Pine Island Task Force stresses keeping islanders safe as eateries, shops reopen - pineisland-eagle.com, news, sports, Florida info, Pine Island Eagle
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Pine Island Task Force stresses keeping islanders safe as eateries, shops reopen

May 20, 2020
By PAULETTE LeBLANC (pleblanc@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

On Monday, May 11, the Pine Island Covid-19 Task Force opened its meeting by discussing testing sites for the virus, as well as the importance of keeping the island safe upon reopening.

"The most important message," said Dr. Jim Koopman, "is that, as we re-open, anybody who has any relevant symptoms should immediately be tested and if they test positive, it's equally important that all of their contacts self quarantine."

Koopman, an epidemiologist, went on to explain that attacking the COVID-19 virus biologically will not be easy, since it is unknown at this time whether or not vaccines will be either available or effective against current contributing symptoms.

Koopman, who has been building a model toward polio eradication for some time, says models for the two are completely different.

"It is extremely relevant to COVID-19 coronavirus transmission," said Koopman. "It combines waiting on an individual after they get immunity and drifting of the virus and both are important in things like influenza and polio. I'm really getting worried about what the second peak is going to look like. There's a real chance the second peak is going to look like the 1918 flu was to the 1917 flu -- this huge serious jump. The thing is we just don't know."

It is Koopman's opinion that, so far, there are not enough people who have gained immunity and then been re-infected to know. He said it looks as though there is some possibility of re-infection, making immunity therefore imperfect, though he added it will likely do fairly well in the short term.

Koopman explained that in the case of the second influenza outbreak, the first spread had been seeded more widely, making the second outbreak much more serious.

"We are in that position," said Koopman. "We can feel very good that we have had very little or no transmission here on the island. The cases on the island were probably not transmitted on the island. While that's good, it just means we have a lot more susceptible people for the second wave if we let our guard down."

While Koopman agrees the island should open once again, he emphasized the need to do it intelligently, concerned that testing alone will not help everyone get ahead of the virus, saying that contact tracing is still needed.

Task force member Mary Lewis Sheehan, a retired nurse clinician, expressed her concern that islanders may not fully grasp the severity of the current situation, citing recent public gatherings as an example of the problem. She emphasized a need for gentle outreach and education, in an effort to unite islanders who may be divided politically, as this is a public health issue and not a political one. She concludes that while some are strongly guided by directives given from the scientific community, others are not, and the role sensitivity plays in maintaining an atmosphere of unity.

Koopman explained the way he feels the scientific community is currently being viewed.

"A lot of people believe what epidemiologists are saying is a hoax -- that it's just another way to oppress them," said Koopman. "I really don't know what to do about that."

Koopman admited conspiratorial hoaxes and the like, where disease and medicine are concerned, is not in his area of expertise.

Task Force leader Pastor Eric McCrea offered to lend assistance, by posting clear, concise and accurate data regarding the virus on the group's social media Facebook page.

Sheehan proposed the possibility of social media being a contributing help in careful dissemination of information where people may feel they're being manipulated. She voiced the need to be gentle and supportive in understanding why people might want to believe there are some conspiratorial aspects surrounding the current pandemic.

Former news anchor and fellow task force ember Jim McLaughlin also offered his help, expressing some concern over his experience with an unfortunate "kill the messenger" attitude.

"There is this general sense that the media is gaining something by distorting the figures and instilling fear in everyone," said McLaughlin. "During a hurricane they always accused us of hyping the hurricane for advertising revenue, not realizing when the hurricane knocks out your power and you don't have a TV, you're not watching the advertisers and they lose money. In this case I can't find what people think the media has to gain from this -- by supposedly scaring everybody."

A long-time trusted news anchor, McLaughlin has weighed seriously the option of abandoning social media outlets, he says, when friends and colleagues continue risking their lives to bring factual news reports with nothing to gain personally in an anti-media atmosphere. He admits he finds himself bewildered by a seemingly widespread belief that the media is purposefully purporting hysteria.

"I don't know what we can say that will change the minds of these people," said McLaughlin.

His said his concern is greatly underlined by a seeming disregard for following guidelines, such as social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment, in an attempt to "get back to normal," which seems to resonate among those very people who assume the media is merely overreacting to the pandemic.

"I think there will be a new normal," said McLaughlin, "as I think most of us will agree."

Koopman said he would like to get the message across that if people will take the time to get tested for the coronavirus, they would be helping the entire island.

Sheehan submitted the idea of setting up voluntary contact tracing on Pine Island, to monitor the number of cases, both active and recovered more accurately.

Koopman agreed that it would be an optimal way of keeping everyone informed if they had been anywhere they may have been able to contract the virus, adding that it would have to be voluntary, and cases would have to be handled discreetly, upholding privacy as a priority.

"I would lend as much support as I can to help people in that regard," said Koopman.

 
 

 

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