Dog days of summer bring burn ban, planning ahead for smoke

News from VashonBePrepared | Aug. 4 edition

King County Fire Marshal Chris Ricketts has issued a Phase 1 fire safety burn ban for all unincorporated areas of King County, including Vashon.

Barbecues and small recreational fires are okay as long as a list of seven safety requirements are followed. But all other outdoor burning is banned, including the burning of yard waste. Get full details on the safety requirements for the allowed burning at

Plan Ahead: Get Ready for Wildfire Smoke

It’s hard to predict the years when wildfire smoke will drift into Vashon’s normally clean airspace, but judging from the last few years the odds are high that we may be choking on smoky air again this year. VashonBePrepared and the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps suggest you get ready now to protect your health. We have some tips for you.

You Probably Already Own a Mask. Well-fitting N95 or KN95 masks provide some of the best protection against fine smoke particles that make breathing more difficult. If it’s smoky, you’ll want to mask up outdoors to protect your health. Stock up now if you are running low on those high-quality masks you bought for COVID protection.

Check the Filters on Your Air Purifier. In addition to helping you fend off the COVID virus, portable air purifiers with HEPA filters can significantly reduce smoke particles inside your home. But, chances are, you haven’t replaced the filters since you got your air purifier early in the pandemic. If your filters are due for replacement, replace them now to maximize effectiveness before smoke season. You may want to get spare filters now to make sure you have them for the replacement due date.

Make Your Own Smoke Filter. If a store-bought air purifier isn’t in your budget, tape a high-quality furnace air filter (MERV 13 or better) to a box fan. Get one early while they are still available. Get get step-by-step directions at

Assess Your Household Risk. Some people are more likely to experience negative health effects from smoke and they should take extra care. That includes people who have asthma, COPD, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections (such as COVID). Pregnant women, infants, young children, and seniors are also more sensitive to wildfire smoke. People who work or live outdoors are more exposed when the smoke blows in. Consider this: If smoke has made someone feel unwell in the past, it will likely make them feel unwell again.

Check Your Stock of Medications. If you are one of the at-risk people we just listed, you want to make sure you have a good stock of inhalers and other medical supplies in case it gets smoky and local store availability runs low.

Keep Track of the Smoke. You can monitor smoke conditions, including smoke forecasts, for your area. Install one of the many smoke monitoring apps on your phone or bookmark a smoke monitoring website on your computer. For example, the EPA provides the AirNow website and smartphone app, at

County Drops COVID transmission risk level

The CDC says King County COVID transmission risk has eased up a bit and is presently at the yellow/medium risk level. The rating considers case rate, hospital admission rate, and the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients.

COVID Reinfections: Will You Get It Again?

More than eight out of 10 Americans have had COVID at least once, according to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington School of Medicine.

Think about that number. Why hasn’t it delivered on the dream we once had that the pandemic could be ended by achieving so-called herd immunity? Especially when we consider that more than 80% of our region’s residents have also had the full primary vaccination series and more than half of them have had at least one booster?

Fact: The chances are growing that a significant percentage of us will get COVID more than once. A combination of factors is at play for COVID reinfections.

• The virus that causes COVID changes all the time. If your COVID infection was from the BA.2 subvariant, the virus has already moved on. The current wave of the BA.5 subvariant is the most infectious to date because it has evolved to evade the immunity you may have against earlier versions of the virus.

• Immunity wanes over time. That’s true for both immunity gained from vaccination and immunity gained from having had COVID. For example, your chances of reinfection are smaller if your most recent bout of COVID was in the last few months rather than a year ago.

• Immunity has never been 100% protective against infection, but immunity provides significant protection against severe disease and death. You can improve your level of protection by keeping up-to-date on your vaccinations. Boosters enhance immunity, and two boosters provide more protection than one against getting very sick.

• COVID is well on its way to becoming endemic, a natural but unfortunate progression of some infectious diseases. What does endemic mean? It means a disease becomes an ongoing part of the public health landscape, different from the sudden explosion of COVID that first appeared two years ago. Although COVID currently has a much higher hospitalization and death rate, seasonal flu is an example of an infectious disease that has become endemic, always there every year. Endemic does not mean over. More than 400 people are still dying every day of COVID in our country.

As we have said in previous editions, do a personal risk assessment before you take chances on being exposed. Keep in mind, as we’ve explained above, being vaccinated or having had COVID does not coat you with some sort of impermeable shield of immunity. Consider your personal health situation and the health of others in your household and place of work. Think about risk factors such as age.

So, what to do? Wearing a high-quality mask and social distancing are as effective now as they were before we had a vaccine, so use these tools to protect yourself and those you care about.

Latest Vashon COVID Statistics

Source: Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) and Vashon Emergency Operations Center. New and historic case counts shown here reflect test results from the public health reporting system, which does not capture results from home tests.

12 = New cases reported since the last weekly report (29 new cases in 14 days).

1,078 = Total reported COVID cases for Vashon residents since the pandemic began.

21 = 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 vaccine series, compared to 86.5% of the King County 5+ population.

68.1% = 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 1.7 times more likely to get COVID, seven times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID and nine times more likely to die of COVID.

For more public health and safety updates, and emergency alerts, visit or visit the group’s Facebook page. Sign up at