Mass. Islands Prepare for Drastically Different Memorial Day Weekend

"It is a really fragile economy in Nantucket, people need to make their money for the year"

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On Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, the coronavirus has been a concern for months. But Memorial Day weekend, the start of the summer season on the islands, brings a stark reminder that all of it has changed.

Nantucket would typically be hopping this weekend for Figawi, the sailboat race from Hyannis to the island. But this year, there's no race, and the island businesses lose out on all of the income they typically depend upon.

"People are very very worried. It is a really fragile economy in Nantucket, people need to make their money for the year," said Dawn Holdgate, the chair of the Nantucket Select Board.

In Martha's Vineyard, the mother-daughter team at Kentworthy Design is designing island-inspired outfits and worrying about what the season might bring.

"We only have four months, three really, to make all of our money for the year, so that is a little worrisome," said co-owner Randi Sylvia. "There is definitely cancellations in weddings. Anything that I had before mid-to-end June [has] been canceled."

Gov. Baker speaks to media on Nantucket's first case of coronavirus on Sunday. 

But island officials know it's a balancing act. Both Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard have not been hit as hard as other parts of Massachusetts when it comes to coronavirus cases. They say that's due to each island's ability to handle mass cases.

But the trade-off is a ban on short-term stays. That means a drastically different outlook of the summer for small-business owners.

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