Note: This article is an updated version of a COVID Update from VashonBePrepared, sent by email to community members on Sunday, Oct. 3. The original email is available to read in Spanish and English at tinyurl.com/7zdzbav5. Additional reporting has been added here by Elizabeth Shepherd.
Vashon set a new record for new cases last week — 24 new cases in a single week. Worse yet, the data dashboard at Public Health — Seattle & King County logged eight new cases last Thursday and another eight last Friday. That means Vashon equaled the previous one-day record for new cases, not just once, but two days in a row.
That brings the total of cases on Vashon to 197, as of Monday, since the pandemic began. However, the Public Health dashboard does not yet include additional new positives found in testing on Friday and Monday. That means Vashon was at 200 total cases, as of late last week. The trend suggests that the number will continue to rise.
Also, another significant exposure event took place last week at Chautauqua Elementary School, in a fifth grade-classroom attended by a student who tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, Vashon Island School District (VISD) contact tracers designated 11 students and one staff member as close contacts of the infected student. This latest case brings the total number of exposure events in the schools to eight, all taking place in a four-week time span.
As a result, Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps has partnered with the district to provide pop-up testing sites four times following exposure events, testing approximately 160 individuals including students, their family members, and school staff.
Why this avalanche of new cases? It’s a combination of factors:
■ The Delta variant is much more contagious than the original virus.
■ Students went back to classrooms but everyone 11 and younger is unvaccinated. So far this school year, 22 students have tested positive. Many got COVID at home or in community situations, but there has been some spread of infection inside classrooms and two classrooms have been closed and those students are attending school remotely.
■ People are still traveling and COVID levels outside our region are very high.
■ Large gatherings like memorials and weddings contribute to the problem.
More new cases than last winter
An analysis of the last month of data shows the new case curve now equals the severe COVID spike that hit the island last winter in the months before the vaccines became available.
Medical Reserve Corps asks islanders to take special care
“The Delta variant spreads very quickly and widely, so there’s a lot of COVID in our community right now,” said infectious disease expert Dr. Zach Miller, an MRC volunteer. “Vashon MRC asks all islanders to work together to prevent ongoing COVID spread. If you are not fully vaccinated, do it now. It’s easy to get the shots. Wear masks indoors and outdoors, especially in large group gatherings. And if you develop symptoms, even mild ones, get tested. Disease is often mild in vaccinated individuals, but they can spread COVID to others at risk and that’s what we’re most trying to avoid.”
“Everyone needs to understand that COVID isn’t over,” said MRC volunteer Dr. Ina Oppliger. “Last winter our island came together to protect ourselves during a similar major viral spike. It’s time again now for that island community spirit — wearing masks, avoiding crowds, getting tested when any symptom appears or after travel. I know we can do this. We have done it before.”
Oppliger, too, urged all islanders to become fully vaccinated.
“Our wonderful vaccines prevent illness that puts us in the hospital or kills us,” she said. “They protect us only partially, however, from becoming infected and then passing the virus to others. Let’s get to work and get this virus back under control for ourselves and for our vulnerable neighbors and friends.”
Stock your own home test
Rick Wallace, manager of Vashon Emergency Operations Center, urged islanders to have home testing kits on hand.
“Home test kits, such as the rapid antigen Binax test, are pretty easy to get online,” Wallace said. “If you keep a few tests at home, and your student has the sniffles, you can do the test very quickly. If the test result is negative and the school nurse says okay, your child can get back to school faster than waiting for a lab test. That will help our work by reducing the testing load because we are already at full capacity.”
Current community COVID statistics
■ 196 confirmed positive cases since the pandemic began, up by more than 80 cases since the Delta variant hit in early July.
■ Six people have been hospitalized and three Vashon residents have died to date.
■ Current case rate is just over 75 per 100,000 population per week, and CDC ranks that as “substantial” spread of infection, the second-worst category. King County’s case rate is 125 per 100,000, which ranks in the “high” category. Vashon would need to fall below 50 per 100,000 to achieve “moderate” infection spread danger, and below 20 per 100,000 to get to a “safe” level.
■ More than 95% of Vashon’s 12+-year-old residents have their first vaccine dose, and 86% have the full vaccination course.
For more resources and information from VashonBePrepared, visit VashonBePrepared.org. Sign up at tinyurl.com/4smk364m. To receive email updates from the group in English and Spanish. VashonBePrepared can also be found on Facebook, by searching the name, typed as one word.