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.
I hope you and your family are doing well and staying healthy. We at Nantucket’s Incident Response Team are very busy but want to take a moment to applaud the community’s dedication to social distancing. We especially want to thank our healthcare workers and support staff at the hospital for keeping us safe 30 miles out to sea. It plays a huge part in the reason we only have 10 confirmed cases on the island. For reference, Martha’s Vineyard has 9 and the Cape 314.
Let’s start tonight’s Community Updates in Washington DC and make our way to Boston, to Nantucket Town, and we’ll end in Mid-Island. The Department of Homeland Security has temporarily paused on issuing H-2B visas until “further notice”. According to the Cape Cod Times, the Federal Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs is “strongly” recommending all J-1 visas be suspended until mid-May.
On March 28, President Trump approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Massachusetts. This designation directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 75% of state and local government costs associated with the COVID-19 response and emergency protective measures. Funding has also been set aside for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health to offer support over the telephone to individuals and families facing a crisis at this time. To connect 24/7, please call the following phone number: 1-877-382-1609.
Through the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, the Small Business Administration is offering a $10,000 grant — which means you do not have to repay it — to small businesses called a “loan advance” as part of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan. Your small business can apply for a loan of up to $2 million at 3.75% interested — or 2.75% for non-profits — and then also ask for this “loan advance”. According to US Senator Brian Schatz, a proponent of the bill that created this program, the grant will come within 3 days of receiving your application, even if your loan application is denied. To qualify, applicants must be a small business with 500 or fewer employees, small agricultural cooperative, sole proprietorship, independent contractor, cooperative or employee owned business, or private non-profit of any size. Additionally, the organization must have been in business as of January 31, 2020 and must demonstrate economic hardship due to COVID-19.
The CARE Act also has created a loan forgiveness program called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Businesses are eligible if 75% of their Small Business Administration loan is used for payroll and the rest is spent on mortgage interest, utilities, and a few other expenses during the eight weeks after the loan is granted. To apply, visit the link at the bottom of your screen and in the description.
The deadline for state ID cards — which includes Driver’s Licenses — to be Real ID certified has been pushed back by The Department of Homeland Security until October 2021.
Governor Charlie Baker has extended the closure of non-essential businesses until May 4th. He expanded the list of essential businesses — that are allowed to come to work — to include supply chain workers that support essential services, healthcare workers like chiropractors and optometrists, hotels/motels who only cater to essential COVID-19 workers, and more. You may find the full list at the link appearing at the bottom of your screen and in the description.
A new pilot program has started in Cambridge, MA that provides COVID-19 testing through the Massachusetts National Guard at nursing homes. Usually, nursing home residents must travel to a physician’s office for a test. The state plans to expand the program based on the Cambridge operation.
In an effort to increase the number of medical professionals, the state is expediting the licensing of certain health care workers who sign up at the state’s volunteer portal. The link is at the bottom of your screen and in the description.
More than 1.800 volunteers have signed up statewide.
In addition, the Beacon Hill is enlisting individuals who are about to start their medical career and those that chose to end it. Officials are granting qualified, fourth year medical students 90-day limited licenses to practice medicine immediately. The Department of Public Health is rushing the reinstatement of the Massachusetts medical licenses of healthcare workers that let them expire in the past ten years while in good standing.
In order to help protect our hospitals, the state created a web portal to provide a central place for companies and individuals to donate personal protective equipment to the state’s healthcare workers that need it the most. Items like gloves, N95 masks, protective suits/gowns, hand sanitizer, and more all make a big difference. The link is at the bottom of your screen and in the description
A new state website named “Buoy” offers free advice to individuals about what their symptoms might suggest and what type of medical care they should consider. The link is at the bottom of this screen and in the description.
Recreational Marijuana sales have been suspended; only medical dispensaries are allowed to remain open. The reason is that Massachusetts is one of the few states in the region to permit recreational sales. The governor doesn’t want customers from other states to come into Massachusetts to buy these products.
The April 15th deadline for state taxes has been pushed back to match the new federal deadline of July 15th.
All travelers arriving in Massachusetts are instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days.
This past Saturday additional State Police officers arrived on island and Tuesday afternoon 4 Massachusetts National Guard members arrived on Straight Wharf. They came to provide additional security for the hospital — which does not have its own security — and to perform other duties, like directing traffic in the parking lot. They will not enforce federal laws like immigration restrictions.
Compared to this time last year, ferry traffic is down sharply. The Steamship Authority’s Reduced schedule will now continue until May 5th. It can be found at the link in the description. Chief Pittman says that police officers have noticed just a few dozen people disembarking the ferries they observed. The NCTV crew was working at the Steamship Authority Ferry terminal at 8 am on Tuesday when the boat arrived. Only a handful of trucks drove off and one passenger walked off the gangway.
Between the decrease in passengers and the Stay-at-Home advisory, a stillness hangs over the streets in Town. The activity in these shots taken on Tuesday seems more at place in ‘Sconset than in Town at this time of year. Essential workers trickle in and an occasional jogger will dart down a sidewalk. The police make regular patrols. As we are hunkered down, one house shared some encouraging words of wisdom.
This past Wednesday the Select Board debated language in Emergency Order #1, which instituted a moratorium on all construction and landscaping. The state’s Stay-at-Home Advisory did not ban construction and landscaping, but it later clarified local Boards of Health can institute further restrictions. Nantucket’s temporary ban on construction and landscaping remains valid. However, some of the final wording has left room for confusion. It allowed exceptions if one person were to work on an unoccupied building. The intention was for essential work that did not require deliveries of materials. Many construction and landscaping businesses inquired if their workers could follow a rotating schedule that would only put one worker at a job site at a time. Town Manager Libby Gibson called this interpretation “problematic” and said it had “opened up the floodgates again” in terms of workers coming to the islands.
In response, the Select Board responded “no” to the questions about rotations of single workers. Yesterday, the Board of Health voted to change the language in Emergency Order #1 to prevent any confusion about this issue. Only with approval from the Building Commissioner for construction jobs or the DPW for road work will “essential” work be allowed. Essential work must protect the health of Nantucketers or provide critical support to their property. If you are a homeowner that requires an emergency repair, please call the Nantucket Building Commissioner.
I don’t know when the moratorium will be lifted. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, says, “We don’t make the timeline, the virus does.”
Town Meeting has been pushed to May 30th at 9am. The Town Election has been pushed back to Tuesday, June 16th. Please note that if you submit an absentee ballot before voting day — whenever that will be — your vote still counts. Not only that, but you can change your vote by showing up to the polls on election day. Anyone that claims fear of COVID-19 contamination as a reason for an absentee ballot will be granted one.
The infection rate of the island has been described by Nantucket Cottage Hospital CEO & President Gary Shaw as the “outer bands of hurricane”. The relatively low number could spike quickly if the community stops social distancing practices. The hospital is advising everyone in the houses of those that tested positive for COVID-19 to self-quarantine as if they tested positive as well. Officials believe there is a “viral pool that is circulating” around those in contact with the patients.
Mr. Shaw has been pleased with the response so far. He said during the Select Board meeting this Wednesday, “We have the most dedicated medical professionals I have ever worked with; they’re prepared to address everything we can with the small facility and equipment we have, but that is not enough to take care of hundreds of people if we have a surge in cases and we have to rapidly hospitalize people”
Tonight at 7pm, the hospital is joining other hospitals across the state in an effort to recognize everyone — not just the healthcare workers — but first responders, grocery store employees, truck drivers, and all the other essential workers keeping things running. Join the hospital in saluting them, across the island and beyond, with a collective round of applause from your house or window at 7pm.
The Nantucket Board of Health has postponed their inspection of restaurants wanting to open. The workload due to the viral outbreak prevents them from offering this service. The inspections will resume at the earliest opportunity.
This is a reminder that the island’s drug stores are still open. Dan’s Pharmacy opens 9 am – 6 pm Monday through Saturday and 10 am – 2 pm on Sunday. Call ahead at 508-825-9100 to arrange an outside pickup or home delivery. Island Pharmacy allows a limited number of customers into their locations, with social distancing observed, and will bring items outside for curbside pickup. If customers have arrived on-island within the past 15 days, Island Pharmacy will deliver to outside their home. Their hours are 8 am – 6 pm Monday through Friday and until 5 pm on Saturday. Call them at 508-228-6400. Nantucket Pharmacy is open 8am-6 pm 7 days a week, except they close at 5 pm on Sunday. Although the store is open, if they don’t recognize you, they will ask that you wait while a shopkeeper grabs what you want. If you are sick, they ask that you please call them at 508-228-0180 and they will deliver to your house for free. They also offer curbside delivery.
Unfortunately, the Disc Golf course in the State Forest has been closed for the first time to encourage social distancing. To see a nearly complete list of which businesses are open and which have modified schedules, please visit Yesterday’s Island’s link at the bottom of this page and in the description.
The Town maintains an emergency COVID-19 alert system that will send messages to your phone. To sign up, please visit the link at the bottom of the screen and in the description. https://nantucket-ma.gov/1313/Nantucket-Alert
Finally, let’s end with the schools. They have been following guidelines set forth by Governor Baker to remain closed until at least May 4th. Starting next Monday, all students will officially be following less plans. The administrative team and the staff have been working hard at creating plans for all the students, from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Many high school teachers and advisors have already been connecting with their students and so have the teachers in the lower schools have as well. They are using a variety of remote learning tools such as Google Meet and Zoom. It is not the school’s intention that any student should repeat a grade. Lessons and content are being designed to continue learning remotely at a moderate pace in order to keep students on schedule. A big uncertainty is the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test, or MCAS. The Department of Education and the Commissioner of Education will decide soon for the state whether or not to administer this test this year. The test is required for high school graduation.
Now I’d like to welcome back a regular guest on this program, Nantucket Cottage Hospital CEO & President Gary Shaw. He is going to share a statement from the hospital and then take questions from the viewers via YouTube Chat. Hello Gary.
We will continue to provide you with updates on the Coronavirus and impacts for Nantucket. This week, Nantucket Pulse debuted a wellness segment series hosted by Natalie Ciminero with our local health PROFESSIONALS ON CHANNEL 18 AND NCTV18.ORG. 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. 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.