After several weeks of level results from COVID-19 testing, the Vineyard is suddenly seeing an uptick in cases. In daily reports released this week, the Island boards of health have reported 59 cases between Sunday and Friday afternoon. That’s almost as many cases as the Island saw in the previous four weeks combined.
Marissa Lefebvre, a spokesperson for Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, confirmed one person is currently hospitalized with COVID.
Asked if the recent uptick in cases can be attributed to the Thanksgiving holiday, Lefebvre wrote: “We’re unable to say for sure, but the timing of the rise in cases does align with the holiday.”
Maura Valley, Tisbury’s health agent and a spokesperson for the Island boards of health, wrote: I attribute the spike in cases to people moving indoors and celebrating the holidays, whether by traveling to visit family or having family members and friends visit them.”
With other events planned for the holidays, Valley reminded folks to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID. “As has been said many times, people should wear masks when in congested areas or in close proximity to others outside of their immediate family,” she wrote. “They should also get vaccinated if they haven’t done so already and get a booster when they are eligible.”
In some cases, Valley wrote, there are two to five family members infected, but there have been no more clusters reported thus far.
This comes as Massachusetts reported a significant increase in infections this week, as well. On Wednesday Massachusetts reported 5,170 new cases, with 989 patients hospitalized in the Bay State. That’s the highest case count since last winter’s surge in cases.
Lefebvre wrote that there is no evidence of the Omicron variant on the Island, but she noted that Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital are working in collaboration with MIT and Harvard’s Broad Institute using sequencing technology to detect the Omicron variant in COVID samples. “We expect to learn more in the coming weeks,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, the hospital continues to administer vaccines. “We are seeing a very high demand for booster shots at the hospital,” Lefebvre wrote.
On Saturday, the state Department of Public Health issued a press release indicating that the first case of the Omicron variant was detected in Massachusetts. “The individual is a female in her 20s and a resident of Middlesex County who traveled out of state. She is fully vaccinated, has experienced mild disease, and did not require hospitalization. The variant was identified through sequencing performed at New England Biolabs,” the release states.
The release goes on to say that while the Omicron variant is classified with the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization as a “variant of concern,” scientists are still working to determine its severity and how easily it’s transmitted. “There is some limited evidence that Omicron could be more transmissible than other COVID-19 virus variants, including Delta,” the release states. “This variant is being monitored closely by public health authorities around the world, and more information about what we know about Omicron is available on the CDC website.”
The release goes on to urge folks who haven’t been vaccinated to get a shot and for others to get the booster.
Valley said the Island will provide additional access to booster shots with a vaccine bus Dec. 11 and Dec. 12. People are asked to preregister for the shots. A flyer provides the information in both English and Portuguese.
Updated to include detection of Omicron variant in Massachusetts. -Ed.