Statistics: One new COVID-19 case has been reported for Vashon since last week’s edition, making six new cases so far in September. There have been 21 positive tests among Vashon residents since pandemic record-keeping began, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC).
Vashon’s new case rate is higher: Vashon’s recent positive test rate, formerly just 1/7th of the King county rate, now roughly matches the rate of new infections for mainland King county. In recent months, the new positive case rate in King county had gradually declined to about 2% but, according to Dr. James Bristow, leader of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) testing program, the positive rate on Vashon has increased to almost 2% for the month of September. All of this month’s new Vashon cases relate to travel (see Community Developments, below). Dr. Bristow said, “Continued caution in our daily lives remains essential for keeping us all safe!” King county’s Key Indicators Dashboard showed that the rate of new infections is still more than twice the target rate of 25 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days. See the dashboard at tinyurl.com/y38mbb89.
Suicide prevention: National Suicide Prevention Month has drawn to a close, but the increased risk of suicide continues through fall and winter, due to the compounding of pandemic stresses on the usual seasonal hardships. On Vashon, two free support groups are ready to help. Vashon Youth and Family Services (VYFS) can provide counseling for residents of all ages via phone, Zoom, or outdoors with social distancing. Contact VYFS at 206-463-5511. The volunteers at the Medical Reserve Corps Community Care Team also offer a Help Line, at 206-701-0694. The Helpline is staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, for referrals to mental health counseling or spiritual support.
New cases related to travel: The six new COVID-19 cases in September on Vashon all relate to travel for family visits from regions outside King County. If you must travel, choose the lowest-risk mode of travel you can, such as driving rather than mass transit. Avoid restaurants and shops along the way, and be disciplined about hand-washing, mask-wearing, and distancing. Also, build in time and support for a 14-day quarantine at your destination, and again on returning home. “It’s essential that people quarantine themselves as they come off travel,” said Dr. Jim Bristow, leader of the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps testing operation on Vashon. “That means quarantine for 14 days, even from family,” he emphasized.
Metro service reductions: Metro’s fall service revisions now in effect include Vashon’s 118 and 119 routes, which now only serve island stops. To continue to Seattle, riders now need to connect with the RapidRide C bus at the Fauntleroy ferry terminal. For more on the service changes, visit tinyurl.com/y8unm2th.
King County Water Taxi fares resume: The water taxis resume collecting fares on Thursday, October 1st. To minimize contact between passengers and crew when paying the fare, use your ORCA card. Cash, debit/credit cards and Transit GO tickets will still be accepted. Masks are required for both passengers and crew. More information is available at tinyurl.com/y6pm54y9.
Unemployment benefits: The CARES Act Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits (on top of the initial 26 weeks), available through December 26, 2020. To receive these benefits, you must log in to the state Employment Security Department website and only click on Request PEUC Benefits. Payments are also on the way for the Lost Wages Assistance program covering the six weeks from August 1st to September 5th. If you need help with unemployment claims, 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 Operations Center (EOC): It has been more than 29 weeks (204 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 Vashon Chamber of Commerce. We continue at the Maintenance & Monitoring level of activation.
COVID-19 testing: The Vashon COVID testing site operated by Vashon’s MRC and CERT teams hit a new record volume last week of 70 tests, for an overall count of more than 1,000 tests. The team reported they have now tested nearly 10% of island residents at least once. If you’re having symptoms, or think you may have been exposed to an infected person, get information on how to get tested at tinyurl.com/yyhvmkev or call (844) 469-4554.
Suicide prevention training for teachers: The MRC Community Care Team will be providing two suicide prevention trainings for teachers, at the request of the Superintendent of Vashon Island School District (VISD). The teacher trainings will be conducted during the district’s In-Service Day on Oct. 9. One training will be offered for the elementary teachers, and another will be provided for middle school and high school teachers.
Vashon COVID Relief Fund: September’s disbursements to local social service agencies in support of food and rent relief are now complete. Planning is underway for another round of disbursements for food and shelter during October. A reserve has already been set aside to sustain the Medical Reserve Corps’ COVID-19 testing program. VashonBePrepared expresses thanks to the nearly 350 people who have donated over $325,000, including two anonymous donors who contributed $100,000 each. We’re also very grateful to the local social service agencies and programs that make Relief Fund disbursements go farther, to help Vashon residents get by during the pandemic. Organization partners have included the Food Bank, Senior Center, Vashon Youth and Family Services, Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, Vashon Island School District nutrition program, St. Vincent de Paul, Vashon Island Growers Association, and Vashon Chamber of Commerce.
Flu vaccinations: Vashon MRC’s influenza vaccine team is developing a plan to promote vaccinations for the coming flu season, with a clinic in October assisted by Seattle Visiting Nurse Association. One bedrock component of the campaign will be a comprehensive directory of organizations and events for getting flu shots on Vashon. Vashon Pharmacy has already administered over 500 flu vaccines. To reduce paperwork, their website now has a page to pre-fill the required immunization screening and registration available online at tinyurl.com/yxhcqc5w. Flu shots will be critical this year, especially for people who are at greater risk by age or pre-existing conditions. Getting ill from both flu and COVID-19 could be very dangerous. The symptoms are similar, so flu patients may overwhelm COVID-19 testing sites and other medical resources, reducing available help for COVID-19 patients.
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 toVoiceOfVashon.org/AlertSignup