Editor’s Note: Read COVID updates by VashonBePrepared in Spanish and English at tinyurl.com/yan39zeh.
Vashon COVID Monitoring: Steady Stream of New Cases
Roughly one per day: That’s the pace of new cases being reported for Vashon in the data dashboard maintained by Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC). That’s far, far better than the explosion of new cases in January during the most severe days of the Omicron spike. However, although the conditions have improved significantly, it’s important to remember that reduced COVID does not mean zero COVID. In managing your personal risk exposure, you may want to keep in mind:
Cases are rising in many regions of the US. That includes King County. In the last few weeks, the CDC rating of community risk of transmission for King County has moved up from green/low risk to yellow/medium risk.
The widely-read Johns Hopkins University daily COVID situation report and other sources strongly suggest a familiar spread pattern has developed. In every previous COVID spike, an increase in cases in Europe has been followed by a bump in the northeastern U.S., before a new wave spreads to our region.
Of the ten states with the highest case rates, seven are in the northeast. For example, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health recorded a 50% increase in new cases in 10 days and decided to reinstate its citywide indoor mask mandate.
Since home testing has become so widely available, many positive tests are not being reported through official channels and are thus not reflected in the PHSKC dashboard. Vashon’s case count is almost certainly higher than it appears.
You can help Vashon MRC to monitor COVID levels on the island by calling the helpline if you have a positive test: (844) 469-4554.
Can’t It Just Be Over? BA.2, XE & More
The BA.2 subvariant of Omicron is now responsible for 86% of new infections nationwide, taking over from the original Omicron strain and the earlier Delta variant. Unfortunately, BA.2 has been estimated to be at least 30% more infectious than the initial Omicron strain, which was already much more contagious than Delta.
That’s important to know because people are relaxing their COVID safety precautions as mandates end and many people decide they have had enough of masking and other safety steps. The result is increased spread, because of the combined effects of a more infectious virus subvariant combined with reduced protective measures.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been tracking new strains such as BA.4 and BA.5, in addition to XE. So far these new forms of the coronavirus have not spread widely in the United States, but they have shown up in Africa and Europe.
For the second year in a row, U.S. life expectancy has dropped. The latest CDC estimate shows life expectancy has dropped to 76.6 years for Americans, a loss of half a year from the year before. That’s the lowest life expectancy recorded for Americans in 25 years.
COVID Treatment and Prevention: Two Bright Spots
COVID Treatment: “The effectiveness of new treatments just hasn’t received the attention it deserves,” said Jim Bristow, co-leader of Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). Paxlovid is extremely effective at preventing serious COVID illness and death if started within 5 days of the onset of COVID symptoms. It really pays for people at higher risk for serious illness due to COVID to do 2 or 3 home tests or a PCR test if they have even mild symptoms that might be COVID.” If you have a doctor’s prescription, Paxlovid is available at Vashon Pharmacy free of charge for those over age 65 and for younger patients with significant COVID risk. If you have COVID, but don’t have a doctor, call the MRC helpline at (844) 469-4554 and MRC can make a referral.
The fraction of COVID cases resulting in hospitalization or death has fallen dramatically over the past year. That’s largely a result of vaccination. Compared to vaccinated individuals, unvaccinated patients who get Omicron have much higher hospitalization and death rates. When combined with the availability of good treatments, this should make the vaccinated population feel a lot safer than last year. The availability of a second booster provides an opportunity to extend protection for at least a few months and it is recommended for those over 65 and those with elevated risk for severe disease.
Health Insurance & Dental Care Assistance
Dental care, health insurance, and food security can be major challenges for people with limited resources. Here are two ways for you or someone you know to get help.
You can give Vashon a smile at free dental day. Vashon’s Dr. Marc Langland and his staff will be volunteering to provide free dental care and cleanings on Friday, June 3rd. It’s free for people with low income and without private dental insurance. The deadline to sign up is Friday, May 6th. Call Hilary Emmer at 206-463-7277 to register.
For assistance with health insurance, King County will have a representative on the island on Wednesday, April 20th, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm at the Vashon Library. You can also apply for food stamps and the Orca Lift reduced Metro fare program. Call Miguel Urquiza at 206-477-6965 or 206-491-3761, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Help Wanted: Corporal Radar for Vashon EOC
Who remembers Radar in the TV show and movie M*A*S*H? Corporal Radar O’Reilly was the glue that held the 4077th MASH unit together at their Korean War outpost.
That’s what we need for the Vashon Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a Corporal Radar. In fact, we need a whole team of Radars. Creative problem solvers who can track down what we need during an emergency. A front loader or bulldozer? A location for a vaccination clinic? Fuel for generators? Copy paper? Cots? And how will we get it to the island, a tough challenge all by itself even if you find what we need!
Our Vashon EOC Radar types will be people who not only enjoy solving problems but also like working on a team to help the island in times of need. Computer skills are essential (Radar was a company clerk, after all). The folks for this job may not like doing the necessary paperwork, but they’ll be good at it. They’ll be calm in a crisis and self-starters ready to help out.
Starting Pay: It’s a volunteer gig that will earn you the gratitude of 11,000 island neighbors. No need to bring your own teddy bear and you can have all the grape soda pop you can drink.
Interested? Schedule a chat with EOC Manager Rick Wallace. Just send an email with contact information and some notes about yourself to Volunteer@VashonBePrepared.org. Mention Radar in the subject line!
Latest Vashon COVID Statistics
Source: Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) and Vashon EOC. PHSKC adjusts statistics from time to time as data is refined during its quality control processes. These statistics may not include all recent Vashon cases, due to the lag in posting of data to PHSKC. Home testing data may also be missing because there is no comprehensive system to collect it. Hospitalizations may include some patients who tested positive for COVID on admission for other reasons.
• 797 = Total COVID cases for Vashon residents since the pandemic began.
• 8 = New cases reported since the last weekly report (17 new cases in 14 days)
• 12 = Patients hospitalized since the pandemic began.
• 5 = Deaths since the pandemic began.
• 92.9% = percentage of Vashon residents age 5+ who have completed the primary series, compared to 85.4% of the King County 5+ population.
• 64.3% = percentage of Vashon residents age 5+ who have added a booster shot to their completed primary series.
• 59.1% = percentage of Vashon residents aged 5 to 11 who have completed the primary series.
• 76.5% = percentage of Vashon residents aged 12 to 17 who have completed the primary series.
For King County, the PHSKC dashboard for the last 30 days says people who are not fully vaccinated are:
• 1.1 times more likely to get COVID.
• 8 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID.
• 31 times more likely to die of COVID.
For more resources and information, visit VashonBePrepared.org.
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