Hospital urges vaccinations as COVID cases surge

Hospital sees staffing shortage as omicron variant is expected to be the cause of rapid rise in new cases.

As COVID cases continue to surge upwards, Island health officials released this graphic to show the public what to do if they test positive for COVID. — courtesy Maura Valley

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital leaders are urging the public to get COVID vaccinations and booster shots, as the Island is expected to continue to see rapid spread of the virus.

COVID has hit the hospital staff hard, with 12 hospital employees out due to testing positive.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, hospital president and CEO Denise Schepici and chief nurse and COO Claire Seguin said the staffing shortage has not hampered the hospital’s ability to to treat patients, and there are backup staff, but the shortage is cause for concern.

The hospital has cut back on some routine wellness visits. The staffing shortage is coupled with a busy emergency room. 

“We don’t have a very deep bench, so it’s the rapidity of the spread that gives us concern, but our staff are taking great precautions,” she said. “This is definitely about community spread.”

While the hospital is still awaiting results from samples sent to the state epidemiologist, Seguin said they expect the omicron variant is responsible for the rapid spread of cases on the Island.

There are currently two patients hospitalized with COVID, both in fair condition, and one patient was transferred off-Island in critical condition. Seguin said the hospital breaks down condition status depending on the level of care for the patient. Fair condition could be a patient requiring oxygen they are not normally on, and frequent checking of vital signs; serious condition can consist of needing high-flow oxygen and oxygen monitoring; and critical condition could require being on a ventilator, needing to be transferred, and having multiple infusions.

After more than a year and a half of having no positive COVID cases among Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center residents, the nursing facility had its first resident test positive for the virus. The patient is in good condition, and is in isolation.

As for predictions, Schepici said, based on the spread of omicron in the U.K. and South Africa, the U.S. is looking at a peak in the surge in two more weeks, before rapidly tapering off. “We’re still in the thick of it. It’ll be on the rise for the next two weeks, so these next two weeks are critical,” she said.

Schepici and Seguin stressed the importance of getting vaccinated for people to protect themselves and others, and preserve hospital resources. The hospital has vaccines, and sign-up is available on the hospital’s website. Additional appointments are expected to be available for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

“We are experiencing record positive cases in the community,” Schepici said. “The sickest patients are not vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, it is not too late, so I urge you to get your shots now, and boosters when you’re eligible.”

The hospital has administered more than 35,000 COVID vaccines — 15,010 first doses, 15,096 second doses, and 5,608 booster doses. The hospital is planning to administer 600 more doses this coming week.

Seguin estimated 80 percent of the Island population is vaccinated.

Those who test positive with a home test kit are urged to report their results to


The Black Dog Tavern has closed until further notice, according to a post on its Facebook page. The Black Dog Bakery Cafe and Water Street bakery remain open.

“Hey there, folks. It’s our turn. Out of concern for the safety of our staff and customers, the Tavern will be closed until further notice. We will update you as soon as we can safely reopen. Stay well, and we will see you soon,” the post reads.
COVID cases began to rise drastically at the beginning of December, reaching all-time weekly highs. This week is already set to be the highest weekly total of cases reported since the start of the pandemic.

When the indoor mask mandate was extended, health officials said it would be re-evaluated in January.

In an email to The Times, Valley encouraged the public to use N95 masks or KN95 masks instead of cloth or paper surgical masks. She also said the public should carefully consider social gatherings, and avoid crowded and poorly ventilated spaces.

“We are currently experiencing rapid and extensive spread of COVID-19, due primarily to the highly transmissible omicron variant. While the young, healthy, and vaccinated are likely to experience mild or moderate illness, the unvaccinated, the elderly, and the immunocompromised remain at high risk for severe illness and hospitalization,” she wrote. 


  1. I want to thank everyone at MVH and in the medical and healthcare fields for working though this pandemic, and continuing to care for everyone in our community.

    • Try these questions:
      What percent of patients were vaccinated?
      What percentage of beds are used for covid patients?
      Are non-covid patients being turned away?
      Is the hospital sufficiently staffed?
      How many workers have caught the virus?

    • Joseph, did you read the article? It breaks down how they’re categorizing the condition of COVID patients. Based on what’s being monitored and described, it’s obvious that they’re talking about active COVID symptoms. Hospitals across the country have been busier this week than any other time during the pandemic because COVID is spreading so rapidly.

    • Joseph–what’s the difference of “from” or “with ” covid ?
      if you are hospitalized with or from covid, what difference does it make?
      If you have some sort of point to make, please clarify.

      • Was the person in the hospital for another injury and tested positive while there with little to no symptoms? Makes a big difference because the person is not in the hospital and taking up a bed because of covid, but due to their other injury and would have been in the hospital regardless of their covid status.

        • Joseph– you have a valid point.
          However, I doubt that hospitals are classifying every patient that comes through the door as a covid patient if they test positive.
          Your argument is an attempt to water down the seriousness of the situation.

        • It’s been my experience that if an injury is serious enough to require a bed, you’re shipping up to Boston. Also in my experience, this paper does not conflate injury with COVID.

          “There are currently two patients hospitalized with COVID, both in fair condition, and one patient was transferred off-Island in critical condition. Seguin said the hospital breaks down condition status depending on the level of care for the patient. Fair condition could be a patient requiring oxygen they are not normally on…”

          Out of respect for the law and privacy, hospital employees have to word things in general terms. I believe this is the most detailed information we’re going to get about any individual. It’s straightforward enough for me. While people do show up for unrelated reasons and end up testing positive, there is nothing to indicate that’s what happened here.

          Context counts. These patients were referenced in the section about COVID care, not just the weekly tally of test results. Two are in fair condition, defined as possibly needing oxygen one doesn’t normally need. That obviously indicates breathing problems, a known symptom of this illness. Plus, there are more COVID cases at this point in time than any other, both on MV and across the country.

          The math. It adds up.

          Looking at the national news, hospitals have been more than transparent about the various burdens they’re under, explaining that folks are coming in for a range of issues. This tells me they have no desire to pass one condition off as another. But the #1 reason for the traffic and chaos is still COVID itself. Some feel an unhelpful need to downplay or cast doubt on that fact, perhaps to make the numbers sound better. Meanwhile, Americans are being treated (FOR COVID, not with) in hallways and waiting room chairs because these places are beyond capacity. What more proof is required?

  2. I so appreciate this article and the forthrightness of the hospital about the gravity of our current situation regarding Covid. I am so thankful for all of the frontline workers at the hospital and Windermere and am so struck by the number is staff who are now sick. We are too spread out to bang pots or blow horns but please know many of us are singing your praises and trying our best to follow your guidance so as to cope with the current community spread.

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