Statistics: Five new COVID-19 cases have been logged since the last edition. That ties Vashon’s previous record for weekly new cases, and brings the total positive tests to date to 29, according to statistics from Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC). Both weekly records were logged just since Sept. 1.
Household clusters and travel: Out of state travel has been driving the recent spike in cases (see the front page of this edition). In fact, last week we had a new family COVID-19 cluster — the third family cluster in the last six weeks. In each case, one or more household members traveled for personal reasons, and family members were found to be infected after they returned to Vashon. As a result, the total case count for Vashon has more than doubled since September 1st, from 14 cases to 29 cases. It took 24 weeks to get to 14 cases and only six more weeks to reach 29 cases.
“Many people have been asking if some transportation mode might be safer than another, comparing airplanes to trains or cars but that’s not the issue,” said Dr. Jim Bristow, leader of the Medical Reserve Corps testing team. “The real problem appears to be what people do at their destination. They often are traveling for family gatherings, and who is not going to give grandma or their niece a big hug at a birthday party or wedding?”
Dr. Zach Miller, the infectious disease expert serving in the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps, points out: “It’s fortunate that Vashon is not yet dealing with community person-to-person spread of COVID-19 outside of individual households, because most of the new cases connect to family cluster events. “However,” he continued, “every time one of these clusters shows up, we worry that the disease will escape into the community.”
MRC urges everyone, for their own safety and the safety of their family, to put off travel even for those family milestones. If you do travel, quarantine for 14 days when you get home, even if it means quarantining from household family members who did not join you on the trip. And, if you have even mild viral symptoms, get tested.
Langland Dental update: One of the recent family cluster events relates to the Langland Dental Associates office closure reported last week. The index case remains in isolation and is doing well. Patients potentially exposed in the office are nearing the end of quarantine without current evidence of infection thus far. All remaining Langland staff have now been tested twice. All tested negative, except one person exposed during the original family cluster event. That person did not expose patients or other staff at the Langland office and remains in isolation. Langland Dental reopened this week.
Get your flu shot: Islanders who still need to get their seasonal flu vaccinations have a new way to find out where to get them. The Medical Reserve Corps has compiled a directory of island vaccination providers, including hours, cost, insurance coverage, and appointment info. Visit the Vashon Flu Vaccine Provider Director at VashonBePrepared.org/FluVaccine.
Drive-through vaccination event: The Vashon Island School District and VashonBePrepared’s Medical Reserve Corps have collaborated to bring a drive-through flu vaccination clinic to the island. It will be on Oct. 20, with another day possible if the day gets fully booked. You must pre-register at the Seattle Visiting Nurse Association website (seattlevna.com). Wear short-sleeved clothing and a mask. Please fill in your insurance details when pre-registering, and bring your card to your appointment. If you do not have health insurance, check that option during pre-registration and special funding from King County will cover the cost of your flu vaccination. More information is available online at seattlevna.com/faqs-4.
More loosening of Phase 2 restrictions: Governor Inslee today announced a loosening of restrictions on some activities. For Phase 2 counties, which includes King County and Vashon, movie theaters would be able to operate at 25% capacity with the customary face mask requirement and six feet distance between households. Phase 2 area restaurants will be able to increase table size to six and will be allowed to serve alcohol until 11 p.m. Real estate open houses will be allowed with the size-limit for gatherings under Phase 2 guidance. The announcement included notice of some relaxed protocols for some outdoor group sports such as bicycle rides, runs, and a few others. There will not yet be any advancement of counties from their current phase status. For full guidance, see this release.
Spanish language scammer protection: Vashon Library will offer a Spanish language program, to help the community protect against scammers, at 11 a.m. on Oct. 24. A representative from the Washington State Attorney General’s Office will provide information about identity theft and scams, particularly those related to COVID-19, how you can protect yourself and your loved ones, and how to recover your identity if it is stolen or you fall victim to a scam. An opportunity to ask questions and get answers will be provided. Registration is required and you will be emailed a Zoom invite the day before the program. For more information, visit online.
Weekend meals for kids: Backpack Pantry Vashon, a program of St. John Vianney Church, will be offering free weekend meals for children from any family currently experiencing financial difficulties, beginning tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 16. This will be a four-week trial and the program will continue if successful. For times and locations of meal pickups, visit facebook.com/BackpackPantryVashon or call 206-463-2142.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): It has been 218 days (31 weeks, 1 day) since activating on March 12. Activation level is Maintenance & Monitoring. Operational priorities have been set as health, food and shelter. Community economic recovery efforts continue through our partnership with the Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce.
Volunteers: The value of volunteer hours for this emergency activation has reached over half a million dollars. VashonBePrepared volunteers contributed another 285 hours of work to the pandemic emergency response last week. That brings the total to slightly more than 16,000 hours since activation. At the FEMA standard rate of $31.72 per volunteer hour, that means VashonBePrepared volunteers have logged time that’s worth about $509,000, including hours contributed by the Vashon EOC Team, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), and Community Care Team (CCT). The staff and volunteers for Vashon’s numerous social services agencies have contributed many thousands of hours to the Vashon community that are not included in the total.
King County Office of Emergency Management: Leadership of Vashon Island Fire & Rescue and the EOC Team met this week with King County department directors and staff to discuss ways the agencies could support each other during emergencies in the future, based on lessons learned during this pandemic activation. The agencies have assigned staff to follow-up, and they will develop a written plan and contract to implement it, based on the regional disaster coordination plan.
Community Care Team: Leadership of the Community Care Team, a unit of the Medical Reserve Corps, provided suicide prevention training to teachers and other staff at Vashon schools last week. The training based on the LEARN system, helps people look for signs that someone may be thinking about suicide, empathize by listening to them, and take action to remove the danger and get them to care. (See the postcard image on this page.)
FEMA Reimbursement: VashonBePrepared emergency response documentation for food and housing relief has been accepted by the King County Office of Emergency Management and will now proceed through the often lengthy process of seeking reimbursement via a public assistance grant from the CARES Act or FEMA. Vashon’s costs will be part of an omnibus application by King County. Two other FEMA applications are in progress from Vashon for other aspects of the emergency response, one directly from VashonBePrepared, and the other from Vashon Island Fire & Rescue.
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.