Dr. James and Dr. House working together to find a way to expand testing

In the March 31, 2020 San Juan County Council meeting, the council was told there had been a misunderstanding by Dr. William House on how COVID-19 tests could be used. Dr. House was working on a way to test all residents of San Juan Island. The council was told the county Medical Officer, Dr. Frank James, informed Dr. House that he couldn't use  kits that way. There was no discussion of pursuing the goal of widespread testing and many viewers were left with the impression the county was hampering efforts by others to achieve that goal. 

To clarify what the situation actually is here is Dr. James explanation posted in an email on Facebook.

" I have been working with Dr House in getting the resources needed to test those most in need of testing since this outbreak began. He has done an exceptional job of providing quality care to his patients and to our community. I was able to get him additional testing materials when he ran out in the past. When the lab he works with only sent a single kit, after he had ordered 50, to test for CoVID19 a few days ago

"I worked diligently to get additional testing collection kits to him. I was able to get not 50 but 300 kits so that we would have an adequate supply as the number of cases increased. Because the University affiliated clinics on Orcas and Lopez have not had challenges getting testing kits and because the Peace Island Hospital system has an adequate supply, I felt getting Dr House, who has tested not just his own patients but the general public as well, should be a high priority. I also arranged for additional staff to assist him starting this week in his efforts to serve the larger community.

"I also arranged for the test kits to be run at the Washington State Department of Health Laboratory (with a routine turnaround time of 24-48 hours. However, with these supplies we are also obligated to follow the priority testing:

a. those at greatest risk of death from the infection

b. those individuals most likely to pass the infection to others

c. those who are critical infrastructure (emergency response staff, medical staff and community members that provide essential services

"Testing supplies are in such critically short supply that these priorities are most likely to save the greatest number of lives.

"As a separate issue Dr House and I have been working together to identify a way to test everyone in the county. We have evaluated a number of different tests types that might be best for this type of testing. We realized that this would require considerable additional funding, new facilities and additional staff beyond staffing that is available currently in the San Juans.

"Dr House had identified a potential donor, for the project and with the funding we could potentially test literally everyone in the county. We both agree this is an important goal, if the resources, staffing and facilities to accomplish that goal could be secured. This could be important not just for the citizens of San Juan but for the many other communities. We do not have the testing capacity to do this with current resources and the test being used are likely not the best tests for such a project. I look forward to working with Dr House on further development of this project was we move forward."

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