MVRHS votes to suspend mask policy

District must still wait for boards of health to eliminate their mask order.

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MVRHS voted to suspend their mask policy. -Gabrielle Mannino

After some back-and-forth, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) officials voted to suspend their mask policy commensurate with the Island boards of health removing their directive. 

Thursday’s meeting of the MVRHS committee put a cap on Island schools’ debate surrounding mask orders for staff and students for the time being. With the statewide mask mandate being lifted as of Feb. 28, unmasking in schools and in the larger Island community will have to wait until at least that point, when town health officials can decide whether to keep the masks or ditch them.

On Feb. 17, after school districts broke into individual committee meetings to vote on two disparate motions related to unmasking following an All-Island School Committee meeting, MVRHS was the only district to not suspend or rescind its policy. But Thursday’s meeting put the high school in line with other Island schools, and by suspending the policy instead of rescinding it entirely, officials will be in a position to bring the mask mandate back should COVID cases climb. 

There was some confusion among school officials regarding the nuance of suspending the policy versus rescinding the policy. Committee chair Amy Houghton said to her understanding, the school would have to perform three freestanding readings in order to re-enact a new mask policy if the initial policy is eliminated. Committee member Kelly McCracken said the boards of health are going to lead the way in unmasking anway, and the school will be required to enforce a mask mandate if health officials reinstate their mandate. McCracken made a motion to rescind the school policy entirely, which did not receive a second. A motion by committee member Robert Lionette to suspend the policy commensurate with Island boards of health passed unanimously. 

McCracken asked at what point the school would fully rescind the policy, and whether committee members are planning on rescinding it at all. Lionette responded by saying that the level of uncertainty regarding the public health sphere, in his mind, makes suspending the policy an appropriate move due to the potential need to reinstate the policy without having to go through extensive red tape. 

“At this point, Kelly, I have no idea. None of us do. Things could go sideways. I’d rather not put ourselves in a compromising position,” Lionette said. 

Martha’s Vineyard Assistant Superintendent Richie Smith said local boards of health Islandwide, according to discussion at the health and safety committee, will be meeting soon to start the discussion on indoor mask mandates. “I’m not sure there is going to be any hard outcome from that soon, but they are trying to get together and be consistent,” Smith said, adding that making headway on these kinds of decisions may support health officials when they eventually meet to have parallel discussions.

Houghton said she hopes that soon, the school will be able to fully rescind its mask policy “because there is no more need to keep it as a tool in our toolbox.”

Smith also reported some recommendations from the health and safety committee regarding guidance and mitigation strategies in schools. Based on recent research, Smith said, greater than 20 percent of people who have gotten the virus are still infectious on days six through 10. 

“As a result, health and safety is recommending that students will take an antigen test on day six, prior to their return to school, and if still positive, the students would stay home until they produce a negative test, or return on day 11,” Smith said. 

The second recommendation made by the health and safety committee, according to Smith, was that student athletes and coaches who have previously tested positive for COVID are expected to do weekly antigen tests until their 90-day exclusion from the pool testing program (necessitated after receiving a positive test) expires. 

“The thought is this will help avoid having recently reinfected students among the soon-to-be-unmasked students,” Smith said. “Student athletes should be expected to do this in order to retain their eligibility [to participate in sports].”

If a student tests negative on day six to go back to school, they will be required to take the antigen tests instead of the pooled polymerase chain reaction (PCR) pool tests.

35 COMMENTS

  1. And ‘round and ‘round we go. Ball is back in the almighty Island Board of Health’s court.
    Nobody wants to be a leader or take on the responsibilities of doing the right thing NOW rather than later. Later, when the collective of local health “experts” can be guided by their “three wise men” medical doctors. This consortium figures they will shoulder the very unlikely-mathematically almost impossible-possibility of a returning dangerous variant.
    And when exactly does the Island Board of Health reconvene?
    Island full of mates and no captains.

    • I don’t agree with all of your statements, but there’s one thing I am certain of- you are going to incur the wrath of the self-appointed safety moralists who will encourage mask use well beyond its relevant point, accuse anyone who disagrees with them as being a anti-vaccine Trump supporter, and cart out their hypothetical “immunocompromised victim“ who is going to die because of the thoughtlessness and selfishness of the ignorant masses.

    • Phil — I think that it is time to lift the mask mandate.
      But I will disagree with your tactics in expressing your opinion about the health officials.
      Your extensive use of negative adjectives and “quotes” about the people who are in a position to know and make decisions is unnecessary. Of course , it is your opinion, and you are free to express it. However, I feel that personal vilification of our public officials has a toxic effect on our community. It undermines the authority of our institutions.
      I am not claiming that I never personally criticize any elected officials, but let’s try to stick to the merits of the debate.
      I also disagree with you assertion that there is a ” very unlikely-mathematically almost impossible-possibility of a returning dangerous variant.”
      Again, that is your opinion, but it is not the opinion of the overwhelming majority of scientist, mathematicians and virologist who have devoted their lives to these disciplines.
      There are currently 64 million active cases worldwide– As long as nearly 2 million new infections occur worldwide every day, the virus has a high probability of mutating into something more transmissible or lethal, if not both.

      • So Don, you think I’m being mean. Duly noted buddy.
        And you’re stating the obvious regarding my comments as “my opinion.” Yes, clearly my comments are inherently my opinion.

      • Don, we are a free society who is allowed to criticize our island officials, including the board of health. MV is the last place in the US requiring masks everywhere. Go read the article on the other island news page and you’ll see it’s clear that Matt seems to think the mandate will be lifted, but he “doesn’t know when”. You see, people here only follow the science when it suits their beliefs. The science now says no masks, listed by the CDC. Washington DC has always followed the CDC and they have now lifted their mandates. It’s time the boards of health here actually do their job and “follow the science.”

        • You got anything to back up your claim of MV being the last place US requiring masks anywhere?

  2. Soo since we’re now in an acceptable zone to ditch the masks per the CDC, can I finally see some smiling faces tomorrow? Or are we only following the science when it suits the bossy voices screaming the loudest on the island?

    • Bill– you are absolutely correct– now is the time to lift the compulsory masking..
      Now– not last month, not last year. Now–

  3. Whiners gotta whine, even when they’re about to get what they’ve been whining about for 2 years. They seem to like being miserable.

    For the approximate 3% of year rounders (about 600 islanders) who are immunocompromised, the CDC recommendations are the same as before: vaccines and boosters, n95 or KN95 masks to protect you from the unmasked, infected guy behind you on line at Stop and Shop, social distance, avoid crowds, and ask your close contacts to get tested before a visit. Good luck to us!

    • Jackie we are not whining and we are not miserable. The ones who want zero covid and masks forever are miserable and whining the most. When I am in my coffin I will instruct my loved ones to have me wear a mask. Would that satisfy?

      • Andy– I doubt you will be able to tell them that after you are in your coffin.
        But really, you can skip the mask when you are 6 ft away from anyone.

      • Masks don’t make me miserable.
        Does seeing people wearing masks make you miserable?
        People wearing guns make you happy?

  4. How many people in the US are considered immunocompromised and at risk if positive with COVID-19?

    From Google:
    “Seen through a COVID-19 lens, about 3% of the population in the United States is considered moderately-to-severely immunocompromised, making them more at risk for serious illness if they contract COVID-19, even after vaccination. This is because their immune systems don’t mount a strong response to the vaccines.”
    Feb 14, 2022

    • So let’s make 97% of the population wear masks to protect the 3%? Continue to wear yours and I will continue to not wear mine. I’m sure after your 100th booster you’ll be fine.

      How does that even make sense. You clearly will not be appeased until there is zero covid, news flash, that will never happen.

      Im pro wear a mask if you want and pro let people live their own lives and make their
      own decisions on how to live. It shouldn’t be a controversial take in my mind.

      • I never said everyone should wear a mask when mandates are over. I think it’s time for most people to go without masks, exactly according to the science. I earlier reminded those who are immunocompromised what the CDC recommends for THEM. Understand? No one expects the rest of the population to care or even be respectful toward those most at risk. That’s why the really vulnerable will not go out to dinner, a movie, or travel.

        Just take a look at handicapped access laws and why we need them, if you think that people care about others in what they are willing to do to accommodate a minority on their own, without being forced and threatened with fines. After all, vulnerable people are dispensable, don’t spend money, and have no reason to want to enjoy life. In fact, cough on the next old person you see hobbling down the street to help them along to where they’re going anyway. There’s no reason at all to show some compassion and understanding toward those who can’t pick up with their lives. That doesn’t mean you have to keep your mask on for them. I can’t believe some of the comments on here.

        And since I’m censored every time I try to correct a lie, I will say to no one in particular that no one on the planet wants masks forever— and no informed person expects there will ever be zero covid.

        People are entitled to their own opinions, but they certainly are not entitled to lie and falsely announce what my opinions are!

      • Bill– most schools have banned all peanut products from their premises. I wonder if 3 % of kids have a severe allergic reaction to peanuts ?
        And thanks for sharing with us that you are pro choice.

    • Despite irrational beliefs in fairy tales, empathy or even the slightest concern for others is not something you are expected to think is real, engelman. We all know that by now. Inability to see beyond what isn’t about one’s self interests is very common, as displayed by those who demand to know how many and who exactly are immunocompromised. They just don’t think it’s real because it’s not about them. We’re all familiar with the type. When certain folks can’t find parking to shop, they take up a handicap space if they’re “just running in for a minute”. It’s a very familiar behavior among the empathy-challenged.

      • The same can be said for you, your “inability to see beyond what isn’t about one’s self interests”, i.e. making the removal of masks about yourself and those who are immunocompromised.

        You should be happy that Covid is subsiding and we ARE able to longer wear masks. This is inherently a good thing. It means less Covid is spreading and it’s less severe. Instead you see it as an attack on those who want to continue to wear masks.

        No one cares if you want to wears yours, that’s your right, but my right is not to wear one.

  5. The people of the Island have ignored, perhaps willfully, many factors. The question now is how will their decision age.

  6. The three stooges with their worn out opinions I have to suffer every time I look for bad entertainment. Thanks I guess..

    • Jon -There is a great 3 ring circus going on over at Fox “news”. You can be fully entertained while watching Tucker Carlson wonder why people don’t like Putin. As Tucker points out, he doesn’t eat dogs (maybe not) . And Under the Biden administration it is mandatory for U.S citizens to hate Putin–” It is not a suggestion, it is mandatory,– anything less then hatred for Putin is treason. ” he says…
      So I advise you to go over to Fox, where you can watch their screeds for free, and you can comment there for free also.
      And Just to make it easy for George to verify that I am not lying about what Tucker is saying,
      https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/tucker-carlson-hate-putin-americans-suffer

      I strongly advise the liberals here who don’t really want to hear anything other than touchy feely good news to suffer through 14 minutes of the reality of the right propaganda machine.
      It’s just 14 minutes– and you can shut it off earlier if you are too offended.

    • No, not everything. It would be refreshing if those who consider wearing masks a threat to freedom as a matter less important than preserving life. Whether or not to prevent Covid deaths always has always been blatantly political.

    • Phil– Do you really think that the masking issue does not have political overtones ?
      How about vaccines ?
      No politics involved with the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation ?

      While Jon does not name the “three stooges” by name, I figured it would be nice of me to suggest to him how to get a look at an alternative reality, and get some bad entertainment from about 30 stooges for free.

      But, yeah, I could lighten it up a bit… Thanks for the suggestion.

  7. Bill Veek said, “If you can’t outsmart people, outwork them.” This might help explain Don’s efforts regarding his many comments and rebuttals-about and in response to everything. Who has that kind of time? And who wants to work that hard at COMMENTS?

    • Tourist season will arrive on the Island in a few months, a chance some will debark ferries with free samples of the virus. Do your neighbors a favor and don’t wait for CDC guidance if people start getting sick.

    • Phil — I do take some time to research many of my comments. I try to verify that my facts are accurate before I post them. I have on numerous occasions gotten things wrong. And I admit it and apologize for a mistake when called on it.
      I try to articulate my opinions in a clear and understandable manner.
      As a member of this community for over 35 years, I feel there are many issues here that are worth my time, AND I have that kind of time.
      Let me tell you about it– I feel it is reasonable to work 40 hours a week when you are 40 yrs old.. And I think it is reasonable to work one hour per week when you are 79.
      Sometime after I personally built my house in my early 50’s I decided to start phasing work out of my life. So my formula is every year after 40, work one hour less per week. That way at 79 I will be working that one hour per week. At 69 , I am 29 years past 40. So 40 minus 29 = 11 — so this year I aim for 11 hour work weeks–next year 10. I don’t think many people would criticize me if I just fully retired at my age. I also don’t watch sporting events, and don’t binge watch things like game of thrones. I don’t even have a T.V . You can do whatever you think is important with your time, I will do what I think is important with my time.
      If you think your time is well spent criticizing me for what I do with my time, well, so be it.
      I will keep voicing my opinion on matters that I think are important to our community.
      And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to waste your time reading it.

      • There should be a “like” icon to click for excellent comments like this one from Don.

  8. I would comment but seemingly MV Times doesn’t like my opinions. They’ll probably go ahead and print this one though. What a farce.

  9. Phil–Lighten up– In case you didn’t notice– this is your fifth comment that got posted on this story alone..
    Plenty of my comments don’t make it–when I post one that I think may be too controversial or could be construed to be me attacking someone personally, I save it, and sometimes re write it.. There is no conspiracy going on to suppress your views or anyone else’s. Stay withing the rules, and get over it.

  10. Seemingly, every comment first gets filtered through the moderator and then (if it is actually printed) gets critiqued by “Don” wether that comment has anything to do with him or not. Hilarious

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