Virus statistics: Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) reports 93 positive cases of COVID-19 on Vashon since the pandemic began. At press time, there had been four new cases since the last edition. Over the course of two weeks, the case count jumped up by eleven. That rate of increase is not as severe as the dramatic spike leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, but it is significantly worse than the months prior to November.
Data lag: A data-reporting lag continues on the official dashboard of pandemic statistics maintained by Public Health — Seattle & King County. For example, although there have been two COVID-related deaths of Vashon residents to date, the PHSKC dashboard was still showing only one death at press time.
First solid projections on vaccine timing: Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has released the firmest guidance to date for the next phase of COVID-19 vaccination. What used to be Phase 1B has now been broken up into four new sub-phases, 1B1 through 1B4.
Recovery phases have been reset: Governor Inslee has rolled out a new phased COVID-19 recovery plan called “Healthy Washington — Roadmap to Recovery.” The state will now be following a multi-phase region-by-region approach. The regions are based on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) regions used for evaluating healthcare services. King County is in the central region along with Pierce and Snohomish Counties. All regions will start out in Phase 1. To go forward from Phase 1 to Phase 2, regions must meet four metrics:
- At least a 10 percent decrease in the two-week rate of cases per 100,000 people.
- At least a 10 percent decrease in the two-week rate of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people.
- Total Intensive Care Unit (ICU) occupancy of less than 90%.
- COVID-19 test positivity rate of less than 10%.
The new Phase 1 generally matches the restrictions currently in place for most counties, with a few key exceptions. Indoor exercise businesses will be allowed to conduct appointment-based fitness and training, where there is no more than one customer per room, or per 500 square feet for large facilities. Outdoor entertainment establishments are permitted to reopen in Phase 1, including zoos, outdoor theaters, concert venues, and rodeos, among other outdoor venues. The operation must be by ticketed event only, with groups of no more than 10, and a limit of two households per group.
Investigation complete at Vashon Community Care: VCC announced that the Department of Social and Health Services has closed the COVID investigation into the death of longtime islander Marvin Benham. The investigation concluded that the infection was not a VCC facility-acquired case. VCC Executive Director Wendy Kleppe, in a letter to families of residents, reported that the facility continues to be diligent about disinfecting, monitoring and tracking residents daily for signs and symptoms. Team members continue to self-monitor for signs and symptoms, mask at all times, hand washing regularly, follow physical distance policies when taking breaks, and follow all guidelines for COVID mitigation when not at work.
No symptoms doesn’t mean safety: You can spread COVID-19 even if you don’t have symptoms. The journal JAMA Network Open published a report that supports earlier estimates of the contribution of asymptomatic spread. People with no symptoms transmit more than half of all cases of the COVID-19, according to a new model developed by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings reinforce the importance of following the agency’s guidelines: Regardless of whether you feel ill, wear a mask, wash your hands, stay socially distant, and get a coronavirus test if exposed or experiencing symptoms.
A vaccine doesn’t equal no mask: Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC), emphasizes that you must still wear a mask and practice social distancing, even after getting vaccinated with both doses. Although the vaccine will give a high level of protection against infection for the person who is vaccinated, we do not yet know if the vaccine prevents people from getting infected or spreading the virus. That means someone who is vaccinated may still be able to spread COVID-19 to others. Studies are underway to answer this question. And because it will take months for enough people to be vaccinated and protected, we’re all going to need to practice the key COVID-19 prevention steps for now, including wearing masks, limiting activities outside of the home, avoiding crowded indoor spaces, keeping contacts with others brief and distanced, improving ventilation indoors, and washing hands.
FEMA reimbursement grants extended: The Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar officially extended the COVID-19 public health emergency designation that was set to expire on Jan. 21, 2021, for another 90 days. This means that eligible entities, including Vashon Island and King County, may continue to seek reimbursement through the FEMA Public Assistance (PA) Program.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): The EOC activated in response to the pandemic emergency on March 12, ten months ago (308 days). Four operational priorities remain our goals: health, food security, housing security and economic recovery.
EOC/MRC/Vashon Pharmacy: Site surveys and other detailed planning are underway to support Vashon Pharmacy’s plan for a high volume COVID-19 vaccination clinic. If safety and logistical details can be worked out, it will be a drive-through or drive-up style operation in the parking areas behind the pharmacy, with advance reservations to optimize capacity and minimize wait times.
EOC/MRC/Community Engagement Team: Work has begun on designing a public education campaign to support all Vashon vaccination providers: Vashon Pharmacy, Vashon Natural Medicine, and Sea Mar. The campaign will resemble the one in support of seasonal flu vaccination, which helped provide important lessons for the next step of COVID-19 vaccination.
EOC Team: A team has started on a rewrite of the island Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP). The plan is vital to help Vashon’s emergency organizations and many other stakeholders to work together in a disaster, but it was last updated in 2009. The new plan will incorporate lessons learned from the ongoing pandemic emergency activation.
COVID Relief: The EOC Team continues its work with the Chamber of Commerce to track the status of the new federal stimulus package that has been signed into law, as well as details on the one-time relief payments coming to workers from Washington state.
Volunteers: A total of 33 volunteers contributed 264 hours of work to VashonBePrepared’s pandemic emergency response in the most recent reporting period and the total volunteer time has now crested over 20,000 hours. At the FEMA reimbursement grant rate of $31.72/hour, it means VashonBePrepared volunteers have logged over $645,000 of in-kind value that can be applied to reimbursement grant applications. The total includes hours contributed by the Vashon EOC Team, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), and Community Care Team (CCT). VashonBePrepared also gives thanks for the many hours of work 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.