COVID-19 effects being felt in Island County
— Created April 1, 2020 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
The number of those infected with COVID-19 continues to rise in Island County as government officials, healthcare workers and community members pull together to battle the pandemic.
According to Island County Public Health, 109 people had tested positive for the virus as of press time Tuesday. Of those, 44 cases were related to the outbreak among residents and staff of Careage of Whidbey in Coupeville. Two people from the Careage outbreak have died, bringing the number of COVID-19 related deaths in Island County to three. According to public health, there are no other known outbreaks associated with long-term care facilities in Island County at this time.
Health officials say the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order applies to the entire community, in all locations, on both Camano and Whidbey Islands. Meanwhile, in a press conference Monday afternoon, Gov. Jay Inslee said officials will be cracking down on enforcing his order.
“Since I announced the ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order for our state, we have seen social distancing and other compliance from businesses and residents across Washington for the good of the public health,” Inslee said. “But thousands of calls are also pouring in to state and local agencies from concerned residents, with reports that some individuals and businesses are not in compliance.
“These people are concerned about their health, the health of others, and how the actions of those who willfully violate this order may ultimately drag out the COVID-19 crisis even longer,” he continued.
The state has created an online form for reporting businesses potentially violating orders and is providing guidance to local law enforcement on enforcing bans on gatherings of individuals. Law enforcement officials will first educate businesses and individuals about how their actions increase the risks to public safety before any citations will be issued.
Formal enforcement actions could include citations, suspension notices, revocation of business licenses and potential criminal charges.
“The only way we can fight this pandemic and protect our families and our communities is if we come together on behalf of each other,” Inslee said.
Gov. Inslee’s directive is set to expire April 8, although he said he expects it is very likely his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order will be extended.
Locally, public health and medical professionals have been managing the situation thus far. In terms of testing on Whidbey Island, WhidbeyHealth has been able to perform roughly a dozen or so tests daily at a drive-through facility, although a hospital spokesperson said they are beginning to see those numbers tick up.
“Between March 16 and March 26, there were between 11 and 18 swabs taken per day; however, we have seen that number increase and fluctuate this week,” said Patricia Duff, adding that turn-around time on test results has been greatly improved.
“Patients are registered for testing by calling our hotline at 360-240-4055 and then go to our drive-through screening, where they are swabbed and their specimen is sent off-island to one of the authorized labs,” Duff explained. “Recently, we changed our choice of labs and now results are coming back from the labs earlier than the 7-10 days we were experiencing. Each patient receives a call from a WhidbeyHealth nurse to discuss their results whether positive or negative.”
While Duff said WhidbeyHealth Medical Center is not currently experiencing any staffing shortages, work is underway to make preparations should the situation worsen.
“In anticipation of a possible surge of COVID-19 patients, we have put out a call to inactive providers in our community to volunteer their services if the need should arise,” she said. “Now that WADOH has established more flexible licensing requirements due to the emergency, we are eager to build a reserve workforce should we need one. If providers are not currently credentialed, we have a rapid process in place to expedite restoring certifications for physicians and nurses.”
Anyone interested in volunteering their services as a healthcare provider at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center or through tele-med services during the COVID-19 outbreak is asked to contact Colleen Clark, chief of operations at email@example.com.
While the hospital has been able to order personal protective equipment, such as the much sought-after N95 masks, it is in need of surgical gowns.
“The greatest and most important need we have now is for PPE, particularly surgical gowns,” Duff said. “Tyvec suits/coveralls would also be welcome at this point.”
Duff said hospital staff are also extremely thankful for individuals and businesses stepping up to make PPE items.
“The outpouring of donations from our community has been absolutely awesome,” she said. “There have been about 300 community members who have contacted us to help make cotton surgical masks (the guidelines for which can be found on our website.) We will also receive 50 face shields that are being made by the island’s Atlantis robotics team and 25 more from a number of owners of 3D printers who are able to print face shields for the hospital.
“We are receiving such items every day through a donation box system that is set up in the front entrance of the hospital,” Duff continued. “There have also been countless smaller donations of N95 masks, gloves and surgical masks from island builders, private medical and dental offices, other local businesses and various residents who have been donating whatever they have left of their personal supplies. It has been a massive and poignant show of support and all of us are extremely grateful for it.”
Information on how to make masks or donate to the hospital can be found online at whidbeyhealth.org. The public is also welcome to watch WhidbeyHealth’s livestream updates every Wednesday at noon on Facebook.