Virus statistics: Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) reports 109 positive cases of COVID-19 on Vashon since the pandemic began, an increase of one case since the last edition. Three Vashon residents have died from COVID-19 related illnesses.
VASHON VACCINATION AVAILABILITY
The overview: Vaccinations have been more available this week, with at least one new shipment of vaccine doses arriving. The high-volume drive-through vaccination site re-opened, although the Sea Mar clinic was not expecting to be open for the first doses of vaccine.
Overall vaccination progress: Although there are flaws in the vaccination data dashboard published by Public Health — Seattle and King County (PHSKC), it does serve as a gross indicator of progress. Vashon’s vaccination rate remains higher in comparison to other areas of King County, but the other communities have made big improvements in the last week. That may help make more vaccines available to Vashon. The dashboard vaccination rates for Vashon remain little changed since the vaccine was not replenished for the last two weeks.
Vashon Pharmacy: The Pharmacy received a significant shipment of vaccines this week, enough doses to cover a 530-dose backlog for those needing second doses, about half of which had to be rescheduled from last week. In addition, some first doses were available.
Sea Mar at Sunrise Ridge: The Sea Mar clinic did not expect to conduct first dose clinics this week.
Wide-open May 1: Washington State Department of Health (DOH) officials confirmed all residents aged 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. DOH has accelerated its tiered approach to vaccine eligibility, to meet President Biden’s directive that states make the vaccine available to all adults by May 1. Washington DOH will continue with the phased rollout through April, to assure the most vulnerable people receive vaccinations sooner. On March 31, 1.5 million additional Washingtonians became eligible for vaccination with the opening of Tiers 1b3 and 1b4, adding to the 2.8 million people who were already eligible.
Honor system: Also as of March 31, Phase Finder is no longer required by COVID-19 vaccine providers to verify eligibility. In a statement, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said the importance of getting as many vulnerable community members vaccinated as fast as possible is a priority before eligibility opens on May 1 to all people 16 years and older. Removing Phase Finder speeds up the process and reduces barriers. DOH said it trusts most people will continue to do the right thing and wait their turn.
COVID outbreak at high school: Four Vashon High School students have tested positive for COVID-19. According to the School District, the infections did not result from participation in school activities, and the four positive cases are isolating at home. An additional six Vashon High School students are in quarantine because they were exposed to the infected students; five of the six were exposed in connection with outdoor school activity this week. As noted in the announcement by school Superintendent Slade McSheehy, it is a complex incident and the investigation continues. Superintendent McSheehy indicated that some of the affected students were transported by ferry and bus with other students, adding to the complexity of the situation. The announcement from the District includes cautions to everyone that this underlines the importance of practicing COVID safety, including masking, distancing, and hand washing. (Editor’s Note: See detailed coverage of the outbreak on the front page of this edition.)
Back to school: The School District brought fourth and fifth graders back to classrooms with a hybrid learning model this week, joining the pre-K through third graders who returned to classrooms a few weeks ago. Vashon High School students will come back after spring break in April.
Closer together, a possibility: The School District says it continues to study a potential change in the social distancing requirement for in-school classes. Governor Inslee has announced that Washington state is moving the social distance requirement between students from six feet to three feet, consistent with the revised guidance from the CDC.
Jobs improvement on Vashon: State Employment Security Department data shows that Vashon’s unemployment has dropped about 10% over the past three weeks, from 378 to 342 active claims. If you need assistance filing claims for unemployment benefits or have questions on eligibility with the COVID-19 relief programs, the Chamber of Commerce’s Ask the Expert is available for free consultations and will guide you on how to proceed with filing for unemployment, PPP loans, or tax returns. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (206) 200-3236.
Keep vaccine card to yourself: The state Department of Health strongly advises you to save your vaccine card and not share it on social media. When you get a vaccination, you should receive a vaccination record card. This card is not only proof that you got your shot, but it can also help you keep track of your vaccine information to ensure you get the correct second dose. When it’s time for your second dose, remember to take your vaccine card with you! Your provider will update it with the new information. Keep in mind that your card has personal information on it that scammers can use to steal your identity, so don’t share photos of your vaccine record card or post it on social media.
Business grants: The Washington State Department of Commerce opened applications for Working Washington Grants: Round 4 on March 29. Applications submitted by April 9 will be considered. Business owners can find information about the program and a link to the application portal at commercegrants.com.
Disaster loans extended: The Small Business Administration announced extended deferment periods for payments on all disaster loans, including the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, until 2022. Borrowers will resume their regular payment schedule with the payment immediately preceding March 31, 2022, unless the borrower voluntarily continues to make payments while on deferment. It is important to note that the interest will continue to accrue on the outstanding balance of the loan throughout the duration of the deferment.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): It has been more than a year (386 days) since the EOC and other elements of our island emergency response coalition were activated in response to the pandemic emergency on March 12, 2020. Our four operational priorities were put in place shortly after activation, established by the Incident Commander, Fire Chief Charlie Krimmert, and approved by the VashonBePrepared Board. Those priorities continue to be health, food security, housing security and economic recovery.
Vashon COVID Relief Fund: The 14th round of funding to local organizations has been completed by the Relief Fund. The March funding comes to just over $40,000 and primarily went for food and housing security. Organizations supplying community services in this round include the Food Bank, the School District nutrition program, Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, St. Vincent de Paul Vashon, the Senior Center, Vashon Youth and Family Services, DOVE Project, and the VIGA farm bucks program. The Relief Fund has disbursed nearly $347,000 to local social service and economic recovery agencies, plus additional funding for the Medical Reserve Corps test site and drive-through vaccination program. To date, the Fund has purchased:• 3,380 bags of groceries
- 21,246 meals
- 209 cases of housing assistance
- 477 family counseling cases
Drive-through vaccination: The EOC, MRC and CERT reopened the Vashon Pharmacy drive-through vaccination site this week, thanks to a new supply of vaccines after a couple of weeks without. Recent lessons learned will be applied to the reopening, based on the experience of a successful response to a patient fainting episode at the drive-through site last week. A rigorous team after-action process suggested a few improvements in case something similar happens in the future (e.g. improving the speed of access to a patient in a car, identifying needle phobia issues, effective staff response assignments, etc.).
Vax access: An effort to vaccinate homebound patients has started coming together. A list of eight homebound people, unable to come to a vaccination provider, has been compiled. Plans are being worked out on logistics, procedures, and staffing. Additional details are being firmed up with island social service agencies who have helped identify the homebound patients.
Flawed data: An EOC workgroup has solved the mystery of flawed data in the Public Health dashboard’s reporting of vaccination progress. The dashboard has been showing a 115% vaccination rate for Vashon’s residents aged 65+, an impossible number. The unfortunate effect has been a perception among vaccine allocation decision-makers that Vashon has vaccinated all possible islanders aged 65 and over. As a result, allocations of vaccine were going to areas which showed a greater need. It turns out that the population estimate provided by the state Office of Finance was severely under-reporting Vashon’s residents aged 65 and over. This led to the 115% vaccination rate, which actually should be in the mid-80% range. It is not yet clear if the dashboard information will be corrected or other steps are taken to correct perceptions.
Volunteers: Hours contributed by volunteers in the VashonBePrepared coalition were down last week due to lower activity at the drive-through vaccination site, although the testing site was somewhat busier. For the most recent reporting period, 41 volunteers contributed 468 hours of work to VashonBePrepared’s pandemic emergency response. That brings the total contributed hours to more than 26,200 since the activation began. At the FEMA reimbursement grant rate of $31.72/hour, VashonBePrepared volunteers have logged more than $831,300 of in-kind value available to be applied to the 25% match requirement for reimbursement grants. VashonBePrepared gives thanks as well for the many hours of extra work logged during the pandemic in support of the Vashon community, by the staff and volunteers at local social services agencies.
This information is compiled from the Situation Reports produced by the EOC Situation Section and provided to The Beachcomber to help islanders stay informed and safe. To receive reports and other emergency information emails, go to VoiceofVashon.org/alertsignup.