What should summer on Martha’s Vineyard look like?

The topic is top-of-mind everywhere, in selectmen’s meetings, on construction sites, in (virtual) nonprofit boardrooms, in conversations with restaurateurs, real estate agents, landlords and shop owners. Everyone, it seems, has an idea. And every idea, it seems, gets immediately and derisively shot down.

Consider the well-meaning, if too-hasty effort by the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and Chamber of Commerce to appeal to summer homeowners with a letter that was withdrawn almost as soon as it was sent amid a nasty backlash.

It is clear that there are at least two entrenched camps on the Island: the stay-awayers who are concerned that people from harder-hit areas will import the deadly coronavirus and the back-to-workers who are willing to accept the risks of infection to get the Island economy back on track.

Nearly drowned out in the noise of social media and anonymous comments are the voices of the many — likely a large majority of people — who want the Vineyard to reopen in some manner for the summer, just very carefully.

The myth of the Vineyard as a place apart where our diverse community lives in happy harmony has been forever shattered by the invisible threat of this disease. Differences in world view were always there, but the fierceness and ugliness with which they have been expressed was unexpected. Yet we know people under extreme stress act extremely. Some are worried for their lives, others for their livelihoods. Both of these concerns are real and understandable.

The Island must agree on a path forward, and it cannot be done without first acknowledging and seeking a way to mitigate these twin terrors. What, specifically, can be done to minimize the risk of a worsening public health crisis? What, specifically, can be done to help people whose only income is tourism-based?

This will require the patient participation not only of local elected leaders, but businesspeople, health care experts and key Island institutions, including conservation organizations, arts groups and other nonprofit organizations.

The answer will be in a set of guidelines, many of which will by necessity represent compromise from some of the immoderate positions staked out in comments on the Vineyard Gazette website, among other places.

There are lots of thoughtful, creative people on the Island able to help craft a plan. Who will bring them together?