Statistics: This past week saw a significant increase in the COVID-19 case count for Vashon — up by five new cases since last week’s edition. There have been a total of 19 positive tests among Vashon residents since pandemic record-keeping began, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC).
Household cluster in isolation: Four of the new cases come from a single Vashon household that has gone into self-isolation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to other people. The positive family members had only mild or no symptoms, underlining the importance of testing people with mild symptoms, as well as all household contacts of those who test positive. Based on interviews with the Vashon MRC, it appears the family has had no concerning close contact with others. The family is being monitored daily by a member of the Medical Reserve Corps plus a household support liaison from the Emergency Operations Center. While support for this family is being provided by close friends, it is important for islanders to know that a variety of social service groups are available to help families cope with the requirements of quarantine or isolation. The household members have been instructed on how to safely receive food and other deliveries.
Vashon unemployment down, but still high: Washington’s Employment Security Department reports a small reduction in Vashon unemployment claims for the week of August 29. Vashon claims totaled 578, down from 598 the week prior. Vashon’s unemployment rate is around 12%, compared to 8.3% for King County as a whole. If you need help filing for unemployment, the Chamber of Commerce Ask the Expert person will consult with you on how to proceed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (206) 200-3236.
Emergency housing assistance: King County Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program announced a new $41.4 million program for emergency housing aid for individuals and families throughout King County who have been economically impacted by COVID-19. To be eligible for assistance, all tenants must have an income over the past 60 days that is at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income. For example, for a household of four, that means income for the past 60 days would need to be $9,813 or less. In addition, the tenant must be partially or fully behind at least one month of rent since March 1, 2020. Tenants must also meet one of several secondary criteria, such as having a high rent burden, a history of homelessness or eviction, or a disability. For more details on qualifying, visit tinyurl.com/y5krk2nf.
Ober Playground remains closed: Vashon Park District reminds residents that Ober Park Playground is closed. The district lacks the required sanitizing stations and disinfection staff so cannot fully comply with state Safe Start orders. Vashon Parks plans to reopen the playground when Vashon moves to Phase 3 of the state reopening plan.
Prospects for COVID-19 vaccine: Washington State Department of Health has said it “is closely monitoring progress toward development of a vaccine for COVID-19. We are engaged in vaccine planning efforts and we will be ready to distribute a safe and effective vaccine as soon as the time comes. However, all vaccine candidates are still in clinical trials to determine their safety and efficacy. DOH’s position is that any COVID-19 vaccine should complete Phase 3 trials before being distributed unless an independent board of scientists reviewing the data finds otherwise based on data from those trials. At this crucial juncture, it is incumbent upon the federal government to critically evaluate these new vaccines for their safety and efficacy in an unbiased way.”
Global projections, life-saving potential: University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) released its first worldwide COVID-19 projections by country. A key theme of the findings of the IHME computer modeling: Wearing masks and social distance could save nearly 770,000 lives worldwide. Researchers said global deaths could reach 2.8 million by Jan. 1, which is about 1.9 million more from now until the end of the year with daily deaths in December reaching as high as 30,000 worldwide.
Death projections for the U.S.: In the same report, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington presented new modeling for the U.S. As with the global projections, the study estimates that tens of thousands of American lives could be saved by wearing masks and social distancing. Unfortunately, the study’s most likely scenario predicts an estimated 410,451 deaths in the country by January 1st, which would mean an estimated 224,000 additional deaths in the next four months.
Free lunch and breakfast: Vashon Island School District food service will offer breakfast and lunch every school day for all VISD students, even during this pandemic remote learning period. Island-wide meal delivery service began last week, and meals can also be picked up at the High School for all VISD students, between 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on scheduled school days. Meals for adults are available for a small fee. Delivery locations, pricing for meals, and applications for free meals can be found at vashonsd.org/Page/2516.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): It has been 183 days (26 weeks, 1 day) since our EOC was activated on March 12. Our current operational priorities are health, food and shelter, although work continues for economic recovery through our Chamber of Commerce partnership. We continue at the Maintenance & Monitoring level of activation.
Medical Reserve Corps: A protocol for handling infection clusters and public exposures has been implemented for the first time since its creation, and it worked smoothly in response to a cluster of positive COVID-19 test results for members of an island household. Growing out of lessons learned during the recent local bank COVID-19 workplace infection situation, the protocol was developed by the MRC and the EOC. It protects the identity of those infected in compliance with federal law, educates the affected people about the need for isolation, and teaches them how to notify their possible contacts (in effect a form of do-it-your-self contact-tracing). The protocol also involves the Emergency Operations Center in order to appropriately handle public communications about the situation. In addition, as described in the New Developments section of this report, the EOC has taken steps to help the affected household as needed, to make sure they have food and other necessities so they are able to isolate and avoid spreading COVID-19 to others.
School Reopening: The EOC Team has been providing support in two ways for the reopening of the school year at Vashon Island School District. Technically adept members of the EOC team are being offered the chance to provide support to a group of volunteers who are helping families get connected for online learning. The group is FAVE, Family Ambassadors for Virtual Education. The task force for outdoor classroom space at Chautauqua Elementary School has completed a technical survey of options and will present alternatives for shade and light rain cover to the school early next week, including cost and assessment of suitability for outdoor education purposes. The School District has been exploring this as one possible way to provide some limited in-person education for preschool and special education students, for whom online learning is a particular challenge.
Community Care Team/Community Engagement Team: Arrangements have been finalized for tonight’s (September 10th) live broadcast “Tales from the Edge: Suicide Survivors Share Their Stories.” The broadcast this evening will launch a multi-week awareness and education program, timed with September’s National Suicide Prevention Month. The live-streaming broadcast at VashonCenterForTheArts.org will include two suicide survivors and a clinician sharing their stories with host Susan McCabe. A recording of the broadcast will be posted for later viewing on VashonBePrepared.org, VashonCenterForTheArts.org, and VoiceOfVashon.org.
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.