The Steamship Authority cancelled two midday trips on its Vineyard route Wednesday after an employee assigned to the M/V Martha’s Vineyard tested positive for Covid-19, spokesman Sean Driscoll confirmed in a press release. 

The positive test led to the cancellation of the vessel’s regularly scheduled noon and 1:15 p.m. trips on Wednesday. In the press release, Mr. Driscoll stated that substitute crew members had been assigned to the boat and that it would be able to make the rest of its regularly scheduled trips.

A subsequent press release that went out later Wednesday said that an employee at the Vineyard Haven terminal had tested positive for the virus, and that the incidents were unrelated. 

According to the initial press release, the vessel employee was assigned to the M/V Martha’s Vineyard and last worked on the boat with the watch that began on the noon trip, Sunday Dec. 21, and ended with the boat's 11:30 a.m. arrival in Woods Hole on Monday, Dec. 28. The crew member subsequently was informed of close contact with an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was then tested, and after receiving the positive result on Wednesday morning, the employee immediately notified the SSA, the press release states.

“As the employee was a member of the crew that was due to take its watch with the noon departure of the M/V Martha’s Vineyard from Woods Hole, members of that crew who had worked with the affected employee during their last watch were instructed not to report for duty on the vessel,” Mr. Driscoll said in the release. “The noon departure from Woods Hole and the 1:15 p.m. departure from Vineyard Haven were cancelled as a result.”

Vehicle passengers who were affected by the cancellation were accomodated by the M/V Island Home and the M/V Katama, Mr. Driscoll said.

The SSA is not disclosing the employee’s name due to privacy concerns. More than a dozen SSA employees have tested positive since the pandemic began, with a small, three-employee outbreak in summer leading to significant schedule changes and ferry reshuffling in order to accommodate subsequent staffing shortages.

The press release did not indicate whether the positive test would lead to any further schedule changes with the boatline, but said that the SSA had notified vessel employees who were in close contact with the affected employee.

“Those employees will not be allowed to return to work until after receiving a negative test result or being cleared work by a medical professional,” the release states.

In a separate release later Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Driscoll said that an employee at the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal had also tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. The release stated that the two positive tests were unrelated. 

"Based on discussions with the Tisbury Board of Health, it is believed that the potential risk of exposure to the public or other Authority employees is extremely low," the release stated. "However, the Authority will work to determine if any employees or members of the public were in close contact with the individual and, as a result, should be tested."

The boatline has been aggressively cleaning vessels and terminals on a nightly basis, including all high touch areas, like railings and doorknobs. Employees are instructed not to go to work if they are sick, and undergo a medical screening before each watch.

Updated to include information about the Vineyard Haven terminal employee who tested positive.