Virus statistics: Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) reports 82 positive cases of COVID-19 on Vashon since the pandemic began. At press time, there had been four additions to the new case total in the last two weeks, a relief following the major spike in cases in November, related to the Thanksgiving holiday season.
Major improvement: Vashon’s 14-day positivity rate has dropped down below 1%, about one-tenth of the level in mainland King County which continues to contend with a positivity rate of more than 10%. Vashon is now back to its pre-Thanksgiving level. The positivity rate metric provides a rough indication of the level of infection in a population by dividing the number of COVID-19 positive tests by the total number of tests.
Data reporting lag: It is important to note that a data processing lag continues, with PHSKC and the state Department of Health working to catch up from the recent massive spike in cases throughout the state. For example, the PHSKC data dashboard reports zero COVID-19 related deaths and two COVID-19 hospitalizations for Vashon residents. However, as reported in last week’s edition, there has been one death, which included a third hospitalization.
VCC resident tests positive: Vashon Community Care has gone into a required lockdown after receiving test results on Christmas Eve that a resident had contracted COVID-19. Based on the timing of symptoms and other factors, it appears that the patient was infected during a brief stay on the mainland for medical treatment, away from the VCC facility. Vashon MRC was able to determine that there were no exposures outside VCC. The infected patient has been isolated at another site and VCC has implemented the procedures required by the state’s Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). DSHS along with DOH has opened an infection control investigation as is standard practice for long-term care facilities with 1 or more positive cases. All residents and staff were tested on Christmas Day and will be tested again over the next 14 days. Visitors have not been allowed in the building since March and all outdoor visits have been canceled. However, window visits are available for families to help them stay connected with their loved ones. The facility was already at the most stringent Phase 1 COVID-19 control level with meals being delivered to rooms and common areas closed to residents mingling. During this phase, VCC has done random testing of staff and daily screened all residents and staff for COVID symptoms. It is fortunate that vaccinations have already begun at VCC, although the MRC testing team believes it is likely not yet providing protection against infection (see below).
First vaccinations on Vashon: Nearly 60 residents and staff at Vashon Community Care (VCC) received dose number one of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 23. These are the first vaccinations to take place on the island. (As reported in the previous edition, Vashon’s Dr. John Osborn was the first island resident to get the vaccine, during a duty shift in the emergency room at a mainland hospital.) Two more vaccination clinics for VCC residents and staff are planned for January and February, which will complete their required two-injection COVID-19 vaccination regimen.
Next in line vaccination groups: The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted on vaccine priority groups for Phases 1b and 1c, now that Phase 1a is underway for vaccinations of healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents. ACIP recommended that Phase 1b include adults aged 75 years and older as well as frontline essential workers. Frontline essential workers were defined as “first responders, teachers and other education workers including daycare workers, food and agriculture workers, correctional facility staff, postal workers, public transit workers, and people who work in manufacturing and in grocery stores” who have direct contact with the public as part of their job. ACIP recommended that Phase 1c include adults aged 65 to 74 as well as individuals aged 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions. ACIP recommendations go to the CDC Director for final approval. However, state and local health authorities make the final decisions on how to roll out vaccination in their locales.
Second vaccine arriving: Governor Jay Inslee announced the approval of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. The Western States Workgroup, comprised of vaccine experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, has been meeting to review the data and analysis to ensure the safety and efficacy of both the federally authorized vaccines.
Vashon, the stimulus, and a potential $7 Million in pandemic relief: The new stimulus program, passed by Congress last week and signed by the President after some delay, could bring more than $7 million in estimated economic relief to Vashon. In anticipation of the program going into effect, the EOC Team has been working with the Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce’s Ask the Expert volunteer for unemployment to estimate the economic support that could come to Vashon. Unemployment benefits would likely continue for another 11 weeks for 248 Vashonites receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and for the162 residents receiving regular unemployment benefits ($1.58 million). All 410 Vashon unemployed recipients will likely receive an additional $300 per week in a federal boost for 11 weeks ($1.35 million). An estimated 65% of Vashon’s 10,000 adults/dependents have individual taxable income under $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) and each is estimated to get a $600 stimulus payment ($3.9 million). A second round of Payroll Protection Program (PPP) grants for local businesses will add to the economic support totals for the island, although there’s no information yet on how many businesses will apply and qualify for PPP.
$550 checks for 95,000 Washington workers: When it appeared the President would not sign the stimulus bill, Gov. Inslee took action on a one-time relief payment for many Washington workers. At press time it was not clear how the President’s change of heart might affect the new state relief program for people receiving federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). If it does go ahead, the new state relief program would send $550 to PUA recipients as early as this week. PUA benefits go to part-time, contract, freelance and self-employed workers. The eligible also includes those who can’t work because they lost childcare, are at high risk for COVID-19 or are caring for someone who is sick.
Good news about firefighter quarantine: Further investigation has concluded that a firefighter at Vashon Island Fire & Rescue did not have COVID-19 after all. The reviewing medical team questioned the findings of the firefighter’s first test and the medical team requested a second test, which proved negative. His four shift mates also tested negative, as did the members of the original firefighter’s family. Although the firefighter was ill, he did not have COVID-19. His four shift mates have been cleared to come back to work.
Going to worship: Gov. Inslee lifted the 200-person maximum attendance cap on houses of worship in response to the Dec. 15, 2020 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Because the Governor believes the attendance cap will help save lives, he converted the 200-person cap requirement to a recommendation.
Keeping homes, eviction moratorium: The Governor also announced an extension of the eviction moratorium to March 31, 2021. The moratorium was set to expire on December 31. “COVID-19 has had a significant financial impact on Washingtonians over the last nine months,” Inslee said. “I know this moratorium has been critical for many families and individuals as they cope with the impacts of this virus.”
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): The EOC activated in response to the pandemic emergency on March 12, nine months, 20 days ago (295 days). Four operational priorities remain our goals: health, food security, housing security and economic recovery.
EOC/holidays: The rest and safety stand-downs for the year-end holidays have been the longest break for volunteers since the pandemic began. Plans were established for contingency coverage during the two four-day breaks for the two holidays. Contingency arrangements are needed because of the danger of another spike on Vashon from family and friend gatherings, as happened in the weeks leading up to and through Thanksgiving week.
Volunteers: A total of 30 volunteers contributed 291 hours of work to VashonBePrepared’s pandemic emergency response in the most recent reporting period. That brings the total volunteer time since activation to a new high mark of more than 19,825 hours. Based on the FEMA valuation of in-kind volunteer hours at $31.72, that means VashonBePrepared volunteers have contributed $628,500 worth of work to the island community. 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 also gives thanks for the many hours of work performed for the Vashon community by the staff and volunteers at local social services agencies.
Improvements/training: Work has been ramping up on some significant emergency response improvements stemming from lessons learned during this pandemic emergency activation. Initial scoping of requirements has started for a rewrite of the 2009 Community Emergency Response Plan. Plans are underway for a virtual non-pandemic EOC activation that will be recorded for future training. A website refresh has been included in the VashonBePrepared budget for the coming year.
COVID relief: The EOC Team continues to work with our chamber of commerce partner to assess the local benefits of the new stimulus package for Vashon. (See item in Community Developments section.)
Vaccine monitoring: The EOC Team and the Medical Reserve Corps continues to monitor the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, including the island’s first injections on Vashon at Vashon Community Care and work at the federal level to designate priorities for receiving the vaccine.
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.