially when the concerning strain is from the country where so many of our hard working seasonal workers come from.

    • Ted–
      I think your point about there being an under count of the number of people currently on island is quite on the money, and you do a great job of throwing shade at those who whine that people from “off island” are coming here to take our shots away from us.
      However, I take issue with the latter part of your comment.
      While you do not mention “Brazil” by name, the implication is clear .
      i wonder how many of “our hard working seasonal workers ” have actually been in Brazil in the last year? i would guess less than 2 %.
      I would also guess that we likely have more people on this island who have been in the U.K in the last year than Brazil. Let’s not forget that there is a “concerning” variant that was first detected there.
      And while we are having a conversation about subconscious implicit bias, or perhaps straight up blatant bias, we don’t have to mention where this virus first originated.
      Our former bigot in chief lost the election and is no longer relevant.
      Since the United States is the most infected country in the world, we can take responsibility for our own failures and not blame others.

      • Don, did not mean to distract message with an inarticulate close. I believe that everyone should be more urgent – not patient, as the reported stats suggest. If one can go off-island to get vaccinated, go. There seems to be ample supply, just not here. I got my Falmouth CVS appointment on the first try after midnight on Thursday. I had multiple opportunities at Gillette Stadium through Mass.gov. If you have the ear of someone in charge of supply, yell. I believe the true Vineyard population is lagging in vaccinations (not leading as reported in the Sunday Globe) and the population is going to explode this summer as it always does. More vaccinations means less sickness.

        • Ted– I can’t agree more with you on this comment.
          I disagree with the push to make “everyone eligible” by the Biden administration. That policy has a good political feel good ring to it, but the fact is, it is now a free for all.
          I feel there are plenty of elderly vulnerable people who “missed the boat” when it was their turn, and now have to compete with tech savvy millennials in a digital wrestling match to get a shot.
          As far as I can tell, there is nothing in place , either locally, regionally or nationally to address this problem.
          An eighty year old without a computer who has been shut in for the last year will likely stay shut in for the next year with little chance of getting an appointment.
          yes, I agree– be aggressive and get your shot when you can–it is the nature of individuals to do that.
          But as a civil society, we need to help the infirm.
          That is the role of government policy.
          We have to get past the “Andrews” of the world, who unabashedly opine that this disease only kills elderly people who are going to die anyway. We are a better community than that. We refer to our worldwide community as “civilization” . To callously disregard the needs and suffering of society’s most vulnerable and needy just because they are old is truly deplorable and “uncivilized”.
          Let’s not forget that the “savages” our European ancestors wiped out when they “discovered” the “new world” had the utmost respect for their elders– and their few descendants still do. Our societies, our communities and our very civilization is built on the shoulders of our ancestors.
          Our ancestors who are still alive deserve better.
          And , Ted, thank you for your reply to my comment.
          By the way, I got both of my shots on island.

  2. I believe the statement ‘ …even when someone gets the vaccine they are still carriers of the virus’ is not strictly true. Scientists and researchers are still trying to determine if the fully vaccinated can carry a virus load sufficient to infect others. I don’t think this has been definitively determined, which is why it is still a very good idea to follow protocols. However, stating this as an unqualified fact is misleading.

  3. The world has had decades of experience with tackling mutating respiratory viruses like this because of influenza. Research indicates that antibodies created through the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do recognize these variants, but it also seems that they are less effective. Still, while the vaccines appear to be less effective, they have not been rendered useless at all–the industry is poised to adapt as needed. Scientists are working quickly to learn more about these variants. Stop all the fearfulness and have confidence this is almost over.

    • Andrew– Thanks for the encouraging words– especially about what the scientist are doing.
      But, given the accuracy of your past predictions concerning this virus, I am now getting worried.

      • Exactly Don! Even though a broken clock is correct twice a day you can’t really rely on those two instances for accurate information can you?

    • Trump had confidence that this was almost over, well over a year ago.
      Did you share his confidence?
      Now when does Trump think it will over?
      What is your absolute end date?

  4. Mr Keller I made one prediction on the virus and I was wrong on that one only. You can be worried and fearful if you like but leave the rest of us alone.

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