A Gazette editorial.

The news this week that two individuals without symptoms tested positive for Covid-19 at TestMV’s drive-through site at the high school is the best argument yet for getting a test.

Martha’s Vineyard is fortunate indeed to be one of too few places where anyone over the age of 18 can get free screening for the virus. TestMV is a collaborative effort among the Island boards of health, Island Health Care and Quest Diagnostics, whose chief executive is a seasonal Island resident. Martha’s Vineyard Bank has also stepped up to guarantee that even the uninsured will be covered.

Since the program was launched about two weeks ago, more than 1,400 people — including dozens of front-line workers — have been tested. By the end of last week, only two had positive results.

That’s welcome confirmation that the Island, with a total of just 48 confirmed and presumed cases since the outbreak began, has so far successfully escaped the worst of the pandemic. For any community, and especially one with a heavy reliance on tourism, this should be a point of civic pride.

But the challenge is to sustain that achievement in the face of a mounting influx of summer visitors, some of whom may be carrying the virus without realizing it. As businesses reopen and crowds swell, even the Island’s best efforts to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing will be insufficient to prevent some asymptomatic cases from slipping in.

The value of widespread testing is to identify and isolate carriers of the disease, stopping potential outbreaks before they spread. Once a positive diagnosis is made — from tests conducted either at the TestMV site or at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital — the Island boards of health take on the critical job of contact tracing. People who have been exposed to a positive case are located, asked to quarantine, then monitored to make sure they aren’t infectious themselves.

TestMV focused first on testing emergency personnel, high-risk individuals and people in regular contact with the public. That none of the first 1,000 or so people tested showed any sign of the disease offers deep reassurance that Covid-19 was not silently moving through the Island population.

That could change quickly, and as the testing site works out a few early kinks, it is beginning to invite newly-arrived seasonal residents and visitors to get tested. While asking people to self-quarantine for 14 days on arrival seems onerous, asking them to spend 15 minutes to get a free test seems reasonable and prudent. Call for an appointment at 877-336-9855.

The test itself is a simple and painless nasal swab. Results come back in 24 to 48 hours. Though the test will only show if you currently have the virus, you can repeat the test at any time.

Why take the test if you are not personally worried about having the virus? Because individual participation says you care about the ongoing health of the Island and broad participation will demonstrate that we, as Islanders, care about each other.