Please stay away!

That is the message contained in a joint statement released by Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and Nantucket Cottage Hospital posted by the Steamship Authority, which runs ferry service to and from the two islands situated off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass.

The authorities are anxious to dissuade summer residents from opening their island homes early to escape the spread of the coronavirus in states like New York and New Jersey.

Also read: White House asks people who have left New York recently to self-isolate for 2 weeks

Due to limited bed capacity — 25 beds at MVH and 14 beds at NCH — the hospitals asked those with a summer home here essentially to stay home at their off-island residences.

“The perception that the Islands are a safe haven” is not realistic given “the limited number of personnel, critical supplies and beds,” according to the statement.

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In one sense, Martha’s Vineyard, where I live, is no different than many other cities and towns across the U.S. Schools are closed. Nonessential businesses have been shut down through April 7 on orders from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. Many restaurants, which were providing take-out meals, trying to survive on thin margins, have discontinued that service pursuant to Baker’s order.

In another sense, an island by its very nature is isolated because access is restricted to sea and air travel. It’s easier to self-isolate when the entire island is already in isolation.

So far, there have been two diagnosed cases of COVID-19 on Martha’s Vineyard. The first was a 50-year old man who had traveled here from New York and is recovering at home.

The Martha’s Vineyard hospital has tested 35 patients to date but has had no hospitalizations.

Partners Healthcare, the parent company of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, asked Baker to consider whether a ban on travel to both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket should be considered.

That comes in the wake of scuttlebutt and stories in the local papers that summer seasonal residents have been returning to the Island en masse, opening homes early and hunkering down here to wait out the acute phase of the coronavirus.

But according to Sean Driscoll, communications director for the Steamship Authority, the data don’t support that view.

“The number of out-of-state plates is up slightly but not what I would call significantly for March,” he said.

For the first half of March compared with the same period a year ago, there were 264 additional trips to the island by cars with Massachusetts license plates and 102 by those with New York or New Jersey plates. Travel from New England states aside from Massachusetts was down by 21.

Some out-of-state homeowners may garage their vehicles on the Island over the winter, so the ferry traffic numbers might not capture those who keep a car here and fly in.

Arguing against a surge in returning off-islanders is the fact that the Steamship Authority downshifted to a reduced operating schedule this week because of the “dramatic drop-off in traffic,” Driscoll said. “If it persists, we will see more reductions in service.”

That means fewer boats and more layoffs affecting terminal and reservations personnel.

“Our concern is maintaining operations and being the best partner we can be to the community,” Driscoll said. “We are the only conduit for food, fuel and medicine to island. No one else can get a truck to Stop and Shop.”

On Sunday, Baker said he “would prefer” that summer island residents stay on the mainland instead of creating additional strains should an influx of summer residents translate into an influx of coronavirus patients.

So far, there has been no diktat telling homeowners they can’t come to their island residences, which would seem to be a bridge too far.

Many island businesses, including bars and restaurants, stores, and arts and entertainment centers rely on the summer tourist season to sustain themselves. Unlike businesses elsewhere, they are used to being shut down for the winter months. Many close after Christmas and reopen sometime in April or May. And they manage to survive.

But the summer season is key to survival. if the coronavirus shutdown lingers through Memorial Day, the official start of the summer season, many businesses may not be able to stay afloat.

And any extended shutdown into June threatens the summer rental market.

“We haven’t had a huge amount of people contact us to cancel rentals for July and August, the height of the summer season,” said Anne Mayhew, owner/broker of Sandpiper Rentals. “The island depends on tourism, and it would be devastating for our business along with many others if we lose our season.”

Some Vineyarders were able to look beyond the pandemic to the bright side.

“I’m just happy it happened in March and not July,” said Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. “There may be a summer for us — and a banner fall.”