COVID-19 cases hit island workplaces

Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie to open Nov. 12; the Vashon Island School District counts a case.

Reporter’s note: This story was updated the day after the print edition of The Beachcomber went to press, and differs in several details from the article in our Nov. 5 print edition.

Most notably, it adds news about a new case connected with Chautauqua Elementary and McMurray Middle School.

It also adds information about the case at Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie: all staff members who worked at the same time as the infected employee have now tested negative. Additionally, the re-opening date of the Roasterie is now Nov. 12, to allow for employees to be tested a second time before returning to work.

Last week, The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie announced, in concert with Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center and Medical Reserve Corps, that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19. And on Wednesday, Nov. 4, Vashon Island School District notified islanders, via email, about a case connected with Chautauqua Elementary and McMurray Middle School.

This news adds to the shortlist of cases experienced in recent months by staff members of other public-facing island businesses, including a case announced by Langland Dental Associates in early October. In that case, the business also coordinated with the EOC and Vashon Medical Reserve Corps to quickly inform the broader public about the case. No community spread occurred in that case.

Another two cases of COVID, among the staff at Vashon’s Chase Bank branch, were reported by The Beachcomber and confirmed by the EOC in July.

Last week, The Beachcomber also learned about a confirmed case of COVID among the staff of the Vashon Fire and Rescue, which resulted in the quarantine of seven additional staff members in September.

Following is more information about the cases at the school district, the Roasterie, and the fire district.

Vashon Island School District

On Wednesday, Nov. 4, Superintendent Slade McSheehy announced, in an email to district parents and others in the community, that Vashon Island School District had been notified of a positive case of COVID-19 connected with Chautauqua Elementary and McMurray Middle School.

McSheehy, reached by The Beachcomber, said this was the first case of COVID-19 associated with the district.

His email to district parents and others in the community said:

“The individual who tested positive is safely isolating at home. Seattle King County Public Health is informed and the close contacts of the individual were notified and advised as appropriate. Anyone who has not been directly contacted but is concerned about possible exposure should visit Washington State’s Department of Health website at doh.wa.gov for guidance on ‘What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19).’

“We have completed a thorough investigation regarding the confirmed case. Cleaning and disinfecting of the exposed location have been completed as the safety and well-being of our students and staff members is always our highest priority. Please note that all information, including the name(s) of ill persons, shared regarding any Public Health investigation is confidential in order to protect patient privacy.

“COVID-19 is a virus that can be spread by everyone at all ages, even without being ill or manifesting any known symptoms. As such, and as we strive to continue to provide continuity in the education of our students, we encourage everyone to consistently continue to observe the following precautions, even when feeling great, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19: Wear a cloth face covering when around others; maintain safe physical distance from others; wash hands and use hand sanitizer frequently; monitor your body temperature; stay home if you are sick, even with mild symptoms.”

A COVID-19 fact sheet for families, teachers and staff was attached to the email.

Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie

Following a member of its staff testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, Oct. 29, The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie has announced a series of precautionary safety steps, taken in collaboration with VashonBePrepared, the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

For the general public, the only exposure resulting from the positive case would have taken place on Saturday, Oct. 24.

The MRC is asking for anyone who was served at the Roasterie’s barista counter on that day to call the testing site helpline, at 844-469-4554, to be screened for possible testing.

Only those who were served at the barista counter on Saturday, Oct. 24 should call. If the line is busy, callers should leave a message, so that the MRC can return their calls as soon as possible.

All Roasterie staff members who worked at the same time as the positive-testing employee were tested on Friday, Oct. 30, and have been asked to quarantine for a full 14 days. As of Wednesday, Nov. 4, all of the staffers who worked at the same time as the infected staff member have tested negative.

Out of an abundance of caution, employees will be tested a second time prior to returning to work after their quarantine period.

The Roasterie will be closed to the public as of Friday, Oct. 30, with a reopening set for Thursday, Nov. 12.

During the closure, the space will be deep cleaned with procedures that go well beyond the usual safety guidelines from the state Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle and King County, according to the EOC.

Minglement Marketplace, a grocery store in the upper half of the building, will remain open, as staff members there were not exposed.

In a statement to the community posted on the Roasterie’s door, Eva, the owner of the Roasterie and Minglement, said that her business would continue to work closely VashonBePrepared.

“We believe safety is the most important thing, and we know you all understand that,” she said. “Please keep Vashon safe. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Maintain social distancing. Thank you for your support and kindness. We will see you soon!”

Vashon Fire District

At a Sept. 30 Fire District Commissioners’ public meeting held on Zoom, Chief Charlie Krimmert announced that a first responder at the station had become symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-September.

The staff member, who does not live on Vashon, has subsequently recovered and has returned to work.

At the time of the staff member’s positive test result, the district took the precautionary measure of requiring seven additional staff members (four career, two part-time and one volunteer) to quarantine themselves and be tested for COVID. All tested negative and returned to work after their 14-day quarantines.

At the same meeting, Krimmert also said that another staff member had been exposed to COVID through a patient in August, but had subsequently quarantined and tested negative.

The Beachcomber did not attend the Sept. 30 commissioners’ meeting, but instead was told last week, by a community member, about a possible COVID case and subsequent quarantine of Fire District staff members in September.

Reached by phone by The Beachcomber last week, Krimmert confirmed the report and gave more details of the timeline and details of the incident.

The infected staff member, he said, received a positive diagnosis of COVID on Sept. 21. Before the diagnosis, the staff had last worked at the station on Sept. 12, Krimmert said. He added that the staff member had shown symptoms on Sept. 14 and was tested on Sept. 19 at an off-island facility.

Krimmert also said the staff member had gone on an aide call and assisted a member of the public on Sept. 12, but had worn full PPE during the call, including eyewear, gloves and an N95 mask.

Because of the protective equipment worn by the staff member, and because a transport of the patient to a hospital was declined by the patient, it was determined that there was no public exposure to the patient, Krimmert said. He added that the patient was not informed about the positive case.

Krimmert also detailed ongoing COVID precautions taken by firefighters living at the station, including mandatory masking and physical distancing.

Asked by The Beachcomber why the positive case and subsequent quarantines were not made more broadly known to the public, and why the positive diagnosis had not been reported to the EOC, Krimmert said the case had never been a secret.

“It was just normal course of business for us,” he said. “We thought we nailed it down and we did investigate that call and consciously thought the public was not exposed.”

The Beachcomber reached out twice, by email, to Fire Commissioner Chair Brigette Schran-Brown as well as commissioners Camille Staczek, David Hoffman, Candy McCullough and Andrew Johnson, for comment on the matter. None of the commissioners responded.


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