Cases of Covid-19 saw another sharp uptick on the Vineyard this week, with some confusion around the risk level on the Island due to over-the-counter (OTC) testing.

The Vineyard has been categorized as low risk for weeks, using Center for Disease Control metrics. But the CDC does not count OTC testing, Tisbury health agent Maura Valley explained.

“We’re seeing a lot of our cases coming from over-the-counter and I’m not sure if a lot of other communities are capturing that,” Ms. Valley told the Gazette by phone Tuesday.

On Monday, the seven-day count of PCR positive tests was 25, placing the Island in the low-risk category. In the same update, the boards of health recorded an additional 52 positive over-the-counter tests. If the CDC risk assessment included over-the-counter tests, the Vineyard would be considered at medium risk, a threshold of concern for people at high risk for severe illness.

On Tuesday the boards of health reported 18 new positive cases (four PCR, 14 OTC).

Ms. Valley said the numbers mirror the national trends, as case counts rise due to the highly contagious Omicron BA.2 subvariant that is now prevalent.

“Numbers are going up, but they’re going up around the country,” Ms. Valley said.

She said masking in crowded places, opening windows during gatherings indoors and consistent testing remain strong measures Islanders can take to mitigate risk.

“The same thing we’ve been telling people all along,” she said.

In spite of rising case numbers, Ms. Valley said hospitalizations, which are a major factor in CDC risk calculation, have remained low.

“We’ve only had one over the last several weeks,” she said. “We’re really looking at the number of hospitalizations . . . and whether they’re overwhelming our health care system.”

She added that seasonal allergies have introduced complications for those feeling sick. She said anyone feeling ill should stay home, and continue to test even if they receive an over-the-counter negative test result initially.

“With the availability of the test kits, people shouldn’t hesitate,” she said. “Mask, test and stay home if you’re sick.”

— Aidan Pollard