A single trailer sat in the empty parking lot of Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Hall on Thursday, as TestMV staff worked to wrap up their nearly two-year-long run. Cars slowly started trickling into the lot, but for the first time in 22 months, it wasn’t for COVID-19 testing. The gathering was a celebratory one — to acknowledge those who have consistently worked for almost two years to ensure efficient testing for Island residents in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Islanders safe and in the know about their health.
TestMV, which was set in motion on June 1, 2020, has been a collaboration among Island Health Care, Martha’s Vineyard Bank, and Quest Diagnostics. Initially having operated six days a week from the MVRHS, TestMV moved to the West Tisbury School before ending its nearly two-year run at the Agricultural Hall.
Through teary eyes, Cynthia Mitchell, CEO of Island Health Care, expressed her gratitude to the staff and volunteers of TestMV, naming, one by one, the numerous nurses, staff, community health workers, and volunteers who had contributed to the success of the test site.
During a time where so many in the world were isolating and distancing themselves from one another, Mitchell’s team worked tirelessly to be available for the community, and through that had become a family.“We’re immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to show what a community health center can do for its community,” said Mitchell.
“What made TestMV special was not [just] that they gave tests, it’s that they gave tests that were easy to get. It gave me a lot of pride,” said staff member Evan Hartford, “seeing people who would have had a lot more difficulty getting a test if we weren’t here.”
Melinda Loberg, former Tisbury select board member and a TestMV volunteer, praised Mitchell’s leadership. “I am very keenly aware of the impact of this on the whole Island. You are an unsung hero. I want to underscore the work the staff has done to make it easier for the volunteers to show up and do their thing. The scrambling, the anxiety, the stress that we saw — it was exemplary, the way they handled it.”
Todd Hollister, who had been contracted out by Quest Diagnostics, echoed the emotions of the room, stating the sense of family and support the TestMV staff and volunteers had generated over the course of the testing site’s operation.
Test site manager Declan McBride received numerous praises from everyone as well, for his relentlessness in keeping the site operational, despite being met with various challenges and adversity.
Looking back on the precariousness of the beginning of the operation, communications consultant Mary Breslauer noted that Mitchell made it look effortless, which clearly it was not. “The enormity of what you all accomplished,” said Breslauer, “learning, literally as you went along — maybe it’s not building the pyramids of Egypt, but it felt like that some days. I felt so glad to be a part of it.”
“As a community member, when this whole thing started, I was bursting with pride,” said Agricultural Society executive director Lauren Lynch, “for how this community came together. The amount of coordination was just fantastic, and was a perfect illustration of the Vineyard and how everyone worked together, and knew what the end goal was. Congratulations to everyone, and thank you, thank you, thank you.”
At the end of the operation, the TestMV site had tested a total of 47,840 people, and only closed once, during a blizzard.
As the gathering wrapped up, Hollister held up the last test kit and placed it in a biohazard bag, ceremoniously and symbolically giving the team the true feeling of closure and a job well done. “Let’s hope we’re tying this bag for the last time,” he said.