Hospital reports first COVID death

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Martha's Vineyard Hospital reported the first death due to COVID-19 on the Island. -MVT File

Updated Feb. 9

The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital reported the Island’s first COVID-related death Tuesday.

Albert Hutchinson, 78, of Chilmark passed away this morning, according to an email from hospital communications specialist Marissa Lefebvre. 

“Our thoughts are with Mr. Hutchinson’s family,” Lefebvre said.

The hospital declined to comment on Hutchinson’s vaccination status.

“We are saddened by yesterday’s news of the passing of Mr. Albert Hutchinson,” hospital president and CEO Denise Schepici said in a statement Wednesday. “The COVID virus has afflicted so much pain and suffering on so many lives in such unbearable ways. Our staff and our community have worked tirelessly to fight this epic pandemic and while it is one death, it is one death too many. In this time of sorrow, we offer our condolences to Mr. Hutchinson’s family.”

Speaking to The Times by phone, Hutchinson’s niece Rebecca Walsh said he was the best brother and uncle in the world. 

“He was just wonderful, he was a musician, he was a carpenter, he was a chef, he had an enormous personality. He was a larger than life figure,” Walsh said.

She said Hutchinson led a full life, he once owned a company that restored Jaguar cars, was a lifelong vegetarian, and a renaissance man.

“He was a tremendous force for good,” she said.

Issac Taylor, who had known Albert for the past 20 plus years, said he knew Hutchinson through his love of music. “He was really patient, had a great sense of humor, so knowledgeable about music history and theory and a really great guitar player,” Taylor said.

Richard Skidmore said Hutchinson went by many names — Hutch, Albort, Albit, Bort, Albrecht, and Alb. 

“He moved from Boston to NYC, and I met him in 1967 on the Lower East Side in NYC at a graphic design studio that art directed the ‘National Lampoon’ and also published comics such as All Duck Funnies— it was our clubhouse and an excellent milieu for his formative years. He was featured in several photo novellas and did some voicing for the cartoon Fritz The Cat,” Skidmore said.

He added that Hutchinson’s friendships were “soulfully deep” and he established himself on the Vineyard as a handyman and musician. 

“He was a connoisseur of humor and food, and his dinner parties featuring Vindaloo were renowned for the scalding heat of his signature dish and the hilarity he welcomed and provoked,” Skidmore said.

Chilmark select board member Bill Rossi said it was sad to hear of Hutchinson’s death. “It’s sad to know that someone from the Island has lost their life due to COVID-19,” Rossi said. “That’s definitely sad news.”

Edgartown health agent Matt Poole, who is filling the role of Martha’s Vineyard boards of health spokesperson, gave his condolences to Hutchinson’s family. “Any loss of life, even one, is super unfortunate,” he said. “It serves as a costly reminder of the fact that we need to continue to make good decisions about who we associate with, what we know about them, where we go in public.”

He added that masking and getting vaccinated is extremely important to help prevent the spread of COVID.

The Island’s first death comes nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic and as the weekly total of new cases on the Island have declined since their all-time highs last month.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 21,811 people have died across the state due to COVID-19. There have been 903,038 deaths across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Last month the hospital also confirmed the presence of the omicron variant on the Island after samples were tested by the state epidemiologist lab.

The Baker administration will lift the statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools on Feb. 28, becoming another in a handful of states across the country that have made similar announcements. “It’s time to give our kids a sense of normalcy and lift the mask mandate on a statewide basis for schools,” Baker said. “We understand many students will choose to continue to wear masks going forward for a number of reasons and we fully support those individual decisions and we would urge everyone in K through 12 education to do the same.”

Baker doubled down on his position, saying schools are safe for children. “We’ve learned a lot about how safe schools are and how to keep kids in class learning over the course of this pandemic and we have far more tools available to us to deal with this pandemic than back at the beginning,” Baker said. “School settings are very rarely sources of COVID transmission.” 

Masks will still be required on school buses per federal orders.

In an email to The Times after the announcement, Poole said the Island’s health boards will consider the status of local mask mandates. He said Edgartown was set to discuss masks in schools at a March 9 meeting in anticipation of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) reconsideration of the mandate and when Island students would return to school after February break.

“Whether the local mandate governs the schools when DESE rescinds has not been previously discussed, but has not been established by the towns,” Poole said. “I suspect this announcement from the state will trigger a broad discussion about local mask mandates but, today, how that will unfold is still to be determined. Each of the towns has early March board of health meetings scheduled and the question could be taken up independently in each town or there could be a single jointly posted meeting. We will know more about the process for consideration later in the month.”

Updated with additional information. — Ed.

64 COMMENTS

  1. Heartbreaking. Albert was one of the kindest most generous people I’ve ever met. His guitar playing was out of this world and his ability to teach was top notch. Great sense of humour. Huge loss to the island community.

    • Thank you for your kind words. Our family is heartbroken. So much love and good is lost. Claire Hutchinson Lavin, Albert’s sister

      • Well, Alex, I didn’t know Albert . I have known only 2 people who have died from this over the course of the entire pandemic.
        What’s so callus ? From my point of view, it is the callousness of the right wing media, and people like you know who , who couldn’t care less about the nearly 1 million Americans that have died from this disease that is true callousness.
        You yourself have argued for less governmental regulations that may have prevented Mr. Hutchinson’s death.
        For you to berate me for asking if the first person to die from this plague in our community was vaccinated is pretty hypocritical.
        I didn’t see anyone accused of being callous for inaccurately stating that only overweight old people with underlying conditions died from this.
        I can see from the comments here that Mr Hutchinson was a well respected kind and caring individual. I grieve for his family, as I do for every other anonymous statistic that gets added to this horrific toll. Every one of those nearly 1 million people had families, friends and loved ones…Just like Albert.
        But I am part of this community, which for whatever reason has been spared a single death until now. Perhaps — just perhaps it is because we have been very cautious. And perhaps the death of one of our very own might get someone who refuses to get vaccinated to re think that decision.
        When someone in our community dies , we think differently.
        I think my question is valid.

    • Actually Don, it’s not on everyone’s mind. What’s on most people’s minds is heartfelt condolences to Alberts friends and family. Please show decency at this time.

      • Carl–
        I mean no disrespect to Albert or his friends and family.
        Nor do I mean any disrespect for any of the other 6 million people who have died from this. I have been pained by all of those deaths.
        Just asking a rational question.

        • You have been ”pained” by 6 million deaths worldwide? You also ”grieve” for his family and the other 1 million in the USA? Is this a bit dramatic? Meanwhile ”nobody is forced to be vaccinated” while haranguing and harassment has gone on for two years.

          • I do not forget what joy a person brought into my life if they die suddenly. I do not like when the experience repeats. I recommend we not lose sight of the target of preventing deaths.

    • Sad loss and sadder that CEO declined to say. If he was that would certainly create a healthy conversation.

      • Clarie– Thank you for sharing that information. It is of course up to the family. For those of us that know what compassion is, I think I speak for more than myself when I say the community feels your pain, regardless if we knew Albert or not. To have the circumstances be so public must not help. From the comments here , I feel unfortunate that I never met him. May he rest in peace.

  2. Albert was a very kind and caring person, one of the nicest people you ever want to meet! I have known albert for over 40 years and he never had a bad thing to say about anybody to my knowledge, he will be very missed up here in Aquinnah!

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts of my beautiful brother. He spoke of you. Always very highly – he will be terribly missed.

  3. Like that’s anyone’s business? It’s a shame people like you have to raise doubts about the Trump vaccine’s effectiveness by constantly raising questions like this.

      • why are you always so angry even after over a year now that trump is gone. carrying a resentment such as that eats you up from the inside out. peace

        • Dean– It looks your question is directed to Aron. Your response seems kind of angry. So does Heidi’s actually. Trump is not gone. If you haven’t noticed, he is still quite in charge of the republican party, and this country has enough idiots to vote him back into office. Meanwhile, if you bother to look at something other than trump propaganda news, you will see that he spent his time in office ripping up official documents that he didn’t like. Burning some, and clogging toilets with them. No wonder he and his supporters ranted against Hillary’s email.
          But to suggest that trump was responsible for the vaccine that his minions refuse to take is ludicrous, at best.
          I agree with Aron — “say what ? “

          • Don,
            If you can’t stay on topic with your comments, please don’t comment at all. Clearly this is an article about the passing of a wonderful human being and should be respected as such. A simple sorry for your loss should suffice. There really isn’t a need to bait people into your petty political foray.

        • Carl– why are you on my case about going “off topic”?
          I assume you can follow the timeline here. Heidi brought trump up, Aron was incredulous that she did, I pointed out that I said nothing political and Dean jumped in to trumps defense. My second comment was the fifth one in a thread that Heidi started.
          I did not bait anyone—
          Read my reply to Clarie and then bark at Heidi and Dean for “baiting”. I notice that there is not a single word from either of them directed towards any kind of condolences or “sorry’s” toward the family — even you have even obliquely addressed that sentiment.
          Perhaps George will print my yet to be published response to Andy that articulates my true felling’s about the whole situation.

    • Heidi– did I say anything about trump ? Or the effectiveness of “his ” vaccine ?
      I simply asked if Albert was vaccinated.

    • If it’s not anyone’s business who is and who isn’t vaccinated; then why are people so quick to judge those who and those who have not vaccinated. You’re right it’s not anyone’s business, nor is it anyone’s right to forcefully make someone get vaccinated.

      • When you go to work each day, or go grocery shopping, or simply for a walk on a public path, should you have the expectation you’ll end the day home without injury or pending mortal illness? Should that be a right or wishful thinking? We possibly (to put it kindly) disapprove of the other’s politics; vaccines are not political. We want you to be healthy, your family to to be healthy, we want us to be healthy. If you’re not vaccinated, please get the shot, get the second, get the boosters. Mask and social distance. How close do you need to be in the supermarket checkout? We can discuss minimum wage and insurance another day.

  4. My heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of this wonderful Chilmarker.

    The vaccination status of one individual over 70 who passes from covid is irrelevant except as a reminder that vaxed or not, our immune function decreases with age. Vaccines often may not work as well in someone over 70 as they do in a 40 year old. Neither does the healthiest lifestyle and diet provide protection from covid. If anything, this tragic and untimely death should remind us of the vulnerable among us, vaxed or not, and why it is still too soon to take off masks in public and around others in general. The numbers of cases are still high and we don’t know who within our community will have a severe illness from this plague. We follow the rest of the country in that surging numbers produce hospitalizations weeks later, and sometimes deaths, even after the surge slows and plummets. We are getting there, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. Every life matters so profoundly. It’s not time to stop thinking about others, despite the loosening of mandates and plunging case numbers. Also as a reminder, for anyone whose immune system is weakened, a 4th shot is recommended 3 months after the 3rd. No one is forced to be vaccinated, of course. It’s a choice. As with all choices, there are consequences, good, bad, or indifferent.

  5. During this tragic time wouldn’t it be prudent of the CEO to say if the man was vaccinated so to put everyone who is on alert that this can happen to all of us vaccinated or not? In death this man can be a conversation we all need to have that regardless of vaccinated status we can all lose the battle.

  6. oh, dear, Albert…are you listening to this? r.i.p. my friend…you’re free from all this now…our little town of Gay Head/Aquinnah loved you, and remember you fondly.

    • Thank you! Yes, he is free of it all now. But I’d rather he were here, in the thick of the argument, and still with us.
      Rebecca Walsh, Albert’s niece.

  7. I’m so sad about Albert’s passing. Albert had a robust personality, excellent wit, and a special energy. We were separated by a couple of generations and not very close, but he was a friend to me in our family, and treated me with respect and kindness. I was lucky to share many fun times with him throughout my life, and good meals too. He was always considerate of me as a fellow vegetarian and would share what he made or brought for himself. We both loved spicy and I was especially lucky and grateful when he was up to some cooking. I miss him and will continue to be inspired by and love him.

  8. Can we all please set politics, policy and opinion aside and focus on sending love to the legacy of this man and to his surviving family members?

  9. I am so saddened to hear of the loss of Albert. He was without a doubt one of the kindest, funniest and talented man that I have ever known. I hope there is a card game waiting for you in Paradise. ☮️

  10. Don your True colors are exposed. That’s the truth. Your self importance on Mv times is pitiful. Goes for other ‘regular’ posters.

  11. Thank you, Alex. Is it really not possible for some of you to hold your tongues for just a bit, and pay your respects to one good human? Take a look at the comments in the Gazette article, and learn.

  12. Sympathies to Albert’s family.

    As for whether he or anyone is vaccinated or not, the preference should be no others suffer and die because of the virus. If it’s not respectful to care about the wellbeing of others now but to wait, I don’t have the words to describe.

  13. Several people seem to be unaware that this not a personal obituary written for the family and friends of the deceased. It is a news story for the public, sensitively written, about the death of a well-loved community member– from COVID. Just as important, it is a news story that is about COVID– stats, masks in schools, buses, the presence of the highly contagious omicron variant, the Governor, POLICY, and the reminder that:

    “Any loss of life, even one, is super unfortunate…It serves as a costly reminder of the fact that we need to continue to make good decisions about who we associate with, what we know about them, where we go in public….He (health agent Matt Poole) added that masking and getting vaccinated is extremely important to help prevent the spread of COVID.”

    The only lesson I learn from Gazette comments is that the selective, highly censored comments are not a representation of who islanders are and how they feel about anything, especially when it conflicts with the false narrative of island life and the wide range of who islanders really are. The Times moderator should be commended for giving voice to a variety of reactions and opinions here, which happens to be news of public interest, like it or not. Those who wish to dictate who may say what in a public forum are free to do all the scolding they like– and George will post it. But part of the privilege here of posting our opinions and reactions to this story, or any news story, is having respect and trust in the moderator’s decisions about what is okay. That’s the deal here. If you find the legitimate questions, concerns, and reactions to the ENTIRETY of this news story and what it means to the community, including vaccination status, to be “inappropriate” then maybe stick to reading the Gazette comments that do not allow for free PUBLIC discussions/reactions like these. We are lucky to have this venue and have our eyes be opened by it.

    There are of course other venues meant solely for recognizing and expressing the comfort and love you wish to send to Mr Hutchinson’s loved ones during this time, and it’s lovely to do it here as well. There is no one who doesn’t wish this grieving family comfort and peace.

    • I’m sure this is a very stressful time for you with the easing of mandates going on across the country and eventually arriving at this community. Will you continue to be the self- appointed arbiter of what everyone else should be doing?

      • Alex– you have posted comments on this story 4 times. Every one of them telling others about how they should respond to this story, or criticizing the manner in which they have.
        Not a word from you of condolence to the family.
        When I stated that I felt unfortunate to have not known Albert and that I felt pain and grief , I was mocked.
        When I personally thanked Clarie for voluntarily sharing information that is the right of the family to not disclose, and expressed my condolences and implied that the community stood with the family, I was accused of “backpedaling” and having “hollow words”.
        When I responded to the third comment mentioning trump here, I was accused of being political and “baiting”.
        Now you mock Jackie as a “self appointed arbitrator” and imply that she is not happy the pandemic has an end in sight.
        I can understand why , that after 2 years of being wrong about every aspect of this pandemic, your case of “Liberal derangement syndrome” is nearly incurable. But please Alex, don’t project and try to convince others that your opinion of what someone is thinking is actually what they are thinking.
        And perhaps you take a few seconds here, take your own advice, and show some respect to this devastated family.

      • Alex: Let us know when you’re ready to retire from being the self-appointed arbiter of what everyone else should be doing. I’ve a respectable stack of applications to take over at your retirement so thanks ahead.

    • The Gazette definitely sensors comments that are critical of “island institutions”, it is ridiculous. The Times does it too but no where close to as bad and they usually do it when your comment is directed at individuals. Gazette censors to protect powerful institutions and people.

  14. “Can we all please set politics, policy and opinion aside and focus on sending love to the legacy of this man and to his surviving family members?”

    Will the real Alex Keane please stand up?

    Alex, it’s insincere to tell everyone else how to focus and behave, while you maintain no intention of “rising above” — the old “do as i say, not as I do”. This is the second time in this thread you’ve used personal and/or political snark to ignore your own disingenuous and controlling request to others about how they should be commenting on this news story.

    But yes, of course it is stressful and sad when a member of the community is senselessly lost to COVID.

      • If sufficient resources (people) had been involved, if data collection and exchange were accurate and timely, we would been have more effective slowing the virus. Estimates have been roughly a quarter the deaths. By now, masking should have been a much simpler question.

        Still, we lucked out because because companies beyond the control of the US Government took it upon themselves to develop vaccines. Be grateful for those companies; I suspect strings were attached to Operation Warp Speed funds that US-created vaccines would be $100 up front.

      • Testing before and masking while we gather with those at risk, even if we’re all vaccinated, is important. All the social precautions—hand washing, the best masks, social distancing, and testing— complement the vaccines for everyone, not only those with lowered immune systems, which includes elderly. Nearly everyone mourning the loss of a loved one who died because of covid feels the loss as senseless, since were it not for covid, they’d still be here. What is not senseless is to observe all the social precautions when gathering with those at risk. Vaccines greatly lower the risk of hospitalization and death, but sadly, there are exceptions. Avoiding spread remains everyone’s responsibility.

        • I am waiting for the time when Keller–Diez announce that masks are no longer required for anyone anywhere. Could it be this year? Doubtful.

          • While can’t guarantee the virus will diminish significantly if everyone keeps masking, a fair chance the virus will stay aggressive if some people refuse to.

          • Alex: I’ll bet a nickel for within a year. I expect after the question will be how people react to a major spike. How many deaths will require to gain public attention? At the beginning of the pandemic, half the population of a senior home (walking distance from where I work) was wiped out. My sense is the anti-masker of today would consider that acceptable.

  15. Ms Diez, you have been telling many of us how to live and think and behave for many years. Only you know the truth about most things and offer an insidious gruel of left wing nonsense.

    • Andy– you have been telling many of us for years about your definition of morality. Your definition about whether or not women or men should have a say about their bodies. You have told us about how there is only one truth and you are certain you know it . All others opinions are wrong and “immoral” .
      You mocked we when I directly addressed a family member, thanked them for their openness, and expressed my sympathies.
      One of the topics here seems to be about expressing condolences to the family.
      Interesting that you have not said a word about that.
      You have posted 2 comments here– One to mock me for feeling pain and grief–
      The other to criticize Jackie for criticizing someone for political snarking.
      Not a word of compassion from you to the family–
      Straight up political posturing on your part, Andy—
      Albert, and his family, deserve more respect.

    • The issue of commenters telling other commenters what they should or should not say is part of what is being discussed. Not liking what another says gives no one authority or control here, puritanical New Englanders, fake names, and control freaks notwithstanding. George is the only authority. If something untoward or against the rules slips by the busy moderator, you may contact him directly and ask that the offending comment be removed. If you’ve never wondered why an already posted comment disappears, it is because the moderator was privately alerted to it and he removed it. This comment-removal process should sound familiar to you, engelman.

    • Should concern for health come before or after politics? Or should it be recognized and respected by politics?

Comments are closed.