The number of cases of coronavirus on Nantucket has slowed over the last week, but health officials are still keeping a close watch on daily tests.
The island has suffered from two surges since early September, one related to the trades, and the most recent related to a potluck gathering at a local church.
Nantucket health director Roberto Santamaria says that 9 people from the church gathering were infected, who then brought the virus home. About 40 were infected total.
Two residents died, one in their 50s and another in their 80s.
Santamaria says that the small island hospital has been able to handle the surge thus far.
“Knock on wood we’ve been lucky,” the health agent said. “Those that who have shown up at hospital with symptoms have been mild symptoms mostly. Those with severe symptoms, we’ve been able to handle here or get them off to MGH in Boston.
In an effort to slow further spread, the island health board this week passed new restrictions, including an island-wide mask order. A previous order was in effect just for downtown Nantucket and in Sconset.
Also, construction and landscape crews are limited to four people in a vehicle traveling to and from a worksite.
The health board has pushed for tougher enforcement on the trades industry because of that first outbreak. Santamaria says they’ve issued $2,000 in fines for violations.
There has been some good news in the health department’s efforts to stop the spread. They’ve had success reducing the number of coronavirus infections within the Latinx and Hispanic populations.
Those communities have been disproportionately impacted by the virus across the country.
Many Hispanic and Latinx residents were infected during Nantucket’s first surge following Labor Day. But the health department made a special effort with messaging targeted towards Spanish and Portuguese-speaking communities.
They spoke with three island grocers that attract immigrant shoppers, and they also delivered public service videos in Spanish and Portuguese.
Originally, there was mistrust among the population with contact tracers. But with targeted messaging, they’ve had success.
“Once we were able to reach out to them with leaders in the community we were able to connect with them,” Santamaria said. “Since about mid-September, we haven’t had a single case with the Latin and Hispanic community.”
Also, Santamaria says that the island was successful over the summer in avoiding a major outbreak, all things considered. He said that the island has a huge turnaround in population every few days. About 7,000 new visitors come the island on a given weekend, potentially bringing the virus with them, Santamaria said.
While there have been surges in the weeks following Labor Day, weeks passed over the summer without a single case of the virus.