Island health experts and officials from all corners of the Island’s wellness and support community spoke about virus prevention and available local resources during a Covid community forum Monday evening.

The forum, which ran two hours and saw presentations from more than 15 community leaders, was the first in a series of community conversations about the spread of the virus on the Island this spring. Moderated by Laurel Redington of WMVY with speakers from 11 Island organizations, including the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, the Island Boards of Health and the Martha’s Vineyard public schools, panelists focused on the importance of vigilance as the Covid cases on the Island continue to spike.

“This is a forum that wants to bring the entire community together across cultures, across language barriers, and make sure everyone has access to the information that we need to make informed decisions that help all of us together,” Ms. Redington told the webinar audience, sharing a message of education and inclusion that quickly became the refrain of the evening.

The forum also included closed captioning and live translations in Portuguese through the Community Ambassador Program.

During the forum, medical experts from the Island’s health community weighed in on the state of the virus and the new, more contagious, variant.

Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said the recent surge in positive case counts has been accompanied by a concerning trend of younger people contracting the virus, especially children up to 10 years of age who accounted for 16 per cent of last week’s cases. Chilmark health agent Marina Lent spoke about the more contagious UK variant recently detected on the Island, and Edgartown agent Matt Poole reminded viewers of travel guidelines.

Later presentations from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital chief diversity officer Thaddeus Thompson and public school superintendent Matthew D’Andrea covered the steps the Island has taken to keep its entire population safe.

Fabricio Sornas, who spoke on behalf of the Island’s Brazilian community, urged rigorous safety measures and continued vigilance across the Island’s communities, while Dr. Lorna Andrade-Chambers of the NAACP of Martha’s Vineyard advocated for additional support for the Island’s black and indigenous populations.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” Mr. Sornas said. “We need to keep working, educating people and [making] sure that people are aware of what you are supposed to do if someone in your company tests positive, if someone in your house where you live tests positive.”

Later on, panelists also ran through the numerous local resources available to those who are sick or otherwise struggling, noting services available through Island Grown Initiative, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and the councils on aging.

In a question and answer period at the evening’s close, many Islanders wondered about the safety of daily activities, including in-school learning. Others wondered what safety precautions would help combat the more contagious variant.

“Everything that we’ve learned about this pandemic and this disease just bring it up a notch for the [UK] variant,” said Ms. Lent. “[Keep doing] the same things we’ve been doing only do them harder and take them more seriously. Don’t give in just yet on the precautions.”

As the conversation reached the two-hour mark, Ms. Redington closed the forum. The next conversation, which will focus on vaccinations, is scheduled for April 28 at 7 p.m., she said.