COVID-19 Update

A Message from the Superintendent of the Orcas and Lopez Public Hospital Districts – Important COVID-19 Update
As the Superintendent for the Public Hospital Districts on Orcas and Lopez islands, I was asked to lead several areas within the County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). One area of our COVID-19 response where there are a lot of questions is around specimen collection and testing. We’ve all encountered mixed messages and shifting terminology. It’s understandably confusing, and it might seem as though nothing is happening. The good news is there’s been a lot of focus around monitoring of supplies, as well as discussions with providers to ensure there is adequate capacity for specimen collection and testing.

On Orcas and Lopez, we are fortunate to have the expertise and partnership of UW Medicine. They have been leading many efforts within their own patient and employee population in their larger system, which are helping to inform our protocols and thinking – specifically around the drive-through specimen collection model. This approach is now being widely used by health systems in several States and is now being utilized at the UW Orcas and Lopez Clinics. All specimens collected are then being sent to the UW Lab for testing.

The UW Medicine Orcas and Lopez Clinics are dedicated to supporting our entire community and have opened up their specimen collection and testing service to ALL islanders, whether or not you are currently registered with UW. It’s important to understand not everyone who feels ill needs to be tested, particularly those with mild illness. A health care provider will determine if you should be tested, and it’s likely their advice on managing your symptoms will be the same whether you test positive or negative. According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority of those who get COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms and feel better within a couple of weeks. Those with underlying health issues are at greater risk for more severe symptoms, and it’s important that our medical providers have the time and resources to closely monitor those patients. If you experience symptoms of illness and you can manage your illness at home, please stay there and avoid contact with others.

The process being utilized at the UW Orcas and Lopez Clinics is designed to protect your health and that of the providers and our community members. While additional communication will be coming from UW Medicine, here are a few important things to know about the process:

• If you have flu like symptoms do not walk into the clinic. This will protect other patients and staff from exposure and spread.
• All testing is done by appointment; you will be provided with details as to where to go and what to expect when your appointment is confirmed.
• The first step in the process for UW patients and non-patients is to call the UW COVID-19 Hotline number: 855-520-2285. Your patience is appreciated as the call volume may be high. UW Medicine staff are working to be responsive to your needs and concerns.
• Please do not call the island clinics directly. You will need to go through a quick registration process to be able to be scheduled for testing, and that process is being handled by the UW COVID-19 Hotline.

It’s important our EMS resources remain available for emergent medical calls and other 911 activities. Only call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency. Please note that EMS personnel are not currently performing COVID-19 specimen collection. All of those activities must be coordinated by your health care provider, as they will also be the ones following up to ensure you receive test results.

Something else to be aware of regarding your other health care appointments that may have been scheduled prior to COVID-19. For patient safety measures, providers will be rescheduling appointments that are more routine in nature (for example: Medicare Wellness exams). This will allow providers and staff to address the added responsibilities associated with COVID-19 specimen collection, monitoring of critically ill patients, reviewing test results, and reporting back to patients and public health officials. The community’s understanding during this extraordinary time is appreciated.

The San Juan County EOC remains ready to provide support if the situation changes. The team remains in ongoing communication with the clinics, EMS, other EOC Branches, PeaceHealth/PIMC, local leaders and numerous other local and regional health care stakeholders. Other activities underway include assembling a list of volunteer providers who are willing and able to assist with specimen collection and patient coordination, should the need arise. We are also in the process of developing plans should the County experience a surge in COVID-19 cases.

It’s wonderful to have everyone share their expertise, ideas and time – we are very fortunate to live in this County.