Another Vashon resident has died from COVID bringing the total known deaths of island residents to nine since the pandemic began.
The latest death makes three reported in less than one month. The latest three fatalities were all recorded in February, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC). In accordance with privacy laws and PHSKC policies, the names of patients are not released.
However, the overall COVID risk for our population has been easing for several weeks.
Therefore, based on COVID hospitalization and infection metrics from PHSKC, the VashonBePrepared COVID Risk Level has been lowered to the blue Basic Risk level for the first time since Thanksgiving.
Since the winter holiday COVID surge hit, the risk assessment tool had been set at Elevated Risk but fortunately never rose to High Risk during the winter season. Although the overall population risk level from COVID has been decreasing, three COVID-related fatalities in one month serve as a reminder that COVID has not gone away and people still get COVID. Some end up in the hospital or die.
The VashonBePrepared COVID Risk Advice Tool is based on the hospitalization rate in our three-county COVID risk assessment area, and also takes into account the new case rate, the positive test rate, and COVID virus levels in wastewater tested by regional public health departments.
It’s important to point out that the metrics we use to gauge risk have fluctuated during that time — sometimes sharply. So, Basic Risk this week does not mean you can expect Basic Risk next week or next month, although March historically has been a lower risk time during our three years of the pandemic.
Advice for Basic Risk Level
VashonBePrepared recommends wearing an N95 mask indoors in public if you have been exposed to COVID, are at risk for health or other reasons, or you live with someone at high risk.
It is also recommended to keep vaccinations up to date, including boosters; to maintain good ventilation at home and at work; and to avoid those with suspected or confirmed COVID.
If exposed to COVID, wear a mask in public and avoid contact with those at high risk for 10 days. Always test at home if you have symptoms. If you test positive, isolate for at least five days and until you test negative. And if immunocompromised, discuss additional prevention actions with your healthcare provider.
Do Masks Really Work?
Media lit up over the last few weeks with reports of a broad review of scientific studies — a Cochrane meta-analysis — that did not find evidence that masking significantly reduces the spread of virus infections.
Some people have read this as proof that masking doesn’t help prevent the spread of COVID.
Widely respected epidemiologist Dr. Katelyn Jetelina has drilled down into the Cochrane review and provided an analysis you could read to help you decide for yourself about the study’s findings here.
Jetelina describes a Cochrane review as a generally well-respected meta-analysis approach, meaning it pools the results from multiple studies. However, she points out that this particular Cochrane review addresses protection from viruses broadly, mixing studies of influenza and COVID, even though they have different characteristics.
In addition, the studies include multiple types of masks, some less effective than others. The study also includes populations whose masking compliance varies widely. Finally, Jetelina points out that there’s a big difference between not finding evidence that masks work (the Cochrane finding) and actually finding evidence that masks don’t work (a much heavier lift requiring significantly more study data than is currently available).
Vashon Medical Reserve Corps continues to strongly recommend masking as an essential tool for preventing the spread of COVID.
Overdose Rescue: Naloxone Over the County
Naloxone opioid overdose rescue medication will soon be available over the counter without a prescription. A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee recommended making naloxone more accessible, given the opioid crisis in the United States.
Here in King County, emergency crews have responded to more than 1,000 overdose calls in the first two months of this year, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC). More than 1,000 people died of overdoses last year in King County — 40% more than the previous year.
Easy-to-administer Narcan nasal spray — one of several brands of Naloxone — can save a life by counteracting the effects of an opioid overdose, which may occur from accidentally taking something that includes fentanyl.
Be sure to call 911 right away if you administer naloxone to help an overdose victim. Naloxone is only the first step in bringing someone back. Patients may have debilitating withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, vomiting, and more.
Home Dual COVID/Flu Test Authorized
The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the first home test that combines the detection of COVID with the detection of influenza (flu).
Lucira’s test is different from most home tests in that it measures viral RNA much like a PCR test, and company literature suggests it is similarly sensitive. However, it may be a while before the Lucira company can make the dual home test widely available, because it took so long to get the approval that the maker has had to file for bankruptcy relief.
Meanwhile, you can seek a dual antigen test now which is not a home test. Dual COVID/flu tests are administered at Vashon Pharmacy and at the Vashon Island School District test center. The results are quickly available while you wait.
Prep Tip: Making Home Safe for Your Vacation
If you’ve been to an airport lately, you know that Americans are hitting the road in enormous numbers after three years of feeling trapped at home. Vashonites are no different.
First, check out a list of vacation burglary prevention suggestions from the King County Sheriff’s Office here.
Preparing for a trip away from home can involve more than security measures. Here is a quick checklist, culled from a variety of sources.
- Reduce the chances of a fire from a power surge or equipment failure by unplugging your computer, TV, and stereo.
- Consider shutting off the water supply at the main valve, or at least shutting off water to individual appliances.
- Protect pipes from freezing. You don’t want to return from a nice trip to find a flooded house.
- Turn down your heating and air conditioning to save energy, but leave systems running enough to prevent frost or heat damage.
- If you have remote access to your thermostat from a smartphone, or a smart system (hello Alexa) you can monitor the condition of your home while away.
- Sharing your photos and stories online while gone could be an invitation to a home invasion.
- Clear trash and get rid of perishables so you don’t come home to a bad smell or an invasion of ants or other critters.
- Leave a house key with friends.
Nisqually Quake Anniversary
A reminder of why we prepare: the Nisqually quake surprised everyone from Portland to the Canadian border on the morning of Feb. 28, 2001. The magnitude was 6.8 and the shaking lasted nearly a full minute.
That event 22 years ago damaged 300,000 residences and cost $4 billion for repairs. One person died and more than 400 people needed medical attention. The Capitol dome in Olympia was cracked and the Alaska Way Viaduct was damaged. We live in earthquake country, a constant and unpredictable major disaster waiting to happen.