Good evening. This is Roberto Santamaria, Health Director, for the Town of Nantucket and your host tonight for NantucketPulse programming made possible by Nantucket Cottage Hospital Community Health Initiative.  This broadcast covers the impact of the Coronavirus impacts on the island and provides urgent updates. This broadcast will be posted to NCTV18.org where you can read this in multiple languages and links that we mention in the broadcast will be in place.

Tonight, I will place a telephone call to two special guests to answer questions from our viewers via the chat feature on the YouTube live stream version of this episode.

Around 5:50pm, we will talk to Noah Karberg, Nantucket Assistant Airport Manager and Public Information Officer.

Around 6:00pm, we will talk to Bob Davis, Steamship Authority General Manager. Hy-Line Cruises was not available for tonight’s interview, and we will read to you Philip Scudder, Vice President of Hy-Line Cruises, his response to our questions.

Please note that we will air pre-taped interviews with both gentlemen BEFORE the Q&A session to speak to commonly voiced concerns from the community. Please hold your questions until I announce that the public Q&A segment is turned on with the NCTV YouTube channel. Otherwise, your questions might get lost in the chat. Unfortunately, we will not be able to answer every question. At the end of tonight’s broadcast, I will personally answer questions from the chat.

As efforts to control the spread of Coronavirus intensify, we have seen a dramatic disruption to our community. As we begin tonight, I want to offer a friendly reminder about safe cleaning practices. Given the outbreak, the Center for Disease Control recommends routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. If you use bleach to disinfect, please wear gloves and make sure the room has proper ventilation.

As many of us heard growing up, NEVER mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner. It creates dangerous, toxic fumes. Here are some easy to remember bleach dilution measurements. To disinfect surfaces that come in close contact with sensitive items like food or babies, dilute a half teaspoon of bleach in a quart of water. To clean all other surfaces, dilute 3 tablespoons of bleach in a gallon of water for a strength of 5.25-6.25%. To clean porous surfaces, use cleaners that are EPA approved for porous surfaces and for “emerging viral pathogens”.

Also, please do not flush anything down the toilet except toilet paper. Flushing wipes, sanitary pads, or substitutes for toilet paper will clog your pipes. In fact, we’ve had sewer backups before within the community and the smell still haunts me.. *look off to the distance for comedic effect*

Now we’ll run through a breakdown of recent changes around the island.

This week, the Town of Nantucket officially declared a state of emergency. According to the Town, this decision “enables the Town, through the Town Manager to take immediate steps to provide for the safety or general welfare of the people of Nantucket.”

To coordinate efficient responses, the Town has put together an incident Response Team.

The Town is working to set up remote access for members of key committee meetings. Nantucket Community Television will provide a public video of the meetings on the Nantucket Government TV YouTube Channel. A plan is expected to be announced soon.

The Saturday, April 4th Town Meeting has been postponed to Saturday, May 2nd.

The landfill is still open at its regular hours. The Take It or Leave It is closed.

Marine Home Center is closing its store, effective at 5 pm Monday, March 23 through Monday, April 6. All deliveries have been suspended. During the closure, some staff will be available at the phone number 508-228-0900 to take orders for pick up outside of a Marine Home Center.

The Nantucket Food Pantry will be closed through at least March 30th for a deep cleaning. Deliveries to homebound clients will continue. If you would like to donate, please visit assistnantucket.org

The Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands are operating under normal business hours and are maintaining their Meal on Wheels deliveries to homebound seniors. They have received many calls from volunteers and want to thank the community for its generosity. You can register to be a volunteer or donate by visiting their website, www.escci.org, and by clicking the “How You Can Help Us” tab.

The FDA reports there are no nationwide shortages of food. Some items might be temporarily depleted at the Stop & Shop, but the store will soon replenish them.

Restaurants have closed their dining-in options. This could be a great time to enjoy take-out or delivery from your favorite island restaurant. Many offer delivery themselves and food delivery service ACK Eats — ackeats.com — expands the list of available restaurants. Visit Mahon about Town to see a full list of participating restaurants.

The FDA reports:

“Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Like other viruses, it’s possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the four key steps of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness and not gastrointestinal illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.”

This just in: The hospital has updated its policy about who should come to the hospital and to which entrance. They just released the following statement:

“Nantucket Cottage Hospital is requesting that island residents do not come to the hospital unless they need emergency care that would require them to be admitted, or are an expecting mother in labor. As this situation evolves we will need to focus all our resources on those who need immediate care.

We are also advising anyone traveling to the island, or anyone who has come here to shelter from other cities or towns, that Nantucket has limited medical resources and a surge of cases could quickly overwhelm our hospital. If you have a choice to be on Nantucket or not, we are requesting that you make the decision to stay off the island to avoid a potentially dire scenario for our community and our hospital.

We need everyone on Nantucket to stay home now. Residents should follow every precaution with regards to social distancing, hygiene, hand-washing, and disinfecting much-used surfaces.

The drive-through evaluation site at the main entrance of Nantucket Cottage Hospital will continue to operate and island residents who are feeling symptoms of respiratory illness should utilize this service. Please do not come to the drive-through if you are well and do not have symptoms. It is not a voluntary testing site. The drive-through will now be open on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.”

The hospital has started to experience a shortage in some of their medical protective equipment. The issued the following statement earlier today:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE, that our medical providers need to continue to care for patients. Hospitals across the country are facing shortages and we are concerned that our limited supply could soon be exhausted as this situation continues to evolve. Nantucket Cottage Hospital is appealing to the community for donations of N95 respirator masks, regular earloop masks, medical gloves, and gowns. We are requesting from our local contractors, painters, dentist offices, beauty salons, and any other businesses or individuals who may have a supply they could donate. These items are critical to protect our healthcare workers and patients and will help us prevent the spread of any potential infections in our community.

If you are able to donate any of these items, please drop them off at the loading dock at Nantucket Cottage Hospital off Vesper Lane between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. seven days per week.

Nantucket Community Television has reached out to an expert in 3D printing technology about using devices like the Atheneum’s 3D printer to manufacture face masks for the hospital. The expert said it is possible to create wearable items like bathing suits because the printer’s accuracy enables it to follow the contours of the body. However, the product is not flexible. Masks need to be flexible to create an airtight seal.

Please donate personal protective equipment you have to spare. In fact, our cameraman is going to donate some of the 100s of pairs of gloves his overzealous friends sent him.

To support some of the organizations we depend on most here, the Community Foundation has just established an economic relief fund. They released the following statement today:

“ The Nantucket Fund for Emergency Relief.  The Foundation’s Board of Trustees have donated $100,000 from the Nantucket Fund to launch this initiative.  In addition, late Thursday evening the Foundation received a pledge for a generous matching grant of $250,000 from ReMain Nantucket.

The Nantucket Fund for Emergency Relief will be able to act quickly to address immediate needs stemming from the Covid-19 crisis. Grants from this fund will focus on providing operational assistance to our Island’s human service providers who are dealing with needs most critical as a result of this health and economic crisis. These grants will help to keep critical care moving and supplement existing support systems. Nonprofits can contact Jeanne Miller or Carlisle Jensen at the Community Foundation for more information on the streamlined application process.

Please make a generous donation to this critical funding effort.

Effective today, the Nantucket Board of Health has discontinued all services offered to the public which cannot be provided at a distance of at least 6 feet away. This includes, but is not limited to: hairdressers & barbers, nail salons, massage services, body art, bodywork, fitness centers, & houses of worship. This does NOT include childcare facilities granted an exemption by the Department of Early Education and Care, nor does it include services provided by licensed Allied Health Care providers. Additionally, they are encouraging all retail establishments that do not sell essential commodities such as food, medicine, or cleaning supplies to consider voluntarily closing until April 6th. Those that do remain open should ensure customers maintain social distancing.

The Steamship Authority has delayed the return of its high-speed M/V Iyanough Service by 3 weeks to April 24. The special sale of the discounted fast ferry booklet — which does not expire — will continue from March 23rd – April 5th. Please buy online instead of in person. All concessions sales on Steamship boats have been suspended. The Steamship released the following statement,

“It is important to us at the Steamship Authority that we make it clear what steps we are taking on our No. 1 priority, ensuring the safety of our passengers and our crews.

Our crews already do an outstanding job of cleaning our vessel interiors in between trips, but we have instructed them, along with our bus, parking lot and terminal employees, to specifically disinfect all hand railings, tabletops, door handles, seats, faucets, and toilets both in between trips and during trips as needed. We are well-stocked with cleaning supplies and have ordered extra hand sanitizers and other supplies for our customers to use while traveling with us.

We also instructed our employees to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer. And, most importantly, we have told them that under no circumstances should they be coming to work while they are sick, both for their safety as well as the safety of the crew. If any employee comes to work sick, they will be sent home – period. Even if it means having to cancel a scheduled trip, the risk is too great to take.

We are also making contingency plans to maintain service in the event that a significant number of our employees fall ill, but we have every confidence that we will continue to provide essential service to the islands throughout this time.

We are working closely with local, state, and federal officials to stay up to date on this quickly changing situation. So far, there have been no specific changes recommended for public transit agencies other than the best practices of instructing our employees to wash their hands, keep up a strict cleaning schedule and to stay home if they are sick.

As guidance changes, we will act appropriately to keep everyone safe.

We have made no changes to our schedules or operations at this time. We will operate until we are ordered not to do so or until we are unable to do so.  “

All flights at the airport are running according to schedule. There are no current plans to reduce the amount or frequency of flights. The Fixed Base Operator Building at the airport has been closed, though.

The HyLine has not canceled any boats. Rather, they have reduced the amount of passengers allowed on their boats in order to encourage social distancing. Pre-existing reservations are not affected. This means the boat will sell out more quickly. They recommend avoiding travel during their busiest times, which are listed on their website. To find them go to hylinecruises.com and click on the link called “We are closely monitoring the evolving situation of COVID-19 in our area.”

And finally, let’s talk about the wonderful services local organizations are creatively offering to all of us while hunkering down:

The Nantucket Atheneum, although its doors are closed until at least April 1st, and the Nantucket Dreamland has suspended film screenings and the Nantucket Community Music Center is closed for all public operations until it is deemed safe to reopen by state and local officials.

These non-profits continue to offer great ways to educate, entertain, and inspire us offering free E-books, online classes, virtual concerts, movies, and music. Please visit artsnantucket.com for a complete list of creative resources provided by our local non-profits.  Now that’s resourceful thinking from our little island’s organizations – more to come on this in our next show.

Now, let’s talk about the main focus of tonight’s episode, transportation. There is concern in our community about how the ferries and flights will — and should — work given this new environment. We have been listening, and yesterday I spoke to Noah Karberg, Nantucket Assistant Airport Manager and Public Information Officer about some of the thoughts circulating the island. He will join us after this taped segment plays for a live Q&A

I want to thank Noah Kurnberg very much for his time. Yesterday, I also spoke with Bob Davis, the Steamship Authority General Manager. I asked him many of the same concerns that I brought to Mr. Kurnberg. We will now play a recording of that interview. After this taped segment, Mr. Davis will join us on the phone for a live Q&A

We contacted HyLine with the same questions we asked the Steamship and the airport. They responded with an official statement that answered our questions from Philip Scudder, Vice President of Hy-Line Cruises. This is what he said,

Through the first 18 days of March, in 2019, our average daily traffic was approximately 1250/day.  Traffic for the last 3 days has averaged less than 730/day. We do not collect personal information from our passengers when they are purchasing tickets.  I would assume it’s possible to get some information from those who make a reservation on-line because payment must be made with a credit card when they are reserving.  We also have analytics indicating where people are when they access our website, but it does not follow them through the reservation process which is a third-party software.

On Tuesday, March 17th, it was requested of us, through the Town’s Selectmen’s Office, that we “make adjustments to your passenger capacity in accordance with guidelines issued by the CDC.”   

On Wednesday, March 18th, we sent out the following email and social media post.  “Starting tomorrow – Thursday, March 19th – we are reducing passenger capacities on our Nantucket ferries to allow for the opportunity for appropriate social distancing… In addition, we ask for your cooperation in social distancing onboard the vessel and in queuing for boarding.”

Distancing will be left to the individual travelers.  At the reduced capacities, they have an opportunity to seat themselves at appropriate distances if they so choose.  If a mom and her child or any family members or friends are comfortable sitting together. They can sit together.

On the ferries, we are required by United States Coast Guard regulations, to operate with a specific minimum number of staff.  We adhere to all regulations in place for the operation of motor vessels carrying passengers for hire.

Our parking, dock, and ticket office staff are being monitored and adjusted as demand requires.

Beyond stepped up sanitizing and reminders of best practices, there have been no other protocols implemented.

Our message is consistent to all our passengers regardless of what “category” you place them in. We ask that they use best practices when traveling.  DO NOT travel if you have any flu-like symptoms.  If you are traveling for leisure, please postpone to another time.  If you must travel, please practice safe, social distancing wherever possible.

For the weeks/months ahead, we are discussing and re-evaluating the timing and message in our advertising and promotion for all our services.”

ROBERTO: I also asked the HyLine,

If it were decided that the ferries would only transport year-round resident travelers, who could make that decision and how would it be enforced?”

ROBERTO: and they answered:

We will not comment on a hypothetical situation other than to say there would probably be a few legal issues resultant of such a decision.

Thank you for watching, we will continue to provide you with updates on the Coronavirus and impacts for Nantucket.  Additionally, NCTV wants you to know NantucketPulse will also include shows from our local health practitioners starting next week.   It’s important that communications remain in place as events continue to unfold. It’s crucial to get the facts from your local news sources such as the Inquirer and Mirror, 97.7 ACK FM radio, and NCTV channel 18.

GOOD NIGHT, I’M ROBERTO SANTAMARIA.