Here is what was happening on Vashon in a year beyond compare.

Here is what was happening on Vashon in a year beyond compare.

A Year Like None Other: A Pandemic Changes Everything on Vashon

In January, reports began circulating about an illness in China. Here’s what happened after on Vashon

Editor’s Note: This timeline was compiled from a review of Beachcomber articles published in 2020. It is incomplete, most specifically in detailing the heroic work of Vashon’s many social service agencies and organizations including Comunidad Latina de Vashon, Vashon Island Fire & Rescue, Vashon Food Bank, Vashon Youth & Family Services, Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, Saint Vincent DePaul Vashon, Vashon Senior Center, DOVE Project, Vashon Island School District, its nutrition program and its teaching and support staff, Vashon Care Network, Vashon Community Care, Vashon Island Growers, the Backbone Campaign, the Whole Vashon Catalog, the Vashon Chamber of Commerce and Voice of Vashon and its Emergency Alert System.

Our arts and cultural organizations, including Vashon Events, Vashon Island Visual Arts, VashonLIVE, Vashon Center for the Arts, Vashon Heritage Museum, Open Space for Arts & Community and Vashon Theatre also pivoted and persevered.

All these deserve their own timelines for their efforts throughout the pandemic.

It was a year like none other.

In early January, national and international news outlets began to publish troubling reporting about a new pneumonia-like illness in China. Wildfires raged in Australia. An impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate ended with Donald Trump’s acquittal on Feb. 5. A heated presidential primary season was underway. On Feb. 29, the first US COVID-19 death was reported in the Seattle area, though subsequently, it was found that earlier U.S. deaths could also be attributed to the disease.

Meanwhile, here is what was happening on Vashon.

January and February

Vashon’s new Health Care District approved a resolution requesting a loan of up to $1 million from King County to help the district sustain itself until early 2021 when revenue from a property tax levy would start to come in. Neighborcare informed the Health Care District that it did not intend to stay long-term at Sunrise Ridge clinic.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was celebrated on Vashon, with panels and talks at Vashon Center for the Arts as well as a march by Harbor School students.

A newly reformed Vashon-Maury Island Community Council geared up.

Vashon Center for the Arts chose Allison Halstead-Reid, its interim Executive Director, to officially helm the organization.

Visual arts exhibits, performances, book launches and concerts continued apace at VCA and multiple other island venues.

In sports, camaraderie continued off-season for rowing clubs on Vashon, and the Vashon Seals excelled in a winter swim meet. VHS wrestlers won a regional championship, and the VHS basketball team headed to the playoffs.

A robbery was reported at Vashon Euphorium.

Vashon’s Red Bicycle Bistro closed its doors.

Vashon Community Care completed a new memory care wing.

Voters said yes to a school district tech levy.

March

The first coronavirus-related headline, “Coronavirus on islanders’ minds,” appeared in the March 5 issue of The Beachcomber, chronicling shortages of canned goods, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and face masks at local stores.

By the end of the month, most of the newspaper’s staff had been furloughed due to a sharp drop in advertising in most of the newspapers owned by its parent company, Sound Publishing. Paul Rowley remained as the newspaper’s sole paid part-time reporter.

Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), under the broad banner of VashonBePrepared, was activated by Vashon Fire and Rescue Chief Charlie Krimmert on March 12 and issued its first full coronavirus-related situation report on the same day. The Chief ordered the normally internal Situation Reports to be distributed publicly. Situation reports were issued five days a week by the EOC until July 6, when they began to be issued three times a week. The frequency was reduced to twice a week on Oct. 6.

A cascade of cancellations of arts and community events was announced.

Edicts from King County and a stay-at-home from Washington Governor Jay Inslee shut down schools, churches, arts venues and non-essential businesses on Vashon.

Some restaurants remained open for take-out.

Vashon reported its first case, of a non-island resident who worked at Sawbones.

Layoffs rocked many island businesses and nonprofits.

In mid-March, customers still entered Vashon Thriftway unmasked, but signs warned customers to distance from each other (Kevin Opsahl Photo).

In mid-March, customers still entered Vashon Thriftway unmasked, but signs warned customers to distance from each other (Kevin Opsahl Photo).

Vashon Community Care instituted a wide range of safety protocols and restrictions, closely following governmental regulations which continued to evolve throughout the pandemic.

VashonLive launched what would become near-weekly music concerts streamed from various Vashon venues, which have continued throughout the year.

The West Seattle Bridge closed due to structural issues on March 23.

A group of island sewists began a project called Masks for Vashon, aimed at providing free face-coverings for every resident of Vashon, with donations accepted to sustain the project.

Bernie Sanders won Vashon’s vote in Washington’s presidential primary election, beating Joe Biden by a margin of 110 votes. Biden took the statewide vote.

By the end of March, a total of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported for Vashon residents.

Note: through this timeline, unless otherwise noted, case numbers per month come from the last situation report of each month featured online at VashonBePrepared.org/News/SitReps.

April

VashonBePrepared’s Emergency Operations Center continued its roll-out of an impressive array of pandemic responses by its related branches, including the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps; a COVID Relief Fund to assist local social service agencies, nonprofits and charities; mental and spiritual health services as well as financial help resources for businesses and the unemployed. For complete information about all of these programs and resources, which have continued unabated throughout 2020, visit VashonBePrepared.org/en-us/COVID.

Vashon Heritage Museum and Vashon Library join an effort to collect oral histories, letters, documents and other historical artifacts pertaining to the pandemic’s effects on Vashon, with submissions accepted at VashonBePrepared.org/Archives. Later in the year, Voice of Vashon also collects pandemic stories.

The Vashon Island School District administration and board mulled cuts to its ECAEP Dual Language Early Learning program but decided to keep the program intact after pleas from its teacher’s union, Comunidad Latina Vashon, and concerned islanders.

VISD provided free meals, delivered by school bus, to island families.

A structured program of online classes was established, with VISD providing Chromebooks and other resources to students for distance learning.

In April, Vashon emptied as islanders stayed home (Derrick Reed Photo).

In April, Vashon emptied as islanders stayed home (Derrick Reed Photo).

Ferries operated on a reduced, two-boat schedule, and Metro Bus canceled all-island service.

Testing arrived on the island, with one site run by Neighborcare conducting tests at Sunrise Ridge, and another opened by Vashon’s EOC and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) with the support of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) at Mukai Farm & Garden.

Due to grants from the CARES Act — in particular, the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) — staff returned to some island businesses and nonprofits.

Vashon Center for the Arts launched online programs including art exhibits, performances and video archives of past performances.

Vashon Chamber of Commerce, by this time staffed only by its all-volunteer board of directors, continued to support local businesses.

A new case cropped up in an island business, with one mail carrier at Vashon’s Post Office testing positive for the coronavirus and other workers quarantined after exposure.

By the end of April, a total of four islanders had tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

May

Furloughed reporter Elizabeth Shepherd returned to The Beachcomber, boosting the newspaper’s staff to two part-time reporters. Several islanders, including Susan Riemer, Phil Clapham, Bruce Haulman, Karen Biondo and Chris Beck jumped in, over the course of the next months, to contribute content. Local artist Steffon Moody became the newspaper’s political cartoonist.

On May 14, the Emergency Operations Center began to provide a weekly Situation Report compilation in The Beachcomber, supplementing distribution of the report via email through the Voice of Vashon Emergency Alert Service and Facebook.

Neighborcare confirmed it would not renew its lease at Sunrise Ridge, setting the stage for its departure from the clinic after its lease expired in October.

In May, island theater artist Mik Kuhlman created her first pandemic street performance, urging visitors of Vashon to mask up (Jeff Dunnicliff Photo).

In May, island theater artist Mik Kuhlman created her first pandemic street performance, urging visitors of Vashon to mask up (Jeff Dunnicliff Photo).

Vashon’s Health Care District circulated a request for proposal (RFP) to regional health care systems, seeking new operators for the Sunrise Ridge clinic in return for district subsidy. The RFP received no responses because of the coronavirus’ impact on systems’ finances and operations. Public Health Seattle King County issued a directive to residents to wear face-coverings.

Gov. Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order expired on May 31.

Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps was lauded in The New York Times in an article, “Remote and Ready to Fight Coronavirus’ Next Wave,” describing its testing and tracing strategies as a model for rural and tribal communities.

By the end of May, there were still four confirmed cases of COVID-19 for Vashon residents since the start of the pandemic.

June

Islanders streamed outdoors, masked and for the most part distanced, to protest the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans who died in police custody. Consecutive smaller demonstrations culminated in a 1,000-person march on Friday, June 12.

Veteran health care executive Eric Jensen was appointed Superintendent of the Vashon Health Care District by the District’s board of commissioners.

King County moved to allow both outdoor and indoor dining with reduced capacity for restaurants and other strict guidelines. Some restaurants, such as May Kitchen + Bar, Ruby Brink, and Gravy, remained open for take-out only. Others, including Casa Bonita, Hardware Store Restaurant, Patty’s Place, Sporty’s, Bramble House and Vashon Community Brewing Pub eventually invited limited diners inside. Camp Colvos remained an outdoor-only establishment but drew islanders and Vashon visitors to the middle of town.

In June, islanders lined one side of Vashon Hwy. in a 1,000-person march, responding to the call of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County for marches and a general strike throughout Washington State (Tom Hughes Photo).

In June, islanders lined one side of Vashon Hwy. in a 1,000-person march, responding to the call of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County for marches and a general strike throughout Washington State (Tom Hughes Photo).

Because it was 2020, there were also murder hornets: The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) positively identified an Asian giant hornet for the first time in the United States, discovered dead on a roadway near Custer.

Vashon High School’s Class of 2020 graduated in a drive-through ceremony after well-wishers gathered in small groups along Vashon Highway to cheer the graduates on as they progressed in a car parade to VHS to receive their diplomas.

Pride activities, celebrating Vashon’s large LGBTQ population, took place online.

Vashon Center for the Arts reopened its gallery.

The Medical Reserve Corps testing site moved to Open Space for Arts & Community.

By the end of June, Vashon had seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 for Vashon residents since the start of the pandemic.

July

Vashon’s 111th annual Strawberry Festival was canceled.

The board of Vashon Food Bank re-imagined its future after receiving a major charitable gift.

Vashon Center for the Arts opened its annual Summer Arts Fest, with limited capacity allowed in its gallery space. A mural project got underway at VCA’s Heron Meadow.

Vashon Theatre partnered with Open Space for Arts & Community to offer drive-in movies at Open Space, which continued until Sept. 27.

Open Space also launched a jobs program, !Attention! Artists at Work. Over the next months, the project invested $40,000 and commissioned 60 Vashon artists and artisans to make free public art, including a mural and distanced dance presentations.

Granny’s Attic, Vashon’s charity thrift shop, re-opened for in-store shopping at reduced capacity.

Vashon Island Visual Artists members offered art by appointment at island art studios.

Islanders celebrated Independence Day, without the traditional fireworks display at Quartermaster Harbor, but with a patriotic and whimsical car parade, organized by the Vashon Chamber of Commerce and streamed live by Voice of Vashon.

Vashon Theatre, in partnership with Open Space for Arts & Community, opened the Night Light Drive-In on the grounds of Open Space in July (Max Sarkowsky Photo).

Vashon Theatre, in partnership with Open Space for Arts & Community, opened the Night Light Drive-In on the grounds of Open Space in July (Max Sarkowsky Photo).

Some island churches, including Bethel Church and St. John Vianney Catholic Church, reopened their doors for either outdoor or indoor services, at reduced capacity. Others continued to hold services on Zoom.

Paintings popped up in town, memorializing Black lives lost to police violence. The works, created by The Remembrance Project, still remain in shop windows.

Masks for Vashon reported that it has distributed more than 7000 face-coverings to islanders, and VashonBePrepared continued its distribution of thousands of more masks provided by King County. Street-level distribution was by Vashon Social Services Network, U.S. Bank drive-through, and Vashon Chamber of Commerce.

In the summer, paintings of Black Americans who died in police custody pop up in numerous public places and stores on the island, courtesy of Vashon’s Remembrance Project (Liz Shepherd Photo).

In the summer, paintings of Black Americans who died in police custody pop up in numerous public places and stores on the island, courtesy of Vashon’s Remembrance Project (Liz Shepherd Photo).

Vashon Health Care District continued to search for a new operator for the Sunrise Ridge Clinic while agreeing to pay Neighborcare $440,000 to cover some of its reported losses until its planned departure. Neighborcare eventually agreed to stay at the clinic through October, rather than leave at the first of the month as previously planned.

Vashon Island School District Superintendent Slade McSheehy announced that school would begin online again in the fall.

COVID-19 struck at Chase Bank, with two employees, one of whom was an islander, testing positive for the coronavirus.

By the end of July, there had been 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 for Vashon residents since the start of the pandemic.

August

Joe Biden won the Democratic nomination as its candidate for President and chose Kamala Harris to be his running mate.

Vashon Senior Center received a four-year grant from King County for a total of $415,000 to implement a new neighborhood-based program to offer assistance to seniors.

A self-guided walking tour, “Main Street Vashon: A Walk through History,” was presented by Vashon Heritage Museum in shop windows throughout the business district of Vashon.

In the summer, Mik Kuhlman Productions raised awareness of testing on Vashon (Tom Hughes Photo).

In the summer, Mik Kuhlman Productions raised awareness of testing on Vashon (Tom Hughes Photo).

Four teenage girls — Maarten Ribalet-Coesel, Raena Joyce, Lucca Hansen and Selene Dalinis. — representing Vashon Sisterhood, were elected Vashon’s unofficial mayors.

Vashon School District announced it would replace its semester schedule with a quarters-based calendar for online school for middle school and high school students.

Comunidad Latina de Vashon called for equity in online education, requesting additional programs of support from Vashon Island School District and more input into programs affecting Latino students.

Vashon Health Care District began formal discussions with Sea Mar Community Health Centers to take over Vashon’s clinic following Neighborcare’s departure.

By the end of August, there had been 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 for Vashon residents since the start of the pandemic.

September

Vashon School District resumed online, with very limited in-person learning for preschool students and those with special needs.

Vashon’s Backbone Campaign launched a Time-Banking program for islanders to exchange services based on time, instead of money.

King County Metro Bus service returned to Vashon.

A suffocating blanket of wildfire smoke from massive fires in Oregon and California descended over Vashon for more than one week. Residents were advised to stay indoors as air quality remained at dangerous levels.

Vashon Island School District’s nutrition program, led by Chef Lisa Cyra (foreground) has continually provided meals to Vashon families throughout the pandemic (Tom Hughes Photo).

Vashon Island School District’s nutrition program, led by Chef Lisa Cyra (foreground) has continually provided meals to Vashon families throughout the pandemic (Tom Hughes Photo).

VashonBePrepared launched a suicide prevention campaign to support the mental health of islanders, burdened by months of struggle and isolation stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vashon’s annual Passport2Pain bicycle race pivoted twice — first because of the pandemic and then because of the smoky air — to make it possible for individual and small groups of riders to track their times remotely.

Vashon High School’s Class of 1955 conducted their first Zoom reunion.

A new theatre company, Vashon Repertory Theatre, opened its first production, a set of radio plays called “Home,” broadcast on Voice of Vashon and VCA.

Vashon Community Brewing Pub closed its doors, promising to reopen in the spring.

By the end of September, there had been 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19 for Vashon residents since the start of the pandemic.

October

Vashon’s Green Ginger Chinese restaurant closed its doors.

Local nonprofit Burn Design Lab continued its work to help manufacture a decontamination box for N95 masks.

Langland Dental Associates on Vashon closed briefly after an employee there tested positive for COVID-19. No community spread resulted from the case.

Local girls, women and their allies filled downtown sidewalks for a Women’s March, led by Vashon’s unofficial mayors.

Vashon Park District committed to saving Tramp Harbor Dock.

VISD partnered with Vashon Youth & Family Services to open a family resource and academic support center, with a primary focus on low-income families and Vashon’s Latino community.

Sea Mar signed on as Vashon’s health care provider, with Health Care District Commissioners promising that the provider would receive a $1.5 million subsidy from the district to run the Sunrise Ridge clinic through October of next year.

In September, island photographer Ray Pfortner captured eerie photographs of Vashon landmarks and beaches, smothered by wildfire smoke (Ray Pfortner Photo).

In September, island photographer Ray Pfortner captured eerie photographs of Vashon landmarks and beaches, smothered by wildfire smoke (Ray Pfortner Photo).

Vashon BePrepared and the EOC promoted seasonal flu-shots, providing an online directory of flu shot providers.

Candidates launched their bids for the Community Council board.

Student-athletes at Vashon High School and McMurray Middle School returned to the fields for practices and workouts, with strict pandemic precautions.

Halloween was celebrated at a haunted drive-through at Camp Burton. Vashon Chamber of Commerce also promoted alternative ideas for celebrating the holiday.

Cases rose on Vashon. By the end of October, there had been 30 confirmed cases on Vashon since the start of the pandemic.

November

An employee of Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie tested positive for COVID-19, and the business closed briefly, but no community spread resulted.

The Beachcomber reported that in September, a firefighter at Vashon Island Fire & Rescue had tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in the quarantine of several additional staff members.

Islander Jenn Taylor launched a successful effort to bring a one-year supply of Narcan, which reverses opioid overdoses, from the department of health to dispense on Vashon.

Vashon-Maury Island Preschool celebrated its 51st anniversary on Vashon, while it conducted an all-outdoor program of classes.

The Biden/Harris ticket won the presidential race decisively, with 306 electoral college votes and 7 million more popular votes than Donald Trump. Biden/Harris received 87.5% of Vashon’s vote.

Unofficial Mayors Raena Joyce and Selene Dalinis lead a Women’s March in October (Elizabeth Shepherd Photo).

Unofficial Mayors Raena Joyce and Selene Dalinis lead a Women’s March in October (Elizabeth Shepherd Photo).

King County cases of COVID-19 skyrocketed, as officials urged residents not to travel or gather with those outside their households for Thanksgiving. New restrictions closed indoor dining, gyms, and movie theaters, including Vashon Theatre, which had only re-opened earlier in early November. The measures also reduced capacity in stores.

Sea Mar started offering telemedicine on Nov. 2 and officially opened their Sunrise Ridge Clinic on Nov. 9.

The Vashon Health Care District passed a new budget, implementing a property tax levy of .588 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — a move that jeopardized funding for the Vashon Park District. The Vashon Fire District also approved a budget establishing its maximum levy rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, further eroding funding for Parks.

Two entire pods of endangered orcas, both J and K, visited Vashon’s shores.

Vashon’s local firefighter’s union filed a grievance against Vashon Fire & Rescue’s management, charging unfair pay practices for some firefighters forced to quarantine due to the case of COVID in the district in September.

By Dec. 1, cases of COVID-19 had more than doubled on Vashon since the previous month, with a total of 64 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Vashon residents since the beginning of the pandemic.

The EOC informed the community that family and workplace exposure (and travel in combination with those two factors) had driven the spike. Before Thanksgiving, the EOC urged islanders not to travel or gather with those outside their households, and afterward, warned islanders who had done so to take extra precautions so as not to expose other people.

December

More businesses on Vashon were struck with cases of COVID-19, with employees of Engels Towing and Repair and The Sugar Shack testing positive. Both businesses closed briefly as a result.

World AIDS Day was marked by live-streamed panels and performances organized by Peter Serko, Chris Boscia, Cate O’Kane and others.

The Vashon Food Bank provided food distribution for Vashon Island School District after a kitchen worker at the district tested positive for COVID-19, and other staff members were quarantined.

Masks for Vashon leader Kerri Grace distributes the group’s masks outside of its headquarters, at the VARSA office near Thriftway. By December, the group had distributed 10,200 face coverings on Vashon (Tom Hughes Photo).

Masks for Vashon leader Kerri Grace distributes the group’s masks outside of its headquarters, at the VARSA office near Thriftway. By December, the group had distributed 10,200 face coverings on Vashon (Tom Hughes Photo).

Vashon Events reported the busiest year ever for its free musical instrument lending library.

Vashon Center for the Arts compiled a video celebrating 20 years of performances of The Nutcracker Ballet for its dance students.

A new effort of Open Space for Arts and Community’s jobs programs, aimed at local writers, was announced.

Additional restrictions were imposed by Gov. Jay Inslee limiting indoor gatherings as cases soared throughout the state.

Vaccines for COVID-19 were approved and the first vaccinations on Vashon took place among staff and residents of Vashon Community Care on Dec. 23. Sadly, on Dec. 24, a resident of VCC tested positive for the coronavirus after a stay in an off-island medical facility — the first case of COVID at the long-term care facility.

Dr. John Osborn, co-coordinator of Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps, was one of Vashon’s first residents to be vaccinated, as he serves in a Seattle hospital emergency room where he frequently helps COVID patients. The photo on the right shows him in full PPE while on duty in the ER. Under the leadership of Osborn and Dr. Ina Oppliger, the MRC increased its volunteer numbers from 15 to 70, with many of them working at Vashon’s MRC COVID-19 testing site (Courtesy Photo).

Dr. John Osborn, co-coordinator of Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps, was one of Vashon’s first residents to be vaccinated, as he serves in a Seattle hospital emergency room where he frequently helps COVID patients. The photo on the right shows him in full PPE while on duty in the ER. Under the leadership of Osborn and Dr. Ina Oppliger, the MRC increased its volunteer numbers from 15 to 70, with many of them working at Vashon’s MRC COVID-19 testing site (Courtesy Photo).

Tommy Sudduth became the first islander to die with COVID-19 as a contributing factor.

Cases spiked again on Vashon early in the month, then settled.

Masks for Vashon reports the distribution of 10,200 masks to islanders.

By year’s end, disbursements by the EOC’s COVID Relief Fund, as of the end of December, exceeded $440,000. A total of 19,825 hours of volunteer time had been logged by all the various teams at VashonBePrepared.

Volunteers winterize Vashon Medical Reserve Corps testing site at Open Space for Arts & Community (Allen de Steiguer Photo).

Volunteers winterize Vashon Medical Reserve Corps testing site at Open Space for Arts & Community (Allen de Steiguer Photo).

As of this week’s situation report in The Beachcomber, there have been 82 cases of COVID-19 in Vashon residents since the pandemic began.


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