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Nantucket, One of America’s Richest Islands, Got Pummeled by COVID. Then the Warring Started.

HYANNIS, Massachusetts—As the freezing water sloshed up against the sides of the boat and the first winter Nor’easter formed off the shores of Cape Cod, a team of men hoisted a small white box onto a ferry.

Under a gray sky, morning commuters shuffled up a ramp and onto the high-speed ferry and sat next to the package. No one on the boat knew the importance of that box. How could they? It was so nondescript as to elicit non reactions among the gathered. But inside were a few dozen doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine—doses that, at the end of an hour-long journey south to the small Massachusetts island of Nantucket, would be the first step toward helping end an outbreak that has roiled one of the country’s toniest vacation enclaves.

Over the past several weeks hundreds of people on the small island have tested positive for the virus, kickstarting a local game of whodunnit. Residents have begun accusing others of contributing to the spread of the disease. For every individual charged with disregarding public-health guidelines, there seemed to be another calling their neighbors out for their reckless behavior either on social media or privately on calls with the board of health.

For a community on such an edge, the arrival of a vaccine was highly anticipated. And when the high-speed ferry docked in the island’s port, the passengers seeing a nurse in scrubs sign off for the package finally caught on. Hospitals throughout Massachusetts had received their deliveries earlier in the week on Dec. 15. But Nantucket’s didn’t show up until two days later. Hospital administrators on the island were unsure if it would make it to the island that week at all given the impending storm. The doses, as luck would have it, arrived just hours before the snowfall.

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