As islanders, it can be unsettling when the “outside world” comes slipping into our daily lives.
We don’t have to battle traffic, navigate large crowds or stand in a grocery line with strangers. We’ve made a conscious decision to lead a slower-paced, rural existence that is very separate from the rest of the world.
I like to joke that we aren’t really part of the United States or Canada — we are our own country governed by a love of the Salish Sea and each other.
Novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19, slowly but surely weaseled its way into our communities. In the past two weeks, nearly all public events have been canceled; some students have chosen to take classes via video conferencing; business owners began discussing closure plans; and the county dedicated itself to daily online coronavirus updates.
As we’ve watched every nearby county announce its first coronavirus patients, it became clear that life is going to continue to look a little different for a while.
The World Health Organization declared the disease a global pandemic on March 11. This has significant implications for all of us.
According to CNBC, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus “scolded other world leaders for failing to act quickly enough or drastically enough to contain the spread.”
“We can not say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” he said. “Some countries are struggling with a lack of capacity. Some countries are struggling with a lack of resources. Some countries are struggling with a lack of resolve.”
While we still urge you to not panic or behave erratically, we must prepare ourselves for the implementation of drastic measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
• President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, freeing up $50 billion in federal funds for states’ and local communities’ outbreak response.
• Gov. Jay Inslee has instructed all school districts in the state close for six weeks — at least until April 24.
• On March 16 Gov. Inslee ordered all bars, restaurants, entertainment and recreation facilities in the state.
• Gov. Inslee banned gatherings of more than 250 people in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.
• Washington Health Plan Finder is offering a limited 30-day special enrollment for qualified people who do not have insurance in response to the number of COVID-19 cases in the state. Enrollees must apply by April 8 and coverage will begin April 1. For more information visit https://www.wahbexchange.org/new-customers/who-can-sign-up/special-enrollment-period/. Interested parties may also call the Customer Support Center between 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday at 1-855-923-4633; TTY: 1-855-627-9604; or a local certified broker or navigator.
• An experimental treatment called remdesivir by American biotechnology company Gilead is being tested on patients in Washington state. The drug was originally created to treat Ebola. Officials from both the CDC and WHO have said it’s one of the most effective — if not the most effective — promising antiviral to fight the new strain of coronavirus. The test subjects are selected using a “compassionate use” provision, meaning their illness is life-threatening.
• The CDC granted Washington state $14.2 million to help combat the coronavirus outbreak.
• Washington legislature devoted $125 million out of its “rainy day” fund in response to the outbreak.
• The Orcas Island Community Foundation has launched the Community Emergency Response Fund, with a $10,000 seed donation from the foundation. OICF will work with a team of community members to recommend distributions from the fund. Applications for organizations in need will be available online this week. Donations can be made at www.oicf.us, mailed to PO Box 1496, Eastsound, WA 98245, or dropped off at 44 Urner St. In addition, OICF is expanding the Community Connections program to include a volunteer registry to help meet the need for additional volunteers for projects, deliveries or support. Community members can call 360-376-6423 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up. OICF will share the list with organizations that need volunteers to support their efforts.
The county is doing a great job of informing the public and the press of relevant coronavirus information at https://www.sanjuanco.com/.