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 a special 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.
Today, we are happy to welcome a very special guest to the program, Dr. Jeffrey Drazen. He is the New England Journal of Medicine Group Editor and Distinguished Parker B. Francis Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also on the board of the Nantucket Cottage Hospital. We will discuss the current state of the virus and the road ahead. He will then take questions from viewers who are logged into a YouTube account and type their questions via the chat feature. We are also grateful to be joined by Jason Graziadei, Nantucket Cottage Hospital Public Information Officer. He will answer questions during the public Q&A as well. Welcome.
Before we dive into the discussion with our special guests, let’s review some recent developments on the island and on Beacon Hill. The commonwealth — along with the Centers for Disease Control — recommends that everyone wear a face mask in environments where it is difficult to socially distance. Please leave the N95 and medical-grade masks for the medical professionals — a cloth mask will still help. The goal is to reduce the spread of aerosolized water droplets of infected people, many of whom don’t even know they are sick.
In other news, the commonwealth has just passed legislation putting a moratorium on evictions. Also, MCAS testing requirements for the school year have been suspended. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will modify or waive graduation requirements for seniors to finish this year.
The Nantucket Cottage Hospital is well stocked with hundreds of COVID-19 test kits. Results are now available within 24 hours. Here is an encouraging statistic: no new confirmed COVID-19 cases have been detected here in the past 15 days. This lull surprises the hospital and they are cautiously optimistic about the slowing of the spread here. Please keep up the social distancing Nantucket! This critical measure combined with ample testing are the “best tools we have, besides vaccines” according to Nantucket Cottage Hospital CEO & President Gary Shaw. Without them, one sick person can infect as many as 400 people in a month.
The hospital has no plans to create a surge treatment facility. Logistical challenges and the lack of surge medical staff on the island make that plan unfeasible. Instead, the hospital continues to Medflight patients to Boston Hospitals. If the need arises, there are plans to Medflight patients to the new field hospitals like the one that just opened at Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne. According to WHDH, this facility can take up to 125 COVID-19 patients that do not require ICU-level care.
The Nantucket Health Department, unfortunately, has no plans to start seasonal health inspections of restaurants. Even if a restaurant had no violations of the health code last year, if it needs a health inspection now, it must wait indefinitely. This decision comes from the state; the only health inspections permitted during the Stay-ay-Home Advisory is for essential construction.
There was an emergency meeting of the Select Board and the Board of Health just hours ago. We are designing phased plans that would gradually let construction and landscaping work resume. We do not yet have a final plan to share with you; the Board of Health will meet this Sunday at 1pm to clarify them further. This meeting can be watched live on this channel and on YouTube at the link the description.
Now let’s move onto a story that speaks to the communal spirit of the Nantucket. The Community Foundation for Nantucket and ACKSAVES are raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to help out Nantucket nonprofits. These organizations then pass on the support to many Nantucketers in need. This is a challenging time for many, but efforts like this can help lighten the burden. Yesterday, I spoke to Executive Director of the Community Foundation, Margaretta Andrews, and co-founder of ACKSAVES, Kate Keith, about what they are doing and how much they have raised. When we return, Jason Graziadei will share a statement from the hospital and then we will welcome Dr. Drazen to the program. Please enjoy the interview and consider donating if you are able.
I’m Jason Graziadei, the public information officer for Nantucket Cottage Hospital.
On behalf of everyone at the hospital, I first want to say thank you to everyone on Nantucket for all the support we have received. There have been so many donations of supplies, masks, and food or just simple gestures of support, so I don’t want to single out any one business or individual, but just say thank you to everyone.
To give you an update of what we’ve seen at the hospital: As of Friday morning, April 17, we have tested 214 patients for COVID-19. 200 of those patients have tested negative for COVID-19, and we have 10 confirmed cases. But it has been 14 days since our last positive case. Of those patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 6 have recovered and three remain in isolation. And sadly as you know, we have had one death at the hospital as a result of complications from the disease.
We continue to test patients outside the hospital at our mobile drive-through evaluation site. This is intended for patients experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness. Patients who are tested there can expect a turnaround time for results of generally 24 hours. The hours of operation of the drive-through are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Testing capacity is still constrained both nationally and statewide. We have been able to expand testing capacity slightly on the island, and our clinical team is able to test those individuals they feel have a need to be tested at the drive-through. The criteria have become less restrictive, and we have been able to expand testing to include all women admitted to our labor and delivery unit as well as their spouses. We know more testing is better, and we are looking at every way to expand capacity and evaluating any potential opportunity to do so.
We want the community to know the hospital is open to patients who need care for non-COVID-19 medical issues and we are taking appropriate steps to safely expand access to our services as much as possible. We are seeing patients in-person in the physician clinic for same-day and next-day appointments as well as through virtual visits on the phone or by video. So if you have a need, please call us.
While we have not had a new case of COVID-19 for 14 days, we do not want that fact to let us become complacent. Everything we have been doing in terms of physical distancing, hand-washing, limiting trips to the grocery store, and wearing masks are all still extremely important and are working. We are absolutely concerned about the impact of an influx of people to the island in the weeks and months ahead.
All that being said we should acknowledge the success our community has had, and together with the Select Board and the Board of Health, we are working to take some small steps toward loosening some of the restrictions on certain industries to allow a limited number of people to safely and responsibility get back to work.
And with that I will repeat what Dr. Pearl said during today’s joint Select Board and Board of Health meeting:
We have a low level of COVID19 on the island. We don’t have a lot of sick people or positive tests. In fact, we haven’t had any for 14 days. The epidemiologists and physicians we talk to in Boston are just amazed. They’re shocked our community can be this isolated and have such a low volume.
We think the collateral damage of people not working is very serious in the community with violence, drugs and alcohol, poverty and suicide, depression, and stress.
So we’ve tried to come up with compromises and we know we can’t stay isolated until a vaccine is developed a year and a half from now.
We can’t stay the way we are on Nantucket, that’s not viable, and we have to move forward. The safest possible way is with masks, distancing, and hand-washing and moving back into life in a measured, slow and safe manner.
At the hospital, we are better prepared now because we prepared for a much larger amount of infection. We’re prepared for the consequences, which we feel will be minimal, if any, based on what we know about the island at this moment.
So with that, I want to once again say thank you to everyone on Nantucket for supporting the hospital.
And now a programming note. First, we will have a discussion among the guests about COVID-19 with special guest Dr. Drazen. If you would like more background about the virus, please tune in to Channel 18 on Saturday, April 18th and Sunday, April 19th at 8:00pm to watch Dr. Drazen’s fascinating lecture, “The Unfolding Story of the Coronavirus”. He not only explores its origin, but compares its spread to that of other viruses, and finishes by assessing the best ways to combat it.
After our discussion today, I will announce the beginning of the Q&A section. Welcome, Dr. Drazen.
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We will continue to provide you with updates on the Coronavirus and impacts for Nantucket. Please tune in to watch Nantucket Pulse’s Wellness series hosted by Natalie Ciminero with our local health PROFESSIONALS ON CHANNEL 18 AND NCTV18.ORG. It airs at 12:30pm on weekdays and at 4pm on the weekend. Please share this with friends and family, ITS DESIGNED TO CONNECT OUR VIEWERS WITH LOCAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS THAT CAN HELP US TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES AND OTHERS AROUND US. Please sign up for NCTV’s Newsletter by going to nctv18.org, scrolling to the bottom of the homepage, and adding your email address to the Newsletter box. It’s free and will make you among the first to hear about our new programming, official statements from the Town, live coverage, and much more.
As the pandemic continues, it’s important that communications remain in place as events continue to unfold and we all remain connected. 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. It is also crucial that we continue to stay at home, unless you are considered “essential personnel”. To the medical staff, grocery store workers, police, firefighters, power company workers, ferry staff, DPW, and other essential workers, we at Pulse and residents across Nantucket would like to say “thank you” for keeping the island running and safe. Don’t just take it from me, take it from the people who submitted the following videos to share in a round of applause….
Before I sign off, I want to share something that might often go overlooked during a pandemic. This week, some Nantucketers celebrated their birthday. In order to mark the occasion in place of a party, friends and family took to the streets. Nantucket Pulse wants to wish Pauline Proch, Executive Director of Eagen Maritime, and Jillian Fraker, a teacher at the Lighthouse School, a very healthy and happy birthday. If you missed it, stay tuned to see for yourself their unique birthday celebrations. Have a nice weekend and stay safe.