EDITORIAL: Granted everyone is working hard and doing their best during the pandemic, however, San Juan County needs to change its approach to providing information about COVID-19 positive test results. While the effort put into contact tracing is to be commended, it's unreasonable to think that the process catches everyone possibly exposed. Letting the public know, when and where the infected people were significantly improves the chances of reducing the spread.
This should be able to be accomplished without any HIPPA violations.
Local businesses have been incredibly hard hit by the pandemic and no one wants to pile on more difficulties. But not letting people know that some exposure has been in restaurants isn't doing anyone a favor. In the absence of official information, rumors are flying about filling in the information gaps.
Kudos to Rocky Bay Cafe in Friday Harbor for their proactive response when a relative of a cafe worker tested positive. The cafe posted a sign explaining it is closed right now while awaiting COVID-19 test results. It could turn out that no one working at the cafe is infected. But while waiting for the tests, customers have been given a heads up and can carefully monitor their own health and/or get tested themselves.
Speaking of tests, while there are "free tests" provided by the county Health Department, there is a $125 lab fee for each test. This makes it too costly for many small businesses to do comprehensive testing. The county could have used some of the CARES funding it received to cover the costs of testing. Perhaps the $10,000 set aside to purchase 100 webcams would be better used for testing. It would be a start.
San Juan County Council should let people know:
1. How many cases there have been of people who were infectious while in the islands but aren't included on the county's list? (The protocol calls for listing results by place of residence.)
2. When were the people here and where did they go?
3. The same information is needed for county residents who test positive.
4. Does the definition of close contact include being served a meal in a restaurant or is that not considered a close contact?