Island boards of health are urging Islanders to follow strict travel guidance in the run-up to the regional school district’s February vacation week, hoping a recent dip in coronavirus case counts stays that way.
The guidance was sent to The Gazette in an email Friday from Tisbury health agent Maura Valley.
“With February school vacation quickly approaching and increasing concern related to emerging variants it might be helpful to address travel and quarantine requirements again,” Ms. Valley wrote. “Although Massachusetts has their own travel and quarantine requirements, the Martha’s Vineyard boards of health strongly encourage individuals returning after air travel to follow the stricter CDC travel recommendations.”
The CDC recommends that travelers should receive a test three to five days after travel and stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if residents test negative.
Residents who travel and test positive should isolate to protect others from infection, the guidelines state. Those who travel but don’t receive a test are instructed to stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
The guidance also recommends that individuals avoid anyone who is at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days after travel, regardless of whether individuals get tested or not.
The less-strict Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidance related to travel, issued late this summer, requires travelers to quarantine for 10 days or produce a negative Covid-19 test result that was administered 72 hours prior to arrival in the state. All individuals are required to immediately begin the 10-day quarantine until they receive a negative test.
Failure to comply can result in a $500 per-day fine.
The new guidance comes one week before the schools’ February vacation, which begins on Monday, Feb. 22.
Case counts on the Island continued their decline this week, with hospital officials reporting fewer than five new cases three days, with zero on Monday and only two on Friday.
In an expanded weekly report that came out Friday, health agents said they tallied 26 new cases between Feb. 7 and Feb. 13, the fewest in a six-day stretch since early November. The Island had previously been average approximately 60 cases per week between November and January, with counts peaking at 99 in the first week after the New Year.
There are currently 36 Island cases in progress, the lowest number in months.
The decline in cases mirrors state and national trends that have shown the number of new positive tests fall in recent weeks. The state is now averaging 1,511 new cases per day, a sharp dip from January, when new case averages surpassed 6,000 per day.
Health officials confirmed earlier this week that part of the spike earlier this year was due to travel during the holidays, and they hoped the strict travel guidance would prevent it from happening again.
Meanwhile, the hospital has now vaccinated more than 2,700 Islanders in Phase One and the first part of Phase Two of the state’s vaccine rollout. The state has not yet authorized the hospital to begin broader vaccinations of residents 65 or older, or those with co-morbidities, although they plan to continue vaccinations for those 75 or older next week, as well as second doses for phase one health care workers and first responders.