On Monday, new signage appeared at Thriftway, informing shoppers of King County’s new recommendation that masks should be worn in indoor spaces by both vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike (Ellie Hughes Photo).

On Monday, new signage appeared at Thriftway, informing shoppers of King County’s new recommendation that masks should be worn in indoor spaces by both vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike (Ellie Hughes Photo).

As County and Local Cases Rise, Mask Recommendation Returns

On July 24, the seven-day average of new daily cases in the county topped 200, up from 61 on July 1.

Another case of COVID has cropped up in an island business, this time in a fully vaccinated employee of Fair Isle Animal Clinic.

According to an email alert sent on Monday by VashonBePrepared, Vashon Island Fire District and Voice of Vashon, the infected employee tested positive for COVID on Sunday. Last week, the employee had worked four days at the clinic, thinking that their mild cold symptoms were only a cold, because they were fully vaccinated. The email said that the infected person was not one of the clinic veterinarians.

The Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and VashonBePrepared are now working closely with the clinic to contain what the email called “a potentially significant COVID exposure event.”

The MRC tested all Fair Isle employees on Monday, with samples rushed to the lab. In addition, all those who visited the clinic and were potentially exposed on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, July 19, 21, 23 or 24 were contacted by Fair Isle and put in touch with the MRC contact tracing team.

Anyone who was at Fair Isle on those days (and those days only) and who did not receive a call from Fair Isle is urged to call the Vashon MRC hotline at 844-469-4554 to get further advice.

Fair Isle, which had only reopened its doors a few weeks ago, has now reverted to curbside service.

“There’s nothing more important than keeping our patients, clients and staff safe. We are here for the health of Vashon and its animals,” said Dr. Dana Ness, the owner of Fair Isle Animal Clinic. “We are following all guidelines and are very grateful to MRC, the EOC and VashonBePrepared for their technical assistance in this effort and their many months of experience with the pandemic. We are especially grateful for the way the people of Vashon are pulling together to support everyone affected by this pandemic.”

In an email sent to Fair Isle clients on Monday, Ness also repeated important advice from the MRC: that anyone experiencing symptoms, vaccinated or not, should get tested right away.

Masks once more recommended for all

Also on Monday — less than a month after King County lifted most COVID restrictions for vaccinated people — Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, the county’s top health official, was joined by health officials in Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan, and Grays Harbor counties in issuing a new directive that contained a strong recommendation for all people, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks in indoor public spaces.

The recommendation comes in the wake of the spread of the more contagious Delta variant and increasing activities as restrictions have been lifted.

In King County, COVID-19 rates are on a sharp upswing. On July 24, the seven-day average of new daily cases in the county topped 200, up from only 61 on July 1 — a 106% increase.

Vashon’s cases have increased too, with three more cases announced last week, followed by the news of the infection at Fair Isle Animal Clinic on Monday.

Members of Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) said on Monday that they strongly support the new guidance from King County.

“We are glad to hear that Public Health Seattle & King County recommends everyone wear a mask in indoor settings, even if vaccinated,” said Dr. Jim Bristow, of the MRC. “It’s just common sense to do this now, especially given the enhanced infectiousness of the Delta variant of COVID. It spreads fast, especially among unvaccinated people, and we’re now seeing symptoms in groups that didn’t show them with the original strain.”

Bristow pointed out that although Vashon has a high vaccination rate, many in our community remain unprotected against the more serious strain.

“Then there are all those who aren’t vaccinated or who haven’t finished the course and gone for their second shots,” he said. “They are really not protected against the Delta variant. In addition, roughly 750 Vashon kids aged 11 and younger are not yet eligible for vaccination. That adds up to more than 2,000 Vashonites at significant risk, especially now that the delta variant dominates.”

In describing Vashon’s most recent cases, Bristow said that community spread was at play.

“Previously, almost all our cases were related to travel or exposure to household contacts,” he said. “Because the viral load of infected individuals is now higher, the virus can be transmitted with shorter exposures to infected people. The details of this are still being studied, but the take-home message is that the Delta variant is significantly more infectious than prior variants.”

For this reason, Bristow said, the most prudent course for islanders is in limiting their exposure by wearing a mask when indoors with others whose vaccination status is unknown.

Several businesses on Vashon have already announced that they intend to follow the new guidance from King County.

On Monday, new signage appeared on the doors and inside Vashon Thriftway, stating that “Seattle and King County recommend that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public settings like grocery, retail, theaters, and entertainment establishments.”

Allison Halstead-Reid, executive director of Vashon Center for the Arts, also said that as of this week, the arts center is taking a firm stance that everyone should once again wear masks again inside its building. Employees, she said, will also wear masks to set a good example. However, VCA will continue to allow performers on stage, especially singers, to perform without masks if they are vaccinated.

Eileen Wolcott, at Vashon Theatre, said that she would now recommend once again that everyone wear masks inside the movie theater. Wolcott also detailed other precautions taken at the theater, which include using a pager system to have patrons pick up pre-ordered concessions, and encouraging all to space out inside the large theater.

Slade McSheehy, superintendent of Vashon Island School District, said that the district had reached out to Public Health Seattle King County to see if any changes have been made to existing school guidance.

The past two district school board meetings, which are open to the public, have been held in a conference room at the school, with masks not required for those who have been vaccinated.

According to Bristow, wearing a mask in indoor public spaces makes sense for everyone right now.

“The COVID vaccines are particularly good at preventing serious disease that could lead to hospitalization or death,” he said. “But no vaccine is 100% perfect and while the current vaccines are 90% effective against the original virus, evidence is accumulating that they are somewhat less effective against the Delta variant.”

Vaccination is still the best protection, he said, but now it is important for everyone to mask up. He also, again, urged that anyone who develops symptoms should be immediately tested.

Getting tested on Vashon

Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center currently recommends the following two ways to get tested for COVID-19 on Vashon. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms should seek immediate testing.

Sea Mar Clinic: seamar.org/king-medical-vashon, 206-463-3671. Rapid antigen tests are available giving immediate results and are best suited for symptomatic patients. An appointment must be made to get a test, which are conducted by clinic personnel who come to the cars of those getting tests.

Vashon Pharmacy: VashonPharmacy.com/COVID, 206-463-9118. Islanders seeking testing are urged to not come into the Pharmacy to inquire about testing. Rather, online registration is required for a free PCR home test, with a 48 to 72-hour turnaround. Test kits are brought outside to islanders’ cars, and require UPS-drop0ff.

According to Rick Wallace, Manager of Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center, PCR tests like the home test kits provided by Vashon Pharmacy, are generally considered the most reliable technology but usually involve a wait to get results. Rapid antigen tests, like the ones used at Sea Mar, provide fast turnaround — and the type used at Sea Mar is considered to be the best in that technology group.

Islanders who have tested positive for COVID-19 should call Vashon’s Medical Reserve Crops at 844-469-4554 to discuss isolation and notification/testing of those who might have been exposed.

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