COVID-19 news remains good in Island County

The news about COVID-19 in Island County is remarkably good, but public health officials urge continued vigilance.

Public Health Director Keith Higman said the county is continuing to test asymptomatic residents, this week focusing on such vulnerable populations as long-term facility residents and people staying at a crisis housing site.

More than 2,600 people without symptoms were tested under a sampling project. The first round was focused on specific groups, like heath care workers, and done as a partnership between Island County Public Health and WhidbeyHealth. The second round was a larger random sampling of community volunteers.

Nobody tested positive.

Only one resident, a Camano Island person, has been found positive for the virus within the last two weeks. That person was tested in another county, Higman said.

The fact that an Island County resident tested positive doesn’t necessarily mean the person contracted the virus in the county, Higman said.

“That’s part of the complexity of the data,” he said.

Nobody with the virus is hospitalized at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center, he pointed out.

From a public health perspective, the public health director said, it’s all good news.

“It doesn’t mean you can go to a rock concert with 20,000 people and feel safe,” he said. “It means we can cautiously move forward.”

While there have been headlines across the nation about patients getting bills for COVID-19 testing, that won’t happen to people who were swabbed by Island County.

Higman said the county is ultimately on the hook to pay for the testing. It has a contract with Northwest Laboratory in Bellingham. The company will bill insurance companies, but it’s unclear if they will pay.

“We’re hearing mixed messaging,” he said, adding that Tri-Care has said it would not pay for COVID-19 testing for people without symptoms.

It costs $125 each for the lab work alone. The county also agreed to pay WhidbeyHealth administrative costs for its part in the first round of testing.

County commissioners agreed to use CARES Act money to fund testing that insurance companies won’t pay for.

Restaurants, offices and other businesses are opening this week after the state granted the county a variance to begin Phase II reopening under the governor’s Safe Start rules.

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