Three weeks ago, Edgartown seasonal resident and CEO of Quest Diagnostics Steve Rusckowski had an idea.

He shared it with his longtime landscaper and friend Michael Donaroma.

Cynthia Mitchell, executive director of Island Health Care, is leading operations for the project, including screening, registration, collection and contract tracing. — Jeanna Shepard

“I said to Mike, it’d be nice if the Island actually had much more of an extensive coronavirus testing program,” Mr. Rusckowski said in an interview with the Gazette. “And some way that all the local residents get tested so you could have a better baseline versus what’s available today. And then, eventually, set an approach up so that when the summer rolls in, Island residents, summer residents, and visitors could have access to testing for the summer as well.”

“Donaroma said, ‘Well, that’s interesting. How do you do it?’”

Three weeks later, and it was done. What began as an idea is now a fully-fledged reality, as Mr. Rusckowski, his wife Deb O’Hara-Rusckowski, and public health officials throughout the Island announced on Friday a unique public-private partnership to provide comprehensive coronavirus testing to all Island residents.

But the story of how it was done might be just as remarkable as the announcement itself — a tale only possible on an Island, and within a community like Martha’s Vineyard.

“What happened was the guy who was mowing his lawn got into a conversation with the CEO of Quest,” Mr. Donaroma said. “And here we go.”

Mr. Rusckowski has been a longtime friend and client of Mr. Donaroma’s, who along with owning a landscaping business, also happens to be an Edgartown selectman. The two struck up a conversation in late April, with both wondering, for separate reasons, if it was possible to further expand testing on the Island. While Mr. Donaroma was concerned about making sure the Island could reopen safely, Mr. Rusckowski was a seasonal resident who wanted to make sure it would be safe to come back.

“If we had more tests, maybe the Island would feel more comfortable,” Mr. Donaroma said. “And to be honest, I knew [Steve] worked with Quest, but I didn’t know what they were doing.”

Quest Diagnostics happens to be one of the most expansive coronavirus testing labs in the country, analyzing approximately 25 per cent of the tests for Covid-19 nationwide and about 45 per cent in the state. The company has also set up remote testing sites in retail outlets, like Walmart, and in cities like Boston and Brockton, and have a lab close by in Marlboro.

“I said, we do this throughout the country, we have a variety of relationships, we can leverage that here,” Mr. Rusckowski said.

The pair’s mutual interests led to a symbiotic meeting of the minds, with Mr. Donaroma providing the necessary connections on the Island, and Mr. Rusckowski the connections on the mainland. Mr. Donaroma brought in Ronald Rappaport, the Edgartown attorney who is town counsel for five of the Island towns, and had a meeting with Mr. Rusckowski’s wife, Deb, who happens to be a critical care nurse and set up health clinics throughout the world.

Steve Rusckowski and Deb O'Hara Rusckowski at their home in Edgartown. — Jeanna Shepard

Mr. Rappaport was gobsmacked when he heard the proposal.

“My reaction was, it’s too good to be true,” he said. “And we have to make this happen.”

Because Quest Diagnostics does the back-end test analysis, they needed local partners to do the front-end collection and logistical work. It was Mr. Rappaport’s idea to bring in Cynthia Mitchell and Island Health Care, a federally qualified health center that has contracted with the Island boards of health to do contact tracing since the virus outbreak began in March. She said IHC was comfortable handling the screening, registration, collection and tracing aspect of the job.

Unlike other testing sites across the country, the one at the regional high school will be manned by volunteer health care professionals. Ms. Mitchell was responsible for recruiting them.

“We said, we’re going to need 50 volunteers,” Mr. Donaroma recalled. “She said, not a problem, we got it.”

“It was like lightning,” Mr. Donaroma added.

As the on-Island logistics fell into place, Mr. Rusckowski networked with Gov. Charlie Baker and Peter Slavin, the president of Massachusetts General Hospital, which is part of Partners Healthcare and serves as the parent hospital for Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. He also coordinated with hospital president and CEO Denise Schepici to make sure she was on board. She was.

“This augments what the hospital has done, and will do,” Mr. Rusckowski said.

The group, including the Rusckowskis, Mr. Donaroma, Mr. Rappaport and Ms. Mitchell, among others, met late at night over Zoom to coordinate details because Mr. Rusckowski was on the phone from 7 am to 7 p.m. coordinating the other 50,000 daily tests Quest analyzes throughout the country.

The last piece to fall into place was funding. Because of the CARES Act, there are no out-of-pocket costs to pay for Covid-19 testing for people who are insured. But that still left a problem for the uninsured. Mr. Rusckowski estimated those costs could be covered with $100,000. Mr. Rappaport set out to raise the money.

When he approached MV Bank president and CEO James Anthony, Mr. Rappaport planned to ask for about $25,000. Mr. Anthony said the bank would cover it all.

“It was a total team effort,” Mr. Rappaport said.

“Literally, in the last two or three weeks, it started with the beginning of an idea,” Mr. Rusckowski said. “And it’s developed into the nice place where we are today.”

Mr. Rusckowski said his vision is ultimately to make testing available for all Vineyard residents, regardless of symptoms. He said providing the tests on Martha’s Vineyard wouldn’t prevent the company from expanding testing elsewhere, including communities hardest hit by the virus, like Chelsea or Queens, N.Y..

“Fortunately, we are building out capacity. And right now, we have more capacity now than we have demand,” Mr. Rusckowski said. “So no, it’s not going to take away from someone. It is just an additional access point so that someone who needed to get tested, could get tested.”

Ultimately, it was Mr. Rusckowski’s connection to the Island that prompted the rapid-fire community response — and that made the idea a reality.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Mr. Rusckowski said. “I spend all my working days answering phone calls from people who need help with what we do, for a variety of venues all across the country. It could be someone in a nursing home. It could be someone who is running a hospital. And so, whatever we can do to contribute, and we are fortunate enough to be able to do that. We know the Island. We love the Island. And wanted to be able to help.”