Nantucket has experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases and is seeing “community spread” among tradespeople working in construction, landscaping, and cleaning who are sharing transportation to workplaces, officials from the town and Nantucket Cottage Hospital said Friday.
Seven new cases of the coronavirus were reported Wednesday, and another seven were reported Thursday, for a total of 77 cases in the town, according to a statement Friday from Select Board Chairwoman Dawn Hill Holdgate.
“These are the highest number of cases in a short period of time that we have so far seen in Nantucket,” Holdgate said. “While this is not an unanticipated situation, due to the nature of the coronavirus, we can expect episodic growth in the number of cases over the next 10-14 days.”
Of those 14 new cases, a dozen were among Nantucket residents, and most of those residents worked in construction, carpentry, landscaping, painting, or cleaning, according to a separate statement Friday from Roberto Santamaria, the town’s health and human services director, and Gary Shaw, the president of Nantucket Cottage Hospital.
The town’s Select Board and Board of Health will hold an emergency meeting at 10 a.m. Monday to consider placing restrictions on some of those trades, Holdgate said. The town will also increase visits and health inspections at construction and landscaping sites, she said.
The town is closing Tom Nevers Park from dusk to dawn and may close other town-owned recreational spaces during those hours, Holdgate said. Police will patrol those areas and ask anyone visiting during those hours to leave, she said.
Holdgate said the evidence of community spread in Nantucket shows that “we have regressed in our mission to quell the spread of COVID.”
Santamaria and Shaw asked that anyone contacted by a contact tracer “answer their questions thoroughly and truthfully, cooperate with the case investigation, and comply with all isolation and quarantine procedures.”
“Contact tracing is among the strongest tools we have to prevent the spread of the virus in our population,” they said.
Officials encouraged Nantucket residents to wear a face mask when in public, observe social distancing practices, and avoid large gatherings.
“Let’s all cheer for the Patriots on Sunday, but we ask you to do so with your immediate families rather than gathering in large groups or parties to watch the game,” Santamaria and Shaw said.
Holdgate acknowledged that residents are being asked to make uncomfortable sacrifices for the sake of public health.
“Right now, we need stamina and commitment. It’s hard!” she said. “The consequences are worse. We have seen too many illegal gatherings in certain public places. The lax behavior of a few people has caused restrictions due to this current surge.”