Subfreezing temperatures over the weekend of Jan. 29 and 30 inspired a Vashon community response involving over a dozen people.
The response was coordinated by members of the Vashon Emergency Operations Center Team (EOC Team) guided by the Incident Commander, Vashon Island Fire & Rescue Chief Matt Vinci.
When weather forecasts firmed up on the Saturday morning of that weekend, they predicted dangerous subfreezing overnight temperatures. The Voice of Vashon Emergency Alert System published a weather warning that included information about daytime warming locations at the Vashon Library and at Vashon Center for the Arts.
The EOC Team worked with duty officers at King County Office of Emergency Management (KCOEM) and King County Regional Homeless Authority (KCRHA) to secure funding for overnight shelter on the island, if needed. Happily, nobody requested that support, but the process for obtaining the funding was tested and refined.
Communications continued throughout the weekend among island social service groups to coordinate help for those in need of assistance. Volunteers with the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness (IFCH) staffed their helpline (206-643-5169) to connect people with resources, supported by volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul.
Vashon social service agencies and others could also call the King County Crisis Connections 2-1-1 number to get help for those in need. Anyone in a life-threatening situation should always call 9-1-1.
In addition to shelter, Vashon social service providers from several churches were ready to provide warm clothing, fuel, sleeping bags or blankets, and meals. Travel vouchers from Vashon Youth and Family Services (VYFS) were available to help people reach mainland King County overnight shelters. Responding local social service groups included IFCH, St. Vincent de Paul, Vashon Presbyterian Church, and Vashon Youth and Family Services.
IFCH Board member James Dam put it this way: “Thanks go to our collaborative network of local social service organizations, many staffed by volunteers, that provide lots of help all year, including in these periods of harsh weather.
When VashonBePrepared can obtain county funds for emergency cold-weather sheltering, that gives Vashon residents on-island options to stay safe when the temperature drops.”
MRC stands by to help with school outbreak
As reported in detail in this edition of The Beachcomber (see page 1), a COVID outbreak was announced by Vashon Island School District last week. Approximately 12% of those attending a high school dance last weekend tested positive for COVID. That surpasses the 10% infection metric for an outbreak, as set by Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC).
The Vashon Medical Reserve Corps helpline is staffed by medical expert volunteers to provide advice to those affected by the community outbreak, especially families of the infected students, including those who may be at particular risk due to age or compromised immune systems. The helpline number is 844-469-4554.
Expiration of COVID Emergency: Most Federal Funding to End
The federal government plans to end the formal declarations of the COVID public health emergency in May.
The decision to let the declarations expire will eventually mean an end to most federal funding of free COVID tests, vaccines, and treatments. For example, Pfizer has said the cost of a vaccine dose could go as high as $130.The decision to end the formal emergency declaration could have a major impact on people who lack health insurance and on U.S. public health in general.
Federal officials acknowledge that more than 500 Americans are dying from COVID each day, the third-ranking cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer.
However, they say that vaccination and acquired immunity from having had COVID have made it less likely than a year ago that someone getting COVID will be hospitalized or die, compared to the explosion of hospitalizations and deaths from the first appearance of the original Omicron variant.
On the other hand, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a meeting of the group’s executive board that COVID remains a global health emergency. A key advisory panel of the WHO has said that the pandemic may be nearing an “inflection point” where higher levels of immunity may lower COVID death rates.
Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned, however, that more than 170,000 people have died from COVID worldwide in the last eight weeks.
COVID Risk Level: Elevated
The VashonBePrepared COVID Risk Advice Tool remains at the yellow Elevated Risk level, based on the hospitalization rate in our three-county COVID risk assessment area.
The risk level rating also takes into account the new case rate, the positive test rate, and COVID virus levels in wastewater tested by regional public health departments.
At this Elevated Risk level, it’s smart for everyone to wear an N95 mask indoors in public.
People who are unvaccinated, at high risk from COVID, or living with someone at high risk should avoid non-essential indoor public activities.
If you must be indoors in a public place, it’s extremely important to wear an N95 mask if you are unvaccinated; and/or at risk for COVID for health reasons; and/or you live with someone at risk from COVID; and/or are regularly exposed to COVID risk in work or group settings such as retail, school or community.
It is recommended to test at home before gathering with friends and family; get the bivalent COVID vaccine if you have not already done so; maintain good ventilation at home and at work; avoid individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID.
If you are exposed to COVID, wear a mask in public and avoid contact with those at high risk for 10 days. Always home-test if you have symptoms.
If you test positive, isolate for at least five full days after the onset of COVID symptoms (or positive test if asymptomatic). Remain isolated until you test negative, and avoid those at risk and wear a mask when indoors, around others, for 10 full days after the onset of COVID symptoms or a positive test, even if testing negative after 5 days.
If you are immunocompromised, discuss additional prevention actions with your healthcare provider.
Safety Tips: Dealing With Dangerous Cold
Severe cold can lead to hypothermia — when a person’s temperature drops to 95 degrees or below — so low that the person is losing heat faster than they can produce it.
The very young and elderly are the most susceptible groups for hypothermia. The risk grows even higher when cardiovascular disease impairs circulation, and/or with alcohol intake, and with exhaustion, hunger, or dehydration.
• Bring the person indoors or to a dry place protected from the wind.
• If a person is unconscious or semi-conscious, call 911 immediately.
• Cover the person with dry blankets, after removing wet clothing.
• Warm the person slowly. Warming too fast can bring on shock and heart arrhythmias. For example, don’t put a hypothermia victim in a hot bath.
• Do not give the person alcohol. Give warm, but not hot, fluids such as broth or sweet tea.
The best way to treat hypothermia is not to get out in the cold in the first place. Watch the weather and avoid extended unprotected exposure to subfreezing temperatures.
If you do go out, wear warm, multi-layered non-cotton clothing with good protection for hands and feet.
Especially, wear warm headgear because you lose significant heat from an exposed head.