A special message on COVID-19 to the Fishers Island Community from the Island Health Project, #6
Happy May Day, and I hope this finds you all safe and well. We are happy to report today that for the fourth straight week, there have been no new COVID-19 infections identified in our community.
Last week’s letter to you resulted in a lot of concerned feedback. We want to do our best to address that feedback and improve upon our communications today and in the future. On the one hand, we are glad that you are worried about the seriousness of the current situation, but on the other hand, we do not want the communications to confuse the community. For context, New York laws and regulations on COVID-19 are changing all the time, and we are updating our guidance frequently as well. Some confusion may be inevitable. New York State law will always prevail as we do not have the authority to set binding rules, but our guidelines and recommendations may be a little different as we try to best interpret those state laws for the benefit of our unique island situation. Given our limited Island resources and our mutual duty of care toward each other, IHP’s guidance will err on the conservative side.
What it means to self-quarantine is the single biggest area of confusion among you, and we often get asked about exceptions. We do want to reiterate our current recommendation: for now, healthy arrivals to the Island are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days with their own cohort, which essentially means strict social distancing outdoors and indoor interaction only with your own cohort indoors. This also means that if someone in the household leaves the Island and returns, everyone in your household is subject to quarantine again.
However, quarantining and social distancing is not quite as restrictive as you may think. Here are some practical guidelines:
- You don’t have to stay in your house. You can run errands at the stores, post office and ferry, with a mask. You can exercise outdoors with your own cohort- including playing golf, walking, running, and going to the beach if access is allowed by NY state law. You can see friends in an outdoor setting with 6’ apart.
- You are strongly discouraged from socializing indoors with anyone from outside your cohort/family.
- If you are picking up groceries, freight or hardware supplies, please ensure that your pick-up is contact-less according to the store’s guidelines.
- As a courtesy, it would be nice to let others know that you have been off Island within the last 14 days, so they can keep their distance.
For commuters who work daily on Island, we understand that you are not able to stay on the Island for 14 days. Rather than the quarantine guidelines above, please consider yourself subject to NY State guidelines, which require social distancing of 6’ and the use of a face mask.
Detailed definitions of self-quarantine, social distancing, and isolation can be found in our public health ADVICE and the FAQs, which we update every week. Here are the links again.
From Spring into Summer
We have focused our efforts and our communications to date on protecting the people who are already here or have recently come to Fishers Island. I believe we have succeeded so far, with only two positive cases who have now recovered, and four cases monitored and now doing fine. Thank you for all you’ve been doing.
Now, looking forward, we need to change our focus to a summer plan and strategy. IHP, together with ICB and other Island organizations, is working on detailed scenarios and plans which we will present to the community in draft form for questions and comment no later than May 22. We aim to finalize the Summer Strategy by June 15, when we hope the testing situation is clearer. The goals that will guide us in the Summer Plan are these:
- Create protocols that allow for a safe but enjoyable summer for as many as possible
- Reduce length of self-quarantine times where possible
- Allow families to expand cohorts
- Keep vulnerable members of the community safe and able to enjoy the summer
Elements of the plan which we will present to you in due course include:
- Testing for COVID-19, and possibly the antibodies, on island
- Self-reporting of data to enable contact tracing abilities and cohort expansion
- Voluntary measures taken by an Island task force to design safe programs for children
- Voluntary measures taken by the churches, realtors, clubs, and other organizations
- Recommendations for strict protocols around day trips and weekend visitors
Please begin thinking about how your family or cohort can be a part of the solution and not the problem this summer. How can you modify what you normally do to decrease risk to others on the island? Who is in the small circle you absolutely want to exercise or socialize with? These considerations are critical.
Finally, a few updates: availability of testing availability in CT is expanding, and we are pleased to let you know that L&M Hospital now offers a walk-in test site that can be authorized on the recommendation of a doctor. I am pleased to help anyone who would like to go there for virus testing- you no longer necessarily need to be showing symptoms to be tested. Also, we are making progress getting test kits on the Island.
Please bear with us as we continue to grapple with the uncertainty around this pandemic. We thank you all for remaining so engaged – reading the emails and the website, joining the ICB meetings. We are in a very good place compared to many other summer communities. Keep taking the precautions – social distancing, wearing masks, washing your hands, and thinking of others.
As always, do not hesitate to call or text me at 917-903-3516 if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and need medical advice. It is inevitable that we will see more cases in our community and there is no stigma to speaking up; your situation will remain confidential.
Dr. Christopher Ingram
Physician in Residence, Fishers Island