Virus statistics: Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) reports 104 positive cases of COVID-19 on Vashon since the pandemic began. That’s an increase of six cases over the 98 cases reported in last week’s edition.
VASHON VACCINATION AVAILABILITY
The overview: Vashon Pharmacy’s vaccination drive-through site had to close on both Saturday and Monday when unexpectedly large snow accumulations and the threat of icy roads posed a safety issue for patients trying to reach their appointments, as well as for pharmacy staff and volunteers. The full slate of Saturday appointments and the lighter list of Monday appointments were automatically rescheduled to Wednesday, Feb. 17. Patients who subsequently missed their Wednesday appointments are being contacted by pharmacy staff for rescheduling.
Second doses week: As this edition was going to press, no final word had been received on this week’s expected shipment of vaccines. This week was to have been devoted mostly to second doses of the vaccine. If no vaccine supply arrives, the second-dose plan will be pushed out to next week.
After receiving their second dose, patients are reminded of these important tips for the health and safety of themselves and others:
- It takes two weeks after the second dose to reach the fullest COVID-19 protection.
- The vaccine is highly effective, but a few people will still get infected.
- We all still need to mask up, even after being vaccinated, because we’ll still:
- Potentially be vulnerable to any mutated variants of the virus, and…
- Potentially be able to spread the virus to others.
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 as needed, to get any updated information.
Progress so far: The number of patients served daily at the pharmacy drive-through site continued to increase. During just three days, from Tuesday through Thursday of last week, over 600 patients received vaccinations. Last week’s overall total was reduced by Saturday’s snow closure.
Vashon Pharmacy: The plan for this week was to begin second doses of both Moderna and Pfizer vaccinations at the drive-through site. Over 1,400 doses were planned, for a daily average of 233 vaccinations, but as of press time, no final information had been received on delivery of the needed supply. Wednesday’s operations were used mostly for make-up appointments, for patients affected by the Saturday and Monday snow closures. The pharmacy’s vaccination website is working better, after improvements made last week.
Sea Mar at Sunrise Ridge: This week, Sea Mar received only a small number of doses to support providing second vaccinations for patients who had previously received first vaccinations at the clinic. A request for a large shipment of primary doses has still not been fulfilled, so the Sunrise Ridge health center could not conduct a public vaccination clinic this week.
Vashon Natural Medicine: VNM continues to be on hold for shipments until the vaccine is available in much greater supply.
State-level adjustments: The federal government announced last week that it will be providing states with three-week advance forecasts of how many vaccines will be shipped. The state Department of Health (DOH) reacted positively to the news, saying it would be a big help to planning vaccination operations. One major challenge around the state, and particularly on Vashon, has been the difficulty of being able to reliably offer first dose appointments more than one week at a time. The DOH at the same time advised that it would be taking steps to even out distribution statewide, that vaccination phases and tiers would be rolled out simultaneously in all counties, not a county at a time. The state also indicated that it may reallocate vaccines so that counties struggling to meet the phase and tier targets would be able to catch up. This could mean that some areas get less vaccine for a while until the county vaccination rates have been equalized. Bottom line: That means Vashon and the rest of King County may not be able to advance to new vaccination tiers (1b2, 1b3, 1b4, etc.) until other counties complete their 1b1 targets.
About variants: Infectious disease specialist Dr. Zach Miller of Vashon Medical Reserve Corps advised that the COVID variants we’re hearing about, from Brazil, South Africa, and the UK, are likely already here in greater numbers than are being reported because genetic sampling of the virus in the United States is not yet as widespread as in some other countries. Mutations are likely also occurring among virus strains active in the US, so that even if we don’t travel far, we may be exposed to new, more infectious variants. As Dr. Miller noted, “That’s a compelling reason to protect our community with continued safety steps, such as masking up, maintaining distance, avoiding crowded indoor spaces, and washing hands frequently.”
Return to Classrooms Timeline Announced: Dr. Slade McSheehy of Vashon Island School District has announced a timeline for reopening in-person education. In his letter to families, Dr. McSheehy wrote that the District believes in-person learning can be accomplished in a way that limits the spread of infection while improving student well-being and learning. “The unfortunate truth is there is no ideal plan or 100% solution to every concern, however, we have an amazing staff who have dedicated significant efforts to ensure we are implementing our safety protocols consistently and effectively”, wrote Dr. McSheehy. He continued, “Many of our colleagues across the state and country are showing that a plan such as ours can work, and work safely.” Dr. McSheehy emphasized that while he remains fully committed to following the Department of Health (DOH) recommendations, he is in full support of school staff getting immediate access to vaccinations. The timeline for the return to in-person learning is currently planned as:
- March 1 – PreK – Kindergarten
- March 15 – Grades 1-3
- March 29 – Grades 4-5
- April 16 – Grades 6-12 (Still in planning phase)
Dr. McSheehy’s letter explained that each of these phases depends on flat or decreasing trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and the ability of the school to demonstrate it can limit transmission in the school environment. (See details on the situation at the schools on the front page of this edition.)
Vashon Community Care (VCC): Following an outbreak earlier in the month, two rounds of building-wide testing of both residents and staff were completed last week. VCC Executive Director Wendy Kleppe announced that these two subsequent rounds of tests taken after the two initial positive cases have all shown negative results. A third round of tests was made last Friday, and the results from those tests will influence the next steps as determined by Public Health of Seattle-King County (PHSKC). The facility must go for 28 days with no new infections after a positive test, in order to get the all-clear from the Washington Department of Health (DOH). The last positive test was on February 5th. Stringent hygiene protocols continue to be followed by all staff. So far, more than 92% of staff and residents have been vaccinated, far surpassing the national average for long-term care facilities.
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 (344 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
Snows delay vaccinations: Winter snows started falling last Friday, bringing greater accumulations than expected. This resulted in the delay and eventual cancellation of Saturday and Monday vaccinations at the pharmacy site, with follow-on effects for site volunteers, pharmacy staff, and members of the EOC/Voice of Vashon emergency alert team. Saturday and Monday appointments were rescheduled to Wednesday.
Vax access: As the project was rolled out to other social service agencies, the Vax Access team reported that many of the seniors assisted by Senior Center volunteers and staff were experiencing challenges related to computer use and internet access. The folks who were helped to get appointments via the Vax Access program will be due for their second doses starting in late February. The Vax Access team extends many thanks to Senior Center volunteers and staff for their major efforts on the program.
MRC COVID-19 testing continues: Testing volumes are holding steady at about 60 tests per week, which is comparable to October volumes. One positive case was seen at the MRC test site in the past two weeks. Patients seeking tests here on Vashon are mostly calling because they’re experiencing symptoms (not as much for exposures, pre-travel, or pre-family visits). It’s too early to see any disease spread resulting from Superbowl Sunday – if Vashon sees an uptick in positive cases resulting from Superbowl gatherings, it would show up starting this weekend or next week.
Vashon COVID relief fund: Last week the Fund began its thirteenth round of disbursements to local social service agencies since the pandemic began, helping agencies continue to meet the sharply increased demand for community support during the pandemic. Recipient agencies included: Vashon Maury Community Food Bank, Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, Vashon Island School District’s nutrition program, Vashon Senior Center’s lunch program, The DOVE Project, Vashon Youth and Family Services, and St. Vincent de Paul Vashon.
Volunteer donated hours: Volunteer hours continued their upward trend last week, as the Vashon Pharmacy drive-through site extended its hours, while work continued for the COVID testing site and other teams. For the most recent reporting period, 41 volunteers contributed 539 hours of work to VashonBePrepared’s pandemic emergency response. That brings the total contributed hours to about 22,925 since the activation began. At the FEMA reimbursement grant rate of $31.72/hour, VashonBePrepared volunteers have logged over $727,000 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, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), and Community Care Team (CCT). Many additional hours were contributed by CERT team members at the testing and vaccination sites, using a separate hours-tracking system. VashonBePrepared gives thanks as well to the staff and volunteers at local social services agencies for their extra work to support the Vashon community during the pandemic.
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.