U.K. variant detected on-Island

Testing showed three samples tested positive for the COVID variant.

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The UK variant has been detected in positive cases of COVID-19 at Martha's Vineyard Hospital.

Three cases of the B.117 COVID-19 variant, known as the U.K. variant, have been detected on the Island, according to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital chief nurse and chief operating officer Claire Seguin.

Speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, Seguin said the hospital received results back for variant testing conducted by the state epidemiologist this week. Four of the six samples tested came back with three positive for the B.117 variant; one tested negative. The two other samples are pending results, and the hospital expects those results early next week.

Since Wednesday morning, the hospital has reported 27 new positive cases of COVID-19 and has one patient in “fair condition” hospitalized with the virus.

“This is such an important reminder of the need for us to remain vigilant and work together as a village even after you’ve been vaccinated — you must wear a mask, sanitize your hands, and social distance. It’s not the time for gathering,” Seguin said.

Island samples selected for variant testing were deemed “high-risk” because the individuals were around other large spreading events through contact tracing or had recently traveled.

The B.117 variant has been detected in other Massachusetts communities with 59 cases on the Cape, according to the Massachusetts COVID command center.

“I was not surprised because of our case count going up. I was suspicious of it because our case count was going up,” Seguin said.

Seguin said the B.117 strain is more virulent and in some studies it has shown to make people sicker, Seguin said. Treatments are the same regardless of the strain of COVID-19.

The hospital is working with the boards of health on whether additional variant testing should be conducted.

On Wednesday, hospital officials said the P-1 variant from Brazil has been detected in Massachusetts more than any other state, but the four samples they received back did not test positive for it.

25 cases in past two days

The boards of health reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 over the past two days—five cases Thursday and 20 on Friday for a total of 57 new cases this week.

In total there have been 1,154 confirmed positive cases since testing began on the Island in March. Of those 577 are male and 577 are female.

Boards of health data shows that the majority of new cases are those 40 years and younger with 18 of this week’s new cases from those in their 30s.

In total, the hospital has conducted 16,019 tests with 827 positives, 15,230 negatives, and 60 pending results.

TestMV, which is located in the parking lot at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, has now administered 36,356 tests, with 302 positive results, 35,719 negative results, and 335 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.

Businesses close due to COVID

The Barn Bowl & Bistro is set to reopen on Tuesday, April 13, after closing its doors last week due to four employees testing positive for COVID-19.

In a Facebook post Thursday, The Barn wrote a lengthy message detailing the series of events that led to their decision to reopen.

“Once we heard of the employee’s positive test result, we immediately closed the business and notified the Oak Bluffs Board of Health. Soon thereafter, we learned that several other employees had also tested positive for the virus, and so naturally, we extended our closure. We had to wait and make sure that all of our employees who may have been exposed to the virus got tested 5 days following their potential contact with it. (This is how long it takes the virus to establish itself as detectable in someone). Thankfully, all of those employees have since tested negative,” the post said in part.

The four employees that tested positive were all asymptomatic, according to the post. Three other people connected to those employees also tested positive.

The Island has had eight clusters in total with King’s Barbershop (eight), Shirley’s Hardware (six), and the Barn (seven) reported in the last two weeks. The other clusters were 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.

The Scottish Bakehouse closed Thursday following the positive test of an employee. Contact tracing is being conducted, according to Tisbury health agent Maura Valley. A sign at the Bakehouse reads “we will be closed until further notice due to possible COVID-19 exposure.”

Meanwhile, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is testing for COVID variants amidst the ongoing spike in cases the Island has seen in the past few weeks. As of Wednesday, there were 133 cases over a 10-day period, a surge in cases not seen since early January. The Martha’s Vineyard boards of health will release an updated COVID report Friday afternoon.

The hospital is sticking with its vaccination schedule. New appointments will begin booking on Saturday at 8 am and Monday at 5 pm. Seguin said that while the hospital understands the public’s frustration, the current system is the best option for the hospital.