Nantucket is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, evidence of what officials say is community spread of the virus among tradespeople on the island.
The “minor surge” in cases emerged when seven cases were confirmed on Wednesday, followed by another seven new cases on Thursday, Select Board Chairwoman Dawn Hill Holdgate wrote in a statement Friday.
The new results brought the total number of cases on the island to 77, as of Thursday.
“These are the highest number of cases in a short period of time that we have so far seen in Nantucket,” Holdgate wrote. “While this is not an unanticipated situation, due to the nature of the coronavirus, we can expect episodic growth in the number of cases over the next 10-14 days.”
In a joint statement and video appearance, Gary Shaw, president and CEO of the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, and Roberto Santamaria, the town’s health and human services director, said 12 of the 14 new cases are in individuals who live on the island.
“The majority of those who have tested positive work in the trades, including landscaping, construction, carpentry, and painting, as well as cleaning, and are traveling to work places together,” Santamaria said. “This is an important reminder to enforce COVID-19 protocols at job sites and at businesses.”
On Monday, the town will hold a joint emergency meeting of the Select Board and Board of Health to discuss potential options for renewing coronavirus restrictions for industries seeing an increase in cases. The town said it will ramp up coronavirus-related inspections at construction and landscaping sites.
“We have regressed in our mission to quell the spread of COVID,” Holdgate said. “As a result, our community — residents and visitors — needs to focus on containing this surge.”
Officials are closing Tom Nevers Park and potentially other town-owned parks and playing fields from dusk to dawn in an effort to prevent further spread. Holdgate said police will be “actively patrolling” the areas and will “request that people who are at these locations between those times, leave.”
Inspections will also increase at “various known gathering locations, including private venues,” the chairwoman said.
Officials stressed it is critical that the community spread be contained in order to keep the island’s high risk population safe and prevent the hospital from becoming overwhelmed.
Shaw and Santamaria urged any residents and visitors who receive a phone call from a contact tracer to “cooperate” and answer all questions “thoroughly and truthfully.”
“Now is the time for everyone on Nantucket to take personal responsibility and to do your part to keep our island safe,” Shaw said. “It takes the whole community to do this. We are asking Nantuckers to recommit to the precautions and safety measures that we know have worked over the spring and summer. Maintain vigilance and wear a mask when you go out in public, continue physical distancing and handwashing as much as possible. We’re asking you to avoid large gatherings with people who you do not live with and stay home when possible.”
Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 — or who has been in close contact with a confirmed case — is being asked to go to the Nantucket Cottage Hospital drive-thru for evaluation.
“The hospital is currently experiencing a high volume of individuals seeking testing, so please do not show up simply because you have had secondary contact with another person who may have been exposed to one of the new confirmed cases,” Santamaria said.
Holdgate said the current surge is evidence that even slight relaxation in practicing measures to prevent spread of the virus is “dangerous.”
“We have to limit contact with people we don’t live with, and we have to limit the number of people at gatherings – for a little longer,” she said. “Right now, we need stamina and commitment. It’s hard! The consequences are worse. We have seen too many illegal gatherings in certain public places. The lax behavior of a few people has caused restrictions due to this current surge.”
Read her full statement below:
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