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 am glad to be joined in the studio by Dawn Holdgate, chair of the Select Board. Kristie Ferrantella joins us via Zoom. She is the Interim President at the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce as well as a member of the Select Board. We will discuss the letter addressed to seasonal residents signed this week by the Town of Nantucket, Chamber of Commerce, and Nantucket Cottage Hospital. Then, we will talk about what advice and resources the Chamber can offer local businesses. Later in the show, I will interview Sean Driscoll, Communications Director for the Steamship Authority, about the organization’s financial trouble and positive responses in light of the pandemic. We are taping this episode at 10:30 am on Friday, May 1st. Let’s start with some community updates.
The Town Election has been officially moved to June 16th. The Town still plans to host the election at the high school, although the location might change from the lobby. Nancy Holmes, Town Clerk and top election official for the island recommend casting your vote by mail. Given the pandemic, state and local laws permit everyone to request a mail-in ballot. It is likely that Town Meeting will occur after the election. This is legal but unusual. For any measure to become law, it must pass both in the election and at Town Meeting, regardless of order.
Town offices will remain closed to the public until May 18th. Town employees currently are preparing them for the public with safety measures like hand sanitizer stations and plexiglass protectors. Already, the police department has a COVID-19 resource officer on duty waiting to answer all your COVID-19 questions at the “COVID hotline”. To connect, please call 508-325-4111 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The current number of positive COVID-19 cases on Nantucket is 12. That number has been steady for the past 4 days. Previously, the count had been steady at 10 cases for 22 days straight. The spread of the virus has been slowed to a crawl because of the hard work and sacrifice of our community. We must keep up the good work. To preserve this trend, the hospital has just trained 26 employees to assist with contract tracing of positive tests. By doing so, medical staff will know where to direct resources and advise quarantining before a single test has been issued.
Around town, there are two schools of thought often expressed about the Stay-at-Home Order during the summer. The first is to maintain the restrictions in order to decrease the chance of the virus spreading. The other seeks to decrease the burden on businesses by eliminating restrictions. Nantucket Cottage Hospital CEO & President Gary Shaw spoke to this contrast on this week’s Select Board. He said, “It is my belief that these two schools of thought are not necessarily mutually exclusive and that we may be able to achieve both of these objectives.” He encourages the Select Board to strike a balance within the framework of the commonwealth’s policies.
In order to prioritize COVID-19 tests, the hospital uses a set of criteria to determine who qualifies for testing. On Wednesday, they announced an expansion of these criteria. If you exhibit at least one of the following symptoms, you may qualify for a test. They are: Subjective/documented fever, New sore throat, New cough, New runny nose/nasal congestion, New shortness of breath, New muscle aches, or Anosmia (new loss of sense of smell). Please come to the drive-through testing area at the front entrance of the hospital any day, 9am-5pm, except between noon and 1pm.
Massachusetts General Hospital has teamed up with King’s College of London to create an app called the “COVID Symptom Tracker”. It relies on collecting lots of data to provide daily estimates of the prevalence of COVID-19 in an area. To help support this project, please visit the link on the bottom of your screen and in the description to download the app and complete the survey. All information is useful; regardless if you have contracted COVID-19 or not. Then, take a look at how the app tracks the virus on Nantucket.
Currently, the only people allowed to stay in commercial lodging across the commonwealth are those traveling for a job that is considered an “essential service”, those in the process of self-quarantining, those who need emergency housing (like in case of a fire), and a few other exceptions. The full list can be found at the link at the bottom of the screen and in the description.
These restrictions will last until the Stay-at-Home Advisory ends on May 18th. The Town of Nantucket is working on a plan for short term travelers that don’t fit the above descriptions for after the Stay-at-Home Advisory. The island’s Board of Health has the authority to restrict the availability of lodging beyond orders from the commonwealth. We need more data in order to make a determination.
The Nantucket Board of Health is resuming restaurant inspections on Monday, May 4th. Any restaurant can apply. Please call 508-228-7200 or email email@example.com for more information. We don’t yet know what dining in will look like once the Stay-at-Home Advisory ends. Ideas under consideration are limiting occupancy to 25% of capacity, requiring all staff to wear face masks, and spreading tables out onto closed streets outside restaurants in order to maintain social distancing.
The Town of Nantucket and the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce released a letter to seasonal residents on April 27th. Until the commonwealth’s Stay-at-Home Advisory expires — which is currently on May 18th — the letter asks those returning to the island to self-quarantine for a minimum of 14 days once reaching their destination. The letter says “It is best to go directly to your destination and not stop elsewhere on the island on the way.” It recommends bringing enough groceries, medications, and other supplies to avoid having to leave your island residence until the 14 days have passed. It recommends wearing a face covering when one cannot maintain a social distancing gap of 6 feet, avoiding large gatherings, limiting trips to the grocery store, and other measures. To find a copy of the letter, please visit the town’s website, click on the link “COVID-19 Alert”, and then click the box entitled “Resources for Seasonal Residents”. The link is in this video’s description. I will discuss this letter further with our guests later in the show.
Nantucket’s Emergency Order #5 is the first phase of the Back-to-Work plan for construction on the island after the March 20th moratorium. Under Order #5, there have been over 800 single worker requests, the vast majority of which are for single-day jobs. There have also been over 200 multiple worker requests for jobs like weather-proofing, work on employee housing, roofing, sewer repair, and sidewalk work. Twenty-six of those requests are to get unfinished structures weather-tight. According to Nantucket Building Commissioner Paul Murphy, construction crews have been very willing to work within the restrictions. In fact, as of Wednesday, Mr. Murphy says no violations have been issued. The Building Department has been offering support to crews by sharing example logs showing how to fill out the paperwork related to Order #5.
There is currently much discussion about what the second phase will look like. The Select Board is considering possibilities like expanding the permissible number of workers on a site from 4 to 8 and allowing all projects with a permit or HDC approval. These suggested policies are NOT currently slated to take effect.
Nantucket’s Emergency Order #6 details the first phase of the Back-to-Work policies for landscaping. So far, the only issue that Natural Resources Director Jeff Carlson has identified with landscaping crews is the prevalence of unmarked pickup trucks that seem to be equipped for landscaping work. He says that the marked trucks always track with approved job requests to the Department of Natural Resources. He cautions against crews trying to fly under the radar of Order #6 by using unmarked trucks. No Back-to-Work Phase 2 has been issued, but ideas up for consideration include increasing the size of crews from its current limit of 2.
To find a copy of these two Emergency Orders, please visit the town’s website, click on the link “COVID-19 Alert”, and then click the box entitled “Emergency Orders”. The link is in this video’s description. You can find Spanish and Portuguese translations of these orders on that page as well.
Governor Charlie Baker convened a Reopening Advisory Board that will write guidelines to reopen the Massachusetts economy in phases by balancing safety and business needs. Linda Markham, President of Cape Air, and Wendy Hudson, co-founder of Cisco Breweries and owner of Nantucket Book Partners, are on the panel of 17.
All passengers traveling on HyLine Cruises are required to wear face masks or coverings. All those traveling on the Steamship Authority are strongly encouraged to wear face masks. If one forgets a face mask, the HyLine may deny him/her passage and the Steamship may seclude him/her to a designated area on the boat or even bump him/her to a different boat that same day.
Stop & Shop released a joint announcement with the United Food & Commercial Workers Union to call lawmakers to designate their workers as “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel”. This title would enable them to receive virus testing, emergency daycare, and other support services for them and their families. Additionally, Stop & Shop has announced that a 10% pay increase for union store associates will extend through May 30th. A public spokesperson for the grocery chain characterized current business with one word: “busy”.
The Nantucket Chamber of Commerce reminds you to beware of scams when applying for financial support. Paycheck Protections Program loans can only come from authorized banks or credit cards. Applicants should send their debt forgiveness requests directly to these companies. You might hear from agents offering help to take applications or find a lender for a fee. Do not pay any fees! Agents are not supposed to charge fees for this service. Currently, Economic Injury Disaster Loans are not available due to the large amount of applicants.
Please visit the Chamber of commerce’s website to see a long list of resources geared towards local business and their employees. You will find useful items like a small business survival guide, links to free legal help, a summary of the differences among the financial assistance programs, tips for negotiating rent during the pandemic, and links to financial assistance resources (including those for nonprofits). The link is at the bottom of your screen and in the description.
Now, let’s discuss the letter to seasonal residents that went out this week. I am joined by Select Board Chair Dawn Holdgate and Board Member Kristie Ferrantella. Welcome.
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. Please stay tuned to see a special message to our essential workers from the community.