Down-Island towns issue indoor mask mandate

Amid a significant rise in COVID cases and Delta variant, health officials take incremental step to stem spread.

If you're headed indoors in one of the down-Island towns, bring your mask. -Brian Dowd

Amid a sharp rise in new COVID cases and the presence of the Delta variant, the Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury boards of health unanimously approved an indoor mask mandate at a joint meeting Tuesday.

The mandate goes into effect on Thursday, August 19, at 12:01 am, and requires individuals to wear a mask or face covering at all indoor settings.

“Face coverings are required for all individuals aged 2 years and above in all indoor public spaces, or private spaces open to the public. Notwithstanding any provision in this order, pursuant to guidance issued by the CDC, face coverings should not be placed on young children under 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance, or anyone who due to disability is unable to wear a mask,” the mandate reads.

The mandate requires that customers at indoor food establishments may only remove their mask when seated. Customers at an indoor performance, bar, or dance venue may only remove face coverings when eating or drinking, or seated. Lodging guests must wear face coverings when inside hallways or common areas. Houses of worship are also covered by the order.

Fitness club staff and customers must wear face coverings at all times.

At personal services such as barbershops, and hair and nail salons, all customers and staff must wear face coverings. Face coverings can be temporarily removed for beard or skin care that occurs on the face, but must be immediately put back on.

Those in shared office spaces are not required to mask while at work stations as long as they maintain a distance of six feet. Masks must be worn while serving the public or traversing the building. 

Masks will remain mandatory for all public and private transportation.

All businesses are required to post signage advising customers that face coverings are to be maintained inside the establishment.

Written warnings can be issued to establishments for a first offense, $100 for second offense, $200 for third offense, and $300 for a fourth offense.

While fines can be imposed, health officials said, realistically, fines, especially on individuals, would be hard to impose. The boards of health, not the police, are the enforcing agents. “By the time we get the complaint about them not wearing a mask, they tend to be gone,” Valley said.

Edgartown health agent Matt Poole said Island health officials are viewing the mandate as incremental, and there will hopefully not be a need to go beyond this first step. “We elected not to go back to capacity limits and regulating spacing at this point,” Poole said. “But if we can’t reverse our trends, we may find ourselves there.”

Oak Bluffs board of health member William White said Island health officials will meet again soon. “We’ll see how these trends go,” White said. “We’ll have to address this in a few weeks one way or another.” 

Oak Bluffs health agent Meegan Lancaster showed a 14-day case rate graphic indicating the Island’s cases were spiking, and that the Island could see a record number of cases. 

“We are really up there in terms of case count,” Lancaster said. “We are making the best effort we can to ensure people are wearing masks indoors in as many circumstances as possible.”

“I think this is going to get worse before it gets better,” Oak Bluffs board of health member James Butterick said.

When looking at a comprehensive chart of COVID cases over the course of the pandmeic, Oak Bluffs board of health member Tom Zinno said this most recent spike is of particular concern.

“Now we’re looking at a spike that’s happening when a good portion of the population is vaccinated,” Zinno said. “That’s the scariest part of the whole thing.”


  1. Thank you antivaxxers–
    Could you keep it up ?
    I would like another stop work order, so I could get some guilt free time off. And if it gets bad enough, the government will spend your hard earned tax dollars to pay me to stay at home.
    Why don’t you all have some more unmasked bible study, or refuse to mask while in church. Make sure you sing real loud and pass this around to all of the congregants that are protected by god. (so much better than a man made vaccine) That might bump the cases up to about a thousand a week , and that may actually prompt the authorities to shut us down again.
    I look forward to my next taxpayer funded “staycation”
    Thanks again for all you do..

    • Hi Don,
      I am going to try again, but the Times thus far has prevented any response from me to you. I am not opposed to vaccinations. I am, however, opposed to persuasion when it becomes coercion. Where is the line across which you would not step? In your book (let’s limit it to government) what measures would be required for you to say “enough is enough?”

  2. As of today, August 17th, there are 97 new Covid19 cases confirmed on Martha’s Vineyard. In only 17 days, 97 brand new cases — of the 40-60% more contagious Delta variant, with a 1000% greater lung viral load than the original Wuhan strain — on a tiny rural island, with only a triage hospital of 27 beds and 3 ventilators, though currently serving ~200K human beings. How fast does gossip spread on this island? Imagine this highly contagious viral spread in this same community. We are on a tiny, rural ISLAND. Let us PLEASE step up our collective intelligent response to the inevitable snowball of community contagion with our PREVENTATIVE choices in equal measure NOW. The ENTIRE ISLAND requires mask mandates — all 6 towns, including Menemsha — NOW. Hindsight will not be our friend here. Let us NOT create, “Martha’s Vineyard, where all hell broke loose with the Covid19 Delta variant”. PREVENTION. NOW. Tick. Tock.

  3. Maybe I missed something here, 97 cases, that’s a lot but are we accounting for the thousands of extra people on the island while we are seeing this huge increase? It’s not January with 97 cases.
    *stop the spread
    *mask up
    *get vaccinated if you are medically able

    • Gail — thanks for giving me a chance to do some math;

      In round numbers , the vineyard had about 12 cases a day last week
      Out of an estimated summer population of about 200,000 .

      that’s one care for every 16,500 people on the island

      Ma. has an overall population near 7 million
      Or 35 x that of the Vineyard (currently ) — it had 1,579 new cases yesterday,

      that’s one case for every 4.400 people in Ma.

      So Ma. has about 4x the rate the vineyard does.

      The U.S. had 158,127 cases yesterday out of a population of 330 million

      That’s one case for every 2,100 people in the U.S

      So the U.S . has about 8x the rate the vineyard does.

      And then , of course there is Florida– The land of the mask free
      They had 23,335 new cases yesterday out of a population of about 21,500,000

      That’s one case for every 921 people in the Fl.

      So Florida has about 18x the rate the vineyard does.

      Yeah, the mask is inconvenient, but I am ok with the boards of health doing their job.
      Get the jab, people —

  4. Yes, but the virus, like the honey badger don’t care. The virus doesn’t only spread to the visiting population and leave on Labor Day. You’re right about masking, social distancing, and vaccinating. I am concerned for those working overtime in the hospitality industry right now.

    • I’m not talking about day trippers, I am talking about the people that come down for the summer for extended stays or even the whole summer, not to mention the influx of seasonal help that we would not find here in January. This is what I’m asking, are we accounting for this increase of population?? Does 97 seem out of place with the summer population? (I would prefer it to be zero as everyone would)

      I know it won’t leave on Labor Day, I am not dense.
      *stop the spread
      *mask up
      *get vaccinated if you are medically able

      • Have you looked at the infection rate for the same period from last summer? Last year the number of cases reported from Jul. 31 – Aug. 15 were ZERO. Last week there were 87 cases. IN ONE WEEK.

  5. With the increased uptick of COVID cases, why is the Ag Fair still being held? Anybody who attends the fair is moronic!

    • Michael– Good question.
      I guess the ag fair is not being attended by wealthy “elite” people who have been fully vaccinated and tested.
      If we could convince the “conservatives” here that even a few fully vaccinated elite liberals who got there in their private jets were going to the fair this year, there would be screams from the right wing hypocrites to shut it down.
      Too bad that out of 12 comments here, yours is the only one mentioning this.
      Maybe if Obama shows up, the hypocrites will realize this is a super spreader event, and urge everyone to avoid it.

    • Jesse — don’t panic !
      The numbers used to place us into the highest risk category are based on the year round population numbers and do not reflect the summer influx of people .
      Take a look at this article
      it states that we are running at a rate of 43.7 cases per day per 100,000 population.

      In fact , we are having 12 cases a day with a population of about 200,000
      Given that we are experiencing 12 cases a day, this article is basing it’s 43.7 cases per 100 k per day on a base line population of about 28,500.
      It’s not as bad as you think,
      but we do need to be cautious..

      See my numbers above…
      Statistics are a funny thing– sometimes you have to track down what the dase information is.

  6. A year ago we were all thrilled that the upcoming vaccine would be 95% effective. Now that it has proven to be 99.76% effective we are locking things down again. Explain to me how this works? And have numbers to support your view.

  7. There are two critical factors when it comes to the spread of an infectious disease.
    1 How dense the population is.
    2 How dense the population is.

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