A cluster of coronavirus cases among Martha’s Vineyard Hospital staff who had been exposed to a Covid-19 positive patient continued to grow this week, with seven employees now testing positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, hospital officials confirmed that they had vaccinated 235 Islanders over the age of 75 as they began phase two of the state’s slow vaccine rollout process. The hospital plans to vaccinate a total of 570 people over the age of 75 this week, and has received about 1,000 doses of the vaccine for next week, hospital head of operations Claire Seguin confirmed Wednesday.

Clinics, running from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., started on Monday, Feb. 1 and continued Wednesday and Thursday. A fourth clinic is scheduled for Friday. Patient Gateway users will receive an email informing them of their eligibility. Non-hospital patients should fill out a state attestation form and forward their confirmation email to mvhinnovations@partners.org

Gov. Charlie Baker also eased capacity restrictions in retail stores, gyms and restaurants from 25 per cent to 40 per cent on Thursday, noting a drop in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The changes go into effect on Monday, and come as the Island has also seen a slight dip in caseloads.

But in an email this week, hospital spokesman Marissa Lefebvre confirmed that two additional hospital staff members had tested positive for the virus through contact tracing after the hospital announced five positive tests among staff last Friday.

The case cluster originated from a hospital patient who tested positive for the virus last Wednesday, two days after being admitted and receiving a negative test.

As of this Wednesday, 32 employees had been tested through contact tracing. Of the seven employees to test positive, four were exposed to the patient, hospital officials said, and three contracted the virus through community spread.

Almost all hospital staff have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and most have received both. But officials said the vaccine takes multiple weeks to reach peak effectiveness, explaining how employees could contract the disease.

No other patients have tested positive for the virus.

In the same week that the hospital has confronted its own virus outbreak, it has also tried to jump start the Island’s vaccination process.

Responding to questions regarding the hospital’s prioritization process, Ms. Seguin affirmed that hospital patients were not receiving preferential treatment relative to the community at large. The hospital has been informing Islanders who use Patient Gateway, an online scheduling portal for the Mass General-Brigham system, through email if they are eligible for a shot. Non-hospital patients are required to fill out an attestation form on the state Department of Public Health website.

Ms. Seguin said the prioritization process was largely based on age, and that hundreds of non-hospital patients had received or been scheduled for shots so far. On Wednesday, the hospital administered a vaccine to a patient who is 102.

“We really just started with the oldest,” Ms. Seguin said. “The older you are, the higher risk you are for a complication for Covid-19.”

Responding to questions about how many hospital versus non-hospital patients had been vaccinated, Ms. Seguin said that anyone who fills out the state form is pooled with Patient Gateway users and then scheduled in a random process by age.

“There’s no preferential treatment for hospital patients,” Ms. Seguin said. “Everybody is counted equally.”

She estimated that the Island has between 1,800 and 2,000 residents above the age of 75, meaning that the first step of phase two would likely be completed by mid-February. Islanders over 65 will be next in line for the shot. The hospital has also vaccinated 637 Islanders as part of its phase one vaccination process, including 435 hospital workers. Nearly 300 first responders have also been vaccinated.

Ms. Seguin added that the staff members who tested positive for the virus in no way undermined her confidence in the vaccine. She affirmed that it works, and works well.

“I really do believe in it,” Ms. Seguin said.