TestMV site to close with numbers shrinking

COVID cases drop significantly; Island is at ‘low risk.’

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Test MV will be closing at the end of the month. — Lexi Pline

The TestMV site, which has been providing COVID-19 testing since June 2020, is closing at the end of this month due to a precipitous drop in the number of people using the testing site in West Tisbury, according to a press release.

The Times asked about the future of the site earlier this week after noticing just 33 people had used the site last week for testing. In an email Monday, spokeswoman Mary Breslauer told The Times the future of the testing site was being contemplated. On Wednesday, a press release confirmed the site would close effective March 31.

This comes as the number of Island cases has dropped to just two last week. Although there has been a slight uptick in cases this week, according to daily reports from the Island boards of health, the number of positive results are nowhere near the surge the Island experienced in January.

For the first time in 2022, the number of weekly positive COVID-19 cases is in the single digits. The number of positive test results was just two last week, according to the latest report from the Island boards of health. So far this week, there have been 19 cases. This comes as students are returning to classes Monday, March 7, after a week’s vacation. Those students are returning to classrooms where masks are no longer required. Last Wednesday, the boards of health voted unanimously to lift the mask mandate, effective immediately. Schools had already lifted their mask mandates, so long as the health boards concurred.

The Island is classified as “low risk” at the moment, according to metrics outlined by the Centers for Disease Control.

According to Monday’s report, the two cases last week included one PCR test and one at-home test. The two tests included one male and one female, and their ages were one in the 30-39 age range, while the other is 60-69. Neither of the individuals was hospitalized, according to the report.

To date, there have been 4,529 total positive and probable cases on the Island, according to the report. There were 1,424 positive cases in January, when the omicron variant was rampant. In February, the number of cases dropped to 193.

Overall, TestMV has tested 47,749 individuals, while the hospital has tested 34,397 individuals. 

Diminished testing need

TestMV was launched on June 1, 2020, through a collaborative effort among QuestDiagnostics, the Island boards of health, the Martha’s Vineyard Bank, and Island Health Care. The original site, at the M.V. Regional High School, operated six days a week from its opening on June 1, 2020, until Feb. 1, 2021, when the site went to five days, and finally to four days a week at its final location at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury, according to a press release. Over the summer of 2021, the West Tisbury School hosted TestMV. 

In total, TestMV has operated nearly 500 days, only closing for 30 minutes one day due to a rare tornado warning, and a single full day due to the blizzard on the last day of January this year, the release states. The call center, which included Portuguese-speaking operators, logged more than 35,000 requests for appointments. Flooded during TestMV’s initial launching, both the call center and Islanders got relief when Quest created an app that allowed for online or same-day registration, the release states. The app was launched July 22, 2020. The highest volume came the week before Thanksgiving in 2020, when TestMV logged 1,705 tests, with 438 in one day.

Island Health Care provided operational oversight for TestMV. According to the release, more than 134 volunteers — both clinical and general — helped out at the site.

“TestMV is a testament to this Island, beginning with Edgartown seasonal residents Quest CEO Steve Rusckowski and his wife, Deb, who facilitated and fast-tracked our ability to provide PCR testing,” IHC CEO Cynthia Mitchell said in the release. “The health agents have literally been rock stars from the get-go, and the Martha’s Vineyard Bank ensured from the beginning that PCR tests would be free to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Tisbury Health Agent Maura Valley, who has acted as a spokeswoman for the Island boards of health, praised the testing site. “TestMV was the key in keeping our numbers down in that first summer of COVID-19,” Valley said in the release. “It allowed new employees, seasonal residents, and visitors to get tested when they first arrived, and if positive, to isolate. And throughout the pandemic, TestMV enabled us to monitor surges and get people tested quickly when they were exposed. It’s been invaluable.”

Owen Burns, the first operations manager, praised the volunteers. “It really was amazing to have volunteers come out of retirement at one end, and at the other, have young people deciding this is how they would spend their school break,” Burns said in the release. “And then there were friends and family members, and even people not associated with TestMV, who would drop off cookies or cakes or a case of Gatorade. We just experienced an enormous outflowing of support right from the start.”

Volunteer Carol Bardwell, a retired nurse at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, explained why she showed up on Day 1 at TestMV. “It was a great venue for me to help the community, to work with so many committed staff and volunteers, and be part of a team that allowed me to use my clinical skills at a time when we were isolated in so many other ways,” she said in the release.

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Steve and Deb Rusckowski, Michael Donoroma and James Anthony for initiating and launching this “health preserving” and “life saving” island-wide campaign!

  2. Thank you for creating the TestMV site for us. It was a lifeline to the islanders. You were there for us at a time when everyone was fearful and isolated and feeling unsure of what was coming next. You were there in all kinds of weather and remained cheerful and competent throughout it all.

  3. Thank you to all who made this possible! You enabled life to go on, families to visit, trips to be taken, some semblance of normalcy and predictability in a frightening time. And always with patience and a smile, no matter the weather, time of day, whatever. THANK YOU!

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