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COVID-19 Task Force reports islands ‘blessed’ by low number of cases, but continued safe practices needed

By Staff | Jun 17, 2020

It was decided at the local COVID-19 Task Force meeting on June 8 that if Pine Island isn’t careful in its continued effort to stave off the coronavirus, numbers just may begin to rise.

With the island seemingly as split as the rest of the country between the issues of safety versus liberty, at a time when the virus is supposed to make its second round, one side is bound to be proven. Doctor Jim Koopman, one of the Task Force members, tends to lean on the side of science and safety.

“In terms of influencing your behavior and what risks you take,” said Koopman, “the biggest factor is how much infection there is in your community.”

Koopman said he feels that although online resources are helpful, everyone is lacking for answers when it comes to Lee County patterns in particular. He points out that since most people go off island at one point or another, island residents are not as cloistered out here as some may believe. He said that online current conditions in each city would help to better monitor the situation overall.

Task Force leader Pastor Eric McCrea commented that all the unprotected protesting going on in big cities is certain to affect numbers on the whole. He said he believes local statistics have become more important to people than looking at the statewide numbers. Fellow Task Force member and former WINK-TV news anchor Jim McLaughlin, who monitors virus case numbers daily, said the islands have been fortunate to have had so few cases of the worldwide virus on the island.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword that we’ve been blessed by nothing really happening here,” said McLaughlin. “We’ve had very few confirmed cases and no deaths that I am aware of.”

On the whole, the Task Force indicated that keeping islanders aware of safety precautions is of the utmost importance now, as the general feeling among the members may be that the island is protected due to its geographic location and the low case numbers seen here so far.

McLaughlin said it’s almost impossible to convince islanders that this is not over, evidenced by the celebration of patrons and business owners that everything return to normal. He warned that continued precautions need to be taken to keep the island safe. Koopman added that the burden of keeping people safe from the virus is largely dependent on the compliance of each islander to do his or her part.

“Your main responsibility is to keep yourself from killing somebody else by spreading it when you don’t know you have it,” said Koopman.

McCrea believes that although the most vocal of the population seem to be behaving as though there is no reason to continue to be concerned over the virus, there is a silent majority of islanders taking great care to stave off the disease, evidenced in his own congregation.

McLaughlin pointed out that looking at case numbers day in and day out naturally becomes habitual stimuli as people lose a personal connection to the seriousness behind the numbers.

“While I’m happy to post the numbers every day,” said McLaughlin, “every single number represents a human being — this is somebody’s mother, brother, father. Do not lose sight of the fact that these are more than just statistics … they’re people. These are our neighbors and our family members. The numbers get cold and they can numb you.”