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Task Force discusses continued island protection

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Oct 21, 2020


At the group’s weekly meeting on Oct. 12, Pine Island Task Force member Ellen Ballard reported having passed out several flyers to local businesses in Bokeelia encouraging patrons to wear masks, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“There was not a lot of enthusiasm,” said Ballard, who stated although there were no outright refusals to take the flyers, some business owners told her they simply didn’t believe in it.

“I had much better luck in Matlacha,” said Task Force member Martha Huard, who reported several businesses having taken and used the flyers without question.

“Experts are saying we’re going to see another climb, like we did leading up to July,” said Task Force leader Eric McCrea.

“We haven’t seen that as much down here,” said epidemiologist Dr. James Koopman, “but I suspect that we will see it. Much of the country is experiencing it. We seem to be experiencing it less, and I don’t know if that’s because they way they’re set up the recording of the cases of deaths.”

The reporting of COVID-19 deaths, he said, is deceptive because it takes so long to be officially recorded.

According to Koopman, many people are assuming the public is in the clear due to the Phase 3 juncture to reopen the country.

Task Force member Dr. Daniel Hanley said the case number reporting seems to change depending on where the information is found, and the best approach might be to protect ourselves.

“I think maybe that’s the best message we can focus on right now,” said Hanley.

“The most vulnerable cannot protect themselves adequately just by themselves,” Koopman said.

Ballard said the Task Force should continue in its efforts to protect the island, even barring widespread support, because the larger populations, such as essential workers, students and teachers are also at risk.

Former WINK-TV News anchor Jim McLaughlin admitted his experience in the news business has influenced his opinion, as he’s very familiar with the structure and flow of data.

“All of the information is coming from one agency,” said McLaughlin. “They collect it, they collate it, they distribute it and no one has access to any of the data outside of what the DOH reports and then everybody reports the same statewide numbers and then they go in and they dig out the local numbers for their particular area but even those numbers are controlled by the DOH. Nobody has any way of knowing whether they’re accurate or not. This is something that we’ve all battled — we being those who report the number — because we can’t go to a second source. The rule in journalism is always get two sources, well there’s only one source.”

Task Force member Sue Dahod said she feels the best way to move forward is to continue to enforce safe practices for those who feel unsafe or unprotected.

Koopman said a recent CDC report shows a considerably dramatic increase of COVID-19 in 18 to 24-year-olds that preceded the rise in the general population.

“It looks like the transmission in that age group subsequently disseminated transmission in the rest of the country,” Koopman said.