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 rapidtestmv.org.
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.