Martha’s Vineyard public health officials are planning to reintroduce Islandwide restrictions on the construction and building industry at a Zoom forum Thursday evening, aiming for strict enforcement as coronavirus cases surge across the Island.
The restrictions were discussed at a meeting Wednesday morning that took place between Island town administrators and health agents. The new restrictions would mirror phase two of the construction moratorium that was instituted during the pandemic’s initial statewide spike in April, according to Tisbury health agent Maura Valley.
Phase two limits job sites to 10 workers and requires all workers to fill out daily wellness checks and maintain social distance. Violations can result in a maximum $1,000 daily fine and can be enforced by health agents, building inspectors, police or other authorized town officials. Enforcement agents also have the authority to suspend work on a job site.
The renewed restrictions come as health officials report that a large number of the recent cases on the Island have been traced back to the building and construction trades.
On Wednesday, the town of Tisbury — which has seen the largest spike in cases in recent weeks and was recently designated a high-risk community for Covid-19 spread by the state — issued a release saying the town would crack down on construction violations with increased enforcement as well.
Tisbury town officials said that while the majority of the recent cases come from the town, there has also been a surge Islandwide, prompting the need for increased restrictions and enforcement from health agents.
The Martha’s Vineyard Builders’ Association, an advocacy group representing more than 120 independent Island contractors or tradespeople, has said it supports the renewed restrictions and enforcement, and planned to hold a Zoom meeting Thursday with contractors and health agents.
“We will hear from Island boards of health and building inspectors on the state of the spread and what can be done on the job site and at home to keep your community and your job safe,” the builders’ association said in a release that went out by email to its members and others on Wednesday. “We will have materials to help establish company policy, support workplace conversations and enforce best practices . . . Join us and together we can hold back the tide, and protect our families, friends, neighbors, and our jobs.”
The construction industry, booming since the summer, was almost entirely shut down in April at the outset of the pandemic. Health officials and town selectmen were concerned about contractors traveling on ferries to the Island, among other things.
An Islandwide construction moratorium, modeled after a similar order on Nantucket, was instituted for two weeks that essentially limited job sites to a pair of workers. Larger job sites were slowly reintroduced through phases over the next two months in the spring.
By midsummer summer the construction trades were in full swing again, in tandem with a booming real estate market that has continued all fall.