Good evening. I am Roberto Santamaria, your host this evening for Nantucket Pulse programming made possible by Nantucket Cottage Hospital Community Health Initiative.
This is an updated edition of the Nantucket Pulse program that will air weekly covering the Coronavirus impacts for the island and will provide urgent updates as they unfold.
I am here with breaking news on March 30th to amend the March 27th broadcast. After a phone call with the governor on Sunday, the Nantucket Board of Health has been empowered by the state to uphold the ban on construction and landscaping projects on the island. Therefore, every part of Nantucket’s Stay-at-Home Order is valid and enforceable, even though it differs from the state’s Stay-at-Home Advisory, which does not ban construction and landscaping. At the end of the day, March 30th, the Nantucket Hospital reports 6 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the island. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health counts 173 cases on the Cape today and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has released an updated count of 8 confirmed cases on that island. Accurate counts of Nantucket’s positive test results can be found on the Nantucket Hospital’s website. Please click the link “Read More” under the Coronavirus header to find a count that is updated daily around 5pm.
This episode’s guests are Gary Shaw, Nantucket Cottage Hospital CEO & President, and Dr. Diane Pearl, Chief Medical Officer of the Hospital. They answer questions from the community and participate in our Rumor Report. Additionally, this broadcast features a Q&A session with Chief Pitman from the Nantucket Police Department. Finally, we have a special ten minute pre-recorded statement from Tessandra de Alberdi, Executive Director of Fairwinds, Nantucket’s Counseling Center. We know everyone is experiencing varying degrees of anxiety and emotional challenges. Tess and the team at Fairwinds and Nantucket Pulse are here to help. STARTING the week of March 30th, Nantucket Pulse will include wellness shows from our local health PROFESSIONALS ON CHANNEL 18 AND NCTV18.ORG. These shows will include breathing, mediation, imagery, and movement to help balance our lives during this pandemic.
This evening’s Community Updates will begin with the most recent news from Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill affecting our island. Then, we will move on to discussing the myriad resources available to Nantucketers and business owners during this uncertain time. We will wind up the Community Updates by answering what are the most popular items at Stop & Shop now and by reviewing some friendly advice about how to cope with all this information.
The federal government has just pushed back the tax filing deadline from April 15th to July 15th.
The state has launched a new, COVID-19 text message alert system. To sign up, text “COVIDMA” to 888-777. There are 67 confirmed cases on the Cape according to the Cape Cod Times and there is one hospitalized case on Martha’s Vineyard according to their hospital.
Gov. Charlie Baker has extended the closure of the state’s school buildings and non-emergency daycare centers from ending on April 6th to now ending on May 4th.
New legislation has also eased the following restrictions statewide:
- Establishments licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption can now sell wine and beer by take-out, as long as the beer and wine are in the original container.
- Local permits that are currently valid will not expire during this COVID-19 state of emergency. No longer must a hearing on a permit application occur within a certain period. It now can wait until 45 days after the state of emergency. Permits should be filed electronically.
- Late 4th quarter municipal tax bills — due May 1 — no longer will incur a late penalty. All municipalities can change their tax bill due date and deadline for property tax exemptions from April 1 to June 1.
- The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education can now consider waiving the MCAS testing requirement for high school graduation. The Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education can now also modify or waive the MCAS testing requirement. More news to follow in the upcoming weeks.
As many of you know, Nantucket issued Emergency Order #3, the Stay-at-Home Order, at the beginning of this week. On Tuesday, the state’s Stay-at-Home Advisory took effect. Both end April 6th. However, there is one big difference. The state’s order considers construction and landscaping projects part of the exempted “essential services”. Nantucket’s Order does not. Due to this discrepancy, the island received a letter from the Chief Legal Counsel to the Governor to modify the local order to comply with the state’s Advisory. In response, on March 25th, the Select Board signed a joint letter to the governor with all six Martha’s Vineyard towns asking for him to consider preserving the construction and landscaping bans on the island. They argue that because so many workers in these industries commute on the ferries, they could bring infections with them and strain a very small on-island hospital system. The letter described the seriousness of the situation bluntly, saying,
“On Nantucket, assuming 15 percent of those infected will require hospitalization, and 5 percent will need ICU-level care, we could be looking at more than 300 island residents needing a hospital bed, and more than 100 requiring an ICU… The Islands are also aware that there is a possibility that the hospitals’ partners in Boston could be at capacity when the Islands need them most, leaving the Nantucket Cottage Hospital and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital with severely limited or even no ability to transfer patients needing ICU-level care. Moreover, the need for COVID-19 treatment will make acute the need for other types of hospital care acute, and further stress an already stressed system. The Nantucket Cottage Hospital President Gary Shaw and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici have said time and again that given the small size and the geographic isolation of the Islands and limited access to PPE and other emergency equipment, failure to limit exposure will necessarily result in the overburdening of each hospital’s resources and lead to a further health crisis emergency. Both hospital leaders have further indicated that their ethics teams are now analyzing how the hospitals will make decisions as to who should receive treatment and who should not, or cannot. This is our reality today… [The towns] issued a construction ban to ensure that persons who would typically come to the island to work would understand that the Islands are not “open for business”. This ban effectively limits the risk of persons coming to the Islands each day who are infected with the virus and exposing others… Emergency work would, of course, be allowed to occur as necessary. …[Both islands are] fervently requesting your help now by modifying the application of your order to provide that on … Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, construction and landscaping services are non-essential services and must remain closed.”
If you manage a construction project and you believe it is essential to the preservation of life, safety, and/or property on Nantucket, you may submit a request to the DPW if it’s a road project or to the Building Commissioner if it’s a building project. They will review whether or not it merits an exception to the construction ban. If they agree, they will pass it on to the Emergency Management Committee which will decide.
The hospital has been preparing for waves of COVID-19 patient surges. They have identified at least 42 extra rooms that can receive patients. However, they do not have the staff to attend to all those rooms. They are asking any retired or active physicians, nurses, techs, or anyone who has a medical background that isn’t currently working for the hospital to please volunteer as surge staff by calling 508-825-8118 or by emailing the address appearing at the bottom of your screen and in the description.
The hospital has been impressed by the community outpouring of donated personal protective equipment like gloves and face masks. Some local sowers have even made their own face masks to donate. The hospital appreciates this generosity, and in turn, will use these items to help keep the community safe. Please keep it up!
They would like to remind you the drive-through COVID-19 testing site is ONLY for patients exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness and is only for TESTING the disease. It is open at the main entrance daily, 9 am-5 pm, except between noon and 1 pm. Results generally can be expected 48-72 hours.
They are providing daily updates about island-wide COVID-19 test results at the link appearing at the bottom of your screen and in the description.
To help the hospital, the Town of Nantucket has asked the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency for extra security in the form of state troopers or the National Guard. The hospital has no security; when they need help, they call the police. By having different departments assist the hospital in needs like keeping traffic and lines orderly, it reduces the spread of COVID-19 within the Nantucket Police Department. Already, 1 police officer and 3 EMTs are in self-quarantine here.
As Nantucket Health Director, I am asking all people coming to Nantucket from a viral “hot spot” to self-quarantine for two weeks. That means no activities outside your house. You should remain separated from people within your house. Use a separate bathroom if possible. Wear a facemask when in the room with other people. Wash your hands thoroughly. Cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it in a trash can with a liner.
Please understand, the Stay-at-Home order is not a lockdown. If you are healthy, you may still go outside, but doing so in a group is prohibited. Always keep a 6 foot or greater distance from people with whom you are not living. You may still go outside to walk the dog or for exercise. Please note the Town parks at Nobadeer Farm, Delta, Jetties Beach Tennis Courts, Tom Nevers, and Winter Park are all closed. The Landbank playgrounds at Codfish Park in Sconset and 50 Old South Road are closed too.
The Wave buses are still running. Each bus undergoes cleaning and disinfection regularly throughout the day. Please only ride them for essential reasons, outlined in Emergency Order #3. For an FAQ about what this order means, please visit the link at the bottom of your screen and in the description of this video.
Thanks to the tireless work of Gregg Tivnan and Florencia Rullo, the Town’s website lists numerous resources for residents and business owners to cope with the outbreak. These links lead to information about what organizations are open when given the Stay-at-Home order.
For workers, the link appearing at the bottom of your screen and in the description has information about the following:
- Unemployment assistance for workers laid off or temporarily on break. Please consider applying. Recent changes to this benefit make it easier to qualify. If you are on break due to COVID-19, you don’t need to be looking for work to qualify. The state has waived the 1 week waiting period for benefits. To apply, you need the following:
- Your Social Security Number and those of any dependents (If you aren’t a citizen, you need your alien registration number)
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of employers for the past 15 months.
- Reason for separation from employers
- The start, end, and any recall dates of your employment.
- And a bank routing number and bank account number.
- Support for individuals employed in serving beverages or otherwise engaged in the production, promotion or distribution of alcoholic beverages can be found on the Town website too. The US Bartenders Guild labels these individuals “bartenders” and is offering financial support to those that lack the necessities of life due to emergencies like COVID-19.
For business owners, the link appearing at the bottom of your screen and in the description has information about the following:
- A small business recovery loan from the state offering up to $75,000 to MA-based businesses with fewer than 50 part or full-time employees.
- Non-profit financial support from The Nantucket Community Foundation and ReMain Nantucket.
- A federal business recovery loan of up to $2 million at 3.75% interest (or 2.75% for non-profits) called an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
- A quick, federal loan called an Express Bridge Loan designed to offer short-term support until more sustainable financing is secured.
For all Nantucketers, The Town’s website provides links to numerous resources to help cope with daily life amidst the outbreak. They can all be found at the link appearing at the bottom of your screen and in the description.
- For students who need breakfast and lunch now that they are out of school, Island Kitchen’s food truck is offering meals from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm in front of the high school.
- For Massachusetts residents 60 and over, Elder Services of Cape Cod & the Islands offers Meals on Wheels food delivery and in-home supportive services like help with homemaking, personal care, etc. To learn more, please call 1-508-394-4630, M-F 9 am to 5 pm.
- For anyone who needs health insurance, the Massachusetts Health Connector announced that Open Enrollment, which typically runs from November through January, has been extended through April 25th. You can call 1-877-623-6765 or visit the link on the Town website to learn more.
- For every Nantucketer that could use help navigating healthcare, social services, or mental health challenges, the Nantucket Cottage Hospital Health Care Advocates offer free counseling. They can help you face so many issues like discrimination, mental health, navigating the welfare system, creating advanced healthcare directives, senior healthcare, and much more. This program is a great resource.
- For reproductive healthcare, domestic violence issues, and nutritional support, Health Imperatives can direct you to the correct support service over the phone. Their emergency domestic violence shelter, Penelope’s Place, is still open and can be reached at 508-588-2041. A Safe Place also offers 24-hour advice and support to those suffering domestic violence at their hotline, 508-228-2111.
- For the food-insecure, Nantucket Food, Fuel, and Rental Assistance help run the Food Pantry. The location is closed until March 30th but is still delivering to homebound clients. When it reopens, groceries will be available in pre-packaged bags.
- For Nantucketers over 60 that do not qualify for Meals on Wheels, there is a new, free meal delivery service. The Saltmarsh Senior Center, along with “Sandbar at Jetties Beach” and “or, The Whale” are preparing and delivering free meals to seniors. Please call 508-228-4490, Monday through Friday from 9 am to noon.
- For folks looking for mental health and substance abuse counseling, Fairwinds is offering that support over the phone. Gosnold is offering telepsychiatry.
- For families with autistic children and young adults, the Autism Society of North Carolina’s website offers advice about how to talk about the disruption to our daily schedules.
- For all families with children and teens, Harvard Medical School’s website offers suggestions about how best to discuss the Coronavirus in an age-appropriate manner. They also have an interesting Q&A about the virus at the link at the bottom of your screen and in the description
Now, let’s move on to recent changes to the ferries. In order to reduce the chance for the spread of the virus and to keep island populations from increasing The Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard hospitals issued a joint statement that appears on the Steamship Authority website to travelers, saying:
“We are asking you to stay at home. For those Island residents, only travel for the absolute necessities, such as food or prescriptions If you come to the Island – you will only strain our limited resources, putting your life and others at risk. If you have a summer home here – we are asking you to stay at your home residence.”
To that end, the Steamship has decreased the number of ferries traveling from March 22 to April 8. At the same time, there has been a massive drop off in passenger traffic. One police officer described seeing a “handful” of arrivals get off a morning boat when it would normally over 300 would have disembarked. You can see the full schedule by visiting the link at the bottom of your screen and in the description.
The HyLine has reduced their ferries to 3 daily round trips. Departures from Hyannis are at 7:45am, 11:15am, & 3:05pm. Departures from Nantucket are at 9:15am, 12:45pm, and 4:35pm.
A spokesperson for Stop & Shop has given NCTV an update on how their grocery stores are doing on the island. They are currently seeing a high demand for cleaning and paper products, specifically toilet paper. Shoppers are also stocking up on poultry. They said in a statement,
“We want to reassure our customers that our distribution center is full of product. The demand that our customers have made in the stores is more than double what we normally experience. It takes time to restock, but we continue to maintain our regular delivery schedule on Nantucket and are catching up with unprecedented levels of demand.”
If a Stop & Shop worker were to test positive for COVID-19, the store would “conduct deep cleaning and sanitizing and follow the guidance of the CDC, as well as that of global, national and local health authorities.”
Finally, the hospital has provided some useful advice to the community-at-large. They offer a reminder that everyone copes differently with stress. Some people might like to joke about it and others may find those jokes inappropriate. If someone’s behavior doesn’t match yours, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not taking it seriously.
Not everyone is affected equally by this outbreak. Immunocompromised and elderly people are at a greater risk. Poor people are especially affected by stockpiling.
You might want to manage your media consumption. If the constant barrage of viral news makes you feel overwhelmed, try taking a break. Social distancing does not mean reducing your communication with others! Phone calls, Skype Sessions, and emailing are great ways to reconnect with old and current friends.
Secondary traumatic stress does happen. The stress and disruption the virus causes around you can cause you to feel “burnout” or “compassion fatigue”. If you do feel overwhelmed and like you aren’t processing stressful situations like you normally do, this could be a sign you have a treatable mental health condition. Fairwinds is offering counseling over the phone. Gosnold is offering Telepsychiatry.
Minimize maladaptive coping strategies. Increasing levels of alcohol consumption contributes to challenges like depressed mood and sleep difficulties. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Take a rest. If you make room for others to rest, they can do the same for you and the community does better overall.
Now, let’s move on to a statement from Nantucket Cottage Hospital CEO & President, Gary Shaw, and Dr. Diane Pearl, Chief Medical Officer of the Hospital. Thank you both for coming and staying six feet apart.
Before I close tonight, I would encourage people to USE the social services I mentioned tonight. THE LINKS WILL BE AVAILABLE ON NCTV18.ORG – JUST LOOK FOR THE DATE OF THIS BROADCAST IN THE NCTV NEWS SECTION. PLEASE SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY AS THESE Services SUCH AS Elder Services of Cape Cod & the Islands; Nantucket Food, Fuel, and Rental Assistance; Health Imperatives; and others count on our support to help those most in need at this trying time. WE ALL KNOW FROM FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE THAT Nantucketers come together to support each other.
We will continue to provide you with updates on the Coronavirus and impacts for Nantucket. Here’s a reminder that STARTING NEXT WEEK Nantucket Pulse will debut wellness shows from our local health PROFESSIONALS ON CHANNEL 18 AND NCTV18.ORG. Please share this with friends and family. We are in this together. 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.