Island’s emergency alert team swells, thanks to you

News from VashonBePrepared

School District: Six Ways to Stay Healthy Now

Vashon Island School District has published a helpful roundup of strategies to stay healthy during this respiratory virus season. Although it’s focused on school kids, Vashon Medical Reserve Corps experts agree that it’s excellent advice for all islanders to follow to help prevent COVID, influenza (flu), and RSV.

The strategies include hand-washing, getting your COVID and flu shots, isolating if COVID-positive or symptomatic, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and taking care of your emotional well-being.

School Superintendent Slade McSheehy sent the sheet of six strategies to all District households and provided this link so everyone else on the island can use them in their efforts to stay well.

MRC COVID Recommendations: Unchanged

News media have been headlining the relaxed COVID isolation recommendations recently put out by California and Oregon state health departments.

At a time when more than 1,500 people in the U.S. are dying each week from COVID, many public health officials are wary of this new guidance.

Our Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) experts continue to recommend that islanders follow the CDC guidelines, including people who test positive for COVID-19 but do not have symptoms.

“The science is very clear,” according to MRC co-coordinator Dr. Jim Bristow. “You can infect someone with COVID even if you do not have COVID symptoms. Besides that, in addition to COVID, we need to work together as a community to prevent the spread of all three respiratory viruses, including influenza (flu) and RSV. Many of the COVID recommendations work well for all three diseases (handwashing, distancing, masking and air purification). But we also know that COVID is different because viral load and contagion don’t correlate well with severity of symptoms. In 2023, COVID caused 10 times more deaths than flu.”

The MRC points out that it is just common sense to stay home if you are sick, so you won’t spread illness to friends, co-workers, fellow students, or clerks in stores. It’s also especially important to take preventative measures if you are around people at high risk. For most respiratory viruses you can return to regular activities when you’re feeling better. But for COVID, it’s recommended that you isolate for at least five days, even if your symptoms are improved or gone.

One crucial reason to stay safe from COVID? To prevent long COVID, which can extend the effects of initial illness for weeks or even months. The best prevention is to avoid getting infected. Studies demonstrate that up-to-date vaccinations provide significant protection against long COVID, even for people who contract COVID.

Here is a helpful roundup of the latest science from Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, who publishes the Your Local Epidemiologist blog.

VashonBePrepared Takes Ferry Crisis Action

The VashonBePrepared Board of Directors has finalized action on the organization’s recent decision to join Islanders for Ferry Action (IFA). The Board’s enacting resolution points to the ferry situation as an all-island emergency, saying: “It is evident that the ferry situation has become a crisis and that emergency action must be taken to find immediate solutions to prevent devastating effects on the health, livelihoods, and education of thousands.”

“If anyone knows what an emergency looks like, it’s VashonBePrepared, and that’s why we’ve joined the IFA campaign,” said Rick Wallace.

Wallace is the VashonBePrepared Board member appointed to the IFA Steering Committee as one element in VashonBePrepared’s commitment of support. He’s vice president of VashonBePrepared, and for many years has been the volunteer manager of the Vashon Emergency Operations Center.

VashonBePrepared’s support for IFA also includes acting as a federally registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit fiscal sponsor for the Vashon Chamber of Commerce, to aid in fundraising. That relationship has now been formalized in an agreement between the two organizations. Other support steps are being considered.

“We are somewhat encouraged by our meetings so far with state legislators and King County Council members, especially ones that represent Vashon Island,” said Amy Drayer, executive director of the Vashon Chamber of Commerce — which pulled together the ferry crisis working group that became IFA. “It’s clear that they understand this is an emergency. It’s equally clear that they need islanders to voice their support. “

Drayer reports that the Chamber of Commerce has published an information sheet that lists five high-priority ferry crisis solutions that islanders can consider including in phone calls and emails when working to educate legislators and council members on the issue.

National Household Preparedness Survey: Counterintuitive Results

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has conducted the National Household Survey on Disaster Preparedness annually since 2013. This year’s results showed:

  • Only half of the people responding to the survey believe preparing for an emergency will actually help them get through a disaster.
  • People 60 years and older believe they are prepared, but, in fact, are less likely to have taken many preparedness steps.
  • The survey confirmed that economic circumstances hold back preparedness. Socioeconomically disadvantaged people see cost as a barrier and are less likely to take important preparedness action.

Our team has been inspired by this national survey. Do our islanders really doubt the value of preparing for an emergency? In coming weeks, we’ll launch an island household readiness survey, so you can watch for that in future issues. Which steps will your household take to improve your preparedness this year?

Emergency Alert Team: Boosted!

Voice of Vashon’s Emergency Alert Team has nearly doubled in size, thanks to islanders’ response to a recent recruiting campaign.

“We depend on the island’s support in many ways,” said Voice of Vashon Executive Director Kate Dowling. “It’s great to see our community’s response to our appeal for volunteers to help us keep the island informed about emergencies like bad weather, ferry cancellations, and big power outages, especially since it follows up on our successful year-end Old Man Winter fundraising campaign!”

The new recruits are in training and within a few weeks will take spots in the rotating roster of Emergency Alert Team members who have provided emergency alerts 24/7 every day of the year — some of them for more than 17 years.