Last week was a good week, arguably the best we’ve had in more than 14 months since coronavirus and COVID-19 became household words.
On Friday, in a symbolic gesture that had to feel good, Edgartown leaders, including town administrator James Hagerty, Police Chief Bruce McNamee, Fire Chief Alex Schaeffer, and health agent Matt Poole removed signs requiring that masks be worn outdoors in the downtown area. The health board, following guidance from the state Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), lifted the order.
Tisbury and Oak Bluffs have ended mandatory mask orders in their busy downtowns, too.
Last week, we also got word that the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society would move forward with its annual Ag Fair. At present, it will be at 50 percent capacity, but it’s still possible by the time we get to August it will be business as usual. Gov. Charlie Baker has said if the data continue in a positive direction, all restrictions could be lifted by August 1, in time for the fair to open its gates to everyone.
Just this week, Baker said most restrictions would be lifted as of May 29, and the state’s emergency health proclamation will be over on June 15.
Perhaps the most important milestone last week was the day Massachusetts reported zero deaths to COVID-19. It has been a long time since we could report that statistic.
All of this is a reminder of how much we’ve all sacrificed during the past year. Time away from family and friends. Celebrations put on hold. Hugs off-limits, even at our most vulnerable times.
It feels like the right time, again, to show some appreciation for our frontline workers at the hospital, at the TestMV site, in our supermarkets, at our restaurants, in our shops, and to those who provide public transportation. We also appreciate our first responders. Time and again you’ve risked your own personal health and safety to protect and serve the public during a worldwide pandemic.
We hope moving forward there are clear rules from government leaders. On Thursday, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated individuals could gather indoors without masks. Later that day, the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission met in person at the airport, and all of the commissioners were maskless. There was one problem: Gov. Baker had not yet lifted his order on gatherings indoors, which require individuals to wear masks or face coverings.
On Monday, Baker lifted the order effective May 29, but left the mask and face-covering requirement in the hands of individual businesses. So we hope in the days and weeks ahead there is continued respect of the rules by individuals. If a store or business is requiring you to wear a mask, you should be respectful to the employees inside and wear a mask, even if you’re fully vaccinated. It’s just not that difficult. Carry a mask with you, and throw it on when requested. There are situations you may be unaware of, such as people who are immunocompromised.
Martha’s Vineyard has been a leader throughout the pandemic. Because we’ve complied with state and local guidelines — and even created some stricter Island-specific ones — the number of positive COVID test results has been low compared with other places. And while there have been deaths of individuals with ties to the Island, not a single case of COVID on-Island resulted in a death, and very few resulted in hospitalizations. That is some outstanding work on the part of everyone.
So take a moment to reflect. We’re almost there, and a bright and busy summer awaits us. It’s been a marathon, but we’ve done it together. Let’s continue to help each other across the finish line.