Update: The following information, received after the newspaper went to press, updates information on a COVID-19 case and quarantines that appeared in the Dec. 24 print edition of The Beachcomber.
COVID-19 case & quarantines at VIFR: Further investigation has concluded that a firefighter at Vashon Island Fire & Rescue did not have COVID-19 after all. The reviewing medical team questioned the findings of the firefighter’s first test and the medical team requested a second test, which proved negative. His four shift mates also tested negative, as did the members of the original firefighter’s family. Although the firefighter was ill, he did not have COVID-19. His four shift mates have been cleared to come back to work.
Virus statistics: Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) reports 78 positive cases of COVID-19 on Vashon since the pandemic began. At press time, there had been zero officially reported new cases in more than a week. It is important to note that a data processing lag continues, with PHSKC and the state Department of Health working to catch up from the recent massive spike in cases throughout the state.
First Vashon COVID death: For the first time since the pandemic began, a Vashon resident has died from a COVID-related illness. At the family’s request, information is being made available to help the people of Vashon grasp the serious danger of the disease. Lifelong islander Tom Sudduth, 64, was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Seattle VA hospital about three weeks before he passed away. He died on Dec. 7 of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) with pneumonia and COVID-19 as contributing factors. “We want everyone on Vashon to know about Tom’s death because everyone needs to understand how dangerous this invisible enemy really is,” said Tom’s brother Mike Sudduth. “He was just one of the hundreds of thousands who have died from this awful plague. There’s a light now appearing at the end of the tunnel with the authorization of new vaccines. But we’re still months away from the majority of the population receiving that shot in the arm. In the meantime, we can’t let our guard down in protecting each other with masks, distancing and good hygiene. In memory of Tom and all the others who died in this awful war, let’s all do our part.”
Data reporting running behind: The data reporting lag continues in the official PHSKC dashboard. Although the death reported above has not yet appeared in the official Public Health statistics, the death was recorded in King County last week. In addition, the total of 78 cases since the pandemic began does not include a few known Vashon cases. All exposed individuals relating to Tom Sudduth’s case were tracked by the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps. If appropriate, they were advised to quarantine or isolate. Several of the exposed individuals in the cluster tested positive.
COVID-19 case & quarantines at VIFR: (*See Update to this information at top of story*)
A firefighter at Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR) who lives off-island has tested positive for COVID-19. No members of the public were exposed to the sick firefighter; however, Public Health safety protocols will require five VIFR staff to go into quarantine. A member of the firefighter’s family had tested positive and the firefighter’s symptoms did not appear until his first day back to duty, so it appears he was infected while away on off-duty days in his mainland home town. “Upon advising the Officer of the Day that he was not feeling well, arrangements were made to replace him and we let him go home sick,” said Chief Charlie Krimmert. “Unfortunately, he had been on shift for some hours by then and others on the duty crew were exposed. After consulting with the County’s Public Health EMS Division Medical Program Director and the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps’ experts, we were advised that the people that were on duty, in order to be safe, must comply with protocol from Public Health – Seattle & King County. Therefore, in addition to the original case, the four other people on duty that day are going into 14-day quarantine and are being tested.”
Reopening hope for schools: Chris Reykdal, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, has issued new, more relaxed, guidance for returning children to the classroom. For Vashon, the guidance does not allow any short-term change at this time in distance and classroom learning, but Vashon Schools Superintendent Slade McSheehy says planning for implementing the new guidelines will begin in earnest after the holiday break. The new guidelines lift the disease-level ceiling for classroom reopening in counties where the case count is in the upper level “high” category. For counties where there are 350 or fewer cases per 100,000, districts will be able to offer in-person instruction for pre-kindergarten through fifth grades and high-need students, in small groups of 15 students, with priority for the younger grades in that group. At this time, Vashon schools do not meet the new guidance standard, because King County’s 14-day metric is at 420 cases per 100,000, well above the 350 per 100,000 mark.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): The EOC activated in response to the pandemic emergency on March 12, nine months and one week ago (282 days). Four operational priorities remain our goals: health, food security, housing security and economic recovery.
Medical Reserve Corps/Community Engagement Team: MRC provided support and contact tracing in connection with the first death of an islander from COVID-19, as well as the positive case/quarantine incident at Vashon Island Fire & Rescue. The Community Engagement Team aided the family with public communications about the island death.
Holiday Stand Downs: Incident Commander Fire Chief Charlie Krimmert ordered a rest and safety stand-down for all activated units for the year-end holidays. Most of our volunteers will take four days, Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 24 through Dec. 27, and Dec. 31 through Jan. 3, including the eve of the holiday through the weekend. Medical Reserve Corps and Community Emergency Response Team volunteers will operate the COVID-19 testing site on New Year’s Eve day. A small leadership team will be monitoring and on standby in case of emergencies. There are no EOC Situation Reports planned for the two Fridays, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
EOC Forward Planning: An effort is underway to look forward and consolidate lessons learned so far during the current activation. Under consideration are:• A rewrite of the 2009 Community Emergency Response Plan, an effort that had been planned for 2020 but was put aside due to the pandemic emergency response.
- A redesign of the VashonBePrepared.org website to make it more agile during an emergency response.
- A demonstration exercise to show new (and old) volunteers how an in-person Emergency Operations Center team works and thinks. The Vashon EOC has been activated entirely virtually during the current pandemic emergency.
- Creation of a task list approach for managing the island’s emergency response work, a Vashon-style variation on the Incident Command System objective-setting approach.
- A new approach to improve coordination and collaboration through tight “check-in” meetings using the task list to guide the planning.
Medical Reserve Corps: Medical Reserve Corps volunteers continue to provide free consultations to businesses who want to vet their COVID-19 safety plans. The latest is with Camp Colvos Brewing. A number of other businesses and organizations have been supported by MRC in this manner, including Vashon Center for the Arts, Sawbones and Camp Sealth.
Volunteers: A total of 39 volunteers contributed 384 hours of work to VashonBePrepared’s pandemic emergency response in the recent reporting week. That brings the total volunteer time since activation to a new high mark of more than 19,500 hours. Based on the FEMA valuation of in-kind volunteer hours of $31.72, that means VashonBePrepared volunteers have contributed nearly $619,000 worth of work to the island community. 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 performed for the Vashon community by the staff and volunteers at local social services agencies.
Community Care Team/Community Engagement Team: Final production has been completed on the Creating Strength resilience-building program, and it will launch on Jan. 5. On that day, emails, social media, and the VashonBePrepared.org website will begin the distribution of nine weekly videos to coach islanders on simple steps they can take to build resilience in the midst of the pandemic. Each week will feature some bite-sized action steps and some resources for support. The series features Wren Hudgins, Ph.D., Disaster Mental Health Instructor for the American Red Cross, along with Jinna Risdal, Ph.D., Lead for the Vashon Community Care Team.
Community Engagement Team: Photos and stories are being assembled for the “Hope 2021” Beachcomber insert that will run on Jan. 7, synchronizing with the Creating Strength resilience-building program. The six to eight-page insert will include stories of hope from our social service partners and the people they serve.
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.