Updated July 22
The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has confirmed that two cases of the highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant have been detected on the Island.
Hospital communications specialist Marissa Lefevbre told The Times in an email that both individuals who tested positive for the Delta variant are fully vaccinated.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call, hospital president and CEO Denise Schepici and chief nurse and COO Claire Seguin made another push for people to get vaccinated.
The Delta COVID variant was first identified in India, and is more contagious than other strains of the virus. The variant accounts for 80 percent of new cases of COVID-19 across the country as the U.S. enters its fourth surge, Schepici said.
Schepici urged people who have not been vaccinated to make an appointment to get a shot. “The Delta variant is nothing to take lightly,” Schepici said. “It spreads very easily from human to human, and very quickly.”
While Massachusetts has not implemented a new mask order, Schepici said she encourages those who feel uncomfortable in an indoor setting to wear a mask if they can’t socially distance themselves.
This is the second variant detected on Martha’s Vineyard. Three cases of the B.117 COVID variant, known as the U.K. variant, were detected back in April.
While the Delta variant is of concern, Schepici said the vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalization and serious illness due to COVID.
Reports of the Delta variant on the Island come as the Vineyard is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases. There were 16 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Martha’s Vineyard last week, including several individuals who were symptomatic even though they are fully vaccinated.
The Cape is also seeing an increase in cases. Provincetown in particular has seen 132 cases between July 1 and 16, the “vast majority” being reported in vaccinated individuals. According to a Provincetown public health advisory, the town is urging its residents and visitors to wear masks indoors despite vaccination status, when they can’t social-distance, and “high-density business” require proof of vaccination before allowing people to enter.
Seguin said state data show the hospital has administered the first dose of vaccines to 92 percent of the Dukes County population, and has fully vaccinated 86 percent.
The 16 cases reported between July 11 and 17 are more than all of the cases reported in the previous six weeks.
The weekly report included vaccination information for the new cases, and shows that even some individuals who were fully vaccinated contracted COVID-19 and experienced symptoms.
Of the 16 cases, six are fully vaccinated, six are not vaccinated, and four had an unknown vaccination status. Additionally, 11 of the new cases were symptomatic, one had no symptoms, and four were unknown.
“Unfortunately we have seen a slight uptick in COVID cases in the past couple weeks,” Seguin said. “We want to inform and use this as an opportunity to encourage those who have not been vaccinated to get those shots. We know the vaccine works by preventing serious illness and hospitalizations.”
The rise in COVID cases and the presence of the Delta variant also comes as restrictions on businesses and events have been lifted, and people are wearing their masks less frequently.
Schepici said with less mask wearing, the hospital is seeing an increase in pre-COVID issues: coughs, colds, and even two cases of influenza.
Seguin added that the increase in cases comes at a particularly busy time for the hospital. She estimated there have been 600 additional visits this June.
“There has been an increase in patients coming into the emergency department,” Seguin said. “Our ED has seen an increase in patients when compared with 2019 and 2020 in June, and that has had a downstream impact as that’s having more patients being admitted to our inpatient units as well.”
Schepici said the significant increase in emergency room visits “absolutely” correlates to an increase in people on the Island.
The hospital is still encouraging people who have tested positive to isolate themselves, even if they are vaccinated. If they are experiencing COVID symptoms, they should get tested.
“There’s thoughtful concern for everyone’s safety. The virus is still there. We want everyone to enjoy the summer, but you have to use prudence and good common sense like we’ve been urging all along,” Schepci said. “Do the things that will keep you safe, and get vaccinated if you haven’t.”
Boards of health report
The age of the new cases varied, with two cases under 10 years of age, two between the ages of 11 and 19, one in their 20s, three in their 30s, one in their 40s, one in their 50s, two in their 60s, and four older than 70.
In a follow-up email to The Times, boards of health spokesperson and Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said five of the six vaccinated individuals were symptomatic. She added the Island has not yet received any results from the state epidemiologist for COVID variant testing.
Ten of the new cases are still being monitored by public health officials, two are not, and one was referred to an off-Island health facility. Three of the new cases were lost to follow-up communication from public health officials.
There were 14 cases reported from the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, one from TestMV, and one from an off-Island provider.
This all comes as the hospital has administered more than 27,000 vaccine doses — 13,692 first doses and 13,778 second doses.
As of July 15, the hospital has administered a total of 20,865 COVID tests. Of those, 1,102 are positives and 19,755 are negatives.
The TestMV site has administered a total of 39,209 COVID tests. Of those, 376 are positives, 38,666 negatives, and 167 are pending results.
The town of Aquinnah has administered 456 tests, with two positive results.
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has reported a total of 14 positive cases of COVID-19.
There were 18 positive tests reported at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, from a total of 16,122 tested.
Due to how tests are conducted, there can be a discrepancy between the number of positive individuals and the number of positive tests reported.
The Island has reported nine COVID clusters, including an October wedding (eight cases), Cronig’s Market (19 cases), a Bible study group (11 cases), M.V. Hospital (five cases), Project Headway (four cases), King’s barbershop (eight cases), Shirley’s Hardware (all six staff), the Barn Bowl & Bistro (nine cases), and Cardboard Box (three). A cluster is defined as more than two people from different families or households with a shared source of infection.
At the state level on July 16, the most recent data available, there were 269 new cases reported, for a total of 665,801 since the pandemic began. There were three new deaths Sunday. The state’s total deaths since the pandemic began is 17,634.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued the first Surgeon General’s Advisory of the Biden Administration Thursday warning about the threat of health misinformation.
“Health misinformation is an urgent threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, and undermine public health efforts, including our ongoing work to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said in a press release. “As Surgeon General, my job is to help people stay safe and healthy, and without limiting the spread of health misinformation, American lives are at risk. From the tech and social media companies who must do more to address the spread on their platforms, to all of us identifying and avoiding sharing misinformation, tackling this challenge will require an all-of-society approach, but it is critical for the long-term health of our nation.”
Updated to include information from Marissa Lefevbre. —Ed.