Statistics: There was one new COVID-19 case for Vashon since the last edition. There have been a total of 20 positive tests among Vashon residents since pandemic record-keeping began, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC).
Wildfire smoke: Fires in Oregon and California continued to degrade the air on Vashon last week, making outdoor air “very unhealthy” as rated by the EPA website AirNow.gov. As the week ended, rain and the change in airflow over the mountains led to clearing. COVID-19 makes it especially important to limit exposure to wildfire smoke. During heavy smoke conditions, Public Health –Seattle and King County recommends you stay indoors, with just members of your household, reduce physical activity, and keep indoor air clean. To monitor Vashon air quality reports, visit AirNow.gov and type in the main island zip code of 98070.
Food bank will reopen Sept. 28: The Vashon Food Bank has been closed this week to provide staff and volunteers a reprieve and to prepare for the impending seasonal shift. The food bank provided extra boxes of non-perishable emergency food at select locations across the island in case clients needed food and extra food was provided to clients in the week before closure. Call the office at 206-463-6332 or email email@example.com with questions.
Unemployment booster payments: The state’s application for the Lost Wages Assistance program has been approved for a total of 6 weeks, between Aug. 1 and Sept. 5. The Employment Security Department began processing payments of $300 to eligible claimants for this new program this week. Payments will be retroactive for all weeks for which the claimant was eligible, and for which funding is available from the federal government. Upon the processing date, eligible claimants will receive the funds as soon as their bank processes the payment. Visit esd.wa.gov/unemployment/lwa for more information.
Vashon unemployment level: Vashon saw a small reduction in unemployment claims for the week ending Sept. 5. Vashon claims totaled 563, down from 578 the week prior. The unemployment rate on Vashon is 12% compared to the King County rate of 8.3%. 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.
No concerning fires here: There have been no fires of concern in King County during the recent wildfire emergency along the west coast. The King County Fire Marshal’s Stage 2 Burn Ban for King County remains in effect, which prohibits all outdoor recreational fires. Outdoor cooking and heating appliances are limited to approved manufactured gas and charcoal units only. For more information, see tinyurl.com/y3sgsc89.
Receptions allowed at weddings and funerals: A Safe Start update now allows receptions to resume for weddings and funerals, as long as they meet specific requirements. Receptions and ceremonies must be capped at 30 people, or 25% of venue occupancy, whichever is less. In addition, all tables at the reception must be seated by household, with table sizes capped at 5 people. Requirements for facial coverings and social distancing must be maintained. For more information on the updates, see tinyurl.com/y437235g.
Planning for COVID-19 vaccine: The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has been working on a COVID-19 vaccination plan, in order to be ready for whenever the vaccine becomes available. The plan is being developed based on the CDC prioritization playbook. Because there won’t be a lot of vaccines available in the first round, the state will work on further prioritization. Some likely possibilities for the first priority groups to receive the vaccine are essential workers, health care workers and residents and workers at long-term care facilities. The DOH says that all possible vaccine candidates are in various stages of testing in humans to ensure they are both safe and effective and adds that the Department will be closely monitoring the FDA approval process to make sure it is thorough and transparent. For more information, see tinyurl.com/y4ejrryc.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): It has been just over six months (197 days) since our EOC was activated on March 12. Our current operational priorities are health, food and shelter. Community economic recovery efforts continue through our partnership with the Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce. We continue at the Maintenance & Monitoring level of activation.
Vashon COVID Relief Fund: Following VashonBePrepared board approval, this week saw a modest disbursement of funds to four local food and shelter agencies for September relief. A reserve has already been set aside to sustain the Medical Reserve Corps COVID-19 testing program.
Medical Reserve Corps: Work has started on getting ready for the arrival of seasonal flu, with a two-day vaccination clinic tentatively arranged for Oct. 20 and 21 at Vashon High School. An October campaign will inform islanders of all local sources for the flu vaccine, including Vashon Pharmacy, which has already been providing vaccines. It is crucial that people make the choice to get flu shots this year because getting both flu and COVID-19 could be very dangerous. In addition, it will be very difficult to determine from symptoms alone whether a patient has seasonal flu or the far more dangerous COVID-19. A low flu vaccination rate could result in overwhelmed test sites, misallocation of pandemic resources, and flawed treatment of misdiagnosed COVID-19 patients. Planning will include public education about the need for a seasonal flu vaccination, especially for the at-risk populations of seniors and people with pre-existing conditions.
COVID-19 testing conditions: Much of the MRC testing site operates outdoors. The stock of N95 masks for the site was replenished last week due to smoke conditions. In addition, plans are being made to adapt the site for weather conditions, since it appears it will need to keep going for some months as fall and winter weather arrive.
School reopening: EOC Team members have completed their core assignment in a project to support the Vashon Island School District in its exploration of potential outdoor classroom approaches. A catalog of options has been delivered to the Superintendent of Schools, ranging from the use of existing covered spaces to various types of structures from yurts to light “sail” type overhead fabric panels. The district has already begun implementing one option, light-duty tents for one of the preschool classes to make small group in-person teaching possible outdoors. The district, in a note to households, indicates it will be taking a methodical, controlled approach going forward, learning as it goes from the initial efforts such as this initial small outdoor space trial. The EOC “Tent Team” will remain on call as needed for consultation on-site layouts and other implementation assistance.
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.