In a quick reversal, the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital retracted an open letter to seasonal homeowners after seeing backlash Tuesday.

Chamber executive director Nancy Gardella said the letter would be taken down from the chamber website.

“The push back is awful,” Ms. Gardella said in an email to the Gazette. “The intention was good, but the tourism industry is really struggling with this, and we hate to do anything to hurt our fragile economy.

In a separate email to the Gazette, hospital president and chief executive officer Denise Schepici echoed the remarks.

“We did not expect this kind of backlash on something that was merely a piece of guidance meant with the best intentions for the health and well being of our Island community,” Ms. Schepici wrote.

In an unusual alliance, the hospital and chamber had joined forces to broadcast a message to summer homeowners returning to the Vineyard, urging them to strictly self quarantine for two weeks upon arrival and take other precautions to guard the public health.

The letter was sent to the Gazette Tuesday afternoon, signed by Ms. Gardella and Ms. Schepici.

“The really good news: Spring is here, flowers abound, your homes wait for your return, and so far, the Island has largely been spared from the catastrophic spread of Covid-19,” the letter said in part. “However, we are concerned that could change when our population increases going into the summer.” The letter continues:

“The opportunity: Martha’s Vineyard has the chance to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic as a public health success story, with our population safe and healthy. But despite our initial success, Martha’s Vineyard remains highly vulnerable to infected persons and asymptomatic carriers of the virus coming from the mainland, whether they are seasonal residents, year-round residents, workers or day-trippers, who could unintentionally cause a major surge in new cases.”

A preamble to the letter was added Tuesday clarifying that the message is not intended for short-term visitors, and runs parallel to Governor Baker's stay-at-home order which now runs to May 18.

The letter asked all arriving homeowners plan to immediately self-quarantine for 14 days.

“It is best to go directly to your destination and not stop elsewhere on the Vineyard on the way,” the letter said. “Bring all necessary food and supplies with you to enable the 14-day quarantine, including prescriptions, personal health items and personal protective equipment (PPE).”

The letter also asked summer residents to take other precautions, including wearing face masks when out in public and avoiding parties and large gatherings.

“Refrain from hosting or attending private home parties or large gatherings. Instead, order take-out food or have it delivered from local restaurants,” the letter says.

“Be diligent with hand-washing and disinfecting much-used surfaces.

“Limit trips to the grocery store.”

The letter was hinted at by Ms. Schepici during a Tuesday morning press briefing with other hospital officials, although she was not specific about the details. It was not immediately clear how the hospital and chamber had planned to disseminate the letter.

It comes at a time of heightened tensions on the Island, with the pandemic curve not yet flattening, and the arrival of summer visitors imminent. At a press briefing earlier in the day, Ms. Schepici had raised grave concerns about the risks summer crowds could bring.

After the apparent dustup, Ms. Gardella later sent out a mass email to chamber members apologizing, and suggesting that the letter was part of a coordinated effort between Nantucket and the Vineyard begun by state legislators. A nearly identical letter went out from the Nantucket Cottage Hospital and Nantucket Chamber of Commerce Monday. That letter has not been retracted and was reported in the Inquirer and Mirror newspaper.

“When we were originally approached by our state legislators to help create a regional response with our hospitals and regional chambers, it felt like the right and responsible thing to do,” Ms. Gardella wrote.

“As an organization that has prided itself as advocates for our members and our local economy, the truth is we fell short today. In thinking we could support our community in this public health crisis, we forgot that our focus is not public health.

“Our focus is you. It’s business. It’s our Island’s prosperity.”

Meanwhile, in a followup open letter Wednesday morning, Ms. Schepici sought to bring some clarity to the matter.

“I wanted to clear up any confusion . . . I had agreed to sign on to the letter because I believed in the message, which was one focused on the safety of our community with a summer season headed our way,” she wrote in part.

“My message is simple — I believe strongly, and I know I speak for our hospital team, that the health and well-being of our community is our priority and always will be.

She also wrote:

“What happened yesterday with the chamber’s letter is completely understandable — the intent was to offer guidance under the governor’s current executive order which suggests any travelers to Martha’s Vineyard need to self-quarantine for 14 days.

That is the governor’s order until May 18. We do not know what the governor will propose after that, but one thing we can bet on — it will not be business as usual on May 19.”