A special message on COVID-19 to the Fishers Island Community from the Island Health Project, #7
May 8, 2020
Dear fellow Fishers Islanders,
I hope you and your family continue to be healthy and safe. The Island Health Project is again pleased to report that there have been zero new COVID-19 infections identified in our community, for the fifth straight week. This is thanks to all your efforts and the simple decisions you make every day to safeguard others and yourselves, abiding by the NY State, CDC, and IHP protocols that everyone should be following:
- Practice social distancing – stay 6’ apart! (even at the beach, on the path, on the golf course)
- Wear a mask in public – on the ferry, at the Post Office, at the stores and freight office.
- Wash hands regularly, avoid touching the face, and sneeze and cough into your elbow.
Feedback from our May 1st letter was very positive, based on our clarified and practical public health protocols for Fishers. Those clear recommendations on Quarantining and Social Distancing can be found in our attached public health ADVICE and FAQs, which we update every week. Key updates this week are about the “MyChart” app and protocols for doctor appointments on Island, and about NY State plans for phased re-opening. Here are the links to these comprehensive documents, which are also posted at the P.O. bulletin board – note the updated text in red as you browse.
In this week’s letter, we want to touch on forward-looking guidance for two stakeholder groups in our community: (1) those employed on Island, whether year-round residents or commuters, and (2) summer 2020 residents who are making plans now.
Guidance for those employed on Island
As the pandemic continues to unfold and affect New Yorkers, state regulations are beginning to vary by state region. Understandably, the complexity and changes involved leave us in a state of some confusion about what is permitted or encouraged here on Fishers as families open their houses and deal with necessary maintenance, and as businesses and clubs employ more individuals. IHP and ICB have consulted with our Town Board Member Louisa Evans, who has asked Town of Southhold / Suffolk County officials some clarifying questions. Although this may not address all questions, we wanted to summarize a few things for your information:
- Sanitizing residences: It is permissible for homeowners to employ individuals or companies for “janitorial services” to “sanitize” their homes during this pandemic. We hope to be able to offer you a list of providers who offer special protocols for disinfection in the future; additionally, individual cleaners may want to abide by government sanitizing guidelines (for example, see here). Such services should be done by a single practitioner, and the residents of the home should not be present while sanitizing is performed. This is considered an essential service. Regular housecleaning – for example, in pairs, or while residents remain in their homes – is not considered essential at this time. Therefore, if the community and those employed in this field can modify their work so that opening or cleaning houses is done on a sanitizing/single practitioner/empty residence basis, we will be in compliance. This is especially relevant when houses are changing hands for rentals – and we additionally recommend that sanitized houses remain vacant for a full 24 hours before residents arrive.
- Maintenance work: Currently, it is permissible for sole practitioners and some authorized crews to perform “essential” maintenance or construction work (as defined by the state), so long as they do not come into direct contact (within 6’) with local residents of the house/building. This is an area where regulations are changing quickly.
- Work for multiple employers: If those employed on Island respect the above guidelines, work only when healthy and symptom-free, and follow the basic protocols that apply to everyone (see above), there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to work for multiple employers. These guidelines are based on trust and open to the discretion of employers, but IHP wanted to address the subject directly because we are interested in protecting the livelihoods of those who serve this community.
Summer 2020 Planning
As mentioned in last week’s letter and further discussed on this week’s ICB Zoom call, many people and organizations are working now to best plan for the summer season ahead. We will be ready to present plans to the community in draft form for questions and comment no later than May 22, and finalization in the first half of June. Things we are working on include:
- Adopting NY state contact tracing protocols and supplementing those with a local approach for initial quarantine, testing, and symptom checking. This will be on an “opt-in” basis, but we are hoping for wide adoption of our recommendations to benefit our collective public health and ability to safely socialize.
- Advising the clubs and seasonal organizations on their own protocols and policies as well as plans for children’s programs.
The island-wide Summer Plan is being designed to allow us to pursue a safe and enjoyable season, with specific plans being articulated and updated by island organizations and task forces directly.
Calls to Action: MyChart, and Self-Reporting Symptoms
We again repeat our call to action for everyone (including babysitters, employees, year-rounders, and seasonal residents) to register with my office and set up the MyChart App. This way, you will already be pre-loaded into our system if and when you have a moment of need this summer, or if we need to contact you if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Step by step instructions for MyChart have also been posted on www.fishersisland.net/ihp-mychart. Di Shillo and the office staff are available to help you with this remotely (call 631-788-7244), and please note we do not take walk-ins at our office and we will be trying to use telemedicine whenever possible.
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. There is no stigma to admitting you feel unwell, and by doing so you may save others. Your situation will remain confidential.
We want to reiterate that the local situation is changing all the time and the protocols in place today may not be the same as those next week, next month, or in the future. We will try to keep you updated as quickly as possible, and we are urgently working to get more testing.
Dr. Christopher Ingram
Physician in Residence, Fishers Island