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Task Force urges continuation of social distancing, other safety measures

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Oct 14, 2020


At its meeting Monday, Oct. 5, the Pine Island Task Force discussed the importance of local businesses practicing continued safety precautions despite the Phase 3 juncture issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“The concept of the requirements of a business, versus the requirements of the government, is that if you run a business, you can set the rules,” said Task Force member Sue Dahod.

The Task Force has recently requested support from local civic associations via a flyer that local business owners will be encouraged to display asking for the continued adherence of patrons to practice social distancing by wearing a mask.

Dr. Daniel Hanley, the newest Task Force member, stated that he believes the Task Force is on the right track in its effort to maintain guidelines set by the CDC. Testing at his office on the island, he said, is likely to take place just before Thanksgiving, which should coincide with the return of many snowbirds.

Fellow Task Force member Dr. James Koopman said he feels raising awareness regarding contact tracing should be made a priority.

“There are some places that are doing contact tracing well, and some places not doing it well — we don’t do it at all,” said Koopman. “One of the key things that has been discovered recently, that I’ve said since the beginning of the epidemic — we really need to emphasize the backward tracing, not just the forward tracing.”

He goes on to explain the forward tracing as looking at the contacts someone may have had while they were contagious, while the backward tracing, he said, is looking at the contacts they had before they became infected, which could have been the very source of infection.

“It’s becoming increasingly evident across the world that a small fraction of cases are accounting for a large majority of the transmission,” said Koopman, citing a study from India where it was determined that 8 percent of the people are generating 80 percent of the transmissions. This, he said, is what makes the backward contact tracing useful. Identifying where there have been significant transmissions is useful, he said, so that we can take action to stop the epidemic more effectively.

“If you have an individual who knows they’re positive but they’re asymptomatic,” said Katey Largay, RN MPH, another Task Force member, “they don’t necessarily understand that they’re still able to transmit the disease.”

Koopman said in educating people about this what they should be thinking about is the possibility of becoming infected.

Task Force member Martha Huard emphasized the need to think about every contact made prior to testing positive.

Another Task Force member Jim McLaughlin, a former WINK News anchor, conveyed his concern that minority islanders, due to a language barrier, may not be aware that COVID-19 can be transmitted and spread, despite a lack of symptoms.