Vashon infections: Four additional COVID-19 cases were added to the Vashon total since the last edition, so the tally has climbed to 38 since record-keeping began in March, according to statistics from Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC).
Very bad infection trend: COVID-19 cases continue to soar in King and Pierce Counties. In King County, the seven-day rolling average of new infections has gone to 529 per day, up from an already severe 260 just one week ago — doubling the case rate in just one week. Most of the new cases in King County are in the 20 to 29 age range followed by ages 30 to 39. Vashon case numbers are still low compared to the mainland but have increased significantly over the past six weeks.
NEW STRONG RESTRICTIONS ANNOUNCED
The Governor takes action: Gov. Inslee reacted over the weekend to the state’s surging COVID-19 case count by announcing new restrictions reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic. “Today, Sunday, November 15, 2020, is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Inslee stated. “A pandemic is raging in our state. Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues….”
The list of new restrictions: The new orders stop short of a stay home order, but roll back into place many of the restrictions experienced back in the spring.
- Shutdowns for indoor gyms, fitness centers, and movie theaters.
- A ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars with outdoor service limited to parties of five or less.
- Indoor social events with people outside your household are prohibited unless the participants have gone through a quarantine and testing protocol.
- Outdoor social gatherings are limited to no more than five people from outside your household.
- Religious services may continue but limited to 25% of capacity or 200 people, whichever is less. Choirs, bands and congregational singing are prohibited.
- Retail stores, including grocery and convenience stores, must limit occupancy to 25% of capacity.
- Offices must mandate employees to work from home, if possible, and limit worker occupancy to 25% if they work in the office. Offices may not be open to the public.
- Long-term care facilities may accept visitors only in outdoor settings.
- Personal services, such as barbershops and salons, are limited to 25% capacity.
14-day travel advisory: In addition to the new restrictions announced over the weekend, Gov. Inslee had earlier issued a travel advisory for Washington, joining matching advisories by the governors of California and Oregon. The advisories strongly recommend a 14-day quarantine for interstate and international travel. It strongly asks residents to stay close to home and urges visitors entering the state or returning home from travel to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the virus.
HOW TO STAY SAFE
Sorry to say: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (and many other experts) say the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to spend the holiday only with people living in your household. As the holiday approaches, the pandemic has taken an alarming turn, shattering records for new daily infections and hospitalizations around the nation and here in King County. Experts also say that small gatherings are one of the main ways the disease is spreading right now, situations where people feel they are safe because they know the people they are with.
Your mask goes both ways: CDC issued a statement that gives everyone a new reason for wearing a mask. It not only protects those around you, but the CDC now says wearing a mask helps protect you from getting COVID-19. The new finding goes a step beyond the previous CDC advice that wearing masks would only protect those around them.
The ferry vector: Some people believe that living on an island keeps them safer because our number of new cases is lower than the mainland. However, the water is not a disease proof boundary — quite the opposite. Although ferry traffic is down from a year ago, it’s not down by much. In fact, Washington State Ferries statistics show that 3,300 people per day make round trips on our ferries in order to go to work, school, medical appointments, and shopping. That means the ferry actually can be a pathway for the disease to come to Vashon in greater numbers.
Beds running low: King County hospitals are on a trend to run out of intensive care and acute care beds. King County hospitals are listed with a rating of ‘Caution’ by the Healthcare Emergency Coordination Center in the latest weekly report. The update matches a national trend. Field hospitals have been established in some cities — and humanitarian hospital ships deployed — because even large urban hospitals in some locations are not able to handle the patient surge.
About the vaccine news: Vashon Medical Reserve Corps has made an initial assessment of the Pfizer announcement of a promising preliminary vaccine trial result. MRC describes the announcement as welcome news but points out that the vaccine is still a long way off from general distribution, in particular for distribution on Vashon. “As exciting as this development may be, everyone needs to keep in mind that right now, today, the danger of infection in our region is worse than it has been since the pandemic started, with new case count records being set almost daily,” according to Dr. Jim Bristow. “The focus right now needs to be on keeping yourself, your family and your friends safe by practicing all the COVID-19 safety measures we have been learning about since March. Also, gatherings with people outside your household are dangerous, even though everyone really wants to get together for holidays.” Dr. Ina Oppliger points out several factors that will be major challenges for anyone trying to administer the Pfizer vaccine on Vashon. She reminds everyone that the state Department of Health plan is to distribute the initially-limited amount of vaccine for prioritized categories such as health care workers, first responders and individuals at higher risk, and it may be many months before the vaccine is generally available to clinics and the pharmacy on Vashon. In addition, the Pfizer vaccine requires a level of cold storage not currently available on the island.
Partnering on health vouchers: Vashon Youth & Family Services (VYFS) has joined with Granny’s Attic to distribute Community Wellness Vouchers. As part of the VYFS Case Management program, they plan to distribute thousands of dollars in vouchers to low-income island residents or those facing extraordinary medical costs. Vouchers are redeemable for medical care at a variety of island medical providers, the Vashon Pharmacy, and for other medical and wellness-related expenses. Ferry travel vouchers are also available to cover transportation to mainland medical appointments. To obtain vouchers, you must first complete an intake with VYFS Wellness Voucher Coordinator Deborah Rieschl; call (206) 463-5511 to make an intake appointment. For more information visit vyfs.org/vouchers.
Want to have lunch? Vashon Senior Center has the capacity to add more people to receive delivered lunches three days per week. The service is available to anyone age 55 or older, and it’s free, although a $5/meal donation is welcomed. The organization currently delivers 70 to 75 lunches on each of the three delivery days, about 35% more lunches than this time last year. The senior center also notes that the extended isolation of the pandemic has been hard, resulting in some seniors feeling lonely, depressed, and even afraid. Meal deliveries give seniors a brief respite from being alone. If you would like to join the volunteer effort, email Pamela Wickard at coordinator@VashonCenter.org. If you would like to receive meals, call (206) 463-5173.
Unemployment status quo: Washington Department of Employment Security reports a leveling off in Vashon unemployment claims. At the end of October, Vashon unemployment claims were showing a slight increase to 414 from the 409 reported two weeks prior. To date, the Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce Ask the Expert program has completed 946 telephone consultations. If you need help filing for unemployment, the chamber’s Ask the Expert person will consult with you on how to proceed. Email email@example.com or call (206) 200-3236.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): The EOC activated in response to the pandemic emergency over eight months ago (253 days). Incident Commander Fire Chief Charlie Krimmert and the VashonBePrepared Board of Directors have set operational priorities on health, food, housing security and economic recovery.
Medical Reserve Corps/COVID-19 Testing: One major focus of the emergency response at this time is COVID-19 testing. Activity at the testing site has doubled in the past few weeks, approaching 100 tests per week and as high as 34 in one day. The Medical Reserve Corps, supported by volunteers from the Community Emergency Response Team, has tested roughly 12% of island residents at one time or another in the course of this activation.
EOC/Situational Awareness: The EOC has been intensively monitoring the mainland COVID-19 case counts, which have been soaring dramatically the past few weeks. As reported above, the danger has been increasing daily that the infection will come to Vashon in a bigger way, resulting in community spread as is happening elsewhere in south King County.
VashonBePrepared/Vashon COVID Relief Fund: The November disbursement from the Vashon COVID Relief Fund has been completed. Funds are being distributed to the Food Bank, Interfaith Council for Prevention of Homelessness, Senior Center and the School District nutrition program, a total of $10,000. In addition, some funding has been designated for economic recovery to support work by the Chamber of Commerce.
Community Engagement/Community Care Team: Response has been quite strong to the suicide prevention and mental health campaign. The LEARN series of videos has been going out once a week with frequent sharing via social media and email judging from the number of times the videos are being viewed.
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.