Mask advisory issued as Vineyard reaches ‘high risk’

There's been an uptick in cases on the Island in recent weeks. -Nicole Jackson

Updated May 19

Another surge in COVID-19 cases has elevated the Island into the “high risk” category under COVID-19 guidelines. That prompted the Tisbury board of health to issue a mask advisory on Tuesday.

“In accordance with the most recent CDC guidance and the fact that Dukes County is classified as high risk for COVID transmission, the Tisbury board of health strongly advises that individuals wear masks when indoors or in enclosed spaces serving the public, or when unable to maintain social distance, regardless of vaccination status,” the health board wrote in its advisory.

According to Matt Poole, both Chilmark and Edgartown, where he serves on the board of health and as the health agent respectively, issued mask advisories after discussing the topic during Wednesday evening meetings.

West Tisbury health agent Omar Johnson told The Times the town’s board of health will consider a mask advisory during its meeting on Thursday, May 26. “Hopefully we all fall in line to be consistent,” Johnson said.

Oak Bluffs health agent Garrett Albiston said Oak Bluffs also issued a mask advisory Wednesday afternoon. Albiston said the advisory is “identical to Tisbury.” 

Aquinnah town administrator Jeffrey Madison told the Times a mask advisory was not issued for the up-Island town and was not sure whether the Aquinnah board of health is considering one. Aquinnah health agent Karen Colombo was not immediately available for comment. 

This comes as the Island has seen a surge in cases in the past couple of weeks. From Sunday through Saturday of last week, there were 158 positive test results for COVID-19, according to statistics kept by the Island boards of health. There were also 59 cases since Sunday.

The previous week, the Island reached triple digits for the first time since the end of January.

In Friday’s report, released by Maura Valley, the Island had reached “high risk” for the spread of COVID-19. While the bulk of the positive numbers are from at-home tests, there were 49 cases that are PCR tests, which means they are the tests administered by healthcare professionals at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. There have been no hospitalizations, according to the report.

According to CDC guidelines for high-risk communities, individuals should protect themselves by wearing masks indoors, stay up-to-date with COVID vaccines and boosters, get tested if you have symptoms, and take added precautions if you’re in one of the high-risk categories.

Meanwhile, Oak Bluffs officials report staffing shortages at town hall. In an email to The Times Friday, assistant town administrator Wendy Brough said response was slow on a request because “resources have been impacted by COVID and staffing absences.” The Oak Bluffs select board met in person Monday to choose a new police chief.

Meanwhile, last week Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School had some issues with staffing as a result of COVID cases, Principal Sara Dingledy wrote in an email to The Times. “Two weeks ago and early last week, we had a number of staff test positive. As of today, most are cleared to return, and staffing seems fairly normal. Last week was harder,” she wrote.

On Tuesday night, the MVRHS school committee switched its meeting to completely virtual after initially scheduling it as an in-person meeting.

Updated with more details from Martha’s Vineyard officials.


  1. With the island population skyrocketing, maybe we need to revise what “elevated” should be.

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