Covid cases are on the rise again on Martha’s Vineyard, as the highly contagious Delta variant makes its presence felt around the Island, including among people who are vaccinated.

This week a cluster of cases caused a popular Edgartown restaurant to close temporarily, and activity has been brisk at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, which has a drive-through site for both testing and vaccinations at its Oak Bluffs campus.

Health agents said they had identified a case cluster among staff at the Port Hunter restaurant in Edgartown.

According to Edgartown health agent Matt Poole, five staff members had tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday. The restaurant is closed until Monday, August 10.

A significant portion of new cases come from vaccinated people. — Ray Ewing

“They chose to close,” Mr. Poole said. “They absolutely could have stayed open, but in sort of assessing staffing levels and essentially the energy status of employees, they just felt that it was the best thing to do was close, and reset.”

Mr. Poole said two of the cases are linked as household members.

As case counts rise on the Island, he said businesses are starting to engage more seriously in discussions about mask requirements. While the town has not yet taken the step to mandate masks, an advisory has been issued for indoor public spaces, focused primarily on retail establishments.

“I had some conversations with businesses who are thinking about implementing a mask policy,” Mr. Poole said. “Their customers are being more cautious. And there’s more caution in the air right now, so to speak.”

Provincetown has instituted a mask mandate after more than 900 cases of Covid-19 were connected back to the town. But with 70 per cent of the Covid-positive patients vaccinated, there have been fewer than 10 hospitalizations stemming from the case cluster, officials have said.

“We’re trying not to be P-Town,” Mr. Poole said. “Unfortunately, P-town is sort of the example of a surprise, and what became bad luck. We are trying to avoid going there.”

The Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association announced that its Grand Illumination on August 18 in Oak Bluffs will be a vastly scaled-back affair, with no lantern lighting ceremony and fewer cottages hanging out lanterns this year. Masks will be required for all who come to the Camp Ground that evening.

In a weekly update issued Monday, the six boards of health reported 24 positive Covid-19 tests from the prior week — the largest number since late May. A significant percentage of the cases were among fully vaccinated residents. Between Sunday and Thursday, 29 more cases were reported, three on Sunday, eight on Monday, three on Tuesday, five on Wednesday and seven on Thursday.

The 24 cases reported for the week of July 25 – July 31 came after Island case tallies had dropped to zero during the first week of July. The majority of positive cases over the past 10 days were diagnosed by tests at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, while 11 came from TestMV, which has a free test site at the West Tisbury School. One case came from Aquinnah tribal testing and two from other providers.

Along with climbing case counts, the Delta variant has been detected on the Island, and health agents have issued a mask advisory for indoor public spaces. The mask advisory does not apply to private homes, but is focused on crowded retail shops, Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said.

Many restaurants and retailers have since begun to require or strongly urge masks at their indoor facilities.

According to the report from the boards of health early this week, four test samples have been positively sequenced for the variant on the Island, with an additional two samples coming back “indeterminate” from the state epidemiology lab.

All three vaccines have been shown to significantly reduce severe cases of Covid-19, although vaccinated residents can still become infected by the virus. Symptoms are generally much milder among vaccinated residents, studies have shown.

Using information from the earlier report, of the 50 new positive Covid-19 cases reported since July 11, 22 — or 44 per cent — have been among vaccinated individuals. Another 21 — or 42 per cent ­­— have come among unvaccinated individuals. The other cases are unknown, according to health officials.

The 24 cases from last week span all ages and genders, with three among children 10 or younger, one among people 11 to 19, four among people in their twenties, three among people in their thirties, three among people in their forties, six among people in their fifties, three among people in their sixties and one among people 70 or older. There are no patients currently hospitalized with the virus, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital website.

The Island has now reported 1,572 confirmed positive PCR cases since the pandemic began. No residents are known to have died from the virus.