COVID-19 Local Information

February 19, 2021

Boca Beacon - February 19, 2021 Edition

COVID-19 vaccine update fromthe Boca Grande Health Clinic

SUBMITTED BY THE BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINIC

Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

   Efforts to meet the on-island demand for the COVID-19 vaccine continue in earnest at the Boca Grande Health Clinic. 

COVID-19 Vaccine Facts (as of February 19):

• Over 700 – 1st doses have been safely and efficiently administered

• 600 – 2nd doses will have been provided within the next week

• 700 – patients remain on the waiting list at this time 

• 73-79 years of age – are being scheduled to receive vaccine from the most recent small supply received at the Clinic.   

• To date the Clinic has received 4 shipments of vaccine.

If you had registered interest in receiving a COVID-19 vaccination from the Clinic but have received it from another source, please use the Contact Us form on the Clinic’s website at bghc.org/contact/ to be removed from the waiting list. 

Like all providers, the Boca Grande Health Clinic is subject to national and state distribution plans, so we have very little, if any, control over the timing of when vaccine will be supplied. The Clinic continues to work with the state of Florida to receive additional supplies of vaccine as quickly as possible. The Clinic will continue to work its way through appointment requests within the limits of available supply.

 


 

Boca Beacon - February 5, 2021 Edition

COVID-19 vaccination options

SUBMITTED BY THE BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINIC

Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

 

Like the Coronavirus pandemic itself, what’s happening with the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida is an evolving situation. Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine far exceeds the supply the state has received so far. This supply chain deficiency will continue to challenge our ability to vaccinate the Island. 

Like all providers, the Boca Grande Health Clinic is subject to national and state distribution plans, so we have very little, if any, control over the timing of when vaccine will be supplied. The Clinic is working closely with the state of Florida to receive additional supplies of vaccine as quickly as possible. Over the course of a nine-week span of time, the clinic has received just two small shipments of the vaccine.

The Clinic remains focused on administering the vaccine to patients 65 years and older. The Clinic has been scheduling patients based on vaccine supply (which is very low) and will continue to schedule more individuals as more supply is received. 

The goal is to vaccinate everyone on the Island that is interested. “The vaccines are highly effective in preventing illness due to the virus and will protect you from getting sick,” said Boca Grande Health Clinic Medical Director Dr. Lauren M. Hana, M.D. “Millions of people have safely been vaccinated with little to no major side effects.”

More vaccine supply is hopefully arriving but meeting community demand for the COVID-19 vaccine will take some time to complete.

Additional options for vaccination

According to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, there are more than 300 vaccination sites statewide. Given the limited amount of vaccine available on Island, you may want to investigate other options for vaccination. These include:

• County vaccination sites. Go to floridahealthcovid19.gov/vaccines/vaccine-locator/ and filter by county and city to find locations.

• Publix is now offering vaccination appointments. These must be scheduled online at Publix: publix.com/covid-vaccine/florida. Appointments cannot be made by calling Publix or the Publix Pharmacy.

Eligibility

Right now, healthcare personnel with direct patient contact, residents and staff of long-term healthcare facilities, and adults aged 65 years and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida, by appointment only. The state of Florida requires that those receiving their first vaccine dose provide proof of residency meeting certain criteria.

Six ways to improve your chances

1. Pre-register. The state has developed a pre-registration system to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations for priority populations. Pre-registration is available online or by phone. Pre-register online by visiting myvaccine.fl.gov or call 1-866-200-3468. Once you are pre-registered, you are placed in a queue for a call back. According to information available from the state, every eligible individual will receive a call back when appointments become available.

2. Know when appointments will be available. Your best bet is to stay on top of local news as new information is shared through traditional media outlets and online. 

• Follow Lee County on Twitter @FLHEALTHLEE and check out leegov.com/vaccine.

• In Charlotte County, you can sign up for the CharCoCares text system and receive local COVID-19 updates and announcements about vaccine availability. To sign up, text “CharCoCares” to 888-777 on your smartphone to opt in. 

• Publix recommends people log into its website promptly at 6 a.m. as appointments fill up fast. 

3. Be patient. It’s easy to become frustrated but that only creates stress you can live without. 

4. Be persistent. It may feel a little like “dialing for dollars,” but persistence plays a big part in getting lucky enough to score a vaccine appointment. Enlist the help of family members who can join you in going online to try for an appointment slot. 

5. Be prepared. Make sure you are using the latest version of your internet browser. You’ll be asked to answer a lot of questions as part of the enrollment process. Have your health information on hand so you can enter it and quickly proceed from step to step. 

6. Proceed with caution. The age-old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” should be followed. Keep in mind that you can’t pay to get your name on a vaccine list or to get early/easy access to the vaccine. And if someone calls you about an appointment and asks for your Social Security number, banking information or credit card number – hang up.

Keep the faith

While it may seem like it’s taking forever to roll out vaccines, keep in mind that COVID-19 vaccines have reached consumers in record time. What typically takes 10 to 15 years has happened in under one year. Production of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines continue to ramp up. And Johnson & Johnson plans to file for an emergency use authorization in the U.S. in early February for its vaccine, which requires just one dose, and approval could follow shortly afterward.

Stay safe while you wait

Until there is widespread availability of the vaccine, it’s vital that we remain on guard and take all of the appropriate measures to protect ourselves and our community from the spread of COVID-19. For your own health and to protect the health of those you love, please wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, avoid gatherings of more than 10, isolate if ill and quarantine if you have had an exposure.

 

Information sources:

• Publix: publix.com/covid-vaccine/florida

• Charlotte County: charlotte.floridahealth.gov/events/2021/01/CharlotteCOVID-19VaccineInfo.html

• Lee County: lee.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/wellness-programs/immunizations/covid19vaccinations.html

 

 

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - January 22, 2021 Edition

Local Publix stores just beginning to receive COVID-19 vaccines,

but first wave already booked as of this week

Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

 

Publix stores in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have announced they are providing COVID-19 vaccines to those who are healthcare personnel with direct patient contact, residents and staff of long-term healthcare facilities and adults aged 65 years and older. Vaccines are provided by appointment only, and the first batch has been spoken for, but there will be several waves of new batches available. Starting today, Friday, Jan. 22 after 6 a.m., eligible customers were able to access appointment availability beginning Saturday, Jan. 23.

Publix stores participating in the vaccine program include: Merchants Crossing, 1500 Placida Rd., Englewood; Port Charlotte Crossing, 4265 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte; Publix at Gulf Cove, 13435 S. McCall Rd., Port Charlotte; Quesada Commons, 19451 Cochran Blvd., Port Charlotte; Peachland Promenade, 24051 Peachland Blvd., Port Charlotte; Punta Gorda Crossing, 2310 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda; and Burnt Store Marketplace, 3941 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda.

For a complete list of counties and stores participating, go to publix.com/covid-vaccine/florida.

Lee County announced on Wednesday, Jan. 20 that the 5,800 available appointments for this week at the Florida Department of Health-Lee and Lee County vaccination sites were claimed within minutes of the reservation call line opening.

 The call line opened at 9 a.m. as scheduled. The appointments for Thursday and Friday were filled when that happened. Tidal Basin representatives say people who called were either scheduled for appointments while on the line, or prompted to leave their contact information to receive a call back. Once all slots were filled, some callers received a message that appointments were no longer available. Some callers received a busy signal.

 The vendor, Tidal Basin, continues to add operators to handle the volume of incoming calls.

 The State of Florida continues to work with the vendor to develop an online registration system. More information about that system will be announced when it is released by the state.

 The vendor has a Help Line that is available at (888) 499-0851 for questions about the registration process. The Help Line is not able to schedule appointments.

 The number of doses available for next week is not yet known, and appointments for first doses for the week of January 25 were not being made as of press time. 

For those who secured appointments for Thursday and Friday, operations at the site will continue as in past weeks. At this time, Lee County has not received any information from the Governor’s Office related to proof-of-residency requirements.

 Vaccinations are available for people age 65 and older and frontline healthcare workers at the site east of Interstate 75 off Daniels Parkway. It’s the site of the old airport terminal parking lot. Message boards are in place to direct traffic.

 When those registered arrive on site, officials will request ID showing proof of age before allowing them to queue up. People are asked to arrive no more than 45 minutes before their assigned vaccination time. Even though this is an appointment system, processing times may vary. Be prepared for some wait time.

 Those with reservations can expedite the process by arriving prepared: visit leegov.com/vaccine to read the Moderna vaccination information and to print and complete the consent form.

Social distancing and masks are encouraged; take into account weather conditions. Portable toilets, handwashing stations, drinking water and some chairs will be available. For safety and security, county government and Lee County Sheriff’s Office staff are on site.

This is not a drive-thru site. The site is ADA compliant. No dogs are allowed, with the exception of service animals.

At the Charlotte County Health Department all COVID-19 vaccine appointments are now full. More will be announced when they become available. 

There is no fee for the vaccine. Identification is required. If you are a healthcare worker, bring identification and a copy of your ID badge or a current paystub.

All individuals who received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine through the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County prior to Jan. 20 will be contacted to schedule their second dose.  From Jan. 20 on, the second dose will be scheduled when the first dose is administered. Bring ID & COVID-19 Vaccination Card. Complete your Consent Form ahead of time for a faster process. 

Vaccination is not recommended if:

• You are currently experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms or any other illness. Please wait until you are symptom free for 24 hours.

• You have had COVID-19 within the last 90 days. Check back after 90 days.

For more information go to charlotte.floridahealth.gov/events/2021/01/CharlotteCOVID-19VaccineInfo.html.

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - January 15, 2021 Edition

A Message from the Boca Grande Health Center

Keep those masks handy: It's not over yet

BY LAUREN HANA, MD.

Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

 

Now that Florida’s seniors and healthcare workers are being inoculated against COVID-19, how soon can we get back to normal? While I appreciate the optimism that comes with the vaccine rolling out across the nation, it’s far too soon to put away the mask and throw open the doors just yet.

As of Jan. 11, just 597,119 people have been vaccinated in Florida, a tiny portion of the nearly 22 million living here. And only 51,000 or so have completed the full course of the two doses needed to achieve 95 percent effectiveness. It’s a long road to get to the point of at least 70 percent of people vaccinated that scientists call herd immunity. Transmission of the virus remains high, and deaths related to COVID-19 continue.

It’s important to remember that vaccination is not a guarantee or a cure. The new vaccines are expected to prevent people from getting severely sick with COVID-19. Even people who are themselves immune to the virus might be exposed to it and transmit it to others. And while the effectiveness rate of the current vaccines available is high, it’s not 100 percent. That’s why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people not assume they are completely immune to infection after having been vaccinated. Also, it takes times for the body to build up immunity, so someone who was exposed to Coronavirus right before being vaccinated, or right after, could still become ill.

The good news is that the vaccine is available, and it is making its way (slowly but surely) to us. The Boca Grande Health Clinic has received an initial supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and has begun the process of administering the vaccine to patients 65 years and older with certain high-risk medical conditions that make them at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. More vaccine supply is hopefully arriving but meeting community demand for the COVID-19 vaccine will take some time to complete.

Given these unanswered questions, the CDC says vaccinated people should still use “all the tools available to us” to stop the pandemic, including wearing a mask and staying at least six feet away from others.

So until then, the Clinic urges everyone to continue practicing ways to reduce the risk of infection:

• Avoid large events and mass gatherings.

• Avoid close contact (within about six feet, or two meters) with anyone outside your household.

• Stay home as much as possible.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

• Wear a face mask in public spaces.

• Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick.

• Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, electronics and counters, daily.

• Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, unless you’re going to get medical care. 

The Boca Grande Health Clinic has received an initial supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and has begun the process of administering the vaccine to patients 65 years and older with certain high-risk medical conditions that make them at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The Clinic will schedule patients based on vaccine supply and will continue to schedule more individuals as more supply is received. At this time, the Clinic is focused on the over-65, high-risk population. If you are age 65 or older and are interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or would like to become a patient, please contact the Clinic by phone at (941) 964-2276. There is no need to place more than one phone call to the Clinic; doing so may prevent others from being able to reach the Clinic. 


 

Boca Beacon - January 15, 2021 Edition

Answers to your Covid-19 vaccine questions

BY The BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINIC

Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

 

Before we answer your questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, please note that if you have already called the Boca Grande Health Clinic, your name has been added to the list. There is no need to place more than one phone call to the Clinic; doing so may prevent others from being able to reach the Clinic. 

What vaccines have been approved for use?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in the United States. The FDA’s authorization for people receiving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine includes people 16 and older. Moderna’s vaccine received authorization for individuals 18 and older. Both company’s vaccinations require two shots three to four weeks apart to achieve maximum effectiveness. The Clinic has been provided an initial supply of the Moderna vaccine.

How do the vaccines work?

The COVID-19 vaccines carry a small stretch of genetic material known as messenger RNA or mRNA. It instructs cells in the body to make a small piece of material that looks like a part of the virus. Those small bits get recognized by the immune system as a foreign invader, and the immune system begins to make antibodies and immune cells that can recognize and neutralize the virus if the vaccinated person ever gets exposed. 

Are they safe? 

The FDA has rigorous scientific and regulatory processes in place to facilitate development and ensure the safety, effectiveness and quality of COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA approves vaccines with advice from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the CDC, whose members are experts from around the country in the fields of immunology, infectious disease, public health and more. Data safety monitoring boards at the National Institutes of Health monitor every trial and scour the data for irregularities and safety concerns. Scientists and doctors, career professionals whose mission is safety and public health, staff all these institutions.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations have been evaluated to be safe and highly effective based upon clinical trials completed. FDA analysis affirms Pfizer’s stated vaccine effectiveness of 95 percent and Moderna’s stated effectiveness of 94.1 percent.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No. The current Coronavirus vaccines in use or in development do not contain a live virus. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot infect anyone with the virus, and you will not test positive on viral tests used to determine if you have COVID-19.

Will it cure COVID-19?

A vaccine for COVID-19 is not a cure, nor is it a license to return fully to normal. The new vaccines are expected to prevent people from getting severely sick with COVID-19. No one knows yet whether these vaccines will stop the spreading of the virus to others. Also, it will take many, many months to vaccinate enough of the population to make a difference, so people will still need to practice social distancing and wear masks, even those that have had a vaccine. 

Are there side effects?

According to the CDC, a COVID-19 vaccine can cause mild side effects after the first or second dose, including pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, and joint pain. You will be monitored for 15-30 minutes after getting a COVID-19 vaccine to see if you have an immediate reaction. Most side effects happen within the first three days after vaccination and typically last only one to two days.

How long will it take for the vaccine to work?

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination.

Are COVID-19 vaccines available in Boca Grande?

The Boca Grande Health Clinic has received an initial supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and has begun the process of administering the vaccine to patients 65 years and older with certain high-risk medical conditions that make them at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The Clinic will schedule patients based on vaccine supply and will continue to schedule more individuals as more supply is received.

How can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at Boca Grande Health Clinic?

The Clinic will use a medically focused and age stratified vaccine allocation system, weighing age and risk factors, to schedule vaccination appointments for those who have expressed interest. At this time, the Clinic is focused on the over-65, high-risk population. If you are age 65 or older and are interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or would like to become a patient, please contact the Clinic by phone at (941) 964-2276. There is no need to place more than one phone call to the Clinic; doing so may prevent others from being able to reach the Clinic. 

Is there enough vaccine for everyone? 

Vaccine availability is a rapidly changing situation and meeting community demand for the COVID-19 vaccine will take some time to complete. The Clinic is working closely with the state of Florida to receive additional supplies of vaccine as soon as possible. The goal is to vaccinate everyone on the Island that is interested.

What can I do while I wait for the vaccine to become more readily available?

Until there is widespread availability of the vaccine, it’s vital that we remain on guard and take all of the appropriate measures to protect ourselves and our community from the spread of COVID-19. For your own health and to protect the health of those you love, please wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, avoid gatherings of more than 10, isolate if ill and quarantine if you have had an exposure.

Where can I get more information on COVID-19 vaccines?

• Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines in Florida at floridahealthcovid19.gov/covid-19-vaccines-in-florida/.

• The CDC website answers the common questions about COVID-19 vaccines at

cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.

• The FDA is another good resource for information that can be found at fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/counterterrorism-and-emerging-threats/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19.

 


Boca Beacon - December 31, 2020 Edition

A Message from the Boca Grande Health Center

Have you seen the new BGHC website?

BY MARK DRISCOLL, BGHC CEO

 

We are excited to announce the launch of Boca Grande Health Clinic’s newly designed website, bghc.org/. Our goal with this new website is to provide our patients and visitors with an easier way to learn about our team (bghc.org/about/staff/) and our services (bghc.org/about/clinic-services/), and access the latest information on COVID-19 (bghc.org/resources/covid-19-resource-center/). 

We intend for our website to be the source of truth and information for our patients and those who visit the Island. The new design allows everyone the opportunity to get to know us better. Our site is divided into seven main sections: Home, About, For Patients, Events, Resources, Donate, and Contact. The home page provides patients with quick ways to interact with the Clinic, preview the latest healthcare news, or just simply take a minute to rest while enjoying drone video of our beautiful Island.

Our website offers patients all the information you need to schedule and prepare for a visit, including downloadable patient information forms and even an easy way to make an online payment.

Our COVID-19 Resource Center includes information on testing, what to do if you’ve been exposed, how to quarantine, answers to the most commonly asked questions, and access to a wealth of state and government information and tools. The Clinic’s recently released Welcome Kit (bghc.org/resources/covid-19-resource-center/welcome-health-kit/) of COVID-19 information, tools and resources is also available for download. 

We hope you enjoy our new design. We will be constantly updating our content with helpful information, articles, and announcements in the healthcare news section (bghc.org/news/healthcare/). For any questions, suggestions, feedback or comments, please contact us (bghc.org/contact/).

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - December 31, 2020 Edition

A Message from the Boca Grande Health Center

New Year’s resolution 2021:

A (last?) word from Dr. Ervin at the BGHC  

BY THOMAS J ERVIN, MD

We have somehow made it to the final week of 2020. Humorously it can be said that we can all look back at the first year of the pandemic, with usually accurate 20/20 vision. As we all move into 2021, there is time to consider New Year’s resolutions. This year that opportunity should not go unfilled.

The effects of COVID-19 have spared no one. Even the most skeptical of us, and the unbelievers have noticed something. The negatives are obvious: illness, personal loss, death, social distancing, and isolation to name a few. Positives can also be identified, including personal faith, strengthening family relationships, considering collective wellbeing, and finding value in simple daily routines. 

For each of us the balance of the positives and the negatives results in how we see the pandemic and the events of 2020. This balance determines how we consider resolutions for the future. As I am not a student of politics and race relations, I will avoid those events in my reflection of 2020.

My first resolution for 2021 is that this will be the last article I write about COVID-19 and the pandemic. I have spent 40 years teaching, studying, and practicing medicine. I have seen the impact of molecular genetics and biology in most specialties including cancer medicine and infectious diseases. To witness the development of the applied science that has given us potentially preventative vaccines (now there are at least four) within a year is both astounding and unprecedented. 

Just 65 years ago injectable inactivated polio vaccine (Dr. Salk) became a reality. It then took six more years for the oral vaccine (Dr. Sabin) to be commercially developed. The overall research effort took more than 20 years. Two doses given four to eight weeks apart provide life-long immunity. Yet eradication of the disease was not immediate.  

While the United States is considered polio-free, it has taken until 2017 for the number of wild-type polio cases in the world to fall under 1,000 cases a year. Over the past 30 years, things have gotten better. With continued development of effective vaccine platforms and better understanding of the variables that affect vaccine efficiency (number of doses, added immunostimulants, immunosenescence with age), the vaccines of the 21st century have been more rapidly developed. Successful vaccines are now possible using inactivated intact virus, attenuated virus, toxoids that induce illness such as tetanus, and diphtheria, or subunit viral pieces as in the vaccines for Hepatitis B and Herpes virus. Other forms of vaccines exist, including conjugate vaccine and heterotypic vaccines such as BCG used to prevent tuberculosis and bladder cancer. The list grows yearly.

Now we have the first of a new wave of vaccines. The mRNA platform has arrived just in time. The mRNA-based vaccines being offered by Pfizer-NBiotech and by Moderna have been produced in record time. They come as a result of a decade of research developing innovative vaccines attempting to stimulate an immunologic response to both cancers and emerging viral threats such as Ebola. Synthetic production of mRNA nucleotide fragments and synthetic nanoparticle delivery envelopes have made possible the rapid development of the safe and effective vaccines now available to prevent coronavirus infection and COVID-19 illness. Similarly, the vaccines being developed by AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson will quickly add options for effective vaccination for us all. 

I say BRING IT ON!!!

Yet, in closing 2020, I think back on the history of vaccine development. Without comprehensive programs that incorporate the basics of public health, vaccination programs can work only so well or so fast. Surely, the rollout of the available vaccines will occur. The Boca Grande Health Clinic is in line with four separate pipelines for distribution. Unfortunately, the process is still too early for us to be able to identify the exact sources and timeline of delivery.

It is very likely that we will all have an opportunity for vaccination before the summer, but the next 90 to 180 days (not six to 20 years as in the past) will be critical for many of us. Unless we all buy into doing the right things collectively, COVID-19 will continue among us. 

As my last words on COVID-19 (I promise), please wash your hands. Please wear a mask, especially indoors. And please distance yourself and avoid unnecessary indoor gatherings. Before Jenner figured out how to prevent smallpox just before 1800, one of every 13 persons living in London died or was severely disfigured by the disease. Be delighted you are living in 2021, at a time when science and public health policy can help you live well if you listen.

Have a happy and healthy 2021.

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - December 25, 2020 Edition

A Message from the Boca Grande Health Center

BGHC COVID-19 information kit available electronically  

BY THE BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINIC

Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

The welcome back health kit the Boca Grande Health Clinic distributed to help returning residents and visitors get up to speed on “all things COVID-19” was recently updated to include new guidance on quarantine measures and domestic travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 information continues to evolve on an almost daily basis,” said Boca Grande Health Clinic Chief Executive Officer Mark Driscoll. “We remain committed to providing our patients and the community with an ongoing stream of communications to help keep them in the know and promote safe and healthy living.” 

An electronic version of the kit is now available for download at https://indd.adobe.com/view/ad573f25-7b27-40b5-8a6e-a49e4397895e. 

The kit provides important COVID-19-related information for quick and easy use. Included in the kit: what to consider before, during and after travel, a risk assessment tool to help make decisions about travel and visiting with friends and family, what to do if you’ve been exposed, information on quarantining, and available testing options.


 

Boca Beacon - December 25, 2020 Edition

A Message from the Boca Grande Health Center

Should I stay or should I go: Weighing the risks of social gatherings  

Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

Making decisions about visiting with family and friends, attending an event, or even shopping can be stressful in these times. While the safest option is to postpone visits during this risky time, that may not be possible. 

So, what should you consider to be sure to keep COVID-19 off the guest list? This risk stratifying table might help with attending and/or planning an event. It is by no means all-inclusive and as in real life, many factors will fall into gray zones. Use it as a guide to determine how many of your “exposure points” you will be spending and if you are comfortable with the risk.

As you weigh the risks, please also keep in mind that our own choices impact others around us. Please take everyday precautions to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Stay home if you are sick. Do not participate in activities if you are sick. Wear a mask, keep a safe distance from others, and wash your hands frequently (or use hand sanitizer).

 


 

Boca Beacon - December 18, 2020 Edition

A Message from the Boca Grande Health Center

COVID-19 vaccines: What you need to know  

Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

 

Now that the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines has arrived at selected hospitals across the nation, you may have questions about the vaccines and what it means to you, your family, and the Boca Grande community.

What vaccines have been approved for use?

On Dec. 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for distribution. An emergency authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine from drug maker Moderna is expected Dec. 17. Both company’s vaccinations require two shots three to four weeks apart to achieve maximum effectiveness. There are currently about 60 potential COVID-19 vaccines being tested in human clinical trials in 18 countries.

How is the vaccine being distributed in Florida?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed a plan to prioritize the nation’s 21 million healthcare workers and 3 million residents of long-term care facilities.

Florida expects to receive around 180,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The initial shipment to Florida arrived December 14 and included 97,000 doses for medical workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. 

Five large regional hospitals received the vaccine: UF Health Jacksonville, Advent Health Systems in Orlando, Tampa General, Jackson Memorial in Miami and Memorial Health in Hollywood. These hospitals will share vaccine supplies with another 25 local partner hospitals for their frontline caregivers. 

In addition, through a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CVS and Walgreens will administer 60,000 doses of the initial delivery to nursing home residents and staff, with the Florida Department of Health distributing another 21,000 to nursing homes.

Will there be enough vaccine to go around?

It is reported that Florida can expect another 350,000 to 400,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine very soon after that vaccine receives its emergency authorization. Gov. Ron DeSantis has indicated that these will be delivered to 150 hospitals around Florida. By the end of December, Florida could have an additional 800,000 to 1 million doses, according to Florida emergency management director Jared Moskowitz – about half the amount the governor initially anticipated.

With a population of 21.5 million, initially there will not be enough product for everyone in Florida who wishes to be vaccinated. Gov. DeSantis plans a phased approach to vaccine distribution.

• The top priority are healthcare workers who are in high risk and high contact environments.

• Next are residents of long-term care facilities who are at the greatest risk and could benefit the most from the vaccine.

• Then, any supplies remaining of the initial allocation will be earmarked for broader distribution to the 65 and over community and those who have significant comorbidities.

• A phased approach would expand to the general public as more doses become available.

When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available in Boca Grande?

Like all providers, the Boca Grande Health Clinic is subject to national and state distribution plans, so we have very little, if any, control over the timing of when vaccine will be available on island. The Clinic is trying to position itself with the Florida Governor’s office and area healthcare systems to get closer to being part of the first phases of vaccinations. 

We will continue to try and partner with healthcare systems and leverage our membership in Healthnetwork as much as possible to gain access to the vaccines as early as possible but it’s likely that the Clinic won’t have COVID-19 vaccines on hand for many months. The Clinic will continue to provide updates as information becomes available in this ever-changing situation.

Is it safe? Will it work?

The FDA has rigorous scientific and regulatory processes in place to facilitate development and ensure the safety, effectiveness and quality of COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA approves vaccines with advice from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the CDC, whose members are experts from around the country in the fields of immunology, infectious disease, public health and more. Data safety monitoring boards at the National Institutes of Health monitor every trial and scour the data for irregularities and safety concerns. Scientists and doctors, career professionals whose mission is safety and public health, staff all these institutions.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations have been evaluated to be safe and highly effective based upon clinical trials completed. FDA analysis affirms Pfizer’s stated vaccine effectiveness of 95 percent and Moderna’s stated effectiveness of 94.1 percent.

Will it cure COVID-19?

A vaccine for COVID-19 is not a cure, nor is it a license to return fully to normal. The new vaccines are expected to prevent people from getting sick with COVID-19. No one knows yet whether these vaccines will stop the spreading of the virus to others. Also, it will take many, many months to vaccinate enough of the population to make a difference, so people will still need to practice social distancing and wear masks, even once some have had a vaccine. 

What can I do while I wait for the vaccine to become more readily available?

Until there is widespread availability of the vaccine, it’s vital that we remain on guard and take all of the appropriate measures to protect ourselves and our community from the spread of COVID-19. For your own health and to protect the health of those you love, please wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, avoid gatherings of more than 10 and isolate or quarantine if ill.

Where can I get more information on COVID-19 vaccines?

• The CDC website answers the common questions about COVID-19 vaccines at

cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.

• The FDA is another good resource for information that can be found at fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/counterterrorism-and-emerging-threats/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19.

• If you’d like to find where you stand in line for a COVID-19 vaccination, there’s an interesting tool developed by the great minds of today’s scientists that can predict when it might be your turn. The tool was made available by The New York Times on Dec. 3 at nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/03/opinion/covid-19-vaccine-timeline.html.


 

Boca Beacon - December 11, 2020 Edition

A Message from the Boca Grande Health Center

COVID-19 and traveling: What you need to know  

BY LAUREN HANA, MD • BGHC

Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

 

The U.S. Centers for Disease & Prevention (CDC) recently released new guidance on domestic travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the air quality on a commercial airliner is quite high, with the air volume in the cabin being completely refreshed every two to four minutes, travel to and from the airport and time spent within the airport increases the chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. 

Here are the current basics for travels of any kind.

Before you travel

• Do not travel if you are ill or with someone who is sick.

• Do not travel if you were exposed to COVID-19 within 14 days of travel.

• Consider getting tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. 

• Find out the activity level of COVID-19 at your destination as well as all planned travel stops along the way. You can access the latest COVID-19 statistics on Florida Department of Health’s website.

• Plan to wear a mask and carry with you – and use – hand sanitizer. 

When you travel

• Keep in mind that travel of any type increases the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.

• Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public facilities.

• Where possible, avoid close contact, adhering to the six-foot distancing recommendation.

• Avoid unnecessary touches and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.

After you travel

• Talk to your Clinic physician about your options.

• Consider getting tested with a viral test three to five days after your trip and reduce non-essential activities for a full seven days after travel, even if your test is negative.

• If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected. 

•  If you don’t get tested, consider reducing non-essential activities for 10 days.

• Also, to protect others from getting COVID-19, take these actions for 14 days after you return from travel:

• Stay at least six feet from anyone who did not travel with you, particularly in crowded areas. It’s important to do this everywhere — both indoors and outdoors.

• Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are in shared spaces outside of your home.

• If there are people in your household who did not travel with you, wear a mask and ask everyone in the household to wear masks in shared spaces inside your home.

• Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

• Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness.

• Watch yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 and take your temperature if you feel sick.

Along with wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing, postponing travel and staying home remains the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Full information on “Domestic Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic” is available on the CDC’s website.

 


 

Boca Beacon - December 11, 2020 Edition

A Message from the Boca Grande Health Center

COVID-19 Update: New quarantine recommendations  

BY LAUREN HANA, MD • BGHC

Submission Note: The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. This article reflects information known at the time it was submitted to The Boca Beacon.

 

Although the U.S. Centers for Disease & Prevention continues to recommend a 14-day quarantine for anyone with an exposure to someone with COVID-19 as the best way to prevent spread of the illness, the government agency recently released new recommendations on quarantine periods that provide options to reduce the number of days. 

The new guidance calls for people who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and lack symptoms should quarantine for 10 days without testing, or for seven days with a negative COVID-19 test. The seven-day option requires a test be done not more than 48 hours prior to the 7th day.

According to the CDC, “Reducing the length of quarantine may make it easier for people to quarantine by reducing the time they cannot work. The CDC recognizes that any quarantine shorter than 14 days balances reduced burden against a small possibility of spreading the virus.”

During the quarantine period, the CDC recommends the following steps:

• Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.

• Watch for fever (100.4 F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.

• If possible, stay away from others, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

For those who meet the definition for a shorter quarantine period, the CDC recommends the following steps after stopping quarantine:

• Watch for symptoms until 14 days after exposure (even though you are quarantining for less days).

• If you have symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact your local public health authority or healthcare provider.

• Wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash your hands, avoid crowds, and take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

• Avoid contact with people who are most vulnerable – older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

It’s important to remember that the CDC update pertains only to quarantine; the isolation guidelines for those who have tested positive and have symptoms or remain without symptoms have not changed. That means if you are sick, isolate for 10 days from the start of your symptoms and isolate 10 days from the day of your positive test if you have no symptoms.

Complete “When to Quarantine” information is available on the CDC’s website.

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - December 11, 2020 Edition

A Message from the Boca Grande Health Center

Bring good tidings this holiday season  

BY LAUREN HANA, MD • BGHC

As the December holiday season approaches, here are just a few things to keep in mind when planning your celebrations.

• Be polite, say please and thank you.

• Be kind, give each other space.

• Wash your hands frequently.

• Playing outside is best.

• Don’t talk with your mouth full. 

• Say a prayer of thanks, sanitize your hands and then eat.

 

A 10-Point Harm Reduction Strategy

Here are 10 ways to limit risks and make your celebration as safe as possible:

1. Stay outside as much as possible, even for eating if you can.

2. Seat households together at spaced tables outdoors.

3. Move the television to an outdoor location if possible.

4. Have one person serve the goodies from your chow line with clean hands and a mask to avoid multiple touches on the serving utensils. 

5. Use disposable plates, cups and eating/serving utensils (spraying to rinse drinking glasses and silverware can aerosolize germs).

6. Limit the number attending.

7. Set a time limit.

8. Be careful with celebrating (alcohol brings down our inhibitions and our guard).

9. Give that much-needed hug. Go outside, mask up, hold your breath, they should too, hug tight for 30 seconds, back off, wash hands! The average person can hold their breath for 45 seconds to one minute, so push it if you want. (Just don’t push it too long and pass out!!)

10. Stay home if you are ill.

We are just starting to see the surge of COVID-19 infections related to Thanksgiving gatherings and travel and the next couple of weeks will likely continue this daunting trend. Remember, the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention still recommends not traveling and not gathering in-person with those outside your household for the holidays. Think about how much we all care for our loved ones, family and friends and consider foregoing the in-person get-togethers this year in exchange for having many more in the years to come!

 


 

Boca Beacon - December 4, 2020 Edition

A Message from the Boca Grande Health Center

Scheduling 101 in times of transition 

BY KELSEY CHARVARRE • BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINC

 

The Boca Grande Health Clinic has expanded how we meet the healthcare needs of the community in these ever-changing times. If you have given us a call lately, you know we now offer virtual – or telehealth – appointments as well as in-office visits. 

What is a telehealth appointment? It’s a safe secure way of connecting with a physician from the comfort of your home. 

How do you prepare for a telehealth appointment? 

1. Check what type of technology you have. Telehealth appointments can be made with a smart phone, a laptop or desktop computer, even a tablet – as long as your device has a camera and a microphone so the physician can hear and see you during the visit. 

2. Connection speed is important. Being on a barrier island does make it tricky but check that you have a strong Wi-Fi or cell phone data service. 

3. Get prepared. Write a list of questions you have for the physician, get your medications ready to review, have a pen and paper handy in case you need to take some notes during the visit. 

4. Find a comfortable, quiet place where you can engage in your telehealth appointment. Turn off the TV or any excess background noise. 

5. Be patient and keep an open mind. If technical difficulties arise, know that the clinic staff will help find a solution. 

Checking in for your in-office or telehealth appointment is just as important as preparing for your visit with the physician. The clinic has invested in a new patient information intake system called Phreesia. It automates the check-in process and acts as a tool for the staff to use to connect with you from a distance. 

Having up-to-date demographic and insurance information on all patients is extremely important and this new tool allows us to gather this information in a secure and HIPAA-compliant fashion. When you make an in-office or telehealth appointment, you will receive a text message or email asking you to confirm your demographic and insurance information. This gives you the opportunity to ensure your information is correct. If you recently moved or added a new phone number, simply change it and it will be added to your electronic health record – no more paper registration forms to update. Phreesia also provides easy access to pay your statements online – no more waiting for a paper invoice or writing checks. 

The learning curve of change affects everyone, staff and patients. But together, we can overcome the challenges these times of transition have put before us. Noted playwright and Noble Prize winner George Bernard Shaw reminds us all that “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Good things are happening at the Clinic and we look forward to sharing more news about our new software and how it will improve your entire care journey.

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - November 27, 2020 Edition

The good things 

BY LAUREN HANA, MD • BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINC

It’s easy to be consumed in all the negativity we see in the news every day as we approach a holiday and head into a new season of the global pandemic of COVID-19. There is no doubt that this epic event has touched every soul in one way or another in less than a year’s time. With our psychological health and physical health intimately intertwined, it’s important that we all take time out regularly to focus on positive things these days. Just as roses need rainy days as well as sunshine, there are some important positive things that have come to light from dealing with the Coronavirus. 

For starters, technology has advanced in leaps and bounds with 3D printers repurposed to make needed supplies and equipment and medical research on development of potential treatments and vaccines are moving at warp speed. Apps for symptom checking and contact tracing have been developed along with better virtual communication platforms that have allowed us to stay connected with loved ones even though we are physically distanced. Use of virtual technology has removed transportation and financial barriers, making it possible for scientists across the world to gather for meetings and talks that would normally be geographically isolated. Even our Grande Rounds series has gone virtual this year, greatly expanding our ability to reach hundreds more with important health information.

We learned when “safer at home” orders were mandated across the country and with more people working from home instead of driving to the office that the drastic reduction in harmful environmental emissions benefits our planet.

The pandemic has inspired a greater appreciation for things that we have all taken for granted and a clearer realization of what’s really important to us and what we miss the most. 

Through imagination and innovation we have been able to adapt to changes and have learned that with some thought, we can figure out new ways to continue to do at least some of those things we love. 

The public has gained more realistic expectations about medicine and science, with the understanding that no test or treatment is perfect and healthcare providers do our best to tweeze out the best options by weighing risks and benefits. 

On the global front, we’ve been able to see the fractures in our current system and begin to work on fixing what’s long been broken. We are developing a broader awareness of equality and fairness and learning how trust and honest communication play huge parts in any solution. It has kindled a deeper community spirit and a responsibility to protect one another knowing that united we stand and divided we fall.

So take some time regularly to reflect on some of the positive things for you personally. Write them down if it helps. Look back at your list on particularly hard days to remind yourself of the silver lining. Use your list to help someone else see through their own cloud. 

Continue to embrace hope, push through this challenge and help those around you to do the same. We are all in this together and together we can make a difference. Let’s take care of one another. 

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - November 20, 2020 Edition

Welcome kit aims to keep the island and it's community safe and healthy

BY MARK DRISCOLL • BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINC

You can feel a change in the air. The days start getting shorter. Temperatures become more moderate. Winter season is just around the corner. And with it comes the return of seasonal residents and vacationers looking for a sunny spot to stay a while.

Unfortunately, with COVID-19 still a significant risk, this year is very different than any other. The Boca Grande Health Clinic has developed a health kit to help returning residents and visitors get up to speed on how the Island is managing through the Coronavirus pandemic. The welcome kit provides important COVID-19-related information for quick and easy use. Included in the kit: what to consider before, during and after travel, a risk assessment tool to help make decisions about travel and visiting with friends and family, what to do if you’ve been exposed, information on quarantining, and available testing options.

“As the Island’s primary healthcare provider, we take our responsibilities very seriously,” said Boca Grande Health Clinic Chief Executive Officer Mark Driscoll. “A big part of our commitment is having an ongoing stream of communications to help keep our patients and the community in the know and promote safe and healthy living.”

The Clinic has stepped up its community presence and helped lead local efforts to engage residents and visitors in the fight against the Coronavirus, including providing hand sanitizer stations and no-contact thermometers to all businesses, operating drive-thru flu shot clinics, hosting a series of free health webinars featuring renowned physicians and researchers, and sponsoring the Boca Grande Pledge.

“We know that people get information in different ways, so we wanted to cover all bases,” said Driscoll. “The welcome kit summarizes the information we’ve published over the past few months with the help of the Boca Beacon into one comprehensive package.”

All Clinic patients will receive a kit in their local mailbox. In addition, the kit will be given to local businesses and Realtors. To request a kit, contact the Boca Grande Health Clinic at (941) 964-2276.


Boca Beacon - November 20, 2020 Edition

New COVID testing measures announced

STAFF REPORT

New information regarding the collection of Gasparilla Island COVID-19 data has been issued by the Boca Grande Health Clinic, and the Boca Grande 411 Island Community Coalition, to better facilitate our knowledge in how to combat this new and unique threat.

The 411 Island Community Coalition was established to support the Boca Grande community through education, awareness and cooperation. This is being done through programs like the Boca Grande Pledge. 

Another of these initiatives, to test local wastewater, began over the summer. Studies have suggested that due to excretion of Coronavirus prior to developing symptoms of the actual illness, higher levels of COVID-19 RNA detected in wastewater may precede increases in community cases by four to seven days. Having a jump on that allows better preparedness and focus of testing and resources. 

Random wastewater samples are collected each Sunday and sent to a laboratory to verify the level of COVID-19 RNA. This is a practice that has become common throughout places in the United States, in an attempt to gather data that may prevent outbreaks. 

The Clinic is working in tandem with the Gasparilla Island Water Association on this project.

Please visit the website (currently in development) at bocagrande411icc.com for more information about the mission, and for helpful links to keep our community safe, like these graphs on local wastewater testing and local COVID testing data.

 

 

 


 

Let's make masks go viral

BY LAUREN HANA, MD • BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINC

If you’re like me, many of you may remember the shampoo commercial from the 1970s, in which one young girl (actually, Heather Locklear) told two friends how great her shampoo was and they each told two friends – and so on and so on – until everyone was talking about it (and buying it, too). I had pulled up this video on YouTube back in March to help visually explain exponential spread to my adult children who had never seen the commercial. I guess you could say that was an early version of “going viral.” 

This got me thinking about how great it would be if we created our own viral movement here on the island, one that results in everyone wearing masks and keeping Coronavirus at bay.

As you read this article, the United States has surpassed 10 million Coronavirus cases and is well on its way to 11 million. It’s here with us in Boca Grande as well. While researchers are making slow yet steady progress, having a safe vaccine distributed robustly is still a long way off. And until then, the wearing of a mask or face covering (along with physical distancing, frequent handwashing and quarantining when sick) is the closest thing we have to a vaccine.

Think of your mask as a vaccine. Take the annual flu vaccine, for example. Getting one doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get the flu, but if you do, most times, you will get a lighter case, won’t have to be hospitalized for it and most likely won’t die from the flu. The same is true of a mask for Coronavirus. Wearing one doesn’t guarantee you won’t get it, but if you do, most times you will get a less severe case than if you (and others around you) had not worn one. 

The primary way the Coronavirus spreads is from person to person by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Face masks can help block these droplets. In the spirit of spreading the word, here are the top five reasons to wear a mask.

5. You may not realize you are contagious. 

4. It is so easy. For most people, wearing a mask is a small thing to accomplish. 

3. Masks may help the economy recover. Lessening the spread of coronavirus through mask use could contribute to lessening the need for repeated future closures.

2. To get back to fun. If masks can help lessen the number of people getting COVID-19, the more we wear our masks, the sooner we will be able to return to doing the things we like.

1. It’s a sign of respect. It shows that you care about your neighbors and keeping the island a special (and safe) place.

When should you wear a mask?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people 2 years of age and older wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when (not if) other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. 

Do I need to wear a mask if I’m driving around in a golf cart?

Even though you are outside, if you’re sitting next to someone in the cart, you are sharing their air space in close proximity. Unless you are driving solo, wear a mask.

Everyone should wear masks with two or more layers. Those over the age of 60 and/or those who have underlying medical conditions could consider using a face shield in addition to a mask. The CDC asks the public to reserve medical-grade masks, like N95 respirators, for frontline healthcare workers and first responders.

What about neck gaiters?

While the effectiveness of gaiters is still being investigated, triple-layered gaiters made of cotton are the most effective according to experts. What’s important to keep in mind with any face covering is that it should fit your nose and be snug under your chin.

What’s the correct way to wear a mask?

Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin. And be sure to clean (or sanitize) your hands before you put your mask on, as well as after you take it off.

For more information face coverings, including storing, washing and making them, visit the CDC’s Use of Masks to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19.

In addition to social distancing, washing your hands with soap and water for the suggested 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer frequently and quarantining when you are ill, the proper use of face coverings is

an important part of the Boca Grande Pledge. More than 90 Island employers and 700 individuals have signed the BG Pledge. If you’d like to take the Pledge, we encourage you to visit our website, BGHC.org, and click the link. 

 

 

NOTE: A link to the fourth webinar in the Health Clinic Foundation series can be found at https://bghcfoundation.com/webinar-series/.

 


 

Boca Beacon - October 30, 2020 Edition

Covid-19 Pandemic: Lessons for all of us

BY JAMES W MAY JR, M.D • BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINC

 

As all of us continue to follow the progress of our fight against COVID-19 in America and the world, there is no doubt that statistical data takes center stage in the reporting and understanding of the pandemic. For some help in understanding this information, we turned to Dr. Allan Feingold. He is a pulmonary specialist and medical director of Occupational & Environmental Medicine at South Miami Hospital, which is part of Baptist Health South Florida. Dr. Feingold and his team have been actively tracking daily information on the COVID-19 pandemic. He recently shared his perspective and data during the third “Back to Boca” Grande Rounds webinar, hosted by the Boca Grande Health Clinic, Boca Grande Health Center Foundation and Health Network Foundation on Oct. 21. This webinar is archived and can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/472401784/4bfdc756d2.

What does the COVID-19 positivity test rate tell us? The positive test rate is of interest and gives us an overview of the presence of the virus in our population. On an individual basis, a positive test helps in the clinical management of the patient and in appropriate epidemiologic/quarantine planning and contact tracing.

What data matters most? The hospitalization rate and death rate are powerful indicators of severity of disease. These numbers are not greatly influenced by the number of tests given.

What is the timing sequence of these data points? In the general population, a spike in positive test rate is often followed in two to four weeks by an increase in hospitalizations, which is followed in three to six weeks by an increase in mortality.

How does age factor into patient risk? Less than 1 percent of Florida COVID-19 deaths have occurred in patients less than 34 years old. If you are in the 75-84 age range and require hospitalization, the estimated mortality rate is 50 percent. If you are over 85 years old, the estimated mortality rate is 80 percent. There are other health and behavioral factors to be considered.  (See risk chart)

What is our best strategy now? Safe and effective vaccines are on the way. There are valid reports in the peer-reviewed medical literature that at least four vaccines are in the final phases of testing. These vaccines are being developed by Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and others in the United States and abroad. Until these vaccines have been approved by our FDA and are widely distributed, our best efforts to prevent viral spread lie in our own hands. We should use the proven behavior modifications of appropriate mask wearing, social distancing and frequent hand washing in addition to staying home if we are ill. 

There are several important facts about future vaccines which are as yet unknown. We do not know how effective they will be in imparting immunity and how long the immunity will last. Importantly, we do not know how widely vaccination will be accepted by our general population. For these reasons, we are likely to be practicing the current U.S. Centers for Disease & Prevention recommended virus control measures for some time. We are all in this together and this guideline practice should allow for meaningful and productive reopening of our society.

“Back to Boca” is a four-part free webinar series to provide sound facts about COVID-19, including recommendations for safe travel and safe living on island this season. Recordings of all webinars in the series can be found at https://bghcfoundation.com/webinar-series/.

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - October 25, 2020 Edition

The long road to recovery: Dealing with the lingering effects of COVID-19

 

BY THOMAS J ERVIN, M.D.

 

Doctors across the world are still trying to understand the long-term implications of COVID-19 – what health effects may look like after recovery, what impacts may resolve and what medical issues may linger. This was the focus of the second “Back to Boca” Grande Rounds webinar, hosted by the Boca Grande Health Center Foundation, Health Network Foundation and the Boca Grande Health Clinic, held on Oct. 6. The featured presenter was Dr. Laurie Jacobs, Chair, Department of Medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey. This webinar is archived and can be viewed at bghcfoundation.com.

New Jersey has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As one of the state’s leaders in the treatment of COVID-19, Hackensack Meridian Health has cared for well over 12,000 patients battling this infection – more than any other health system in New Jersey. Through its experience in caring for these patients, Hackensack Meridian Health has developed the state’s first and only COVID-19 Recovery Center to provide a comprehensive post-COVID evaluation, along with support and treatment.

Dr. Jacobs reviewed the symptoms of acute COVID-19 infection and the symptoms and time course of both rapid (less than eight weeks) and prolonged (greater than 12 weeks) recovery from the disease.  

The take-home points presented included:

1. COVID-19 is not just another “flu.” Recovery within eight weeks from illness is, by far, the most common individual outcome of the disease. The potential for serious illness including death, and the possibility of a prolonged convalescent phase are real and must be recognized. 

2. Extensive medical evaluation for those hit the hardest. For the minority of patients experiencing prolonged convalescent symptoms, treatment, including early mobilization, cardiac and pulmonary monitoring, and comprehensive evaluation including general medical review by physicians with experience treating COVID-19 patients is recommended.

3. New treatment centers. Comprehensive treatment centers such as the program at Hackensack Meridian Health are being developed regionally to cope with the various symptoms and medical conditions associated with COVID-19 infection.

4. There’s reason for hope. Treatments being developed, including monoclonal antibodies, antiviral agents, and improved supportive hospital care will improve patient outcome in the future.

The lecture reminded us that lifestyle choices, including frequent hand washing, distancing, the regular use of face coverings when indoors or in crowds, and the avoidance of large crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, will continue for some time to come. Early relief from COVID-19 is unlikely and herd immunity is not viable without an effective vaccine. And, finally, we must all be patient, learn to trust one another to do the right thing for all, and support our scientific and political leaders (your choice here) to lead the country forward.

“Back to Boca” is a four-part free webinar series to provide sound facts about COVID-19, including recommendations for safe travel and safe living on island this season. Recordings of all webinars in the series can be found at bghcfoundation.com/webinar-series/.

 

Dr. Thomas Ervin is a physician at the Boca Grande Health Clinic.

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - October 16, 2020 Edition

A message from the Clinic:

Boca Grande Health Clinic COVID-19 testing: An overview of available options

Over the past six to eight months, the Boca Grande Health Clinic and its physicians have worked hard to provide a care environment that laid the foundation for the safe return of winter residents and the ongoing health of our Island community. This includes making COVID-19 testing available on the Island, to Clinic patients. The starting point is having a conversation with your physician. 

Additional testing options are available, including local CVS pharmacies, State Department of Health testing sites and even options for self-testing at home. We advise those who are interested in getting tested to contact their own healthcare provider or the Clinic to review your personal situation and get specific guidance on what is the best option in your individual case. 

There are basically two kinds of tests available for COVID-19: viral tests and antibody tests. A viral test tells you if you have a current infection. An antibody test might tell you if you had a past infection.

The Clinic currently offers COVID-19 testing with a saliva PCR test, a molecular test that detects the virus’s genetic material. This is a test for active infection. You perform the test at home and ship the sample via FedEx Express. Results are usually available in one to three days. 

We will soon have the ability to perform rapid antigen testing. This test involves a nasal swab and tests for active infection. We will perform the rapid tests in a designated area outside of the Annex building. We also are available to provide a test for COVID-19 antibodies, which requires a blood draw and can give confirmation of a previous infection with COVID-19. 

We look forward to your return to Boca Grande. We encourage you to call us when you arrive on island, if at any time you develop symptoms of COVID-19 or if you ever have a known exposure to COVID-19 to discuss an appropriate testing protocol for your individual situation. 

Testing plays an important role in the overall approach to containing the virus. However, testing cannot replace the need to wear face coverings. When around others not in your household, keep a safe distance (at least six feet) while in public, avoid large gatherings (especially indoors), and wash your hands frequently.

Please see the table below for a quick at-a-glance view of the Clinic’s COVID-19 testing options.

Here are the current basics we have communicated for coming back to Boca Grande.  

1. BEFORE YOU TRAVEL

• Do not travel if you are ill.  

• Do not travel with someone else who is ill.  

• Find out the activity level of COVID-19 at your destination as well as all planned travels stops along the way.  

• Do not travel if you were exposed to COVID-19 within 14 days of travel.

 

2. WHEN YOU TRAVEL

• Remember that travel of any type increases the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. 

• Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public facilities.  

• Where possible, avoid close contact, adhering to the six-foot distancing recommendation.  

• Avoid unnecessary touches.  

• Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.  

 

3. UPON ARRIVAL

• If you arrive in Boca Grande with increased risk, consider extra protective measures. You might quarantine for 14 days or consider being tested. Talk to your Clinic physician about your options.

• Increased risk is considered if:

- You travel from an area or state with CDC Level 3 Health Travel Notice. Level 3 is defined as “COVID-19 Risk is High.” This information is available on the CDC website, see Travel Health Notices.

- You have been at a large social gathering, sporting event, wedding, or concert within 14 days of travel.  

- You have spent extended time in crowded airports.

-  You have traveled on a cruise ship or river boat within 14 days of travel. 


Boca Beacon - October 9, 2020 Edition

BY MARK DRISCOLL, CEO, BGHC

A message from the Clinic:

Our guide to a safe and healthy island

Over the past few months, the Boca Grande Health Clinic and its physicians have worked hard to provide a care environment that lays the foundation for the safe return of winter residents and the ongoing health of our Island community. Our actions have been guided by science and by a heartfelt desire to serve the best interests of you, our neighbors. We have received a lot of feedback, and for that I thank you, because we recognize that our fight against the Coronavirus will only be won with the support of the collective.   

It appears that COVID-19, the most unwelcome guest of the year, will be with us for quite a while, and we need to stay vigilant in order to keep the Island safe. With this in mind, and as “the season” begins, I’d like to summarize the many key accomplishments of the last 90 days.

 

The BG Pledge

First and foremost, more than 83 Island employers and 650 individuals have signed the Boca Grande Pledge to follow guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to go above and beyond to support one another and to keep one another and the entire Boca Grande community healthy and safe for everyone to enjoy for many years to come. If you haven’t taken the BG Pledge, please go to the clinic website, BGHC.org and sign up anytime.

Sanitizers

Over the summer, the Clinic provided hand sanitizer stations and no-contact thermometers to all businesses to help keep us all safer. 

Flu Shot Clinics

Our drive-thru flu shot clinics are operational and ready for use by our registered patients as well as the employees of island businesses who have signed the Boca Grande Pledge. Remaining clinics are open from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 14 and 15, Oct. 21 and 22, Oct. 28 and 29, Nov. 4 and 5, Nov. 11 and 12, and Nov. 18 and 19. The flu shots will be given under the Clinic Annex carport. Please call the Clinic Annex at 941-964-0490 to register for a flu shot time slot.   

Back to Boca Virtual Grande Rounds

In partnership with the Boca Grande Health Foundation and the Healthnetwork Foundation, the Clinic is sponsoring “Back to Boca,” a four-part virtual Grande Rounds educational series. The first two sessions have occurred and have received high satisfaction scores. The webinars are open to all. To register for the sessions, go to: https://bghcfoundation.com/webinar-series/. Recordings of the sessions can be found at https://bghcfoundation.com/webinar-series/.

Travel Guidelines and Voluntary Self-Quarantine

A risk score testing methodology and guidelines have been put in place to help you if you travel, have been exposed, or think you have been exposed. The Clinic has made many recommendations, including asking everyone to observe a voluntary 14-day quarantine, and to talk with your physician about potential COVID-19 testing.

New Care Precautions

Virtual visits will remain the starting point for most patient care; however, we have guidelines for in-person patient appointments as well. Please talk with your physician about what is best for your situation.

For those who visit us in person, we are continuing the practice of having separate care teams at the Clinic and the Annex. Starting in mid-October we will have patient schedules for both locations. This will be for both virtual appointments and in-person appointments. Testing and injections will be performed outside of the Annex in a tent set up for this purpose.

In addition, the Clinic has made substantial changes to care protocols to decrease the risk of transmitting the novel Coronavirus to patients or healthcare staff. This includes the purchase of protective gear for our healthcare workers, installation of protective screens, acquisition of testing kits and purchase of air purifiers and ongoing deep cleanings.

Testing

The Clinic currently offers COVID-19 testing with a saliva RT-PCR test, a molecular test that detects the virus’s genetic material. This is a test that you perform at home and ship via FedEx Express. Results are usually available in two to three days. This is a test for active infection. 

We will soon have the ability to perform rapid antigen testing. This test involves a nasal swab (not the deep one) and also tests for active infection. We will perform the rapid tests in a designated area at the Annex building. We also are available to provide a test for COVID-19 antibodies, which requires a blood draw and can give confirmation of a previous infection with COVID-19. We encourage you to call us when you return to Boca Grande to discuss an appropriate testing protocol for your individual situation if at any time you develop symptoms of COVID-19 or if you ever have a known exposure to COVID-19. 

We would like to remind everyone, though, that all tests have limitations, and a negative test for active infection does not replace any of the CDC recommendations for wearing a mask when around others not in your household, safe distancing and frequent hand-washing. 

Welcome Back Information

We are in the process of developing a “welcome back” kit to help returning residents get up to speed on how we’re managing through the Coronavirus pandemic. This kit will have copies of all the COVID-19-related information for quick and easy use. We will be announcing soon how this kit will be distributed.

Sustained Information and 

Communications

A big part of our Back to the Island plan is having an ongoing stream of communications to help keep our patients and the community in the know and promote safe and healthy living. With the assistance of the Boca Beacon, the Clinic remains committed to providing timely COVID-19 health news and information. 

Welcome Back

All of us at the Clinic are looking forward to seeing and hearing from all of you again soon.

 


 

Boca Beacon - October 9, 2020 Edition

SUBMITTED BY THE BGHC

 

A message from the Clinic:

World Mental Health Day reminds us it's OK to talk about how you're feeling

Mental illness. It’s almost as common as the everyday cold. Yet it’s considered by many a taboo subject. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, and nearly 40 percent of them don’t seek treatment or help from others. 

It’s not just an adult issue. Mental health disorders are the most common diseases of childhood. Fifty percent of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14, and 75 percent by age 24. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34.

The negative stigma on mental health is a serious issue in today’s society. Raising awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health are the objectives of World Mental Health Day, sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), and observed on October 10 every year. 

World Mental Health Day takes on even greater significance as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to weigh heavily on our society’s economic, physical and mental wellbeing. According to the WHO, “Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. So it is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a recent tracking poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit organization that focuses on national health issues, 53 percent of adults in the United States reported in mid-July that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the Coronavirus, significantly higher than the 32 percent reported at the onset of the disease in March. The consequences are many: difficulty sleeping or eating, increases in alcohol consumption or substance use and worsening chronic conditions due to worry and stress over the Coronavirus. 

“The statistics are sobering,” said Boca Grande Health Clinic’s Raymond James, D.O., who advises that the first step to addressing – and redressing – the stigma of mental health is a willingness to talk about it openly. “If you know someone who might be struggling, approach the person respectfully and ask how they are doing. Provide help by listening, understanding and showing acceptance.”

Mental health plays a major role in people’s ability to maintain good physical health. Your primary care physician is a good starting point if you are seeking assistance with your mental health. 

There are ways to get help. Use these resources to find help for yourself, a friend or a family member.

• Infographic: Coping with stress during the 2019-nCov outbreak (WHO)

• Tips and Advice for Looking After Our Mental Health (WHO)

• Online support group meetings are available through NAMI Florida, the state affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, whose mission is to improve the quality of life of individuals and their families affected by mental illness through education, support and advocacy.

Be sure to get immediate help in a crisis.

• Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, or go to the nearest emergency room.

• Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454

The Lifeline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Lifeline connects callers to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals. People who are deaf, hard of hearing or have hearing loss can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889.

• Crisis Text Line:  Text “HELLO” to 741741

The Crisis Text hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the U.S. The Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor who can provide support and information.

For the first time ever, the WHO will host a global online advocacy event on mental health on Oct.10. The three-hour event will feature world leaders and celebrities and will be streamed live on major social media channels. Information on how to watch can be found at The Big Event for Mental Health.

 


 

Boca Beacon - October 2, 2020 Edition

SUBMITTED BY THE BGHC

 

A message from the Clinic:

Boca Grande Health Clinic celebrates Primary Care Week

 A few weeks ago, a phone call was received at the History Center. The caller was not familiar with Gasparilla Island but had found the Historical Society’s website and was interested in information regarding the early phosphate industry especially the Bowker Chemical Company.  Jim Blaha, chairman of the History Center committee, researched the company and responded with the information. He learned that the caller had early documents from Bowker and from the American Agricultural Chemical Company, the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railway, the Peace River Mining Company, the Boca Grande Land Company and its successor the Boca Grande Corporation, the companies that established commercial Boca Grande.  

Last Friday, six books of original documents arrived in Boca Grande.  Included with them was a note that said, “I’m so glad we found your society to deed the documents to preserve their place in your community.” 

The documents provide minutes of directors’ meetings dating from 1902 to the sale of the remaining Boca Grande Corporation lots to Henry Schwartz and Sunset Realty for $200,000 in 1945. The early documents are hand-written while later ones are typewritten.  

Many of the names are interesting including that of Albert W. Gilchrist, Florida’s 20th governor, and John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Eisenhower, who was a director of the Boca Grande Corporation in 1927 as well as Peter Bradley, Robert Bradley, Burdett Loomis, Jr. and others who served as directors.

Jim Blaha said that the documents are in good shape and will now be wrapped in acid-free tissue, placed in individual acid-free storage containers and stored in safe, climate-controlled conditions. The contents will be indexed and digitized so that they are readily accessible to researchers and anyone who wants to view their contents. After the History Center has made a more complete evaluation, it may determine that the documents should receive the attention of a professional preservationist.    

Blaha adds that it will take time to digest all the information contained in these books but as primary source materials, they are first-hand accounts of island history and a direct link to the past. For example, minutes from a 1914 meeting discuss the building of sixteen homes for fishermen and workers, a store and a machine shop for a total expense of $5,750. At the same meeting, the directors discussed the exchange of lots with the Episcopal Church which was being negotiated between one of the directors and the Episcopal Bishop.

RoseMarie Blaha, formerly a librarian/media specialist, notes that documents like these are rare. The only similar set she knows of are at the Florida State University library. 

“It is a testament to our History Center that we have been given such wonderful primary sources,” she said.

Jim added that the documents “add to his appreciation for the early families and workers as well as the companies that made the history of the island so unique.” 

The History Center would like to add to its present collection with photographs, letters, deeds, newspapers, films and any other materials that people might like to deed to the Center. The History Center will help with information as to how to deed materials to it. Alternatively, one may lend historical materials to the Center so that they can be digitized and preserved for the community then returned to the owner.

To learn more about the history of Boca Grande and Gasparilla Island, visit the History Center website <https://bocagrandehistoricalsociety.com>, like us on Facebook, or when open, visit the History Center at 170 Park Ave. or call 964-1600.  

 

The History Center welcomes input from all. Please send comments or questions to bocagrandehistoricalsociety@gmail.com

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - September 25, 2020 Edition

 BY DR. TOM ERVIN

A message from the Clinic:

What to think about and plan for before you travel, during travel, & when you arrive on the island

It is fall again. The wind is freshening and more from the north. There is a morning chill, and the lazy days of summer are becoming shorter. It is time to find the sweater drawer. And it is time to think about the return to Boca Grande.  Normally, the prospect of the return south would be a pleasant event. But with COVID-19 not yet in the rear-view mirror, there are additional issues to consider and prepare for.  It all starts with travel. What are the new rules of reentry and social behavior? It is important to all concerned that one’s return to Boca Grande, or anywhere else, is done with full understanding and regard for the continued threat of the pandemic.Assuming that the returning persons are well, there are guidelines for both traveling and after you travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to update the community guidelines in accordance with the degree of disease activity and the scientific understanding of the pandemic as it evolves. Please consult the CDC.gov website for specific guidance regarding travel and reentry.  Although it seems like an eternity since COVID-19 struck, it is really only six to eight months ago that we were asked to change our behavior in an attempt to control the pandemic. Some of the changes are becoming routine to many, but not all participate. We must all emphasize community safety in our daily behavior.  So, at the risk of being repetitive, here are the current basics for coming back to Boca Grande.  

Before you travel

• Do not travel if you are ill.  

• Do not travel with someone else who is ill.  

• Find out the activity level of COVID-19 at your destination as well as all planned travel stops along the way.  

• Do not travel if you were exposed to COVID-19 within 14 days of travel.

When you travel

Remember that travel of any type increases the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. Protect yourself and others.  

• Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public facilities.  

• Where possible, avoid close contact, adhering to the six-foot distancing recommendation.  

• Avoid unnecessary touches.  

• Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.  

These behaviors have become the new standard for most public settings. The evidence for the effectiveness of wearing face masks and social distancing is supported by the CDC and the World Health Organization.

 In addition, anticipate your travel needs. Make sure you have enough medicine for the entire trip. Avoid unnecessary travel stops when possible.  

But let’s go on. It is time to get to Boca Grande at last. 

When you arrive

Check the status of COVID-19 activity for Florida (currently getting better as of this writing), and for Boca Grande specifically (33921 zip code on the Florida COVID-19 website). Remember that you and your arriving family pose a risk to your friends and community for 14 days after arrival, so maintain routine protective social behavior. If you arrive in Boca Grande with increased risk, consider extra protective measures. You might quarantine for 14 days or consider being tested. More information will be coming on testing options in the near future.

You might ask what constitutes increased risk. Increased risk is considered if:

1. You travel from an area or state with CDC Level 3 Health Travel Notice. Level 3 is defined as “COVID-19 risk is high.” This information is available on the CDC website; see Travel Health Notices.

2. You have been at a large social gathering, sporting event, wedding or concert within 14 days of travel.  

3. You have spent extended time in crowded airports.

4. You have traveled on a cruise ship or river boat within 14 days of your travel to Florida.

Air travel in and of itself, while of some theoretical risk, is not considered of high risk due to better spacing and improvements in air circulation and filtration systems.  

So, there you are. You are back in beautiful, quiet Boca Grande. Please have a happy and healthy 2020-2021 season, but continue to protect yourself, your family, and your friends on this wonderful island. To take the Boca Grande Pledge, please go to the Clinic’s website, BGHC.org and sign up anytime.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - September 18, 2020 Edition

 BY DR. LAUREN HANA

A message from the Clinic:

 What if you've been exposed to Covid-19?

What should I do if I have been exposed to someone with COVID-19?

This is a question we are hearing more often these days as COVID-19 continues to work its way around every corner. Although Florida’s numbers are down slightly, COVID-19 is still here.  

Overall case numbers and percent positivity of new cases are down to a daily new case average, around 2,600 for the week ending September 12 from a peak of over 15,000 on July 12. 

According to the Florida Department of Health statistics, cases just off island in the Placida zip code of 33946 continue to inch up every couple of days to 26 as of September 14. And our own zip code of 33921 that had less than five cases since mid-March. Our total increased on August 20 to five cases and remains at five as of September 14.

Holidays like Labor Day, school being back in session and the approaching return of our seasonal residents, visitors, tourists and guests all bring a population influx – and an increased chance of additional risk and exposure will also come across the causeway bridge. 

Below is information and guidance summarizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent recommendations if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone that tested positive for COVID-19 or someone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. 

The CDC lists the following as symptoms to watch. Remember, symptoms can be varied and range from mild to severe and this list may not be all-inclusive as this virus continues to show us new things every day.

Symptoms include: Fever or chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; Fatigue; Muscle or body aches, new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; diarrhea.

If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms, follow the CDC’s guidance:

1. Call 911 or have someone call 911 for you if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion or blue lips or fingertips.

2. STAY HOME and ISOLATE/QUARANTINE. These two things are basically the same thing, just different terms depending on if you are sick (isolate) or have been exposed (quarantine). Here’s what you should do for BOTH isolation and quarantine: Stay in your own room and away from others in your own home; use your own bathroom if possible;  wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose if you have to be in common spaces in your home and others in your home should do the same when they are in contact with you; avoid sharing food, dishes, towels and bedding with others; leave your home only for medical care – not for a haircut, not to get groceries, not to go to the post office. Get someone else to help with those things during this time. 

Note: If you are sick and isolating, the others in your household should quarantine since they have been exposed. 

3. Notify your healthcare provider of your symptoms or that you have tested positive for COVID-19 so you can be monitored in case your condition changes. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call the Boca Grande Health Clinic (BGHC) at (941) 964-2276.

4. Monitor your temperature and symptoms TWICE daily and keep a record. (A self-monitoring log to print can be found on the Clinic’s website at bghc.org.) Check in with your healthcare provider every two to three days to give an update. If at any time you develop chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion or blue lips or fingertips; call 911 or have someone call 911 for you.

5. Rest and stay hydrated. 

6. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least a 60 percent alcohol base frequently.

7. Clean common surfaces in your home regularly with a disinfectant approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to kill the Coronavirus. 

8. Review your activities back to two days PRIOR to testing positive or two days PRIOR to developing symptoms. If you were in close contact with anyone during that time (close contact is defined as within six feet for more than 15 minutes, especially if one of you was not covering your mouth and nose, but even if both did have face coverings), you should notify them that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 so they can take the appropriate steps and quarantine.

When can my isolation/quarantine end?

If you tested positive for COVID-19 or had symptoms of COVID-19, you may end isolation when: You have not had a fever for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen ... AND ... whatever symptoms you had are improved ... AND ... it has been at least 10 days since you developed symptoms or if you never developed any symptoms (were asymptomatic), it has been at least 10 days since you tested positive.

If you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or someone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you may end your quarantine when:

• 14 days have passed since your last contact with the person, as long as you did not develop symptoms or test positive yourself. 

The BGHC is available for you if you have further questions or are in need of care. Stay healthy and safe and thank you for helping our community to do the same. 

 

What if my child was exposed?

If my child was exposed to COVID-19 and has to quarantine, do I also have to quarantine? Technically, no, since you didn’t actually have an exposure (unless your own child tested positive or you are ill). However, this depends on a lot of things related to how easily and consistently your child is able to quarantine in your own home. If you have young children that require care and supervision, it’s best to err on the side of being cautious and quarantine yourself as well. 

If I or my family member was exposed to COVID-19, should I get tested?

Recent guidance has left testing for asymptomatic exposure up to the individual or advises you to consult with your healthcare provider for appropriate guidance according to your own level of risk.  

When should I get tested?

If you would like to get tested, there are a few important things to keep in mind. The best time to test is around five to seven days after the exposure. We know that most people will develop symptoms by about seven days after an exposure, though it can be as long as 14 days after exposure in a few cases. 

In order to minimize the chance of a false negative test, the virus needs to have some time to replicate in order to allow for detection by the testing, so testing too early has a higher likelihood of a falsely negative test when the person is actually infected. If you develop symptoms, then you should be tested one to three days into your symptoms. 

Where can I get tested?

If you would like to get tested, there are multiple options in the area, depending on the day, including local CVS pharmacies, the BGHC, State Department of Health testing sites and even options for self-testing at home. 

Please call the BGHC or your own healthcare provider to review your personal situation and get specific guidance on what is the best option in your individual case.

 

Dr. Lauren Hana is a physician with the Boca Grande Health Clinic

 


 

Boca Beacon - September 11, 2020 Edition

 BY MARK DRISCOLL

A message from the Clinic:

 Getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever

 Before coming back to the island this year, please get a flu shot. If you are working on the island, please get a flu shot. It does not matter where you get your flu shot, but making it a priority to get one matters a great deal.  

   Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death. Getting a flu vaccine this year will help to reduce your risk from the flu. Please keep in mind that it is possible to contract both the Coronavirus and the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter. That means healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating both patients with flu and patients with COVID-19. Getting a flu shot can help save precious healthcare resources for the care of patients with COVID-19. And that’s why getting a flu shot is vital.

   The Boca Grande Health Clinic will be operating drive-through flu shot clinics for our registered patients as well as the employees of island businesses who have signed the Boca Grande Pledge. The flu shots will be given under the Clinic Annex carport. Please call the Clinic Annex at 964-0490 to register for a flu shot time slot.   

   Drive-through flu shot clinics will be open from 9 a.m. to noon on the following days:

October 1, October 8, October 14 and 15, October 21 and 22, October 28 and 29, November 4 and 5, November 11 and 12, and November 18 and 19.

   Additional flu clinic hours will be added if needed. Since it takes about two weeks after you receive the vaccine for your body to build up the antibodies to fight the flu, it’s never too soon to plan your flu shot. 

   While some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, the most important ways to prevent either are the same:  wash your hands often with soap and water, wear face coverings when out in public spaces, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay home if you become sick.

 

 

 


 

Boca Beacon - September 4, 2020 Edition

SUBMITTED BY DR. LAUREN HANA

A message from the Clinic:

 Thoughts about gatherings and herd immunity

These are just a few thoughts about gatherings and COVID-19 (by popular demand).

First, let’s start with a definition of a term we are all hearing thrown around a lot lately: Herd immunity. Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, through recovering from the illness or through vaccination. 

What is the threshold for herd immunity for COVID-19? The threshold for all infectious diseases is based on a calculation.

1-(1/R0) = the threshold for herd immunity

R0 (pronounced “R naught”) is the infectivity of the disease. That is, how many other people will one infected person infect. For COVID-19 this number has been determined to be two to three. One infected person is expected to infect two to three other people. To put that into understandable context, one unchecked case of COVID-19 will lead to 31 more cases over the following four weeks if no precautions are taken. 

The incubation period, contact time (exposure) needed to infect and the route (or routes) of transmission are used to the calculate the R0. The goal is to get this number to less than one and the disease will extinguish itself.

The calculation then for COVID-19 (using 2.5 for R0) is 1-(1/2.5)= 0.6

This means that herd immunity should develop if 60 percent of the population become immune (through infection that leads to immunity or effective vaccination).

In order to decrease this threshold (make the number of immune persons to achieve herd immunity fewer), the R0 has to decrease. To decrease R0 (infectivity), infectious cases need to be promptly isolated and situations of high exposure need to be eliminated. The only variable in this equation we can affect is exposure. All other variables remain constant. The incubation period and route(s) of transmission are not adjustable. So, it’s all about R0. Decrease your exposures and you decrease your risk.

Enough already with the science. We’ve all gotten over the novelty of virtual happy hours and Zoom birthday parties, and want to know if we can get together with our families and friends.

The risk stratifying table below might help with attending and/or planning an event. It is by no means all-inclusive and as in real life, many factors will fall into gray zones. Use it as a guide to determine how many of your “exposure points” you will be spending and if you are comfortable with the risk.

Questions to ask as a guest: • Will everyone be asked to wear a face covering? • Will distancing reminders be clearly marked? • Will masks and sanitizer be readily available? • Will attendance be limited? • Will anyone from outside the area be attending? 

• Will I be comfortable with my risk in this situation?

Politely decline the invitation if you are ill, have been exposed to someone ill or have recently traveled (long flight, returned from a “hot spot”, international travel or multi-state travel).

Guidance for hosting: • Open windows and doors or stay outdoors (don’t forget insect and climate control) • Clean and disinfect your venue before and after (pay special attention to common touch areas like light switches, doorknobs, faucets, flushers, cabinet pulls, refrigerator and garbage bin handles) • Provide adequate space for appropriate distancing (have a seating chart) • Limit your guest list • Make masks, sanitizer and disinfectant wipes readily available (at the entryway and strategically placed throughout the venue) • Organize entertainment that allows for distancing (charades, distanced dancing, BINGO?) • Considerations if a meal is planned (disposable place settings, including drink and flatware, seat households together, adequate spacing between tables, individual servings that are plated or served by a single (solitary, not unmarried!) masked attendant with clean hands, consider a “BYO” beach party (Bring Your Own: food and drink, place settings, chairs, beach blanket), avoid finger foods or passing trays of hors d’oeuvres, serve individually plated cupcakes or key lime tarts for dessert.

• Graciously understand and expect some to decline the invitation. Special considerations include: • Bathrooms: Clear the air (use the exhaust fan), cover (close the lid prior to flushing), wash (your hands), wipe (grab a disinfectant wipe to open the door and then wipe the outside knob, too). Post the “rules” on a sign on the inside door of the bathroom. Have disinfectant wipes and soap supply replenished regularly. Have a foot pedal operated garbage can outside the door for the used disinfectant wipes; • Verbalization: Louder, stronger, more forceful vocalization allows a greater amount of respiratory droplets of all sizes to be propelled into the environment and travel farther distances • Shouting, laughing, yawning, sighing, singing, choking, coughing and sneezing as well as talking and breathing are all thought to aerosolize viral particles.

My pet peeve is the statement, “Face coverings are recommended when social distancing is not possible.” Studies have shown that shouting, coughing or laughing without a mask allows aerosolization of droplets 8-12 feet from the source. So, if you are not covering your face, stay at least 12 feet away from others. It is not one or the other, masking, distancing and handwashing together will help stop the spread of COVID-19. Remember, no activity is zero risk. Our own choices impact others around us; make wise ones. We can do this safely with thought and innovation.

Most importantly, be kind and respect your neighbor! 

 

Boca Beacon - August 28, 2020 Edition

SUBMITTED BY DR. LAUREN HANA

A message from the Clinic:

 A new voice on the subject of COVID-19

  Hello Boca Grande Clinic Community, I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself and say hello. I am Mark Driscoll, the new CEO of the Boca Grande Health Clinic. I have been with the clinic now for almost two months, and I look forward to meeting all of you over the coming year.It has been more than six months since we all first heard about COVID-19. A lot has changed since then, but the clinic’s focus on your health and safety has not wavered. A lot of work has been accomplished, and you will be hearing from the clinic frequently over the next few months about how we are continuously improving our patient safety focus.I am hopeful that most of you have heard about the Boca Grande Pledge and the work behind it. The pledge was developed by Dr. Lauren Hana at the clinic, along with members of island businesses and organizations, indicating their support for wearing masks and other important actions to slow the spread of the virus.  To date, 75 businesses and more than 600 individuals have made this commitment. As a result of this strong effort to follow CDC guidelines, the island is much safer than it was several months ago.

The clinic has a long tradition of excellent patient safety and clinical care.  I want to tell you a little bit of what we have accomplished recently.

• The clinic and the Boca Grande Clinic Annex will continue to have separate care teams of clinic staff. This will help keep patient care going at one clinic site if there is an exposure at the other.

• A patient screening guideline has been developed. This is important because you will know what to do when you come to the clinic. This guideline will continue to be revised as new information becomes available.

• What happens if you have been exposed? The clinic has developed a protocol that details exactly what you should do. In addition, the clinic has the ability to schedule COVID-19 testing for patients and employers. The starting point is your clinic primary care physician who begins the process.

• The clinic staff can now work from home, if needed. New computers and the related equipment have been installed. This new upgrade will provide a more robust computer network for quicker and more efficient access.

• A “command center” meeting has been implemented twice a month.   This meeting includes clinic members, community members, and clinic board participants. This meeting ensures that all parties can stay informed and up to date on activities and education.

• Personal protection equipment has been stockpiled in anticipation of shortages. This means the clinic has the gloves, masks, and gowns needed to continue clinical operations into the future.

• We want to ensure the cleanest clinical facilities possible. To that end, air duct cleaning is in process. Installation of a state-of-the-art air purifying system will be installed in the clinic and the annex. An additional deep COVID-19 cleaning process will also occur weekly. All these measures are being implemented to keep our facilities as clean and safe as possible.

• The clinic has learned a lot about virtual visits over the last six months.   New hardware and software are being implemented that will improve the virtual visit patient experience. You will be hearing more about this over the coming months.

• The clinic website is a good site for COVID-19 information. We are in the process of revising and updating the website to be more relevant and easier to use.

The bottom line is that we are working hard to keep you informed and educated about efforts and results.

We are developing a comprehensive “Back to the Island Plan” that will be unveiled over the coming weeks. Our hope is that all the communication pieces and related vehicles that we are developing will help to answer your questions.Please feel free to contact me at mark.driscoll@bghc.org with any questions or comments.

 

Mark Driscoll is the CEO of the Boca Grande Health Clinic.


Boca Beacon - August 21, 2020 Edition

Businesses who signed the BG Pledge

A big THANK YOU to all the businesses and organizations listed below, as well as to the 622 and counting community members that have “taken the BG pledge” to do their best to keep Boca Grande healthy and safe! 

Banyan Tree Pilates and yoga • Bella Vida Boca Grande • Boca Grande North HOA • Boca Grande Club and BGC HOA • Boca Bay Associations • Boca Bay HOA • Boca Bay Pass Club • Boca Beacon • Boca Blooms •Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce • Boca Grande Fire Department • Boca Grande Health Clinic • Boca Grande Health Clinic Foundation •Boca Grande HOA, Inc •Boca Grande Isles POA •Boca Grande Marina • Boca Grande Men’s Club

Boca Grande North Condo Assoc • Boca Grande Preschool •Boca Grande Realty Advisors, LLC • Boca Grande Resort/Palmetto Inn • Boca Grande Travel • Boca Grande Woman’s Club • Charlotte Heart and Vascular Institute • Courtyard Hair ETC. • Englewood Bank & Trust • Friends of Boca Grande Community Center • Fugates • Gasparilla Outfitters • Giacinti Contracting, Inc. • GIBA • GICIA • Gilchrist Interiors • GIWA • Grande Aire • Grande Property Services (Boca Grande Isles and Gulf Shores North POA’s) • Grande Quay HOA • Gulf Shores North POA •Gulf to Bay Sothebys Realty • Hudson’s Grocery • Island dog boutique and supply co • Boca Grande Pledge - Business List • Italiano Insurance • J.McLaughlin • James Griffith Salon at the Gasparilla Inn & Club • Kappy’s Market • Made to Inspire • McHugh Porter Builders • Michael P. Haymans Attorney At Law, P.A. • Michael Sanders and Company • Miller’s Dockside • Miravi Palms • Our Lady of Mercy Parish •Paradise Exclusive Real Estate • Parsley Baldwin Real Estate • Peterson Property Management • Pink Pony • Royal Palm Players • Scarpa’s Coastal • Seawatch HOA

Special Effects of Boca Grande, Inc. • The BRC Group, LLC and Boca Grande Vacations • The Gasparilla Inn • The Island School • The Johann Fust Library Foundation • The Loose Caboose • The Seale Family, Inc • The Sun Porch

The Temptation • Third Street Bistro • Uncle Henry’s Marina Assoc. •VenWood Awards Inc. • Whidden’s Marina • Yusk Construction

 

Touch-free hand sanitizer machines are still available, along with face masks and no-contact thermometers, for any business or organization that has signed the pledge. Please email requests to cannon@bghcfoundation.com for more information or to schedule pick up or delivery time.We are in this together and together we can make a difference! Thank you from 411 Island Community Coalition, supporting the Boca Grande community through education, awareness and cooperation.


 

Boca Beacon - August 21, 2020 Edition

SUBMITTED BY DR. LAUREN HANA

A message from the Clinic:

Taking a much-needed break? Get back to work safely

A lot of questions have come up in the last few months about dealing with   COVID-19 illness, symptoms or exposures involving individuals in the workplace or elsewhere. This prompted the post of relevant information on these topics on the Boca Grande Health Clinic website at BGHC.org. An additional question more recently has been how a business should handle a return to work for an employee who has traveled or gone on vacation.

Let me say first that any governmental rules take precedence. For instance, Governor DeSantis’ executive order in March required anyone entering Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to quarantine for 14 days. This order was just recently lifted on August 6. International travel may have quarantine restrictions in place by federal or state authorities on return to the U.S. 

I would also note that nonessential travel continues to be discouraged during a global pandemic.  However, it would be hard to argue that getting away and taking a break would not be considered essential to everyone’s mental health and sanity at this point!

I spoke about 6 weeks ago with a friend who remembered reading an article in a prominent newspaper that likened calculating COVID-19 risk to counting Weight Watchers points, and I thought that was a good way to think about analyzing risk: in “exposure points.” She noted that she prefers to spend her “exposure points” on her family. So, if she wanted to spend time with her grandkids, she might stock up on groceries so she could skip a trip to the grocery store that week. Or she could put off a trip to the salon to get her hair or nails done for two more weeks to allow for family time instead. 

The following risk tool is what the BGHC is using to help employees safely return to work. It is directed at healthcare workers and can be used as a guide, but each individual business should make modifications as appropriate for their particular situation. 

 

RETURN TO WORK AFTER NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL RISK TOOL

Method of Travel: Air = 2 Car = 1

Location(s) visited: Hot = 3 Medium = 2 Not = 1

Potential Exposures: High Risk = 3 (close contact for 15 minutes or more or repeated contact, EITHER you OR your contact NOT wearing mask)

Low Risk = 1 (Masks worn by both you and your contact, hands washed, limited exposure time, distancing practiced)

   THEN TOTAL YOUR SCORE.          

   0-4 POINTS: Follow low-risk exposure protocol

   5 OR MORE POINTS: Follow high-risk exposure protocol

 

Definitions:

Low risk protocol = no restriction from work, self-monitoring for symptoms for 14 days.

High risk protocol: Restrict from work/work from home, active monitoring for symptoms by supervisor for 14 days (Self-monitoring and Active monitoring log sheets can also be found on our website at BGHC.org).

I use the rolling seven-day average percent positivity for the travel destination. This information can be found on each State’s Department of Health website, at least by county and sometimes even by zip code. “Hot” spot = 15 percent or higher positivity rate “Medium”  = 11-14 percent positivity rate “Not” hot spot  = 10 percent and under positivity rate Close Contact = within six feet

 

Three examples: 

 Mike went camping with his family in Birchwood, Wisconsin, August 1- August 14, 2020.They drove a rented RV. He was not in close contact with anyone outside of his household. Wisconsin has a statewide mask mandate so everyone was required to wear a mask. The rolling seven day average positivity rate for Washburn County Wisconsin is 0.4 percent. Mike’s total score is 1 + 1 + 1 = 3. So he will return to work and self-monitor for any symptoms for 14 days and return his completed log to his employer and immediately report development of any symptoms. 

Another example:

Lisa went to Key West, Florida, to celebrate her birthday with her family. They took the Key West Express.  Monroe County has a mask mandate and everyone on the boat and on land in Keys is required to wear a mask. She remarks that police were even out on the streets enforcing the mandate. She always wore her mask and was not in close contact with anyone without a mask. The rolling 7 day average positivity in Monroe County in Florida is 12 percent.Lisa’s total score is 1 + 2 + 1 = 4. So she will return to work and self-monitor for any symptoms for 14 days and return her completed log to her employer and immediately report development of any symptoms. 

A third example: Jessa went to Las Vegas for a bachelorette party. When she arrived at the airport in Las Vegas, she met up with the bride-to-be and nine more of her friends that also flew to Las Vegas from California, Arizona, Illinois and New Mexico. They had not seen each other in “ages” and ate out at restaurants, drank and basically “threw caution to the wind”.  Sometimes they wore masks but not always and to save money, they all shared two hotel rooms. The rolling seven day average positivity in Las Vegas, Nevada, is 16 percent.

Jessa’s total score is 2 + 3 + 3 = 8. So she will be restricted from returning to on-site work and work from home for 14 days while being actively monitored daily by her supervisor. She will immediately report development of any symptoms to her supervisor. 

(Disclaimer: The individuals, their trips and the actual percent positivity for the locations mentioned in the examples above are fictitious and only used to illustrate the point of the risk tool.) 

Obviously, these examples are fairly clear cut and real life situations will all be unique. The bottom line is; we all have to continue to encourage our employees to make smart choices, remember that the process remains based on honesty and trust and that there is really no activity that has ZERO risk. Stay well!

 


 

Boca Beacon - August 21, 2020 Edition

BY MARCY SHORTUSE

Students, teachers prepare to head back to classes at The Island School in a sea of questions and concerns from parents

As the doors prepare to open at The Island School on August 31, plans are being made to keep children and staff as safe as possible. The first step in the process will be to hold the traditional open house on several nights, virtually.

On Monday, Aug. 24 the first virtual open house via Zoom will be held, for children in fifth grade with teachers Jane Bengston, Lisa Brown, Head-of-School Jean Thompson, and Nicole Tillotson-Main. On Tuesday, Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m. the kindergarten class will meet on Zoom with teacher Theresa O’Connor. On Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 5:30 p.m. the 3rd and 4th grade classes will meet on Zoom with teachers Dorothy Rahal and J.T. Tremaine. On Thursday, Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m. the 1st grade class will meet with Stephanie Perrin Shirback, and on Friday, Aug. 28 at 5:30 p.m. all second graders with meet with teacher Rebecca Blalock. At each open house teachers will speak first for about 10 minutes. Then, Thompson will follow up with general procedures and answer any questions. When the school year begins, everyone who enters the building must wear a mask. This includes teachers, students, and anyone else who has permission to enter. Parents will not be able to enter the building, with exceptions that are pre-arranged. This year will be much different for many reasons. For instance, all students must bring a backpack that can be placed on the back of their seat. Inside the backpack, students should bring their lunch in a container that does not require refrigeration (or holds an ice pack), a snack, a water bottle and a beach towel. The towel will be used for the multiple trips the children will make outside, to sit under the trees and take a break from wearing their masks (while social distancing).  This year students will not have the option of being dropped off early for morning care, as there will be no open common areas. Doors to classrooms open at 8:15 a.m., and school starts at 8:30 a.m. The amount of children attending afterschool care will be limited this year. The school is asking parents to only send their children if the parents are working past 3 p.m. One of the biggest changes will be that the children will stay in the their same small class groups for the duration of each day. Students will arrive at their individual external classroom doors, and they will enter into the building after having their temperature checked. They will leave school the same way, and parents will wait outside for them. “The goal is to have students physically present in school,” Thompson said. “The Island School’s reopening plan is based on recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The four areas of critical focus that include face coverings, hand hygiene, social distancing and reduction of high-touch surfaces will provide students, teachers, and families with the most protection possible in the school environment. “We are reviewing all facets of the school day to take critical focus areas into consideration and determine how to best implement them. “In addition to looking at the physical environment and changes that must be made, we are preparing for a fluid, flexible learning environment that includes both brick and mortar (in-school learning) and remote/distance learning. A stricter sick policy for students and staff members with fevers, cough, or upper respiratory symptoms will also be in place.” Thompson said changes are possible at any time, and that local health department numbers and suggestions from local health organizations will be followed.


 

Boca Beacon - August 7, 2020 Edition

BY SUSAN BOWERS

You bet your life I took the pledge ...

More than anything, I want my friends and neighbors on Boca Grande to stay well. It is our cherished home. I have never met fi ner people or had better, more loyal friends. They all live right here on our precious island. And the children, good heavens, they are the highlight of my days. I want to sincerely thank the Boca Grande Health Clinic and all the Island organizations who have created the Island Community Pledge. Please sign it with me.We all need to be respectful, kind, considerate and concerned for others. Please do your part to help us all

stay healthy and safe. Read and sign the Boca Grande Community Pledge. We need to work together to help stop the spread of COVID 19 now and for all the better days to come.


Boca Beacon - August 31, 2020 Edition

BY MARCY SHORTUSE

Clinic ‘Pledge’ drive picking up speed with businesses and residents

New hand sanitizing stations to turn up soon around town at local businesses

Keeping Boca Grande safe is the number one goal of the Boca Grande Health Clinic, and their newest initiative, “the Boca Grande Pledge,” seems to be working. After just one week, 34 businesses and 528 individuals have signed the pledge, which was designed to educate the public regarding the best ways to stay protected from the virus. In a sea of COVID-19 questions and more than a little misinformation, the Clinic hopes that the pledge breaks down the most pertinent information for island residents and businesses which will be the best route in keeping island residents, shopkeepers and visitors as safe as possible. One of the initiatives the Clinic has taken is to acquire 70 hand sanitizing machines that will be placed strategically around town. Clinic representatives hope the hand sanitizer to fi ll them will be delivered in the next few

days, and then they can determine the best places to put them. Keep reading the Boca Beacon for more information regarding this initiative. As the Clinic stated last week, “We are in this together and together we can make a difference!” Visit surveymonkey.com/r/Boca-GrandePledge (or scan the QR codewith your phone) for more informationand to take the Boca Grande pledge.


Boca Beacon - July 24, 2020 Edition

FROM THE BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINIC (BGHC)

TAKE THE "BOCA GRANDE PLEDGE"

   Boca Grande has always been unique and comes to hold a special place in the hearts of all who have the opportunity to experience the island.
The Boca Grande Health Clinic, the Boca Grande Health Clinic Foundation, Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association, Boca Grande Fire Department, Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce, Gasparilla Island Water Association, Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority, Boca Grande Homeowners Association and Boca Grande Club, Inc., Boca Bay Homeowners Associations and Boca Bay Pass Club together with the Boca Grande Woman’s Club, Gasparilla Inn, Friends of Boca Grande Community Center, The Island School, the Boca Beacon, Grande Quay Homeowners Association, Boca Grande North Homeowners Association and Grande Property Services, Boca Grande Isles and Gulf Shores North Property Owners Associations want to invite everyone including all local businesses, organizations and all individual community members of all ages to join us in a united effort to keep Boca Grande healthy and safe and help stop the spread of COVID-19.
   We hope everyone will join us in pledging to commit ourselves to go above and beyond to support one another and to keep one another and the entire Boca Grande community healthy and safe for everyone to enjoy for many years to come. We are in this together and together we can make a difference!
 
The pledge reads as follows (for individuals). 

             

                                 Boca Grande Pledge from Our Island Community 

As part of our tight-knit island community, I/We pledge to do my/our best to keep each other healthy and safe, by supporting our local businesses, friends, and neighbors, by following the guidelines of the CDC and recommendations of the Boca Grande Health Clinic.  
  • I/We pledge to support local businesses by shopping and dining locally whenever possible.
  • I/We pledge to practice physical distancing by staying the recommended six feet apart from others.
  • I/We pledge to wear a face mask while frequenting island establishments and businesses and when I am in public.
  • I/We pledge to refrain from touching surfaces whenever possible and keep my hands away from my face.
  • I/We pledge to wash my hands with soap and water for the suggested twenty seconds or use hand-sanitizer frequently.
  • I/We pledge to cover my face when I cough or sneeze and then use hand-sanitizer again.
  • I/We pledge to stay home and follow the quarantine guidelines if I am feeling unwell, have traveled, or if I have had contact with a person with COVID-19.
  • I/We pledge to call the Clinic or my own medical provider for guidance if I exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • I/We pledge to modify my actions and encourage others to do the same as guidelines and recommendations adjust over time.
  • I/We pledge to be positive, kind, and show respect for our community.
Abiding by this pledge is one of the easiest ways to support and show affection for Boca Grande.

AUGUST 8, 2020 - FROM THE BOCA GRANDE HEALTH CLINIC

What to do if you have tested + for COVID 19 or have symptoms of COVID 19 or have been exposed to someone that tested + for COVID 19 or someone that has symptoms of COVID 19.

This is a summary taken directly from the CDC guidelines and organized for ease of understanding. The BGHC is available for you if you have further questions or are need of care. Please do not hesitate to contact us. (941)964-2276. We hope you stay healthy and safe and thank you for helping our community to do the same.

1. Call 911 or have someone call 911 for you if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion or blue lips or fingertips.

2. STAY HOME and Isolate/Quarantine (basically the same thing, just a different name depending on if you are sick or you are exposed).
Isolate if you are + or have symptoms of COVID 19.
Quarantine if you have been exposed to someone who is + or has symptoms of COVID 19. These both mean:

Stay in your own room and away from others in your home.
Use your own bathroom if possible.
Wear a mask if you are in a common space in your home.
Avoid sharing dishes, towels and bedding with others.
Leave your home only for medical care. (Not for a haircut, not to get groceries, not to go to the post office; get someone else to help you with those things).

Note: If you are sick, your household should quarantine, as they have been exposed.

3. Notify your healthcare provider. If you do not have a health care provider, the BGHC is available for video visits for both established and new patients at this time. Please call (941)964-2276 for guidance with appointments and questions about testing locations.

4. Notify any close contacts you may have had starting 2 DAYS PRIOR to the day that you developed symptoms. If you tested + but don’t have any symptoms, notify close contacts starting 2 DAYS PRIOR to the + test. These close contacts should then quarantine.
A close contact is defined as anyone you were with that was within 6 feet of you for 15 minutes or more.

5. Monitor your symptoms and record your temperature TWICE a day. Check in with your healthcare provider every 2-3 days to give an update.
Symptoms may include: fever, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue, muscle aches and pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion and loss of taste or smell. We are learning more about symptoms every day and there may be more so keep an eye out for anything that seems new or unusual to you.

If at anytime you develop chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion or blue lips or fingertips, call 911 or have someone call for you.

6. Rest and stay hydrated.

7. Cover your mouth and nose if you are in any common areas of your home, if you are in a room with anyone else or if you leave your home to receive medical care.

8. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol base.

9. Clean common surfaces with a disinfectant that is FDA approved to kill coronavirus. See the list here:

EPA list of disinfectants to use against covid-19

When can I end my isolation/quarantine?

1. If you tested + for COVID 19 or had symptoms of COVID 19, you may end your isolation when:
You have not had a fever for 3 days without the use of fever reducing medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen.
AND
Whatever symptoms you had are improved
AND
It has been at least 10 days since you developed symptoms or at least 10 days since you tested + if you did not ever develop symptoms.

2. If you were exposed to someone who tested + for COVID 19 or someone with symptoms of COVID 19, you may end your quarantine when:
14 days have passed since your last contact with the person, as long as you did not develop symptoms or test + yourself.

“I’ve tested positive for COVID 19, my family member/co- worker/employee/patron/friend has tested positive for COVID 19, now what?”

This is a question that we are hearing more and more often at the BGHC as COVID case numbers continue to dramatically increase in Florida. Below is a summary of the CDC guidelines for dealing with an exposure and reminders on how to best prevent one.

Anyone testing positive for COVID 19 is contagious from 2 DAYS PRIOR TO DEVELOPMENT OF SYMPTOMS through the course of their illness.
Anyone exposed to someone testing positive for COVID 19 at any point during this entire time is advised to quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure to the positive individual, as long as they do not develop symptoms themselves.

For example:
A co-worker works 7/6, 7/7 and 7/8. On 7/8, she gets ill at work with a fever and headache and goes home. She stays home and is able to get tested on 7/10 and on 7/11 she is told that her test is + for COVID 19 and notifies her employer.
She started to be contagious on 7/6 and anyone with contact with her from 7/6-7/8 at her workplace should quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure to the +case.
If I worked with her on 7/6 and 7/8, my quarantine ends 7/8 + 14 days
 7/22.
If you only worked with her on 7/6, your quarantine ends 7/6 + 14 days
 7/20.
 



Boca Beacon - June 5, 2020 Edition

BY MARCY SHORTUSE

Governor announces ‘Phase 2’ of plan to be implemented

Governor Ron DeSantis announced today that Phase 2 of the “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step” plan would begin to be implemented today, Friday, June 5. DeSantis said this means that all bars in all but three Florida counties – Dade, Broward and Palm Beach – could re-open with certain stipulations, which include operating at half capacity inside and full capacity outside. Patrons will be allowed to receive service only if seated, and bar-top seating may commence with social distancing.

 People who travel to Florida will still be required to self-isolate if they are coming from a COVID-19 “hot spot,” with the exception of those traveling for work or students traveling for academic reasons, or for sports or school activities.

Movie theaters, concert venues, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys and arcades may also operate at 50 percent capacity, with social distancing regulations. Personal service establishments such as tattoo or body-piercing parlors and acupuncture, tanning and massage businesses may operate with appropriate safety precautions.

DeSantis asked everyone to continue to follow appropriate social distancing and safety measures, and said that senior citizens and those with underlying medical conditions should take measures to limit their risk of exposure to the virus. People should not gather in groups of 50 or more.

DeSantis also extended a temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures that was set to expire last Tuesday. The governor signed an executive order on Monday extending the mortgage foreclosure and eviction relief for residents, which will now run through July 1. With the pandemic-induced closures of businesses causing mass unemployment in the state, many have been unable to pay large bills such as rents and mortgages. Clerks of courts in each county had allegedly stopped processing eviction filings at the governor’s order, but some did not. This might leave many Florida residents homeless after the July 1 deadline for relief has come and gone.

 

 


Boca Beacon - May 8, 2020 Edition

BY MARCY SHORTUSE

COVID-19 antibody testing set up by Boca Grande Health Clinic through Quest Diagnostics

The Boca Grande Health Clinic is pleased to announce a COVID-19 antibody test offered through Quest Diagnostics. The test is performed by blood draw. It is an ELISA test (an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, also called ELISA or EIA, is a test that detects and measures antibodies in your blood) for SARS-CoV2 IgG, the memory antibody for the virus that causes COVID-19. The test was developed by Abbott Laboratories.

This test gives positive or negative results of the presence of IgG (memory) antibodies in the blood. A positive result suggests possible previous exposure, possible currently resolving or possible previous infection with the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness. Of note, having these memory antibodies is not known to provide immunity to future infections of COVID 19 at this time. 

The test results will be helpful to define the extent of any COVID-19 infections in our community which will help to guide recommendations regarding ongoing precautions for prevention of COVID-19.

Per Quest requirements to have the laboratory test drawn, you must not be currently ill and be asymptomatic from any recent illness for at least 10 days. At the time of the test you will be required to have your temperature taken and wear face covering. Helpful information on patient testing may be found at Patient information Abbott SARS CoV2 IgG test.

This service is covered by Medicare and most insurances. An initial telehealth visit with one of the Clinic physicians will be scheduled to go through screening questions regarding the specifics of any recent illness, travel history, medical history, etc. The limitations of the test results will be discussed with you and if you wish to have the test drawn, a laboratory appointment will be scheduled for you either at the Clinic or at Quest Diagnostics. Once the results are available, a second telehealth visit will be scheduled with one of the Clinic physicians to review and discuss your test results, answer any questions you may have and provide further any recommendations. 

Potential risks associated with the test include the normal potential discomfort that can occur while having blood taken, and possible incorrect test results.

If you have a positive test result, it is likely that you have or previously had COVID-19, and that you have developed an antibody response to the virus. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine how best to care for you based on the test results along with other factors of your medical history, including any previous symptoms, possible exposure to COVID-19 and the location of places you have recently traveled.

There is also the chance that this test can give a positive result that is wrong (a false positive result).

A negative test result means that the antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 were not found in your sample. However, it is possible for this test to give a negative result that is incorrect (false negative) in some people with COVID-19 infection. A negative result may occur if you are tested early in your illness and your body hasn’t had time to produce antibodies to infection.

If this is the case, your healthcare provider will consider the test result together with all other aspects of your medical history (such as symptoms, possible exposures, and geographical location of places you have recently traveled) in deciding how to care for you.

It is important that you work with your healthcare provider to help you understand the next steps you should take.

This test is not yet approved or cleared by the United States FDA. When there are no FDA-approved or cleared tests available, and other criteria are met, FDA can make tests available under an emergency access mechanism called an Emergency Use Authorization. The EUA for this test is supported by the Secretary of Health and Human Service’s declaration that circumstances exist to justify the emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for the detection and/or diagnosis of the virus that causes COVID-19.

This EUA will remain in effect (meaning this test can be used) for the duration of the COVID-19 declaration justifying emergency of IVDs, unless it is terminated or revoked by FDA (after which the test may no longer be used).

If you are interested in having testing performed, contact the Clinic at their designated COVID-19 testing line, 964-0490, or email info@bghc.org. Include your contact information in the email.

 The Clinic will continue to monitor this fast evolving pandemic and will keep you informed with the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state recommendations and updates. Helpful links are listed on their website at bghc.org.

 


Boca Beacon - May 1, 2020 Edition

‘Safe, Smart, Step-by-Step’ plan phase one to be implemented May 4

 BY MARCY SHORTUSE

 

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Wednesday afternoon, April 29, that Florida would take “small, deliberate and methodical steps towards a more hopeful future” by declaring a “Safe, Smart and Step-by-Step” program, set to begin on Monday, May 4. Excluded from the program at this time are Dade, Palm Beach and Broward Counties.

We are now entering phase one of the plan. The major changes that will take place include the ability for restaurants to offer outdoor seating with six-foot distancing and indoor seating at 25 percent capacity, and all retail stores having the ability to operate at 25 percent indoor capacity. 

“If your business is open, it may remain open and should continue appropriate social distancing and sanitation measures,” DeSantis said. “Also, any activity or work that has been available under the previous order remains available. Businesses should adopt appropriate social distancing and sanitation measures.”Elective surgeries can resume as well. Medical services, including elective procedures, surgical centers, office surgery centers, dental offices, orthodontic offices, endodontic offices and other health care practitioners offices may fully re-open.

Lee County beaches were opened to the public earlier this week, including the ability to bring beach chairs and coolers. However, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection will announce a phased-in re-opening of state parks.Schools will continue with distance learning, and visits to senior living facilities are still prohibited. Bars, gyms and personal services such as hair salons are still closed, and the ban on short-term rentals is still in effect.

DeSantis said Florida residents are still supposed to limit interaction outside of their homes, and to wear a mask in situations outside the home where face-to-face contact is required. The elderly and those with underlying medical conditions – including chronic lung disease, moderate-to-severe asthma, serious heart conditions, cancer, renal failure and liver disease should continue to stay at home and away from people who they don’t come in contact with every day.

In other words, all social distancing measures, including those on the water if you are in a boat, still apply. DeSantis said that everyone should continue to avoid gathering in groups more than 10 as well.

Airport screening and isolation measures will continue as well. People are discouraged from traveling to places with a significant presence of COVID-19 cases, and non-essential travel is discouraged overall. People who must travel to and from places with a heavy presence of COVID cases should still quarantine themselves for two weeks. This includes people who take cruises. People who come to Florida are still required to quarantine.

Violation of this order is a misdemeanor and is punishable by imprisonment up to 60 days and a fine up to $500. The order is to be enforced by local and state law enforcement.

The original “Safer at Home” order, scheduled to expire on May 1, was extended by DeSantis to include days preceding May 4. It will expire at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, May 4.

Part of phase one, DeSantis said, is a plan that includes expanded testing beyond what has already been done. He said he recognizes there are many underserved communities in the state that will benefit not only from more drive-through testing facilities, but walk-up facilities as well.

“We want to be able to spot trends in the smaller, more isolated communities,” he said.

New drive-through testing sites in our area will be at the Sarasota/Manatee county line, and another at the Lee/Collier county line.

More laboratories to process test results will also be part of phase one. DeSantis said they will have the capacity to do 3,500 tests a week, and at some sites they will be able to get an answer within an hour. He specifically mentioned an RV testing laboratory that they currently utilize.

“We’re not only bringing the swabs, we’re bringing the lab,” he said. “We hope to be able to do that by the beginning of next week.”

DeSantis said contact tracing continues to be a vital part of keeping Floridians healthy, and that the method will be implemented even more in days to come. What this means is that if a person is found to be positive for the virus, healthcare workers will find other people who have come in close contact with the patient and test them as well.

The governor said he hopes that future phases in Florida’s “Safe, Smart Step-by-Step” plan will be implemented in weeks, not months. 

“When we proceed with our next step, the determination will be data driven and focus on facts,” he said. “If we see more cases where people are going into the hospital and it looks like a surge that our hospitals can’t handle, we have to take that into account. If we don’t see a flood of people coming into the hospital, that means we can progress.”

DeSantis warned that as more tests are given in the coming weeks, people should expect they could see a sharp increase in the numbers of positive cases.

“When you do that many more tests in a day, what will happen is, you will find people who are asymptomatic and positive, so you may see the total number of cases go up. Remember, we are trying to build a foundation for the state of Florida’s future. Right now fear is our enemy. We are a resourceful people with a can-do spirit ... we need to focus on facts, not fear.”

 


Boca Beacon - May 1, 2020 Edition

A message from the Clinic:

Putting the pieces together 

BY TOM ERVIN, MD

My family enjoys puzzles; hard puzzles. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has given a new meaning to the term “jigsaw.” 

Two to three months ago, all of us were faced with a puzzle. COVID-19 was all around us, but what was it?  Pieces of all shapes and sizes were being exposed. But was there a pattern? What colors were alike? How many pieces were there and how do they fit together? Were all the pieces present? Where to start?

When faced with a challenge or a new phenomenon such as COVID-19, we naturally try to understand it in terms we are already familiar with. COVID-19 is horrible. We react by associating it with sudden catastrophes such as war, plague, or some form of celestial disaster. That form of quick thinking may give us some relief. We think we are getting a grip on what we are experiencing.  

But are we?

Considering COVID-19 more slowly (thank you Pat Wallace and Daniel Kahneman), we should ask what else should we piece together to understand and assimilate what we are feeling and experiencing. Is there more to the story?  There usually is. 

Viruses have produced human illness for centuries. These bundles of DNA, or in this case, RNA, have also provided new genetic information which has contributed to our evolution as a species. Like genetic information in the human cell, virus RNA can mutate with its evolution. This virus has mutated in a way which has acquired a mechanism by which it can enter and proliferate within the human cell. COVID-19 is a Coronavirus (there are many) which can enter the human cell via a cell receptor particularly expressed on lung cells and vascular cells. This package of RNA, protein, and lipid membrane can then replicate causing disease. 

Our reaction to the virus’ presence results in lung damage, vascular damage and activation of abnormal coagulation. The virus is then shed into organ secretions allowing for human to human transmission. This process is not different from influenza or rhinovirus but the disease response may be more severe. Normally other Coronaviruses cause mild respiratory or intestinal illness. The exact reason for COVID-19’s pathogenesis is still an unidentified piece of the puzzle. 

As we speak, more pieces of the puzzle are being identified. Transmission pathways are now documented and can be placed together. Prevention actions via barriers, 70 percent alcohol cleanses or vigorous handwashing are being linked together with effect. Social distancing has allowed for the outline of the puzzle to be viewed. We all know that the puzzle will be easier to solve when the edges are complete. Clues as to the reasons for the tissue damage are allowing physicians to find new therapeutic strategies to help the ill. Those pieces of the puzzle that look the same will become distinct. 

This week, a new piece of the puzzle has been identified. Antibody tests, known as serologic tests, have been granted emergency use authorization (EUA) by the FDA. One such test will soon be offered by the BGHC to interested patients and their contacts if appropriate.

Serologic tests can document the presence or absence of specific immune response to COVID 19. Alone, the test cannot be used to diagnose or exclude infection with COVID-19. A positive test is very specific for anti-COVID 19 antibody (specificity), but antibodies may not be identified in all patients infected (sensitivity). A positive result, the presence of anti-COVID-19 antibodies, suggests that the person may have been infected by COVID-19.  A positive result may mean that the person is immune to COVID-19 reinfection. However, we know neither how complete this immunity is, nor how long it may last. A positive result may identify those recovered persons who can donate convalescent plasma to those suffering from severe COVID-19 infection. Nationally, these questions will be answered. Understanding the immune response will help identify the scope of the disease and hasten its control.  This test will be helpful, but the exact place for this piece in the puzzle is not yet clear. 

We are dealing with another natural event. The suddenness and huge scale of COVID-19 makes solving the puzzle even more demanding for us all. Doing the right thing collectively and encouraging our medical and political leaders to do the same will help us buy time to put all the pieces together. COVID-19 is a medical challenge which will be controlled by understanding all of its parts. Vaccines and specific antiviral therapies are critical pieces to put in place. Until then we will all need to solve what we can and do what we can without the few pieces yet unidentified.

Cover up, stay apart, practice wellness and emotional calm when you can.     

Dr Thomas Ervin is a physician at the Boca Grande Health Clinic.


Boca Beacon - April 24, 2020 Edition

 

Boca Grande shows up on COVID-19 tracker

BY MARCY SHORTUSE

case, or cases, of COVID-19 have finally showed up on the radar of the Florida Department of Health this week, as they are reporting “five or less” cases in the Lee County portion of the island on their dashboard. The addition of island cases showed up on Tuesday’s update. 

In order to protect anonymity, the computer results will only show “0” cases, “<5,” “5-9”, etc. No exact numbers are used. That means the island has less than five cases tested and confirmed right now.In the Charlotte County portion of the island there are still no cases reported. 

Meanwhile, since this time last week the state has 5,492 new confirmed cases, and 292 more deaths. Our total as of Thursday morning was 28,832 cases and 960 deaths.

Charlotte County is reporting 161 confirmed cases and 12 deaths, with 29 patients who have been hospitalized.

Cases in the 33981 area code (South Gulf Cove and the area of Charlotte County west of the Myakka and up to Sarasota County) went from 5-9 up to 11; the majority of Rotonda/33947 is still listed at five to 9 cases; Englewood’s 34224 shows less than five; five to nine cases in the Charlotte County part of 34224/Englewood; less than five cases in the 34224 Charlotte County area that includes part of Rotonda, Englewood and Grove City; and no cases in the 33946 area that is Placida and Cape Haze.

On Tuesday, April 21 Charlotte County Commissioners announced they would be re-opening their beaches on Monday, April 27. They said that parking meters will be temporarily disabled, and no public restrooms will be open. 

They also announced that sports fields and dog parks would open on Friday, April 24. No team sports or leagues are allowed to play, though.

Lee County beaches are still closed at this time. While some Lee County Parks & Recreation trails and amenities reopened Wednesday, April 22, none so far, though, are on the island. Most Lee County facilities remain closed, including most parks, ballfields, playgrounds, pavilions, recreation centers, beaches and restrooms.

For a list, visit leegov.com/covid-19. 

Lee County Library System services’ exterior book returns reopened beginning Wednesday at all branches for patrons to drop off checked-out materials. No fines will be assessed for items overdue because of library closures. 

On Saturday, April 18, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran recommended that all Florida public and private K-12 schools continue distance learning and keep campuses closed through June 3. Island School Head-of-School Jean Thompson said she was told that the school calendar would not change in that regard.

On Monday, April 20, local television news stations showed video of the previous weekend’s boating activity, which included at least 100 boats clustered together on the sand bar, and at Stump Pass State Park. Charlotte County Sheriff’s deputies did what they could to quell the crowd, and to move people along who were anchored on the beach at Stump Pass (all state parks along the shore are closed right now).

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife, you could be issued a fine of up to $500 or serve up to 60-days in jail for social distancing violations on the water.In a poll the Boca Beacon conducted online which asked, “Do you think the state’s non-essential businesses and schools should open on May 1, 85 said we should open back up, while 131 people said it is too early.