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Island Task Force welcomes Hanley

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Oct 7, 2020


At the Sept. 28 Pine Island Task Force meeting, Dr. Daniel Hanley was officially welcomed as a member of the group.

Hanley began by addressing multiple issues.

“I’m trying to understand where we are and how I can help in particular,” Hanley said, adding that he had previously spoken with Dr. James Koopman regarding island testing.

Koopman confirmed the conversation, saying it would be ideal if the group could make some arrangement to help Hanley secure a machine for testing in large numbers and asked Hanley to explain what it might take to establish testing at his Bokeelia office.

Task Force member Sue Dahod asked which Abbott testing device Hanley was considering, and whether it might also be useful in testing for other maladies. The machine he is considering obtaining for his office, he said, is able to give results in less than an hour and would be useful for flu and other respiratory viruses.

Task Force leader Eric McCrea asked what it might cost someone to get tested.

“I have no interest in making money off of this,” Hanley said. “Basically the test price is $41 and from what I’m seeing people are charging $500 for tests with the average cost being about $100. I’m not going to be charging more than $50 to $100, I’m not sure yet. I know that some people are charging $10,000. I think that’s ridiculous, I’m not doing anything like that.”

Hanley said he treats every day like it’s flu season and even before COVID-19 came around there were other viruses of concern. In the medical field, he sad, there is a seasonal variation where many people are contagious and many get sick, as there tends to be more travel taking place, saying that is the main reason more people come to the doctor’s office in the wintertime. Now, he said, everything has changed due to all the extra precautions. He attributes a heightened awareness for what can happen in places such as public gatherings for the current overall decline of public illnesses.

“There are a lot of tests that we have onsite and the COVID-19 tests are just part of that,” Hanley said. “It’s not that I want to just randomly screen everybody. We need a specific reason for ordering these tests. It’s not like people can just walk in off the street — no symptoms, no exposure, they just want to be tested — no. We have to allocate our resources as efficiently as possible.”

Koopman said one of the major problems faced by the medical community up to this point has been excessive restriction. With the great number of known asymptomatic infections, he feels it’s vital to perform testing on contacts of known cases. He said although the island has seen a relatively low rate of infection, it’s important to have enough testing done to track any outbreak on the island. This way, he said, people will feel free to visit elderly family members without fear of infecting them. For this reason, he thinks it’s important to be as open as possible about testing availability.

Task Force member Ellen Ballard said there are specific COVID-19 relief grants being given to non-profit organizations up to $25,000 through the Cape Coral Community Foundation. Hanley made it clear that he will move forward to invest in an Abbott machine used for island testing, with or without financial help from a grant.

“We need to make it clear from the beginning as a policy that things will be limited. I look at this as a partnership,” he said. “We’re invested in each other, all of us are invested in the community of Pine Island. Everybody wants a good outcome here. I want to stay in business; I don’t want to shut down because of a pandemic. Everyone wants to get back to their normal routine or if they are sick they should know where their exposures are. It’s more about prevention and awareness — that’s really the point of testing.”

Koopman underlined the importance of promoting the local testing as well as working with Hanley to begin as soon as possible. Hanley said starting simply is best, as the pandemic is not likely to go away any time soon, at least not for the rest of the academic school year.

“If we’re going to do this, I want to do it right,” Hanley said.

To begin with he’d like to look at people with a specific concern that they are trying to address.

“I think one thing we want to emphasize,” Koopman said, “is getting the community oriented to do what is needed to slow the transmission. Basically, in this period we’re opening up. We want to expand our bubbles in some way; we want to start seeing our grandchildren, for example. I think going beyond the basics, which are — you’ve been in contact with the cases or you have symptoms. We ought to set some sort of priorities to help people expand their bubbles.”

Task Force member Katey Largay, RN MPH, said the four groups of concern are, school age children; high-risk age groups, who may have added comorbidities; people displaying symptoms; and people who may have been exposed.

Task Force member Ellen Ballard said to keep upcoming vaccinations in mind, as the Task Force was asked about this in a recent GPICA meeting.

“I think we have made substantial progress,” said Hanley. “I do believe in vaccines overall. If and when the FDA approves vaccines, I will do the best I can to make them available. I do worry about the safety profile and I want to be sure that people understand the risks and benefits of vaccines.”

He went on to say he doesn’t think a legitimate vaccine will come out in 2020.

“I have been doing intensive work on the immunity and loss of immunity, the drifting and waning,” Koopman said. “I have a published article on that now. I’m happy to say there’s a 60-member U.S. committee overlooking serology testing to guide vaccination efforts. I’m happy to say I was able to convince the key CDC member to send my paper around to all members of that committee. This is not going to be an easy vaccine. That is very clear, but the science going into this is absolutely beautiful. I think we have a good chance of eventually coming up with a very good vaccine.”

He explained the need to go forward realistically in terms of vaccine expectations, saying right now politics seem to be getting in the way of realism.

Hanley explained the similarities of getting a flu shot by saying, many people believe by getting a flu shot they wont get the flu.

“That’s not true at all,” Hanley said. “What the flu shot does is prevent the complications. It prevents serious illnesses — hospitalizations, deaths. That’s why we get the flu shot. But if you get the flu shot, you will probably still get the flu, it just wouldn’t be as bad.”

Koopman pointed out that in recent years the flu shot has not been very effective, adding that in his case, getting the flu shot would only decrease his chances of getting influenza by 3 percent.

“Nonetheless, I got it because 3 percent is still something for me,” Koopman said, adding that he hopes the work he’s already done will help the flu shot to become more effective.

GPICA President Scott Wilkinson, another Task Force member, asked how Hanley intends to perform COVID-19 testing, to which Hanley said he’d ideally like to see people call from their car to receive drive-thru testing.

“I don’t really want people coming into the office unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Hanley said. “Of course, we’re willing to see people, but if they just want testing, I’d rather they stay in their car. It’s faster for them, they’re only there for one simple reason, I can easily help out with that, so they just have to call us.”

Hanley approximates a number of weeks before receiving testing equipment so that he can begin testing at his office.