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COVID-19 Task Force discusses reopening school and testing on the island

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Sep 2, 2020

pleblanc@breezenewspapers.com

During the Pine Island COVID-19 Task Force meeting Monday Aug. 24, Dr. Jim Koopman expressed his concern about the first semester of school bringing a possible reboot of the pandemic.

“We’ll see how it goes,” said Koopman, one of the Task Force’s members, “but nationally when you look at the similarities between the endemic coronavirus and this epidemic coronavirus, there’s every reason to believe it’s going to bounce back and the schools are going to play a part in it.”

Fellow Task Force member and former WINK-TV news anchorman Jim McLaughlin informed the group that the free testing at Phillips Park a week earlier attracted 95 and closed earlier than expected due to weather conditions. He said he was told by the Health Department that this had been one of their bigger turnouts and he wondered what the total might have been had they been able to remain open for the planned duration.

McLaughlin, who often keeps people informed via social media, had posted a note regarding the early shutdown and said some people decided to stay home after reading it, realizing they wouldn’t be able to get to the testing site before it closed. Although the Health Department said thunderstorm warnings were likely the only reason they would shut down early, McLaughlin said some of the staff had passed out due to the intense heat on the tennis courts where they had set up the testing site.

“I discovered that the trolley they brought in was for the healthcare workers,” said McLaughlin, “because it was air conditioned, they would take periodic breaks, but one of the workers told me that a couple of them had passed out from the heat and some of the clients were having trouble.”

Task Force leader Eric McCrea inquired as to whether the Health Department had any plans to come back to the island and Task Force member Sue Dahod explained that she was told they would gladly return if there was a need.

McLaughlin said the Health Depart-ment explained the number of tests on hand far exceeded what they expected would be necessary, encouraging people to arrive as early as possible, in case of a possible early shutdown. McLaughlin said there might have been a greater number of islanders willing to be tested had it been made clear that the test they were doing was oral, rather than a nasal test.

“I think that might have changed a lot of people’s minds who were hesitant to go,” said McLaughlin, admitting it was only a guess.

McCrea estimated a future need for more testing, especially upon the reopening of schools, asking the group if anyone knew who might make that determination. Dahod agreed to find out if a return visit to the island was in the near future for the Health Department.

Greater Pine Island Civic Association President Scott Wilkinson confirmed that the Task Force has been asked to give a presentation at its Zoom meeting today, Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m.