Hello, I’m Lisa Getter with a very recent news bulletin before our regular Wednesday Nantucket Pulse episode.

Three hours ago, the HyLine Cruises Company announced they would start on March 19 to reduce the capacity of passengers their ferries carry. The goal is to encourage social distancing, whether it be on their boats or in a line at the dock. This change will not decrease the number of ferries nor will it affect pre-existing reservations. They encourage passengers to buy and print out their tickets at home.

Support for small businesses affected by the Coronavirus is coming both from the federal and state governments. The US Small Business Administration is offering up to 2 million dollars in emergency loan capital with rates capped at 3.75%. It is part of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. The state of Massachusetts is offering up to $75,000 to Massachusetts-based businesses with fewer than 50 full and part-time employees. Nonprofits can also apply. No payments are needed for the first 6 months and there are NO prepayment penalties before the loan matures in 30 months. The Chamber of Commerce recommends applying now because there are only so many funds. 

There is also support for employees whose places of work have shut down. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) has waived the normal 1-week waiting period and will immediately pay out benefits to anyone making a Coronavirus-based claim. Employees don’t have to be actively pursuing work to receive the benefits; as long as they are available to work for their primary employer, they are eligible for this program. If a business has to reduce an employee’s hours, the DUA might cover them.

The Nantucket Chamber of Commerce is trying to support the business community here too. They have assembled a “task force” of individuals who represent the various industries on our island and met for the first time this morning. They focused on ways to help businesses survive the outbreak and cancellations of large tourist events. This Wednesday, the Chamber is hosting a “VOX Funding Webinar” at 2:30pm on “Cash Management Under Crisis”. Please visit nantucketchamber.org to learn more. The Chamber is encouraging Nantucketers to buy online from local stores and to purchase gift cards for later use. ACK Eats offers delivery service to many restaurants. For businesses without an online presence, the Chamber is trying to create an online marketplace. Managers and owners are encouraged to develop contingency plans should there be a disruption to their supply chain, or their workers are quarantined, etc.

The 46th Daffodil Festival has been rescheduled. The future date is not yet known.

Now begins the regularly scheduled Wednesday Nantucket Pulse Update with host Roberto Santamaria. 

Introduction and Community Updates

Good evening.  This is Roberto Santamaria, Nantucket’s Health Director. We’re here for Nantucket Pulse programming made possible by Nantucket Cottage Hospital Community Health Initiative. This broadcast covers the impact of the Coronavirus on the island and provides urgent updates. 

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect both humans and animals. A subset is known as Betacoronaviruses and they have been causing the world a lot of suffering in the past 20 years. The SARS virus from 2003 is a Betacoronavirus. The MERS from 2012 virus is one too. And the one disrupting the world right now is also one. Because they are all Betaocronaviruses, they have many structural and genetic components in common. And they all have their origins in bats. However, that does not mean the jump from an animal to a human — called a spillover — involved a bat. For example, the spread of MERS might have come from camels. We don’t know from which animal the Coronavirus in the news today jumped from to infect humans. We also don’t know why the virus mutated so much to enable its spillover. The level of change required is like a human mutating to grow a third hand. 

The similarities of the Betacoronaviruses are reflected in their names too. The name “Coronavirus” comes from the Latin word “Corona”, which means crown. Under a powerful microscope, these viruses look like balls with little sticks jutting out around their surfaces, like spikes on a crown. These sticks are called peplomers and consist of several strands of proteins with carbohydrates swirled inside. They are the secret to the virus’s terrifying ability to infect human lung cells so ruthlessly. These peplomers are like keys that fit into the outer groves of our cells, enabling the virus to bind and force its RNA inside. This RNA then hijacks our lung cells, forcing them to switch from producing healthy proteins to becoming non-stop factories for copies of this virus. 

The virus on top of everyone’s mind today has been officially named “SARS-CoV2”, because it causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and is a type of Coronavirus (CoV). It is # 2 because the virus is so similar to the ‘03 SARS outbreak, that it’s like the terrible sequel. In fact, it shares between 80-90% of its genetic material — in this case, RNA — with the 2003’s SARS. The disease it causes is known as “COVID-19” which is short for “Coronavirus Disease 2019”. The ’19’ comes from the fact it was first identified in 2019 in Wuhan, China. It causes mostly respiratory problems, similar to the common cold and pneumonia. 

The virus first appeared among a group of people with pneumonia who were associated with a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China in 2019. They complained of fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. As they went about their daily lives, their coughing would leave tiny droplets filled with the virus on surfaces and sometimes in the air, wherever they went. It can live on plastic and metal for up to 3 days. The infection spread from these droplets so quickly, that soon the Chinese government noticed infections in people that had no contact with that animal market. Now that has spread worldwide, the Center for Disease Control has now labeled the virus a “pandemic”.

Those most at risk for contracting the virus are those caring for individuals with infections like healthcare workers or family member caretakers. To reduce the spread, sick people and those in high-risk environments should wear a mask like an N-95, wear gloves, and wash hands thoroughly and frequently. If you are caring for someone who has the virus, make sure he/she stays in a separate room and uses a separate bathroom. Reduce contact as much as possible and make sure any contact is done through a protective layer like gloves. You can wash all his/her laundry with normal detergent, but dry on high. Don’t stop washing your hands!

The state is following the CDC’s Person Under Investigation (PUI) protocol to prioritize testing. The PUI is divided into 8 categories and they are not necessarily ranked by severity of symptoms. Rather, they are by priority to stop the spread of the virus. For example, category 1 deals with first responders that have worked around infected patients and have symptoms ranging from mild — like a sore throat — to more advanced. Category 7 & 8 deal with those who have traveled to places that have had high-level outbreaks or those who are at high risk (like the elderly and those suffering from illnesses) and have a plausible reason that they have contracted the virus. The state strongly encourages categories 7 & 8 NOT to use the state laboratory for testing.  

The more we implement basic measures like hand washing, social distancing, and prioritizing medical equipment for the professionals, the more likely we are to slow the spread of the disease. This way, the number of infected patients won’t inundate hospitals’ capacity and symptoms can be managed until a cure is found. 

And now, some developments from the hospital:

  • The hospital has restricted ER access: only individuals who have been screened may enter the ER.  All other doors — even for staff — are locked so everyone must get screened before entering the ER.
  • The hospital has canceled all elective procedures and non-urgent appointments.
  • They are asking the public to please, do not come to the hospital if you feel sick; rather, please call first so the hospital can give you guidance first.
  • Across the country, testing capacity for the virus is limited. The hospital is only able to take samples from patients that fit certain criteria. They have set up a drive-by testing site ONLY for people experiencing respiratory illness.
  • There are no confirmed cases on the island. However, the hospital advises acting as if the virus is already here. They are telling the public to stay home and to isolate; that people should not have parties, play dates, and other gatherings. They are encouraging folks to go outside and take walks as long as they maintain a distance from other people. They advise people to wash their hands properly, reduce trips to communal places like the grocery store, and to wipe with disinfectant wipes anything you touch in a store. If you feel sick, of course, you should stay home. 
  • If the hospital has a surge of patients that need critical care like respirators there’s a chance that they will be unable to MedFlight those patients to Boston because those hospitals will also be full. The hospital has a limited number of respirators and medical professionals. 

Town Manager’s Address

In response to COVID-19 (SARS CoV-2), the Town of Nantucket activated its Incident Response Team on Monday, March 9, 2020 to address the many issues surrounding the outbreak. The Town is implementing its Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) to ensure essential services are provided that comply with the Governor’s various emergency orders that include limits on public gatherings, school closures and recommendations to “flatten” the peak of the outbreak by maintaining social distancing, which includes public services. Please check the Town’s website for up-to-date information at www.nantucket-ma.gov.

As of March 17, 2020:

    • Nantucket Town and County offices are closed to the public until Monday, March 30, 2020.
    • Nantucket Police and Fire Department facilities are closed to the public but providing full services.
    • All schools are closed until Monday, April 6, 2020 per order of the Governor.
    • Steamship and Hy-line ferry services continue to operate on normal schedules. Please Note: Town Officials have been in contact with leadership from the Steamship Authority, Hy-line Cruises and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to request limitations on passenger service to the island. The Town’s request is being taken into consideration. The Town of Nantucket does not own these ferry services nor the docks that service them; therefore the Town cannot limit or alter service. The alteration or limitation of service must either be voluntary by the ferry service operators; or, through the issuance of a federal or state Declaration. The state and federal governments exclusively regulate transportation over waters of Nantucket Sound. We have been made aware of a situation in Maine where a very small island (population 355) shut down ferry service to non-residents – the circumstances that allowed for that are not in place for Nantucket. Nantucket Memorial Airport remains open however the number of passengers has been low.
    • Public events are canceled or postponed per the Governor’s emergency order of Friday, March 13 which effectively canceled all events over 250 persons and subsequently his emergency order of Sunday, March 15, 2020 to limit gatherings to under 25 persons. As a result: The Town is not accepting applications for NEW events until after July 1, 2020. The Town asks organizers of events canceled due to this Executive Order to contact the Town’s Licensing Agent abaxter@police.nantucket-ma.gov to update their event applications should they wish to have their events after this crisis is over.
    • Nantucket’s Incident Response Team meets daily at the Emergency Operations Center at the Public Safety Facility to monitor and process new information, issue updates, address personnel, and other issues and the like.
    • Our Community Members, Visitors, and Potential Visitors are urged to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control with respect to social distancing, sanitizing, travel, and the other measures needed to “flatten” the contagion – all of these guidelines may be found through the Town website.
    • The Town thanks the Nantucket Community for its patience and understanding as we all work together to minimize the impact of the Coronavirus on our island. We are working very hard to issue accurate, factual, and current information as quickly as we can.

    Outro:

Thank you for watching, we will be back tomorrow with updates on the Coronavirus and its impacts for Nantucket.  We need to be prepared and informed.  Do not panic and please during this time, it’s crucial to get the facts from your local news sources such as the Inquirer and Mirror, 97.9 ACK FM radio, and NCTV channel 18. This show will now release new episodes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night. All episodes will be in the NCV18 YouTube Channel in the Coronavirus Weekly Updates Playlist. Friday episodes will be live on Channel 18 and on YouTube at 5:30pm. We are currently in plans to provide alternate versions in Spanish in the near future. 

GOOD NIGHT, I’M ROBERTO SANTAMARIA.