Virus statistics: Vashon added one COVID-19 case to its count since last week’s edition. The new case raised the count to 14 since pandemic record-keeping began, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC).
Statewide, some plateauing: The Washington Disease Reporting System (WDRS) shows some flattening of the curve for COVID-19 cases, looking at the state as a whole. In western Washington, the Re number has been hovering around 1 – meaning every infected person then infects one more person. However, for King County, the Re number is 1.1, failing to meet the target. The WDRS study said “While a number of trends are moving in the right direction, Washington is not out of the woods. It is imperative that we remain compliant with masking and distancing policies that have likely helped get us out of the uncontrolled outbreak situation.”
Perhaps, some limited federal unemployment assistance: The state Employment Security Department says it will seek approval to pay out the limited $300 Lost Wages Assistance benefit from the President’s executive order. There’s no word on whether the state will fund the additional $100 required to bring the payment up to the widely reported $400. The funds will be available for only three weeks and only for those who can certify they are unemployed because of COVID. Congress has not yet agreed on new pandemic relief funding.
Unemployment status quo: Washington Employment Security Department reports that Vashon unemployment claims are down slightly from the prior week – 618 claims vs. 682 the week before. Although claims are down, they still total 13% of the Vashon workforce.
Job search requirement coming back: The waiver of the job-search requirement for unemployment benefits has a little over one week to go, until Sept. 1, 2020. So, it would be a good idea to start looking now. You can get help from Torena O’Rorke, the Vashon Chamber of Commerce’s Ask the Expert, by texting (509) 460-6444 to set up an appointment to explore career development and job opportunities.
Assistance for small businesses: The King County Small Business Assistance Grant program has reopened and expanded, and the application deadline is Friday, September 4. These grants are for businesses that have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and are located in unincorporated parts of King County, such as Vashon. The updated requirements mean more businesses are potentially eligible for grant money than during the first round.
School year camp care: Camp Sealth announced its Outdoor Connections program will offer support for youth, teens, and families affected by COVID-19 and classroom closures. The program provides opportunities for children from Pre-K through grade 12, to get outdoors for exercise and free play, supplement educational needs with the ability to interact with peers and gain social skills, and to fill a need for childcare for working parents. Programs start on Sept. 14. Visit campfireseattle.org/outdoor-connections/.
Border still closed: The governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico have again extended the COVID-19 border closures, applying to non-essential travel, for at least another month until September 21.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): It has been more than 24 weeks (169 days) since our EOC was activated on March 12. We are activated at the Maintenance & Monitoring level and current operational priorities are health, food and shelter.
Situation Section: The EOC Team held a virtual Century Celebration to laud Michael Sperazza, the primary compiler and editor of the Situation Reports. We published our 100th edition on Friday, August 21.
School Reopening: The “tent team” has moved to the survey stage of its study, and will provide some firm planning concepts for consideration by the principal of Chautauqua Elementary School as soon as this coming week. Although nearly all teaching will be done online, the School District is considering an option for a few outdoor class spaces for very small groups of students with special needs. The immediate focus of planning has been meeting needs for the first few months of the school year. Other options will be studied for adverse weather if needed as the school year unfolds.
Community Care Team/Community Engagement Team: Final arrangements have been completed for the launch event of the Vashon Suicide Prevention Campaign for 2020. A live broadcast will be offered on September 10, titled “Tales from the Edge: Suicide Survivors Share Their Stories.” The broadcast from Vashon Center for the Arts will be streamed online, details coming soon. Over the following months, the campaign will help the public and island mental health practitioners understand how to spot signs someone might be thinking about suicide, and then how to talk with the person, then how to take action to keep the person safe. The suicide prevention program, developed by Forefront Suicide Prevention at the University of Washington, is called L.E.A.R.N.
Households and Neighborhoods/Vashon COVID Relief Fund: EOC staff are working on a new approach to utilizing the limited remaining money in the Relief Fund, considering a series of monthly disbursements through the end of 2020. This new series of disbursements would focus on food and housing aid. The new disbursement plan will stretch funds through the end of the year. If approved by the VashonBePrepared board, these more modest monthly disbursements would begin in the first week of September.
Medical Reserve Corps/Chamber of Commerce: Collaboration continues between the EOC, Medical Reserve Corps and the Chamber of Commerce for two initiatives to deal with the possibility of a COVID incident at a place of business or community organization. The MRC, Chamber and the EOC have agreed on a rapid response process to work with a business or other organization to help contain the infection. In addition, in mid-September, the Chamber will be putting on workshops to help businesses pre-plan for a potential COVID incident and steps to take if an employee has a positive test.
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.