Editor’s Note: Read COVID updates by VashonBePrepared in Spanish and English at tinyurl.com/yan39zeh.
The number of new COVID cases on Vashon swelled to a level four times higher than the daily count just three weeks ago.
In addition, three Vashon residents were hospitalized in the last two weeks. There have been eight exposure events in one week involving Vashon businesses, an island school, a funeral, and a performing arts organization. Vashon MRC doctors believe this trend might signal the beginning of another COVID infection wave on Vashon.
The acceleration in COVID cases began in late March. In less than one month, the average daily case count bumped up from almost zero to one case per day. Now, in the last two weeks, Vashon’s case count has shot sharply upward according to the official data dashboard maintained by Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC). The seven-day total reached 29 this week. A total of 15 new cases were reported on one particularly severe day.
Infection levels have increased throughout King County. King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin announced that the county has moved up from low (green) to medium (yellow) in the CDC community transmission risk rating.
Dr. Duchin urged everyone to regard the new community risk level as a “yellow traffic light” for COVID vigilance. “We’re issuing no new recommendations or requirements at this time,” Duchin said. But he suggested residents should consider going back to wearing masks in congregate settings and crowded indoor spaces.
The current uptick in cases is actually much higher than indicated in the official dashboard counts.
Medical Reserve Corps: Many cases going unreported
As reported in previous editions, the official COVID case counts for the last few months are only the tip of the iceberg. A new analysis by the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) shows the incidence of COVID in our community is significantly higher than it might appear from official Public Health dashboard tools.
Recently, the PHSKC dashboard has been reporting only about half the cases as the Vashon MRC has been tallying.
“Even the MRC tally is likely an undercount,” said MRC testing and vaccination coordinator Dr. Jim Bristow. “We monitor the Public Health dashboard, the School District dashboard, the Pharmacy testing, and cases reported through the MRC helpline, but we know we are still missing some number of cases.”
The undercounting stems from the wide availability of free rapid COVID tests from many sources, including the federal and state governments. That has been extremely valuable because once people know they have COVID they can take precautions against spreading the disease. However, there’s no unified system for getting home-test positives into the official public health reporting, hence the undercounting.
Islanders can help Vashon MRC continue to monitor COVID levels on the island by calling the helpline if they have a positive test: (844) 469-4554.
New testing option at school district
Vashon Island School District has opened up its campus testing program to everyone. You do not need to be a student, and adults are welcome. It’s as simple as driving up to the test site during open hours, although it’ll go faster if you register online first. To register in advance and expedite the testing process fill out two online forms. You can get to the two forms on the School District testing page, bit.ly/VISD-testing. The tests being offered are rapid antigen (like the home tests), not the more sensitive PCR tests that must be processed at a lab.
The holiday COVID blip effect
Every major COVID spike on Vashon has coincided with a holiday. The current uptick in cases is no exception. This time it’s a combination of Easter, Passover, and school spring break.
“It happens after every holiday. Families socialize and travel and become exposed to COVID,” said Dr. Zach Miller, an infectious disease specialist volunteering with MRC. “It has been a particular problem lately because so many people are so tired of the pandemic. They just want to stop worrying about safety precautions. Unfortunately, even though all of us are ready to be done with COVID, COVID isn’t done with us.”
UCLA Study: Long COVID in 30% of patients
A UCLA study reports that about 30% of studied COVID patients developed long COVID. The peer-reviewed study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The most persistent long COVID symptoms were fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of the sense of smell.
Because there is no official, widely accepted definition for long COVID, other peer-reviewed studies have returned a range of results. A UC Davis study, for example, reported that 10% of COVID patients develop long-haul symptoms, and a Penn State study estimated half of the patients struggle with long COVID. The high rate of long COVID is an important reason to get vaccinated and boosted since studies suggest vaccination helps to prevent long COVID in addition to severe acute disease.
CDC: More than half of Americans have been infected
A CDC statistical sampling program estimates that nearly 60% of the U.S. country’s population has been infected by the coronavirus, most likely a result of the enormous spike in cases when Omicron hit in the January of this year.
The sampling program tests for non-vaccine antibodies in around 70,000 blood samples each month from cooperating labs around the country. The incidence of COVID was strongest among children and adolescents, where around three-fourths of the blood samples showed evidence of COVID exposure, compared to around one-third in older adults.
CDC experts point out that research is still divided on the degree of protection conferred by so-called natural immunity compared to vaccination, and it’s not clear how long the protection might last. They also point out that the concept of herd immunity may not apply to COVID since the virus mutates so often and in such dramatically different ways.
COVID ranks in top three causes of death … again
For the last two years, COVID has been a top cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease and cancer. That’s the result of annually published statistics from the CDC for 2021.
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.
23 = New cases reported since the last weekly report (44 new cases in 14 days).
841 = Total COVID cases for Vashon residents since the pandemic began.
15 = Patients hospitalized since the pandemic began.
5 = Deaths since the pandemic began.
93.1% = percentage of Vashon residents age 5+ who have completed the primary series, compared to 85.6% of the King County 5+ population.
65.0% = percentage of Vashon residents age 5+ who have added a booster shot to their completed primary series.
For King County, the PHSKC dashboard for the last 30 days says people who are not fully vaccinated are one times more likely to get COVID, 5 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID and 24 times more likely to die of COVID.
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