Time to act
To the Editor:
As a small business owner on the island, I have been struggling for some time to understand the path that the island is heading down. Just like many other small businesses out here, we were closed until the end of June, and have since been working hard to follow the protocols and policies that have been re-shaping our business practices. In June, we were told at meetings that Rhode Island would not be able to provide us with any PPE for the hospitality businesses, and we would all have to fend for ourselves. We were told that it was very important for everyone to wear masks, to follow capacity guidelines concerning staff housing, and to limit any type of congregating. Like every business was told to do, we wrote our own COVID Plan, which was then submitted to the Medical Center for approval. We sat in on Zoom meetings with RI Commerce and RI Department Of Health who promised us that inspectors were heading out to the island every weekend, to help enforce mask wearing and to help get businesses who had violations get quickly in compliance.
We wondered if the start of Phase 3 Re-Opening of RI, occurring just a few days before a very busy July 4 holiday weekend, was premature? At that time, COVID cases across the country were reaching an all-time high. We wondered aloud many times how the town and police would enforce the rules, to keep everyone safe. Block Island at that point had already canceled the traditional fi reworks, the parade, and the yearly Steak Fry to benefit the Fire Department. Yet somehow one island establishment was allowed to host an all day-long music festival that drew very large crowds on the holiday weekend. We questioned the ethics of this.
So, we pricked up our ears.
We soon discovered in the coming weeks and verified through friends, co-workers, and other island business partners, that there was a serious lack of enforcement regarding mask-wearing and social distancing on the island. It also became clear that even though the ferries were running at 50 to 60 percent capacity, they had added more boats. There was a lot of concern regarding over-crowding and bottlenecks, long wait lines, mask compliance and social distancing. For the last month, the crowds here have seemed huger than ever.
Photos have been taken and shared all over social media showing a lack of respect for the island’s ordinances. Piles of trash have been found on beaches and by the side of the road. Beach fi res are left unattended to burn. Tourists are sleeping overnight in their cars, or camping out illegally on the beach. People are setting off fi reworks and firecrackers randomly, during a drought. We were just alerted today that starting this Friday, Aug. 7, all visitors that live in Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York will now have to quarantine or produce a negative COVID-19 test on their return from Rhode Island, because the Rhode Island’s COVID positivity rate is now so high. There is much debate on how Rhode Island counts its positivity rate, with the state of Rhode Island disputing the numbers. As of Tuesday, Aug. 4, Rhode Island has been included in the list of 35 states and territories that have met criteria for high positivity rates. While once considered low risk, we are now on the high-risk list, and this is very disturbing news indeed. Exemptions only apply for regular commuters and people who are visiting for 24 hours or less, such as “Day Trippers.”
While Block Island and Rhode Island were once considered very safe, now it is questionable with this new “uptick.” A lot has been uncovered that shows a real lack of transparency on issues the island is currently facing. We were all told, back in May, that the island’s hospitality businesses would be running at 50 percent capacity for the season. Well, that is definitely not the case now. In fact, the island seems busier than ever, with many islanders now even fearful to leave their homes, especially on the weekends, due to the over-crowding and unsafe conditions in town and at some of the larger establishments. At Monday’s Town Council meeting, it was discussed how there are even more moped accidents this year so far than last year. During a pandemic! There were a total of seven Life Flights in one weekend, which is tragic. Life Flights are very expensive ambulance transport by air, and weather dependent. We all know now what a huge strain the Medical Center, the EMTs, and Block Island Volunteer Rescue Squad have been under.
If Block Island doesn’t buckle up, and buckle up quickly, we will no doubt be facing more troubling times ahead. Even though my family is in the hospitality business, and struggled this year like everyone else, we ask for real change as to how the coming months ahead will play out. We want to ask that everyone who is planning to visit this island think twice about coming now. This is a small town, on a remote island, with no hospital. We are not the “safe haven” anymore. We have real pressing issues, and will need more time to come up with creative solutions. Profit should not be at the expense of everyone else’s health and safety. We have to wake up to what the negative consequences of over-tourism are, especially now during this pandemic.
We ask the town to please, please, keep limiting the numbers of people coming, and limit these numbers even more. We would like to see the town add further restrictions to the ferries, especially on the weekends, and put a daily limit on the number of roundtrip tickets for day-trippers. We would encourage the Town continue to stringently enforce mask wearing and enforce social distancing, perhaps with a “COVID Task Team” that can lead the way on the streets. We ask that the town come up with a plan to better educate moped riders, and the Block Island Tourism Council come up with a plan to better educate the tourists they are appealing to. We also believe the time has come to immediately close the bars and music venues that are known hot-spots and have been in non-compliance. We need to all look out for each other, and for each other’s health and well-being.
Much needed help
The following was sent to Josh Linda of Interstate Navigation and copied to The Block Island Times:
Dear Mr. Linda,
The Board and volunteers of Helping Hands wish to thank you, your family, and Interstate Navigation for making it possible for us to provide food and non-food grocery items on a regular basis to those in need in our community. This assistance is vital during the off-season when work (and thus, income) is scarce. This year has been even more challenging because of the pandemic and late openings for seasonal businesses. We were able to extend our services an additional fi ve weeks so that groceries were available on a weekly rather than bi-weekly basis throughout mid-June.
We can’t even count the number of round trips you provided for our volunteers and trucks between last November and June; trips to purchase and bring back groceries we purchased on the mainland. In addition, you provided ferry and freight service for our vendors that delivered produce and food to the freight dock. Jonnycakes, a Peace Dale food bank, brought two vans full of food and passengers to hold three separate pantries for our organizations; a bonus for our community made possible by Interstate that waived all costs for vehicles and personnel.
We send our heartfelt thanks to you for your support. No one is more grateful than the 65 families we were able to help this winter and spring.
The Board of Directors
Helping Hands of Block Island
Lamb’s needs your help
To the Editor:
During these unprecedented times, Block Islanders and tourists alike are relying on home delivery services.
An overwhelming increase in volume, combined with UPS and FedEx bottlenecks on the mainland, has put a strain on timely package deliveries. Lamb’s delivered 1,100 packages on Monday, Aug. 3.
We at Lamb’s Package Service continue to strive to meet this demands.
Lamb’s as well as most island businesses are experiencing an employee shortage and coping with early college student departure from the island. We are looking to hire drivers and helpers. Please see our help wanted ad in this issue.
As we do our best to get packages delivered please be patient and allow a few days before calling to track packages.
Here are some important things to keep in mind.
- All packages are signed for by Interstate Navigation in Pt. Judith.
- FedEX and UPS are not honoring guaranteed service commitments.
- All packages must have a deliverable address (fire number and street name).
- Please allow extra days for deliveries before calling to track packages.
- When calling to track a package, you must leave the name and address used on the package and most important the UPS or FedEx tracking number.
Practice safe guidelines
To the Editor:
Thank you to Dylan Chase for the science and statistical based estimate of infection on the island.
I’m going to suggest the estimated cases of those infected with Covid-19 is really much higher than the 25 indicated in the test due to the number of private sewage systems that are not part of the sampling.
Regardless, we should all be aware of and practice proper protocols to prevent further spread.
We asked, you responded
To the Editor:
A heartfelt thank you to the entire Block Island Community from all of us who work or volunteer for the Block Island Medical Center. We could not have had the wonderful success or our recent fundraiser without everyone’s support. From all the sponsors who paid expenses, to the donors who gave auction items, to the people who purchased medical equipment, to people who bid, to those who donated money: thank you, thank you, thank you.
The Medical Center needed you and you generously responded. It is such a pleasure to be part of a community that takes care of its own.
The Fundraising Committee
Becky Ballard, Cindy Baute, Susan Bush, Pat Doyle, Carol Hill Barbara Mendelson, Laura Parsons, Sharon Weinberg