Martha’s Vineyard closed out the year by hitting an all-time high in total cases last week with 131 new cases—giving December the highest total number of cases in a month on the Island since the start of the pandemic with 489 cases. August of 2021 had the next highest monthly total with 335 cases.
The new cases were reported by the boards of health in a shortened report covering the days from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31. Cases from Jan. 1 and on will be included in the Jan. 10 report.
Of the six day total of cases, 109 were reported by the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, 17 by TestMV, and five from other providers. There are 117 cases being monitored by public health officials and 14 that are not. Of the new cases, 76 had symptoms, seven did not, and the symptom status of 48 was unknown. There were 82 vaccinated, one partially vaccinated, and 21 unvaccinated individuals among the new cases. There were 27 cases with an unknown vaccination status.
The hospital could not immediately be reached for an update on hospitalizations.
Additionally there were 57 over the counter positive cases from people taking at home COVID tests. Beginning in 2022, the boards of health will begin reporting over the counter positive COVID cases in the same category as confirmed positive cases.
“As more people turn to OTC tests we feel that reporting the combined total will give us a better sense of the true positivity rate on the Island,” boards of health spokesperson and Tisbury health agent Maura Valley wrote in an email.
In a follow up email, Valley said she did not believe any towns had at home test kits for distribution. Local pharmacies have been selling at home test kits as fast as they can stock them on the shelves.
“At this time I don’t believe any towns have kits for distribution as we’re still waiting for delivery of our first order through Island Health Care,” she wrote.
The boards of health in collaboration with other Island health organizations created a website to help track positive at home cases.
As the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly, Massachusetts trial court issued an order on Dec. 31 that remote court operations will be used whenever possible. Courts can continue to hold in-person proceedings if virtual is not practicable. Trial courts are also required to reduce in-person staff to no more than 50 percent of staff at a time. COVID screening questions will be required and the mask requirement will remain in effect.
“Employees, court users and other individuals who work in or visit a courthouse must wear masks that completely cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of the face with no gaps. The use of gaiters, bandanas, or face shields will not be allowed as a substitution for a mask. Court Officers will enforce the requirement to properly wear a mask for court visitors,” a state release says.
Additionally all jury trials in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will be paused until Jan. 31. The SJC will remain open, but with an emphasis on conducting matters remotely.
In a letter to Island families, superintendent Matt D’Andrea reminded parents to not send their children to school if they are COVID positive.
If students or staff are exposed to COVID and are fully vaccinated they may return to school as long as they wear a mask and have no symptoms. If they become symptomatic they should test themselves and isolate until results are obtained.
Home test kits are now sufficient enough for the schools who are no longer requiring PCR tests as the only confirmation.
The Centers for Disease Control are shortening the recommended time for isolation for members of the public that test positive.
“People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter,” a post on the CDC website reads.
The change in isolation times comes as science shows the majority of COVID transmission occurs in the early course of the illness such as one to two days prior to symptoms and two to three days after.
The recommended quarantine period was also updated for those exposed to COVID.
“For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure,” the post reads. “For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.”