The end of summer 2019 saw my husband and I planning our daughter’s wedding in September 2020 at the West Chop Club. When we left the Island in October to return to our home in Tucson, we were excited to return to out home here, in May or June 2020 to organize for that event. Then the pandemic hit in March 2020, and it became clear that the wedding needed to be canceled because it would be too dangerous to bring people from across the U.S. to the Island.

Then my husband became very ill (non COVID-related) in May 2020, and everything changed. As he slowly recovered, we encouraged our daughter to elope in a small ceremony that we would attend by Zoom. Reluctantly, she and her partner planned a small event for August 1 near her partner’s family in Atlanta, Ga. My husband improved and a friend insisted that she would help drive us to our daughter’s wedding, and from there we could drive on to the Vineyard. With his doctor’s permission, and lots of safety planning, we surprised our daughter, attended her lovely wedding, welcomed our new daughter in law officially to our family, and drove the next day up to the Vineyard. Having read about TestMV in the Gazette, I scheduled testing appointments for us the day after we arrived.

After getting to the test site, I was really impressed by the organization, and the kindness of everyone there, and I asked if they needed any volunteers. I am a retired OB/GYN physician, and I was referred to Lucy Hackney and Owen Burns. I started about 10 days later, and after I had received my negative results. I worked anywhere from three to four mornings per week. I loved my fellow volunteers, all health care providers, physicians, nurses, EMTs, etc. Everyone was friendly, kind and dedicated and helpful. Owen and his young team of technical support personnel always thanked us for coming in, kept us laughing, brought us water when it was hot, coffee when it was cold, and generally made us feel good about what we were doing.

And the people in the cars, getting the tests were wonderful. While they were sometimes frustrated by the instructions for how to do the test, they always succeeded and 99 per cent of the drivers and their passengers thanked us for our work. We worked when it was hot and sunny, rainy, windy, cold, even when it snowed a bit, and last Monday ran out of our tents when a tornado warning came in. We did this because it was clear that this testing, along with the mask mandates is what has kept the Island safe. With frequent testing, contact tracing can take place, and even with this spike in the last few weeks, cases can be quarantined and the Island can remain the safe zone it was all summer.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the generous donors who facilitated the development and implementation of this test site. The safety of the Island allowed me and my husband to enjoy the past four months here, walking on the beach, swimming in the ocean, soaking up the beauty of the summer, the lovely change from early to late fall colors. My husband continues to recover, and we must now return to Tucson to follow up on medical tests and treatments for him. As always, we are sad to leave this beautiful place, but especially so this year.

I personally want to thank Lucy, Owen, Declan, Rob, Donna, Carol, Sarah, Cecilia, Susan, and all the others I worked with at TestMV. The negativity and vitriol of the election and the last few weeks was blotted out by this lovely group of people who worked so well together. This team gives me hope that we will overcome this pandemic, and with vaccinations, all be safe. I look forward to returning, and volunteering again, perhaps delivering vaccines to those I helped test this year.

Please, wear your masks and stay safe and well.

Judith E. Riley

Tucson, Ariz and Vineyard Haven