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Martha's Vineyard Experiencing an Uptick in COVID-19 Cases

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Liz Lerner
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Travelers exit a ferry in Oak Bluffs this summer. Chilmark Health director Marina Lent says that the latest uptick in cases shouldn't be a surprise, with people traveling to the Vineyard this summer from across the country and world.

Martha's Vineyard health officials are reporting the biggest increase in COVID-19 cases in more than a month on the island.

16 new cases of the virus were reported on the island from Monday to Saturday, more cases than in the last six weeks combined. About half of them were people that have already been vaccinated.

Tisbury health director Maura Valley says that samples have been sent to an off-island lab to test for new variants — including the Delta variant — but none have been confirmed yet.

Valley says it's still too early to tell if the Delta variant could be leading to the latest surge. She says more activity from summer visitors is likely one reason for the uptick.

Four of the recent 16 cases were among residents over the age of 70.

Chilmark Health director Marina Lent says she doesn't expect this latest increase in cases to be as bad as past outbreaks, because over 90 percent of eligible residents on the Vineyard have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

"The vaccination rates are a godsend, and are really going to help us," Lent said in an interview with CAI. "We will not see the intensity, and above all, we do not expect to see the severity and mortality."

But she says that the latest uptick in cases shouldn't be a surprise, with people traveling to the Vineyard this summer from across the country and world.

"Herd immunity is not in the picture anywhere yet," Lent said. "Our great enthusiasm in the country for relief from the horrible pressures of a big surge were a little premature, given that we do not have herd immunity."

Chilmark had a particularly high rate of new cases compared to the rest of the island, and compared to the state as well. This is likely because the population is so small, Lent said.

Just a few new cases, Lent said, will dramatically effect the town's case rate.