A Martha’s Vineyard wedding earlier this month is turning into super-spreader status, causing the island to experience its first cluster of cases since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and send the destination known for its elite visitors and lush, spinning vacations.
Locals have every reason to be scared, given the now famous August wedding in Maine that led to 170 infections, killing eight people who did not even attend the reception. Another regional group, linked to a church rally in September in Nantucket, also made headlines and the fury that accompanied it.
Perhaps most blatantly: The Martha’s Vineyard epidemic seemed to be hitting people who worked marriage harder than the participants themselves. Tisbury’s health worker and health boards spokesperson Maura Valley told the Daily Beast on Wednesday that five of the nine patients who had tested positive so far were marriage workers, while the four others were guests or were part of the wedding party.
Outrage quickly exploded in the community.
Little Rock Farm Kitchen Catering and Bakery owner Peter Koines said he founded his business in 1982 and was “shocked” by the news of the wedding. Koines, who identified his age only as “elderly,” told the Daily Beast that he had lived on the island his entire life. The 15 weddings Koines’ company booked this year have been called off, postponed or significantly reduced, he said.
“We made contactless social distancing drops,” Koines told The Daily Beast. “But I refused to provide any kind of staff, if that’s what they wanted. We wouldn’t participate in anything like that, and I wouldn’t ask my employees to put their lives in danger.
The first positive test linked to marriage was reported to the county on Oct. 20, according to Valley of the health department. Two of the positive patients left the island the day after the wedding, while two others completed their isolation on Wednesday and would be allowed to leave immediately. The other five cases involved people living in Martha’s Vineyard, Valley explained.
The health official said the marriage violated state guidelines for travel protocol, including the requirement that most out-of-state visitors self-quarantine for 14 days at their arrival in Massachusetts – or a recent negative test result. However, the partly indoor and partly outdoor event, which she described as “relatively small,” did not violate any state or local orders regarding the size of gatherings, Valley said. Outdoor gatherings can include up to 100 people.
Valley declined to elaborate on how many people attended the event, how many people were contacted for a possible exhibit, or in which city the wedding took place.
Boston Children’s Hospital innovation director John Brownstein, who is also a researcher at Harvard Medical School, said the marriage – an event that apparently led to an array of transmissions – would be seen as a mass-market event.
“As careful as people are in their daily lives, if they go to large gatherings afterwards, these big events can be the primary driver of disease in a community,” Brownstein told The Daily Beast. “What we know from our understanding of COVID to date is that the transmission is not uniform, and that there are wide-spread events that can represent a large portion of cases. We have seen this over and over again during the pandemic. If we participate in large gatherings, this pandemic will continue to rage. “
And Massachusetts, Brownstein noted, is seeing “a real increase in cases,” with rapid growth in transmission and several regions reporting positivity rates above 10%. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the state recorded a cumulative total of 153,037 cases on Wednesday and 9,888 deaths.
“There is a moral component,” Koines added. “It’s frustrating to hear that someone decided it was okay to do it. It is not the right thing to do. “
Commentators on Facebook posts for two local newspapers called the wedding hosts “reckless” and that anyone acting with such public contempt should be “subject to civil harm” – and publicly identified.
“It’s frustrating,” said Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and Tourism on Wednesday. “We got that – we all dream of a time when we can let go of the masks, hug and feel normal again. But today is not today – and our message is consistent: Martha’s Vineyard is a wonderful destination all year round, but we all need to wear a mask, all day, every day, in all public spaces, for our good. “
Ultimately, the actions of a small number of people fatigued by the pandemic, who in this case followed almost all local guidelines, may still impact the livelihoods – and health – of the community. that surrounds them. Especially when an area is still familiarizing itself with the lethality of COVID-19.
“We haven’t had any real outbreaks before this one,” Tisbury board chairman Jim Rogers told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “We are a small island. All cities are connected and what affects one city affects another.
“All it takes is a few minutes of indiscretion, and the next thing you know you have an outbreak,” he added. “It’s worrying. I don’t want people to be afraid, but I want people to be vigilant.
#Marthas #Vineyard #COVID19 #Fury #Superspreader #Wedding #Sparks