Virus statistics: Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) reports 100 positive cases of COVID-19 on Vashon since the pandemic began. That is an increase of one case on the PHSKC statistics page since the last edition of this report.
Vashon Community Care (VCC): The island’s residential care facility reports it has received two positive COVID test results. A staff member tested positive during VCC’s weekly random safety testing. That triggered a full testing sweep for all residents and staff and the follow-up testing produced an additional case. VCC completed its vaccination program last week and nearly all staff and residents opted to get the vaccine. However, the COVID vaccinations are not a mandatory requirement and the staff member who tested positive is yet to be vaccinated. (A report last week that all had been vaccinated resulted from a misunderstanding by EOC staff.) The two cases fit the state’s technical definition of an “outbreak.” Therefore, VCC has fallen back to strict quarantine and outdoor visits, communal dining and communal activities have been canceled until the state Department of Health provides an all clear. After proactively reporting the cases, VCC implemented the strict Department of Health and Department of Social and Health Services protocols for outbreaks, including repeated testing of staff and residents for 14 days and monitoring residents for COVID symptoms three times a day.
VASHON VACCINATION SITUATION
The overview: Vashon Pharmacy received a new shipment of vaccine this week and operations restarted at the drive-through site. Nearly all vaccination came to a halt last week because there was no new bulk vaccine allocation to the island by the state Department of Health. There were some small quantities of the vaccine being dispensed last week from second dose allocations, for frontline health care workers who had not yet been vaccinated, and some vaccination of 1b1 tier individuals using up a few vials before they went past their prescribed use date.
Getting updates: Three providers have been approved by the state to provide vaccinations on Vashon. They are Vashon Pharmacy, Sea Mar at Sunrise Ridge, and Vashon Natural Medicine. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) recommends that you check the following four websites at least daily to get any updated information.
Progress so far: Despite the challenges, a total of just over 2,000 vaccinations had been dispensed by the end of last week, more than 1,570 at the Vashon Pharmacy site, 400 at Sea Mar, and 60 residents and staff at Vashon Community Care. A total of 2,030 equals roughly 23% of the adult population of the island. However, it is not possible at this time to precisely calculate the vaccinated percentage of island residents because an unknown number of islanders have been able to get vaccinated by their mainland healthcare providers and there are some mainlanders coming to Vashon to get their shots.
Vashon Pharmacy: The drive-through vaccination operation was able to restart on Tuesday with the arrival of a new shipment of vaccines. MRC and CERT volunteers brought the site out of hibernation, where it had been since vaccination supplies dried up last week. The pharmacy continues its efforts to improve the performance of the vaccination reservation website. The drive-through site has done as many as 170 vaccinations per day, thanks to volunteer support from the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
No federal direct shipments yet: Some early hope for a new federal source of vaccines has not yet panned out. The federal government announced a week ago that it would begin shipping vaccines directly to pharmacies through the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN). Vashon Pharmacy belongs to that network and has done all the needed work to receive vaccines through that channel. However, Tyler Young, the owner of the Pharmacy, reports that the CPESN program is in a slow ramp-up mode and only three states were expected to receive CPESN vaccine shipments in the coming week (Kansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma). It will be some time before that source will be making a difference for Vashon.
Sea Mar at Sunrise Ridge: No word has been received so far on when Sea Mar will get new vaccine supplies. The clinic received only a small number of doses this week, allocated for required second doses for patients who had previously been vaccinated at the clinic.
Vashon Natural Medicine: VNM reports that it has been told it will not receive any shipments until the vaccine is available in much greater supply.
Decision pending on school reopening: Vashon Island School District (VISD) sent a note to school student families indicating that no final decision has been reached on when to launch the District’s Healthy Start reopening plan. The District management reports it is working with staff, including the two District unions, on details. The draft plan would bring back Chautauqua elementary students in three phases of two weeks, starting with Kindergarten, then first through third grades, and then fourth and fifth grades. A key input to the District’s decision-making, according to Superintendent Dr. Slade McSheehy, has been a meeting last week with Vashon Medical Reserve Corps, the Vashon Emergency Operations Center, and the local Public Health Seattle & King County health officer. A key topic at the meeting was the question of whether classroom teaching could restart before vaccination has been completed for teachers and other staff. McSheehy said, “I’m committed to our collaborative process and will communicate more once we’ve had a chance to meet and discuss what we learned and how we would like to move forward.”
CDC and Governor weigh in on school reopening: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Governor Jay Inslee both released statements this past week saying that teachers do not need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to safely reopen schools. “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. The Governor outlined his support for a return to on-site learning in a letter to the president of the Washington Education Association.
National COVID fatality forecast: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a forecast that projects 496,000 to 534,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by Feb. 27. Unlike some individual models, the CDC forecast combines multiple computer models but only offers projections a few weeks into the future. At least 446,910 people have already died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
A legal disposal method: King County Local Services offers free help to eligible low-income RV residents to properly dispose of septic waste without leaving Vashon Island. COVID-19 restrictions highlighted a longstanding problem on Vashon Island – the island lacks a public facility for RV residents to properly and legally dispose of sewage from RV black water tanks. The King County Department of Local Services worked with the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness to establish a partnership in which eligible RV residents can have their septic waste collected once a month. To determine whether they qualify, low-income RV residents can contact Hilary Emmer, Program Coordinator for the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, at 206-463-7277. Waste collection will be scheduled after a resident is determined to be eligible.
Insurance coverage extended: Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler extended his emergency COVID-19 order until March 7. Under this order, health insurers are required to continue coverage for providing telehealth, to cover all medically necessary diagnostic testing for flu and certain other viral respiratory illnesses billed during a provider visit for COVID-19 with no copay, coinsurance or deductible, and to treat drive-up testing sites for COVID-19 as provider visits with no copay, coinsurance or deductible. As a reminder, the COVID-19 vaccine is free to all.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): The EOC and other elements of our island emergency response coalition were activated in response to the pandemic emergency on March 12, 2020, eleven months ago (337 days). Four operational priorities established by the Incident Commander, Fire Chief Charlie Krimmert, and approved by the VashonBePrepared Board, continue to guide our work: health, food security, housing security and economic recovery.
EOC/Community Operations Section: The Vax Access program has completed a one-week pilot project that produced many helpful lessons that are now being used to adjust the program. Vax Access aims to leverage VashonBePrepared partnerships built up during the pandemic as a way to reach out to those facing access barriers to vaccination. The pilot was conducted initially with the Senior Center and now is being offered to other island social service agencies. One result of the pilot program was a decision to be much more clear about the purpose of the Vax Access program. We understand that people are frustrated by the online sign-up process but that is not the purpose of Vax Access. Going forward, those requesting Vax Access will be asked to specify their barrier to healthcare access. Examples include those with low or no digital access, non-English speaking residents, those experiencing cognitive challenges, blindness or other severe vision problems, or other similar barriers to access. Strict compliance is being maintained with the current vaccination tiers, 1a and 1b1.
EOC/Public Information: Concern over the lack of vaccine on the island spiked last week before news came that a new shipment would come in for this week’s vaccination operations. The Public Information team supported the Situation Section in getting accurate information to islanders. Much of the community concern was being expressed on Facebook, and the team responded to a number of questions in that venue.
Cold rain and mud: Winterizing and site improvements have continued at the Vashon Pharmacy vaccination site. Vashon Sand & Gravel and Greentree Dozing donated improvements to the patient staging area for the drive-through, in the Vashon Theatre parking area. Tent covers have been erected over two of the three drive-through lanes in the parking lot behind the pharmacy, and huts are being installed to shelter the vaccinators who are doing the injections.
Volunteer donated hours: Volunteer hours have spiked over the last month as the Vashon Pharmacy drive-through site was in planning and went into full operation, in addition to ongoing work at the COVID test site. For the most recent reporting period, 46 volunteers contributed 540 hours of work to VashonBePrepared’s pandemic emergency response. That brings the total contributed hours to about 22,380 since the activation began. At the FEMA reimbursement grant rate of $31.72/hour, VashonBePrepared volunteers have logged nearly $710,000 of in-kind value available to be applied to the 25% match requirement for reimbursement grants. 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 gives thanks as well for the many extra hours of work in support of the Vashon community during the pandemic by the staff and volunteers at local social services agencies.
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.