Two Steamship Authority employees have now tested positive for Covid-19 in as many days — including one who worked a Vineyard route — prompting the boat line to cancel Sunday trips as it tries to limit the spread of the virus among passengers and crew.
In a press release that went out after midnight on Saturday, the SSA announced that an employee who had recently worked on the M/V Woods Hole and the M/V Governor tested positive for the virus Saturday. The SSA had previously announced Friday that an employee who had worked on the ferry Woods Hole had tested positive for the virus.
The Woods Hole is currently based in Hyannis and is servicing the Nantucket route. The Governor is a 42-vehicle freight vessel that services the Vineyard route in summer and fall.
SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll said in the release that the boat line did not know if the two cases reported over the past days were related; however, he expressed confidence that the employee did not have extended interactions with passengers.
“It has not been determined if this situation is linked to the positive test result of the M/V Woods Hole vessel employee that the Authority announced on Friday,” the release said. “As with Friday’s reported positive test result, this employee was unlikely to have prolonged exposure with any member of the public during the employee’s work hours due to their typical work duties.”
But due to the proximity of the two positive tests, the SSA said it would be cancelling trips and taking the ferries out of service on Sunday to limit potential spread of the virus.
According to the press release, the Woods Hole would be removed from service Sunday and berthed in Fairhaven. The SSA cancelled the ferry’s first trip in the morning, and said it was looking to replace the boat with another vessel for its other scheduled trips for the day.
The SSA also said it would be cancelling the first three trips for the Governor Sunday. The release said the ferry would make its 12:20 p.m. scheduled departure from Woods Hole, as well as its subsequent scheduled trips for the day.
Both ferries will be cleaned by outside vendors on Sunday, the boat line said, as a supplement to all regular daily cleanings that the vessels undergo.
The employee who tested positive on Saturday last worked on the Governor on Saturday, August 29, according to the press release. Because the Governor is not listed in SSA schedules that are currently available online, it is unclear what trip ended the employee’s shift.
The SSA is not disclosing the name or position of the positive employees in order to protect their confidentiality, the release states. The two employees who have tested positive over the past two days mark at least the third and fourth SSA employees to test positive for the virus since the pandemic began.
SSA employees and passengers are required to wear face coverings on the boat, and all employees must undergo a health screening before beginning their watch.
Boat line general manager Bob Davis wished both employees a quick recovery, and defended the trip cancellations, saying he would be closely monitoring the situation as it continues to unfold.
“Although I know the inconvenience Sunday’s trip cancelations will cause for our customers, I believe it is a necessary step to take for the general welfare of our customers and crews,” Mr. Davis said. “Our employees have done an extraordinary job following our Covid-19 protocols thus far, for which I am grateful. However, given the proximity of these two test results and the number of crew members who have potentially been exposed, these temporary operational changes are the best way to ensure the health and safety of everyone.”