Editor’s Note: The following is an updated version of a COVID update from VashonBePrepared, sent by email to community members on Friday, Nov. 12. The original email is available to read in Spanish and English, at tinyurl.com/yan39zeh.
Big turnout for school vaccination campaign — more coming this weekend
About 250 children were vaccinated last week at the Vashon Island School District campus, mostly third through fifth graders and some sixth graders — a big turnout from the 9- through 11-year-old crowd. Another large group of kids in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and up through second grade will get their own vaccination clinics this coming weekend. The age range for this group is five years and older. The clinic setup has been designed to comfort this youngest group of children who currently are eligible for vaccination.
Children must be registered for this weekend’s vaccination session by 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18 to reserve space and to provide the parental permission required by state law. The online registration system is at tinyurl.com/kidsk2. Children may also be registered by completing a paper form available at the school offices or Vashon Pharmacy.
Vaccines are free. All children, including those who are not School District students, are eligible for the Vashon Pharmacy school vaccination program. In addition, pediatric vaccinations are available at many healthcare providers and pharmacies around the Seattle-Tacoma area.
If you have questions about the safety of pediatric COVID vaccination, there’s a thorough question and answer webpage available from Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC): bit.ly/PHSKCkidvax.
The Vashon Pharmacy school vaccination program has been made possible through a collaboration between the School District, VashonBePrepared, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and the Vashon Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
Vashon passes major milestone: 90% fully vaccinated
The vaccination rate on Vashon has shot above the 90% level for all Vashon residents aged 12 and older. The King County average full vaccination rate for those aged 12 and older is 72.2% and nationally the rate is 58.7%. That means Vashon is almost 18 points more vaccinated than the King County average, and more than 31 points more vaccinated than the national average.
Stomp on the dreaded holiday travel spike
COVID statistics for Vashon have been good news the past few weeks, but for how long? The case rate has dropped in the last several weeks, remaining in the moderate rank for COVID infection spread risk. However, Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) experts are wary of the coming holidays full of family gatherings, parties, and travel outside the region.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, a significant number of island COVID cases have been traced to exposures during travel,” said Dr. Jim Bristow, co-coordinator of the MRC and the primary collector of statistics. “It’s usually not getting on the plane or driving in a car that’s the problem. It’s what people do when they get there. We understand that everyone wants to give big hugs to aunts and cousins, all the people we haven’t seen for ages. But these lovely moments can expose you to COVID, and they have repeatedly brought disease back to the island. Our most dangerous COVID spike was last year when our total number of cases doubled in just a few weeks, and almost all of that was connected to holiday travel for family gatherings. We’re not saying don’t go, but rather think about how to keep yourself and your family safe.”
For family gatherings and travel, the MRC recommends:
• Limit your exposure in the week before you go by avoiding gatherings, especially large ones and monitor the disease rate at your destination to judge whether it’s safe to go.
• When traveling, take all the usual precautions: mask, distance, wash hands frequently.
• Ideally, only gather indoors with people you know are vaccinated. When you get back, have a household quarantine period to protect your island community, ideally for 10 days. This is especially important for unvaccinated people whose risk of getting COVID is five to ten times that of vaccinated people.
• Get tested at the end of your family quarantine to make sure you are COVID-free.
• Get some home COVID test kits to keep on hand. If you get a sniffle or any other symptoms, take the quick and easy home test. Ideally, take the test twice over a period of several days to guard against false negatives. Using home test kits may give you some peace of mind if both tests are negative. And, if you get a positive, you will be able to get care and isolate right away to keep from making the pandemic worse for Vashon.
Dr. Bristow and his MRC colleagues note that there is plenty of COVID on Vashon right now, even without holiday travel. About 4% of all Vashon COVID tests are currently coming back positive. Although vaccination helps protect you and your family from serious disease and hospitalization, it doesn’t provide complete protection. Healthy people can still get sick and transmit COVID, even though fully vaccinated.
Traveling overseas? Or to Canada?
The United States opened its borders this week to vaccinated travelers who are citizens of other countries. That means a flood of foreign visitors has started coming across the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. The media has been filled with photos of long-separated overseas family and friends arriving in the U.S.
If you are a U.S. citizen, international travel has been possible for a while but it’s important to check the requirements of your international destination because each country has local requirements for testing and vaccination. Be sure to assess the risk of traveling by checking COVID rates for your destination when making your decision on where and when to go.
If you are returning to the U.S. by air, in addition to proof of vaccination, you must provide proof of a negative viral test prior to boarding your flight. There are some provisions for travel by unvaccinated U.S. citizens. You can get details and check current U.S. re-entry requirements at the CDC travel site at bityl.co/9YF7.
If you are headed for a Canadian land entry point, you must register with ArriveCAN. The registration will walk you through providing proof you are vaccinated and proof of the required laboratory PCR negative test. No test is required by the U.S. as you drive back across the border to get home.
Vashon Community COVID Statistics
• 236 = Total COVID cases for Vashon residents since the pandemic began
• 119 = New cases since early July when the Delta variant hit Vashon
• 7 = Patients hospitalized since the pandemic began
• 4 = Deaths since the pandemic began
• 90.5% = Vashon residents (aged 12+) fully vaccinated (more than 95% have 1st shot)
For more resources and information, visit VashonBePrepared.org. Sign up at tinyurl.com/4smk364m to receive email updates from the group, and/or visit VashonBePrepared on Facebook.