Virus statistics: After some data confusion, the week ended with the COVID-19 case count for Vashon increased by one from one week ago. To date, 13 Vashon residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since pandemic record-keeping began at Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC). The Vashon EOC Situation Report maintains data consistency by relying on the official counts by zip code provided by PHSKC.
Data problems: The Washington State Department of Health reports ongoing challenges with producing accurate COVID-19 data. Among the several issues has been a statewide electronic disease-surveillance system that wasn’t set up to handle the historic flood of data produced by this pandemic. Vashon EOC has been working with Public Health to improve local data reporting. For example, earlier this week the positive count for Vashon went up to 13 but slipped back down to 12 positives and then back up to 13 over the weekend. So far, there has been no explanation for the fluctuation.
Safety violations: There have recently been multiple reports on Vashon of group gatherings that violate pandemic safety laws and guidelines, including a large wedding reception with live entertainment the weekend of August 8th. Those contacting the EOC have asked how they can report safety violations. The EOC has no authority to enforce compliance and King County Sheriffs are not enforcing the guidelines. If you suspect violations, you can try calling the COVID helpline for Public Health — Seattle & King County at 206-296-1608 or fill out the form at coronavirus.wa.gov/report-safe-start-violation.
School Reopening Plan: Vashon Island School District (VISD) board members have approved a reopening plan including 24 academic and other requirements. According to Supt. Slade McSheehy, distance Learning 2.0 improvements to VISD’s distance learning model stemmed from family survey responses as well as guidance from the VISD Reopening Team. The aim was to improve the distance learning program that had to be put together on very short notice in the spring when the pandemic hit. You can read the Distance Learning 2.0 Guide at tinyurl.com/y27v3haa. (Editor’s Note: see page 1 for story.)
Mental health crisis happening now: The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new study showing we are headed into a mental health crisis due to the pandemic. The CDC survey found that more than 40% of respondents are struggling with mental health issues related to pandemic stress. Respondents to the study identified anxiety, depression, mental trauma and substance abuse. Eleven percent reported they had seriously considered suicide in the last 30 days. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/y6zxzadf.
Unemployment picture improving, but still grim: The Vashon expert that has been helping workers get unemployment benefits reports that 14% of island workers — 684 people — are still out of work. At the peak, about 1,000 people were on unemployment in a given week — a number that fluctuates as workers pick up temporary or intermittent work and fall in and out of the unemployment benefits rolls. Since the pandemic began, more than 1,400 people have at some point filed for unemployment benefits. If you need help filing for unemployment, the Chamber of Commerce Ask the Expert person will consult with you on options. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (206) 200-3236. To date, since the pandemic began, she has done more than 700 consultations with workers.
Businesses still struggling: The Chamber of Commerce has completed its third survey of impacts on island businesses since the pandemic hit. About 40% of the responding businesses reported losing more than half their normal revenue. Many said they had lost all revenue. The same percentage expected to have difficulty paying their bills in August or beyond. More than one-fourth have furloughed or laid off employees and an equal number said they had reduced hours for employees. Many of the businesses reported they have been offering alternative services in light of the pandemic, with about one-fourth saying they had started selling online. More than 85% of the responding businesses reported that they had been complying with requirements for masks and six-foot separation for both employees and customers.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): Our EOC activated 23 weeks ago on March 12. We are at Maintenance & Monitoring level, basing resource decisions on the three top priorities set by the VashonBePrepared Board of Directors: health, food and shelter.
School District Support: A task force of school district and EOC staff has identified half a dozen concepts for further study to extend Chautauqua Elementary School classrooms to the outdoors using tents or similar structures. The task force met again this week to make lists of questions and issues that need to be analyzed for each concept, which is being assessed against two scenarios. One scenario for the very first days of the impending reopening of school might provide safe class space for very small groups of children with particular needs for in-person teaching, although the schools as a whole will be going back with online virtual teaching only. The second scenario would aim to be ready for expanded in-person teaching when King County moves to Phase 3.
Community Engagement/Community Care Team: A team has finished planning on a community campaign to address the mental health crisis, which is expected to intensify as pandemic continues and increases (see related item in Community Developments section). The campaign builds on a suicide prevention concept called LEARN. For more on LEARN, see tinyurl.com/y6xtkj6x.
Economic Recovery: Two important new streams of data on business and employment have come available to the EOC, thanks to our partnership with the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber completed a comprehensive survey of business recovery on the island. In addition, the Chamber’s Ask the Expert specialist for unemployed worker support tapped into a new source of more precise data on how our workers have been doing the last five months. The new data sources will help the EOC allocate resources going forward. There’s more information on both data results in the Community Developments section on this page.
Vashon COVID Relief Fund: EOC staff have interviewed more than a dozen island social service agencies in order to search out immediate and severe funding gaps given the uncertainty of any new federal pandemic relief package. The assessment will help the EOC recommend where to go from here with Relief Fund disbursements, given the limited remaining funds. The Relief Fund ran dry in the first week of August but a generous anonymous donor contributed an additional $50,000, doubling that household’s original donation.
Finance: VashonBePrepared and EOC staff have reached the nuts and bolts stage of applications for federal aid to cover some of the costs from our emergency response to the pandemic. It’s important to note that any funding from this effort will not arrive any earlier than the spring of 2021, probably months later. FEMA funding covers 75% of qualifying costs. Most work has been going into an application for the largest expense category, food and shelter costs totaling around $135,000. The food and shelter application will go through the King County Office of Emergency Management (KCOEM), lumped in with an omnibus application for many other county agencies and jurisdictions.
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.