Current Vaccination Priority Groups: 1a, 1b1 through 1b4
Virus statistics: Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) reports 112 positive cases of COVID-19 on Vashon since the pandemic began, an increase of three cases since the last edition. Three Vashon residents have died from COVID-19 related illnesses.
Just a bit longer, please: “We are getting closer to knocking out the pandemic, but we are not there yet, and there are very concerning warning signs that we could be headed for a fourth major spike in infection. Our community has the lowest infection rate in King County but all around us the numbers are rising” said Dr. Jim Bristow, Co-Coordinator of Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and leader of the island’s COVID-19 testing effort. “For some weeks at the test site, a big percentage of our patients have been requesting testing so they can travel. It’s easy to understand why, after more than a year of pandemic. Unfortunately, the number one source of infections for the past year has been people traveling off-island and bringing the infection home with them. If we can hold out for another couple of months, many more people will be protected by vaccination and it will be much safer,” he continued. His advice: stay home a bit longer, mask, distance, and wash hands to keep our community safe.
VASHON VACCINATION AVAILABILITY
The overview: First dose appointments were available last week on the island for the first time in several weeks at both of the active vaccination sites. A much smaller number of first dose opportunities have been on offer this week. Second dose commitments are being met at both locations.
Sea Mar: The Sunrise Ridge clinic had enough vaccine doses to schedule some limited first dose service for at least one day this week. To find out which days Sea Mar will offer first dose service, check the Sea Mar corporate website frequently (SeaMar.org/covid-vaccine). Sea Mar has been providing vaccines to cover second-dose commitments.
Vashon Pharmacy: The drive-through site operated at a steady rate last week and for two days this week, thanks to two large shipments of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. However, the Pharmacy’s request for additional vaccines for this week was denied by the state Department of Health (DOH) so the drive-through site was shut down on most days this week for lack of vaccine, and the online appointment booking portal was not opened for new appointments. Vaccines were set aside for all currently booked second-dose appointments.
End-of-Day Waitlist/Cancellation Option: Vashon Pharmacy has added two features to its vaccination sign-up page. At the beginning of each day, twelve currently eligible people can put their name in to be called if any vaccine doses are left at the end of the day. The waitlist is reset to zero each day. In addition, there’s now an appointment cancellation feature that will help reduce the number of no-shows and thus the number of leftover vaccine doses. Both features are available at the appointment sign-up website, at VashonPharmacy.com/COVID.
Vax access: The Vax Access team’s outreach to Spanish-speaking residents of Vashon has so far helped more than 60 people book vaccination appointments. The Vax Access program helps promote access equity for people experiencing significant barriers to vaccination such as physical challenges, lack of computers, and lack of English language skills. Work continues on providing mobile vaccinations to homebound residents.
Local availability checking: For updates on vaccination availability, check the following four websites to see if there is updated information beyond what we compile in these Situation Reports, which are published Tuesday and Friday.
Off-island vaccination resources: A number of sites within driving distance are scheduling vaccination appointments in King, Pierce and Kitsap counties. Here are some websites to check for vaccination opportunities:
Each of these sources lists some potential vaccination locations within a few miles of the mainland ferry docks. Check these websites frequently and refresh your browser to find the most convenient location for you. Also, keep in mind that your mainland healthcare provider may be a vaccination resource (CHI Franciscan, Multicare, Kaiser, etc.). And all veterans enrolled in the Veterans Administration system are eligible at VA facilities.
Restaurant closure: Casa Bonita restaurant closed for two weeks as a voluntary COVID safety measure, and the staff went into voluntary quarantine and were tested. Two staff at the restaurant tested positive last week. The Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and the owner of the restaurant issued an appeal for members of the public who may have been exposed to call the MRC phone line to be screened for possible testing. Please only call if you were served inside the restaurant on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, March 25 through 27. You need not call if you were ordering or picking up to-go orders unless you spent more than 15 minutes in the restaurant. The MRC number is (844) 469-4554. So far, a total of 32 Vashon residents have been tested, and only the two original cases have tested positive.
Wide-open vaccination eligibility coming: Starting April 15, everyone 16 and older who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be eligible in Washington state. However, it’s important to keep in mind that eligibility is not the same as actually getting a vaccination, since demand still far exceeds the supply of vaccine doses. The expansion of eligibility comes in response to a recent uptick in COVID cases in the state, and a forecast of increased vaccine allocations by the federal government. Currently, Pfizer-BioNTech is the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for people 16 years of age and older. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are authorized for people 18 and older. Vaccination is not yet available for people under age 16.
International travel guidance relaxed: CDC has updated its travel recommendations for vaccinated international travelers. CDC now says vaccinated travelers do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless their destination requires it, and you do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States. CDC still recommends delaying international travel until you are fully vaccinated. Even after you are fully vaccinated, you should continue to follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely, and get tested 3 to 5 days after travel.
Health insurance enrollment extended: The special enrollment period for health insurance has again been extended. Enrollment is now available through August 15 for people who are uninsured. Anyone who doesn’t have health insurance can buy a plan directly from an insurer or through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. If you buy a plan through the Exchange, you may qualify for federal help paying your premium; additional funding is now available to subsidize health coverage, even eliminating premium payments for some. See wahealthplanfinder.org.
Aid for lost health insurance: If you lost your health insurance or had a reduction in income, you may now qualify for free Apple Health (Medicaid) insurance from Washington state. Public Health — Seattle & King County is offering to assist people in signing up for health insurance plans, including Apple Health, as well as SNAP (food stamps) and Orca Lift transit cards. Contact Miguel Urquiza directly at 206-491-3761 (cell) or 206-477-6965 or email email@example.com. Miguel speaks Spanish and helps Vashon residents access various health-related resources.
The Medical Reserve Corps story: Lives Well Lived, a new series by Vashon Heritage Museum (VHM) and Vashon Community Care (VCC), presents a program on The Vashon Model: A Community-based Response to COVID. That’s this week, at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 8. Well-known island writer and radio personality Susan McCabe moderates the discussion between doctors James Bristow, Ina Opplinger, Clayton Olney, and Jinna Risdal from Vashon Medical Reserve Corps, all of them key players in Vashon’s nationally recognized response to the COVID pandemic. To register for the free Zoom event, go to bit.ly/liveswelllived.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): Four operational priorities were put in place for Vashon’s pandemic emergency response shortly after our activation 55 weeks ago. Those four priorities, established by the Incident Commander Fire Chief Charlie Krimmert, and approved by the VashonBePrepared Board, continue to be health, food security, housing security and economic recovery.
Medical Reserve Corps/EOC: Much effort has gone this week into testing and contact tracing for the Casa Bonita restaurant cases, including public information support. In addition, support work continues for the Vashon School District, as they deal with follow-up for the outbreak that emerged a week ago. To that end, School District management and staff met with an MRC/EOC team in anticipation of in-person learning that will follow this week’s spring break. The drive-through vaccination site has been near capacity each day this week, thanks to two significant shipments of vaccines that arrived early in the week.
COVID-19 testing: The Vashon MRC testing site performed its 3,000th test last Friday, April 2.
Community engagement: In anticipation of improved vaccine availability in the next few months, work has started on crafting a public education campaign to address vaccine hesitancy with accurate information and scientific data.
Economic recovery: The EOC has started work with our Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce partner on a new economic recovery campaign to support Vashon’s businesses and, by extension, the employees and owners of those businesses.
Acknowledgments: The COVID response operations groups thank Mukai Farm and Garden and Open Space for Arts & Community for making our COVID-19 testing program possible. Mukai provided the original space for the COVID-19 testing operation beginning in April 2020. Open Space picked up the load in mid-May last year and continues to provide space for the testing program. We will be listing support acknowledgments like these in this space weekly, a recognition that emergency response is a team sport on Vashon Island.
Volunteers: Hours contributed by volunteers in the VashonBePrepared coalition were on the rise again this past week, in response to two major contact tracing responses and a full supply of vaccines for the Vashon Pharmacy drive-through site. However, for the previous full week reporting period, hours were down sharply because the drive-through site had been shut down for lack of vaccine supply. For that week, 29 volunteers contributed 321 hours of work to VashonBePrepared’s pandemic emergency response. That brings the total contributed hours to more than 26,500 since the activation began. At the FEMA reimbursement grant rate of $31.72/hour, VashonBePrepared volunteers have logged more than $841,600 of in-kind value available to be applied to the 25% match requirement for reimbursement grants. VashonBePrepared gives thanks as well for the many hours of extra work logged during the pandemic in support of the Vashon community, by the staff and volunteers at local social services agencies.
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.