Medical Center presents COVID testing and response plan

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 5:00pm

Block Island Medical Director Dr. Tom Warcup, who had been asked by the Town Council to create a COVID-19 testing plan, presented his outline to the council at its meeting on Wednesday, May 20. Dr. Warcup presented outlines for three different groups — island residents, business employees, and day trippers — but there was overlap to each approach.

“If you are a resident or patient of the health center, an appointment will be offered so we can discuss your concerns and decide the best course of action and treatment. If an employee or employer is concerned about someone in a business, please communicate with us at the health center, and we can give guidance and potential testing appointments, and please activate your own COVID action plan,” Warcup said. “Tourists who are feeling ill, consider returning home to confer with your primary health care provider, call Department of Health, or call us here.”

Warcup said the Medical Center currently has about 300 tests on hand, and 200 nasal swabs, as well as rapid tests.

Warcup identified the three stages of his response plan in detail for the council, depending on the position of the individual in the community:

Island residents:

“For individuals that are residents and turn out to be COVID negative, treatment decisions would be based on clinical assessments in the moment. If you’re COVID positive, which under the Abbott (rapid test) we would know in approximately 15 minutes, we can then make some decisions on your symptomatic or asymptomatic nature, based on your clinical appearance, combined with your personal, medical and social situation. We would either make some recommendation to quarantine at home for 14 days, we would be notifying Department of Health for contact tracing and further guidance,” said Warcup. “It’s our opinion that that is solely the responsibility of the DOH. We would take direction on contact tracing from the DOH. They stated they have achieved 92 percent of contract tracings within 24 to 48 hours, so we would certainly rely on their guidance. We would obviously ask the individual for contact precautions and isolate from family if that’s possible. If they are not clinically well or do not have a social situation to quarantine at home, then we would transport to the mainland medical facility for either potential hospitalization or evaluation. The transport would be determined based on E.M.A. and clinical assessment,” said Warcup.

Employers or employees:

“For individuals that are employees or employers, if the individual is COVID negative, treatment decisions will be based on the clinical assessment at the time. If they are COVID positive, symptomatic or asymptomatic, still applies on how they clinically look, combined with personal, medical and social situations. We would ask to quarantine based on the company’s COVID action plan, and we would notify D.O.H. for contract tracing, or again transport to the mainland,” said Warcup.

Day travelers:

“For individual day travelers: if you are negative, same treatment strategy applies. If COVID positive, we will relay that information to DOH for guidance on next steps, and we would transport to the mainland for potential hospitalization and/or recovering at home, and communicating with” the town’s emergency management agency. 

Warcup also said there could be a driveby testing on the island similar to those on the mainland.

“Attached to the plan for the Town Council to consider is that if we wanted to enact a larger testing scenario we would have a station for rapid Abbott testing in a way that helps up preserve the personal protective equipment of the facility, as well as give rapid determination of the COVID positivity. If anyone is COVID positive within that process, they would be pulled out and the other algorithms would flow, which is we would have a clinical assessment and then reapply the dynamics we just mentioned. If they’re negative they will move along the line, much like an assembly line process that can allow us to process a larger number of people by protecting our P.P.E.”

Members of the Town Council felt that Warcup had mapped out a workable plan.

Councilor Chris Willi noted “this is one of the easiest things I have looked at.” He asked when the document would be made public to the community.

“I will have it out for distribution at your direction,” said Warcup. 

“That’s great… a comment I make with all these things is that as we move forward, we make it available as many places as you can so anybody can find it and look at it,” added Willi.

Dr. Warcup added the document would be posted to

“I know when this goes public, there will be many questions,” said Second Warden André Boudreau. “Dr. Warcup will get you your answers, but I appreciate this document. I think this is the document the town has been waiting for some time,” said Boudreau.

Mopeds on the road

Boudreau asked if the council had to continue discussion on moped and rental bicycle licenses. First Warden Ken Lacoste and Willi recused themselves from the discussion.

Boudreau asked Town Solicitor Kathy Merolla “Kathy, can you explain to us what [business] category mopeds are under right now?” asked Boudreau.

“They could be considered retail, that was the closest category I could find,” said Merolla.

“We are allowing retail establishment to open, so could you offer guidance as to why we would need to keep this in our ordinance?” asked Boudreau.

“From my understanding, it was the last time this came up for discussion and the emergency ordinance was redrafted, there were some issues that were going to be addressed regarding the Rescue Squad, which I guess are no longer there. That’s my understanding on why the council kept it in effect,” said Merolla.

The Block Island Volunteer Rescue and Fire Department had previously written to the council asking it to continue the moped rental license suspension as part of the town’s emergency ordinance.

“I think one of the questions we had was on power washing, steam cleaning, protocols for washing and cleaning and where does that waste water go… as long as the cleaning protocols are within the town regulations, I don’t know how we can not allow a retail business to operate given that other retail businesses are.” said Councilor Sven Risom.

Kern mentioned he had business plans from all five operators, with mentions of steam cleaning and pressure washing of the vehicles.

Boudreau asked if two people on a moped would create an issue from the state, in terms of social distancing.

“It’s going to depend on what the Governor’s final order is on Friday,” said Merolla. She noted social distancing still applies to moped businesses.

“I think the two people should be fine. I don’t see why we wouldn’t let the moped operators operate,” said Risom.

“I’m kind of feeling the same way about that, because they are retail, and I think that they are a retail business. We have to give them their licenses back,” said Boudreau.

“I’ll make a motion to amend the emergency ordinance under section 409 b of the charter to deal with the emergency ordinance, and to remove the restriction on the licenses cited on section 7 of the emergency ordinance a: all permits are suspended during the period of this emergency ordinance, bicycles, motorized bicycles, motorized tricycles, and motor scooters and licenses… I want to strike that effective Wednesday May 20, 2020,” said Boudreau. Risom seconded the motion made by Boudreau.

Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick noted to The Block Island Times in an email, “under the ordinance the moped rentals may run today if they wish.”