During a press briefing Wednesday morning, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital officials revealed that between April and June, staff members were infected by COVID 79 times, including hospital CEO Denise Schepici, who just came off a five-day quarantine period on Tuesday.
This news comes as a surge in COVID-19 cases arrived on the Island, where cases reached 152 last week, and this week there have been 40 cases reported through Tuesday. The Island remains at medium risk for spread, according to CDC guidelines.
“Even though we thought COVID was starting to give us a break, it has not. We’re seen a rise in cases on the Island and among our staff,” Schepici, who is vaccinated and boosted, said. “But hospitalizations so far are not rising due to COVID.”
According to the numbers provided by Martha’s Vineyard hospital chief nurse and chief operations officer, Claire Seguin, 14 staff members were infected by COVID in April, 29 in May, and so far, 36 in June. Eight staff members of Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center were also infected.
“Our teams follow the COVID protocol when they test positive,” Seguin said, which includes quarantining for five days and “until they test negative or enough time has passed, which usually is around 10 days.” She also said the summer is the busiest time for the hospital, which places a strain on the short-staffed hospital.
The rise in COVID cases accompanies the increase in patients coming into the hospital’s emergency department. Seguin emphasized that people should take a COVID test, and stay at home “until emergency care is necessary.”
Currently, there are two patients hospitalized for COVID who are in “fair condition,” according to Seguin. This year, there have also been three COVID-positive transfers. One was a pediatric patient in severe condition who had COVID as the primary diagnosis, and two were adults who had COVID as the secondary diagnosis.
Another concern Schepici mentioned is the rise of two subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, of COVID’s omicron variant.
“They’re relatively new subvariants, appear to be highly infectious, and appear to evade any immunity the population has built up through vaccination, even if you’ve gotten the virus,” she said. “Scientists stress you can be reinfected by the virus through one of these [subvariants]. Researchers in Massachusetts are projecting these new [subvariants] will account for more than 90 percent of COVID cases by mid-July.”
An upside is that so far, these subvariants do not seem to be “as severe as COVID variants in the early days of the pandemic,” according to Schepici, who urged people to get vaccinated and to get their booster shots, alongside wearing a mask in crowded areas.
“We know vaccines can be helpful, especially if you contract the virus. They can limit its severity and impact,” she said. “Think ahead if you’re going to public places, indoor areas, or any gatherings this summer, and consider wearing a mask. If you feel you have symptoms, take a test. They can be as simple as a runny nose and a scratchy throat, like I had.”
Schepici said Martha’s Vineyard Hospital will continue to “look toward the state Department of Public Health for guidance,” alongside coordinating with the Island’s health centers and Mass General Brigham against COVID.
According to Seguin, the hospital now also offers pediatric COVID vaccines for patients 6 months to 5 years of age. As of Tuesday, June 28, the hospital has administered the first dose of the COVID vaccine to 95 percent of Dukes County’s population. 59 percent of the Dukes County population is fully vaccinated with a booster.
When asked whether there was a concern that the true number of cases is unknown since so many people do at-home tests for COVID, Schepici said, “That’s just a reality.”
“I think we have to just assume the infection’s out there, and it is what it is,” Schepici said.
“I think it’s OK so long as people, as Denise mentioned, follow the precautions once they do test positive at home,” Seguin added.
For those who want to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated, visit the hospital’s website at bit.ly/3a1YfAs. New appointments are released on Fridays after 4 pm. Children who are under 2 years old will be brought into the clinic to be vaccinated, while older children will receive their vaccines at the drive-through tents on Thursday mornings.
“Being in large gatherings or crowds of people where it’s difficult to stay spaced at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart poses the highest risk [for covid spread]. The larger the group and the longer people are together in these situations, the higher the risk.”
It’s probably a good idea to wear a well-fitted, approved mask at the parade if you are high risk for serious illness from Covid. It’s proven that these masks, properly worn, can help prevent catching and spreading infection. It’s a good idea to be courteous and wear a mask in crowds, regardless, even if youre not at high risk.
The removal of masks has been very hard on high risk individuals during surges, limiting most activities like indoor shopping to only the most necessary excursions and at the earliest, least crowded times. Forget movies and restaurants. Thank goodness for outdoor markets and being outside in general. I still don’t understand the lack of mask-consideration by the general population during these surges, especially in the supermarket or any closed in spaces where you can’t just run in and out. The “if you’re scared, stay home” is probably the cruelest taunt I’ve heard throughout the pandemic, as so many at-risk people’s lives are even more curtailed now, what with the dropping of mandates and the increasing variants that don’t seem responsive to vaccines and boosters. It’s eye-opening to me to see how little regard people have for others. It’s especially disheartening to hear that fewer hospitalizations from the latest variant surges mean it’s over for so many people, and the hell with those getting reinfected, long covid, covid rebound, and being quite ill, even without needing hospitalization.
The “I think it’s okay as long as…” attitude is a reliance on people doing things like reporting their positive test results and staying home the recommended time. We all know that’s not happening. I understand not wanting to sound any alarm bells in Amity during the 4th of July weekend, but we all know how that works out. The shark has its way with the gentlefolk.
The important point that this story leaves out is: is this the most recent variant, which is very infectious but doesn’t make you very sick
BA.5 subvariant of Omicron is expected to be the dominant strain, creating the 6th surge this summer. Experts say it is the worst variant yet because it ignores immunities from vaccines and prior illness. It is associated with increased severity.
Happy 4th, America. The important point that everyone leaves out is that in a country that now takes away freedom, at least Americans are free to gather without masks, ignore science, and not give a hoot about anyone else.
And free to beat a dead horse.
When it comes to caring about others and being courteous by wearing a mask, it’s always good to hear from the “pro-life” crowd, some of whom wagered early on that fewer than 1000 people would die of covid. And then reneged when it came time to pay up. And then lied and said they didn’t make the bet. Massachusetts is currently averaging 9 deaths due to covid per day, not enough for pro-lifers to care about. After all, the people sickened and dying of covid are already born, not worth the time of day to those too busy celebrating forcing pregnant women and girls to give birth. Caring about those at risk who are already born and breathing is beating a dead horse, according to pro-lifers. It’s hypocrisy 101.
Thanks Dr. Jackie for your insightful info. We here on Island appreciate your continuing epidemiology updates.
It’s always good to know what being pro-life actually means in our day-to-day lives, Dean. When I see covid responses that show disdain for the health of others, or sarcasm, or conspiracy idiocy, these responses help me and others to know whose businesses we won’t support. There’s an upside you haven’t considered. It saves a lot of money not supporting selfish crackpots running small businesses here! Between the Times comments and Facebook, it’s easier to know who to avoid, especially at the outdoor markets where I shop. Normally I support local business. But not covid deniers.
Personal finances 101. Shop your conscience.
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