Editor’s Note: Read COVID updates by VashonBePrepared in Spanish and English at tinyurl.com/yan39zeh.
Things have been going well here on Vashon. The new case count remains as low as it has been since before the Delta and Omicron spikes in the pandemic. (See the COVID statistics section below.)
However, we remain mindful that there is no formal mechanism to collect home test results. The home tests are free and widely available, so many people are using them. Thus, there’s a strong possibility that the count in the data dashboard maintained by Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) does not capture all the positive tests among Vashon’s population. You can help Vashon MRC to monitor COVID levels on the island by calling the helpline if you have a positive test: (844) 469-4554.
Looking at King County as a whole, the count of new COVID cases has been trending up — an increase of 47% in one week. Several factors are probably causing this increase. People are ready to be “done” with COVID and are not being as careful about COVID safety measures, now that most masking and vaccine-verification mandates have been lifted. In addition, the BA.2 variant has been on the rise and has become the dominant strain of new COVID cases in Washington State.
Booster #2: Ask an expert
People have been asking questions about the new opportunity to get a second COVID vaccine booster shot: “Should I get a second booster? And if so, when?” We asked Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) experts to respond to some of the queries here. Dr. Jim Bristow, lead for the MRC vaccination and testing campaigns, spoke for the group.
Is the second booster the same vaccine, or has it been tuned to the evolving virus?
MRC: The second booster is exactly the same as the first. The new thing is expanded eligibility. All people age 50 and older may opt for the second booster now, in addition to those age 12 and older with certain kinds of immunocompromise. No approved vaccine targets the Omicron variant specifically.
Who should get the second booster right away?
MRC: Anyone 12 and older who is moderately to severely immunocompromised. Those 50 and older with type 2 diabetes or other known COVID risk factors should also act now because of the high toll COVID-19 has been taking on that population.
Why would anyone want to wait to get the second booster?
MRC: Early evidence from studies suggest the additional protection from the second booster might not last as long as the extra protection from the first booster. Therefore, you might want to time the second booster shot based on your anticipated COVID risk. For example, living in our relatively low-risk Vashon environment, if you are not a high-risk individual but think you might be going to a riskier environment at a future date (travel, weddings, funerals), you might choose to time your booster-shot appointment two or three weeks before you face that increased risk. Others might just want to wait and see the longer-term efficacy data and more specific recommendations from the CDC or other groups before moving ahead.
What do you mean by “more specific recommendations from the CDC?”
MRC: The CDC announced expanded eligibility but stopped short of making a recommendation for a second booster for everyone age 50 and older. In the medical world, that’s an important distinction. A recommendation would mean it’s an important, scientifically proven step to take for individual and public health. Eligibility means it’s safe to do and people may decide to get the second booster based on their personal risk assessment, as explained above.
Should parents get their kids in for the second booster?
MRC: Kids without immunocompromise are not eligible at this point. For kids 12 and older, the important thing is to get the first booster — because that really enhances protection against Omicron, including the BA.2 subvariant. Parents of immunocompromised kids 12 and older should check with their child’s physician to determine if a second booster is warranted.
Isn’t COVID over? Why even bother getting a second booster?
MRC: COVID is definitely not over. Well over 500 people are dying of COVID every day in the United States and that figure has recently been as high as 700 deaths. Cases are rising in nearly half of U.S. states and King County cases are up by almost half.
What are your own plans for the 2nd booster?
MRC: I’m 67, pretty healthy, and I plan to travel this summer for vacation and a memorial service in late July. So, I’m planning to wait until early July to get my second booster. In the meantime, I’ll continue to be very cautious about COVID and keep my eye on what’s happening in King County. And of course, if cases start to pick up on Vashon, I’ll change course and get my second booster right away.
Normality Notes: Cruises, Driver’s Licenses, Masking Choices
Here are some notes of normality in the daily flow of COVID news gathered by our team in the Vashon Emergency Operations Center, as we continue our activation in enhanced monitoring mode.
• The CDC has halted the issuance of travel notices for cruises. The four-level risk ranking system has been discontinued. “While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings,” said Kristen Nordlund, a CDC spokesperson. The CDC still advises travelers to be up to date with their vaccines before boarding a ship.
• Washington State Department of Motor Vehicles locations are open. That’s why Governor Inslee has rescinded an emergency proclamation that waived deadlines for renewing your driver’s license. You will need to renew on time from now on.
• Now that mask rules have been eased, state and county public health agencies have issued an appeal for respect and tolerance for those who decide to mask and some businesses or organizations have decided to keep indoor mask requirements.
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. Some 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.
789 = Total COVID cases for Vashon residents since the pandemic began.
9 = New cases reported since the last weekly report (9 new cases in 14 days).
12 = Patients hospitalized since the pandemic began.
5 = Deaths since the pandemic began.
92.9% = percentage of Vashon residents age 5+ who have been fully vaccinated, compared to 85.2% of the total King County 5+ population.
72.5% = percentage of vaccinated Vashon residents age 12+ with booster shots.
62.6% = percentage of Vashon residents aged 5 to 11 with first doses of vaccine (59.0% have completed the series).
81.8% = percentage of Vashon residents aged 12 to 17 with first doses of vaccine (76.5% have completed the series).
For King County, the PHSKC dashboard for the last 30 days says people who are not fully vaccinated are 1.2 times more likely to get COVID, 13 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID and 25 times more likely to die of COVID.
For more resources, visit VashonBePrepared.org or visit the group’s Facebook page. Sign up at tinyurl.com/4smk364m to receive email updates.