Frequently asked Q&A: COVID-19

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
AS OF MAY 8, 2020
Update
#7
(updates in red)

Q1. Have there been cases of COVID-19 diagnosed on the Island?

A. At the end of March we had two confirmed COVID-19 positive cases and they have now recovered and are off-Island at their primary residence. Their two close contacts were in isolation for two weeks, remain well, and are now among our community and practicing social distancing protocols.  We have monitored two other people for possible COVID-19 and they too have completed an isolation period and remain well. There have been no other cases to date.

Residents of Fishers Island should expect that we will have individuals with COVID-19 symptoms (and those who test positive) living on the Island.  Given this cannot be avoided, suspected or positive cases must abide by protocols for isolation and for departing and returning to Island, for the protection of all (see Advice doc).

Q2. How many people are on the Island now?

  1. Our COVID-19 Island census results to date estimate the population on the Island today to be 500+ people, but we suspect we may have missed many households and possibly a great number of people. If you have not yet filled in the form, we urge you to do so at this link.

Q3. Why are you collecting our personal information for this COVID-19 census?

Our goal is to be able to quickly warn those who may have had contact with a COVID-19 patient so that we can better protect the Island population. The purpose is to have a centralized, confidential database for use on Island only during the pandemic that allows us to trace contacts and warn people to isolate or seek medical help.  In addition, we are providing total headcount numbers to the Village Market so that they can try to order adequate provisions for the on-Island population.

Q4. Can you share the identities or locations of positive cases?

A. To protect the individuals’ privacy and under HIPPA, we cannot disclose the identities of affected individuals.  However, if we know that other Island residents are at risk through our contact tracing protocols (see our Advice document), we will do our best to contact those individuals.

Q5. Where can I get tested for COVID-19? Is it free?

A. The site closest to FI is Lawrence Memorial Hospital in New London, and they now have walk-in access for anyone who has a doctor’s authorization. You no longer necessarily need to be showing symptoms to be tested; please contact IHP if you need help. Please check with your own insurance provider to see what services are covered.

Yale New Haven Health is currently providing diagnostic testing for patients who may have COVID-19. Outdoor COVID-19 Specimen Collection Stations are operating at Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and Yale New Haven Hospital with approval from the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Check here for the latest.

IHP is looking into obtaining a supply of viral RNA tests (nasal swabs or saliva tests) and convalescent antibody tests for the Island’s use this summer.  There is still a shortage of viral RNA tests nationwide, but the supply is beginning to ease. The antibody tests are more widely available but we have some concerns about their reliability because many have been imported from overseas on an emergency basis without FDA vetting and approval.  We will share more news about testing availability/reliability and summer testing protocols in future updates.

Q6. If I have been on the Island and later get tested positive, who should I notify?

A. Call Island Health Project at 631-788-7244, or Dr. Chris Ingram directly, at 917-903-3516.

Q7.  How is Lawrence & Memorial Hospital coping?

A. Compared to Greenwich, New Haven, and Bridgeport, CT, New London has seen far fewer cases,and they have assured us they have adequate back up plans in place for any surge in infections. We are in close touch with Dr. Torres, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of L&M Hospital. The IHP is monitoring this situation so that it can give patients the best advice on where to go.

Q8. Is there back-up care on Fishers Island if I get COVID-19?

A. Emergency provisions for on Island treatment have been considered in the very unlikely event that L&M Hospital becomes overwhelmed with patients. At the present time L&M assures us that they can handle any needs that may arise from Fishers Island.

IHP is working on bolstering its resources for the summer. We hope to have additional doctors and medical students joining Dr. Ingram on rotations this summer, which helps ensure that he has backup at busy times or if one or more of the IHP medical staff becomes ill.  However, we will be using telemedicine to the greatest extent possible and we also hope that you can utilize your hometown doctor.

Q9. I or someone I know is suffering anxiety, grief, or distress during this difficult time. Can you suggest any mental health resources?

A. NY State’s Office for Mental Health (OMH) has set up a free and confidential Emotional Support Helpline at 1-844-863-9314 staffed by volunteers, including mental health professionals, who have received training in crisis counseling. In addition, at this link, you can find some excellent PDF documents including Tips for Mental Wellness, Supporting Others Through Grief, Mental Health Resources During an Emergency, Community Outreach Materials, Interim Guidance for Behavioral Health Providers, and Volunteer Resources.

Q10.  I live here, either year-round or temporarily. I need to go off-island to run errands.

If you do need to go off Island, please limit it to essential services, and please act responsibly upon return. Do remember that it is mandatory to wear a mask on the FI Ferry, on public or hired transportation, and in public within 6’ of others throughout the States of CT and NY. Please protect yourself and others by washing your hands, avoid touching your face, and disinfect surfaces you touch with hand sanitizer. Although it is not state law, our official advice applies to everyone: even a day trip off the island to run an errand triggers another self-quarantine.

Q11. Are people being screened in any way (e.g. temperature checks) before arriving on the Island?

A. Currently, there are not any health screenings or temperature checks on people arriving by ferry.

Q12. Can I have service people into my house?

A. Service people may enter your house to provide essential services (fix the plumbing, check your heating, etc., but not unessential services like regular cleaning).  Remember that residents and any service people who enter your home both pose a risk to each other. We recommend that only one person be let into your house at a time, that you do not get close to that person, that you both wear masks and gloves, and that you sterilize touched services after the fact, to the extent possible. It’s a good idea to open windows to air out your home. Please remind any service people who visit you from off Island to wear a mask.

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.      

Q13. What does it mean to come off the 14-day self-quarantine? What can I do that I couldn’t do before? Can I quarantine somewhere other than Fishers Island and then drive directly here?

A. Actually there’s not a huge difference between self-quarantine and the social distancing that applies to us all. Theoretically, coming out of the self-quarantine means that you could expand your cohort to include others- however, we are not yet ready to recommend detailed protocols for this as we want to agree upon a testing and quarantine strategy that give us more flexibility and keep us safe this summer. We expect to outline this by May 22 and finalize it by June 15. If you have quarantined somewhere other than Fishers Island and still choose to come here, you are reducing the risk of exposure to others on the Island – thank you, but we STILL strongly recommend you to do a 14-day self-quarantine here as well until our Summer Strategy and new protocols are announced.

Q14. Will the 14-day quarantine still apply this summer? I am only coming for two weeks and that means I am on quarantine the whole time?!

A. 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 another 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
  • Rigorous self-reporting of data to enable contact tracing abilities and cohort expansion
  • Voluntary measures taken by Island organizations 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

Q15.  Are there any masks available for sale on the island?

A, No masks are available for sale on the Island, and they are in short supply everywhere.  For cases with severe symptoms, the doctor’s office has a very limited supply of masks that could be given to patients for transport off-Island. The CDC is encouraging people to wear face coverings like a bandana as an alternative or to make their own masks. Masks should either be washed after one use (if cloth) or discarded (if paper).

Q16. Should I wear a mask in public? 

A. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends that people wear a mask or face-covering in public to protect others from the risk of infection. Please wear a mask at the following locations on Island: in the common areas of the ferry, at the freight office, inside the post office, at the Village Market or hardware store when picking up orders, and at gas stations.

Q17. How can I get groceries?

A. Village Market is open and well-stocked, currently able to supply all needs on the Island (no hoarding necessary!). Order ahead of time at fishersislandvillagemarket@gmail.com and your order will be brought out for pick up. See the latest here.

Q18. Is it possible to dock one of the ferries on Island in case it is needed for emergency COVID-19 transport?

A. The FI Ferry District, with IHP, is evaluating whether and when this may be necessary, and they will remain flexible and willing to help in case of emergency. Ferry officials urge any person with symptoms to give plenty of advance warning to Dr. Chris Ingram, particularly early in the day. The last ferry off-island is at 4:45 pm and cars would need to be in line at 4:15 pm. (The ferry is currently running on a special schedule, 3 runs, 7 days a week, departing NL/FI at 7:00/8:15, 11:30/12:45 and 3:30/4:45.)

Q19.  How are we protecting the very limited number of EMT resources and the FI Fire Department personnel?

A. We are strongly urging people not to come to Fishers Island if they are sick or symptomatic.  We are also urging people who may need to leave the Island for testing or medical treatment to do so in their own car and by ferry (see our Advice document for protocols).  We want to reserve Sea Stretcher trips only for true emergencies. We do have N95 masks and Tyvek suits to protect them when transporting COVID-19 patients.

Q20. What would need to take place in order for IHP to relax the 14-day self-quarantine or social distancing measures?

A. NY State has recommended the closure of all non-essential businesses and the practicing of social distancing until at least May 15. At a minimum, we will follow NY State guidelines, but IHP may recommend that Fishers Island keep up such protocols even longer than is mandated by the State of NY.  It is too early to speculate when restrictions will be lifted, and we should maintain the recommended protocols until further notice.

Q21. What medications should we have on hand in our own homes?

A. We recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil).  Other cold and flu medicines may not be effective for COVID-19.

There has been controversial guidance to avoid ibuprofen in patients with COVID-19. However, the CDC and WHO have determined that ibuprofen can be used safely in the COVID-19 setting.

Q22. Are the seasonal clubs and the Pequot going to open this summer? Are they bringing seasonal workers to live on the island? When will we know more?

A. The Fishers Island Club, the Hay Harbor Club, the Fishers Island Yacht Club, and the Pequot are all working on their plans and protocol and will be issuing short statements soon, and detailed plans later. In late April, after a short closure, NY State reopened golf course and marina access, with certain restrictions. The HHC course is open for walking and playing on a social distancing basis and the FIC course opened with restrictions on Sat May 2. Do expect the situation to remain fluid for a while, as the clubs’ decision making will depend on local regulations and the national public health situation. All the clubs are planning to abide by State and Health Department regulations, and they are willing to heed the advice from IHP.

Q23.  What about other programs and facilities like IPP morning program, the Museum and the FICC?

A. We have met with these organizations to offer initial health and safety advice to encourage them all to keep the community updated through the post on www.fishersisland.net, Fishers Island Navigating COVID-19/. A Task Force has been set up to recommend activities for children this summer in conjunction with IHP advice; Bonnie Benkard is leading that and more will be communicated in due course on www.fishersisland.net.

Q24. Do I need to be careful with my pets, especially my dogs?

A. The CDC is now recommending that people follow the same social distancing guidelines with their pets as they would human family members after a small number of animals, including dogs and cats, reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 (although generally asymptomatic). CDC guidelines recommend that people restrict their pets from interacting with other animals when outside their house and urge people to keep cats indoors when possible and to walk dogs on a leash while maintaining at least six feet from other people and animals. FIDCO is aligned with CDC protocols in requiring that dogs be leashed on roads (paved and dirt) as well as the Recreation Path, and they and the Fishers Island Conservancy have put up signage as reminders.

Q25.  What about summer rentals? Do they need to follow these same protocols and who will communicate with them?

A. Yes, we strongly recommend that summer renters follow all of the same protocols. We are working with the Island’s realtors to ensure that renters are provided our Advice and FAQ and fill out the COVID-19 census forms. They have been very responsive and they are also working on summer cleaning protocols. We will have a draft Summer Strategy by May 22 and a final one by June 15 that will attempt to make the situation easier for short-term renters to navigate according to the following goals:

  • 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 another summer

Q26. What about boaters who come over for the day?

A. Protocols for the marina are currently being developed in partnership with the Fishers Island Yacht Club and others.

Q27. What can I do to help assist the COVID-19 crisis response on Fishers Island?  Do you need anything?

A. We are accepting donations of new surgical masks, hand sanitizers, thermometers, and surgical gloves. IHP will accept financial donations so that we may purchase more medical supplies, including tests. You can donate here. Thank you.

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