Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of VashonBePrepared’s COVID Update community email sent on Friday, Jan. 14. The original email, which contained mental health tips (see page 6) from Wren Hudgins, PhD, member of Vashon Medical Reserve Corps and a disaster mental health expert, can be read in Spanish and English at tinyurl.com/yan39zeh.
The Omicron COVID spike on Vashon accelerated to an even higher rate over the last week.
More than 219 new Vashon cases were reported by Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) over the two-week period ending on Friday, Jan. 14.
The new infections account for 39% of all Vashon cases recorded since the beginning of the pandemic – that’s 39% of all cases in just two weeks out of the entire 96 weeks since the Vashon Emergency Operations Center was activated.
Sadly, two new hospitalizations were reported on King county’s data dashboard, bringing Vashon’s pandemic total of hospitalizations to 11 as of Jan. 14. King County’s data dashboard does not separate vaccinated versus unvaccinated in the hospitalization count, but its “COVID-19 Outcomes by Vaccination Status” page shows that unvaccinated patients face a much higher risk of hospitalization or death. (See “Latest Vashon COVID Statistics” at the end of this article.)
Despite a very high rate of infection among younger age groups, a few hopeful signs suggested that the pandemic response efforts over the last few weeks have been helping.
“Vashon Island School District announced it had 69 new student cases in the first week back to school. That means, even though school-age kids make up less than 20% of Vashon’s population, they made up more than half of the new cases in our Vashon community,” said Dr. Jim Bristow, MRC Co-Coordinator.
“MRC remains concerned that school-age children may be driving the increase in Vashon cases,” Bristow continued. “Infected students are required to stay home for at least 5 days after getting COVID, but exposed students are not required to stay home. Given that almost all of Vashon cases are the result of vaccinated people giving COVID to other vaccinated people, and that people are infectious for at least 24 hours before they develop symptoms, it’s highly likely that exposed school-age kids are getting and spreading COVID. It’s vital that the MRC and VISD keep testing, that everyone get vaccinated and boosted, and that all of us stay on this and not drop our guard,” urged Dr. Bristow.
The MRC urges Vashon residents to exercise all possible caution by getting vaccinated and boosted, masking up when indoors around people from other households, avoiding indoor events and gatherings, and getting tested if symptoms or exposures occur.
“At this point in the spike, it’s safest to assume that everyone we meet may be infected,” Dr. Bristow said.
Testing Demand Higher Than Ever
The demand for tests from Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) continues to increase.
Calls to the MRC Helpline for PCR testing and information have seen higher volumes than ever before, so callers may experience delays as the team of about a dozen MRC volunteers works diligently to respond to messages.
Results from the Seattle lab are also experiencing continued delays, as lab demand has risen throughout the region. Test results can be expected after 24 to 48 hours; MRC staff will call with results as soon as they are in. Call the MRC Helpline at (844)
Vashon Pharmacy is also seeing increased demand for testing appointments. Supplies of the new rapid PCR test ran out recently. Tests and masks are periodically in short supply due to ongoing national supply-chain issues.
Both Vashon Pharmacy and MRC use the trailer in the pharmacy parking lot to administer tests. The Pharmacy offers a range of COVID tests on the west side of the trailer, and MRC administers PCR tests for people with symptoms or known exposures on the east side of the trailer. Signs point patients to the correct location.
See “Which Test Do I Need,” below for information about how to choose the right test for your situation and when to seek a test.
Vaccine and Booster Options
Large numbers of Vashon residents are vaccinated and boosted, and those numbers inch up each week. While mask-wearing is again being emphasized as a key protection against the spread of infection, vaccinations and boosters are still critically important for reducing the risks of serious illness or death. People age 5 and older are eligible for vaccinations, and people age 12 and older are also eligible for booster doses.
School-based vaccination clinics for District and non-District students 12 and older were offered on the Vashon Island School District (VISD) campus this week. The clinics were a collaborative effort of Vashon Pharmacy, VISD, and VashonBePrepared partner groups MRC, CERT, and EOC. The clinics were well-attended.
Vashon Pharmacy continues to offer COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters by appointment for all eligible age groups. Due to declining demand, the pharmacy has paused mass booster clinics at the Methodist Church for now. Patients who make appointments for primary-series or booster doses will be vaccinated inside the pharmacy. It is estimated that to date, more than 7,500 boosters have been administered at the pharmacy and the pharmacy’s volunteer-supported mass booster clinics.
Sea Mar Vashon and Vashon Natural Medicine are additional local resources for receiving vaccinations. Please call ahead to find out if an appointment is needed.
Drop-in vaccinations are becoming more available on the mainland for everyone age 5 and older. A new drop-in vaccination clinic opened recently in Auburn, adding to multiple clinics already open around Seattle, King County and the region. To locate a vaccination clinic by zip code or city, see Washington Department of Health’s vaccine locator website at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov.
Which Test Do I Need?
Different tests are required or advised for different purposes, and the choices can be bewildering. All types of tests are seeing high demand during the current spike in infections, and supply chain challenges continue, so finding an at-home test has been difficult. The Biden administration has stated they will make 500 million more at-home rapid antigen tests available in January. Further information will be shared in this newsletter as soon as it is available.
Below is a summary of the various tests and the best times to use each type of test.
• PCR test – this is the gold standard, with the most reliable results (fewest false positives or false negatives). Vashon MRC uses this test for people with symptoms or known exposure to a person with COVID-19.
• A supervised rapid PCR test (results in 30 minutes) can be used before travel or a medical procedure. Costs range from about $125 to $250 from private providers.
• A take-home/mail-in PCR test can be purchased at retailers. Prices vary and availability has been sporadic, but supply is expected to improve in the coming weeks, with the progress of the Biden administration’s effort to make 500 million more at-home tests available.
• Antigen test – this type of test is available for purchase at retailers and works most reliably on people experiencing symptoms. See the graph below for the best timing for taking this less sensitive type of test.
The high level of infections occurring during the current spike means that if we experience symptoms or a known exposure, we should mask up with a high-quality, snug-fitting mask, including indoors around family; increase ventilation; avoid public places; and get tested if any symptoms arise.
Note: Details are still being finalized, but beginning on Saturday, Jan. 15, people with private health insurance coverage or on a group health plan who purchase an over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are expected to be able to have some or all of the costs of those tests covered by their plan or insurance. Insurance companies and health plans are now required to cover eight over-the-counter at-home tests per covered person per month. In addition, tests ordered or administered by a healthcare provider will continue to be free. Tests purchased prior to Jan. 15 will not be covered.
Vashon COVID Statistics
Source: Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) and Vashon EOC. Note: These statistics, valid as of Jan. 18, do not include all recent Vashon cases, due to the lag in posting of data to the PHSKC COVID-19 dashboard.
551 = Total COVID cases for Vashon residents since the pandemic began.
128 = New cases since the last weekly report (190 new cases in 14 days)
11 = Patients hospitalized since the pandemic began.
4 = Deaths since the pandemic began.
93.7% = percentage of Vashon residents age 12+ who have been fully vaccinated, compared to 86.5% of the total King County 12+ population.
64.2% = percentage of Vashon residents age 12+ who have their booster doses
62.3% = percentage of Vashon residents age 5 to 11 with first doses of vaccine (vax number may lag)
For King County, the PHSKC dashboard says unvaccinated people are 2.4 times more likely to get COVID, 11 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID and 15 times more likely to die of COVID.
For more resources, visit VashonBePrepared.org. Sign up at tinyurl.com/4smk364m to receive email updates from the group, and/or visit VashonBePrepared on Facebook.