A COVID-19 Update from the Superintendent

It’s been a few weeks since my last communication to the community, and I’m taking this opportunity to report on and recognize the work of the UW Medicine Lopez Island Clinic. The providers and staff are doing a wonderful job supporting our community as we deal with the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 crisis.

In spite of the challenges and stresses placed on health care systems throughout the country, we are fortunate that our County emergency operations, as well as local providers, staff and EMS teams are doing an exceptional job anticipating and planning for the community’s health care needs. In parallel, we’ve had medical volunteers join the effort, as well as other organizations who have all come together to address the social and economic needs of the community. All in all, it’s been incredible to watch how quickly people and processes have shifted to meet the unexpected challenges we now face, and I remain in awe of the collaboration between community leaders and volunteers.

My last update provided information on the process to be assessed for COVID-19 testing. Testing criteria continue to be based on WA Department of Health recommended testing guidelines, which include testing for the following individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (Fever greater than 100.4F or subjective fever or cough or shortness of breath):

  • Patients who work in any setting where healthcare services are delivered (including: hospital, department of corrections, juvenile detention centers, mental/behavioral health clinics, long-term care facilities, and similar);
  • Patients working in other public safety occupations (e.g., law enforcement, fire fighter, EMS);
  • Patients who live or work in an institutional or congregate setting (e.g., corrections, long term care facility, homeless/shelters);
  • Patients working in critical infrastructure occupations (e.g., grocery stores, pharmacists, restaurants, gas stations, public utilities, etc);
  • Individuals in high risk groups referred by their physician (e.g., elderly , underlying medical conditions, pregnant women); or
  • Any other referred by physician or telemedicine consultation.

Testing continues to be performed outside at the UW Medicine Lopez Island Clinic and sent to the UW Lab. The providers, RNs and staff at the Clinic have done an exceptional job working to ensure adherence and understanding of these protocols. As the assessment process continues to be streamlined it’s best to call 206.520.5000 for the most current procedures.

As is happening across the country, we’ve seen our local clinic begin to shift delivery of care to video appointments, when appropriate. This is often referred to as “telehealth,” and you’ll find it’s similar to an in-person wellness appointment with your doctor. During the visit, you’re able to talk about your current health concerns and learn what to do. The benefit of this type of approach is that it allows contact with your physician without having to be in the clinic. When making a telehealth appointment you will be  provided with instructions on how to connect using a video-based platform to talk with your provider by computer, tablet, or phone.

Locally, we have benefitted from the sharing of knowledge, expertise and resources of UW Medicine. In early March, our local clinic was able to quickly adapt and implement a  telehealth option. Patient feedback suggests a high level of satisfaction with the technology, and the majority of patients have been able to easily access care via a video or audio connection. If you would like to learn more about telehealth in general, you can visit the UW Medicine Telehealth website, or contact your primary care provider to determine how to best access care. You can also go directly to the website for the UW Medicine Lopez Island Clinic HERE to find other COVID-19 resources and information.

In addition to maintaining business operations for the Orcas and Lopez Public Hospital Districts, I’m also part of the Emergency Operations team developing a plan should the County experience a medical surge in COVID-19 cases. San Juan County’s Hot Topic #10 provides insights into the County’s plans to address a possible medical surge. You can read more about those efforts HERE.

While there are many Facebook groups and other sources for information, the County site is the best way to ensure you find accurate reports on local developments, including current positive case counts. The County also provides links to other trusted sources to learn more about the global health emergency, without bias or sensationalism. To access the County’s COVID-19 resources and support click HERE.

I continue to appreciate the collaboration from everyone in our local and regional health care community. I’m seeing tremendous camaraderie across organizations, and I believe we’ll emerge from this difficult period stronger than ever.

Stay Safe. Stay Home.