The West Tisbury board of health is recommending that every town employee be vaccinated, though ultimately it’s up to individual appointing authorities to decide whether to move forward with the mandate, according to minutes provided by the board of health.
At a meeting Tuesday, the board of health voted unanimously to recommend requiring vaccinations of town employees. “Due to the rise in Delta variant cases, the board voted unanimously to be the appointing authorities to mandate vaccinations for town employees,” the minutes state. “The appointing authorities would be responsible for determining medical and religious exemptions, and the possible alternative of a weekly-testing, non-vaccine option.”
While some people in town had called for a vaccine mandate, particularly for employees of the Howes House, which is the up-Island senior center, town leaders had been reluctant to do that.
Town administrator Jen Rand told The Times individual boards will have to vote to require vaccinations. Along with the select board, those boards include the finance committee, library trustees, board of assessors, planning board, board of health, and parks and recreation. “I have contacted each board to ask them to come to a joint meeting so that the discussion can be had at one time with all affected boards,” she wrote. She did not indicate when that meeting is scheduled.
Select board chair Skipper Manter could not immediately be reached for comment.
All of this comes as the Island has seen a significant spike in cases week-to-week. While there were 48 cases from August 1 to 7, there have been 53 positive results as of Thursday on the Vineyard. “Through coronavirus sequencing, it has been determined a large portion of the cases are Delta variant,” the West Tisbury minutes state. “The Delta variant causes more infections and spreads faster than earlier forms of COVID-19.”
All of the Island boards of health met on Wednesday, and though a mask mandate was discussed for the Island, the boards did not move forward with one.
That changed for West Tisbury on Thursday, when the health board also voted unanimously to impose a mask mandate in town in all public places. “This would include restaurants, shopping centers, the laundromat, and all applicable businesses,” the minutes state. “More signs will be purchased to inform the general public this mandate is in place, and the board of health agent will perform inspections at applicable businesses.”
According to the mandate, in a restaurant patrons can only remove masks when seated; lodging guests and workers are required to wear face coverings in common areas; and masks are required in houses of worship. The order also requires masks at places like barbershops, and on all public transportation, and that doors to public places be posted.
The mask mandate went into effect at 12:01 am Friday.
In a separate vote, the West Tisbury board unanimously approved of the mask mandate imposed by the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society for its upcoming fair. The board also discussed having capacity limits and having separate entrances and exits for the exhibit hall. “The Agricultural Fair Society will be responsible for buying and installing signs for the grounds stating indoor masks and social distancing are mandated,” the minutes state.
The board also is switching all public board meetings to remote access via Zoom.
Reporters Brian Dowd and Rich Saltzberg contributed to this report.