Virus statistics: Ten Vashon residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since pandemic record-keeping began at Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC). That total includes one person who was retested twice and the test came back negative, indicating that the case was a false positive. The Vashon EOC Situation Report maintains data consistency by relying on the official counts provided by PHSKC.
Follow-up on two positive COVID-19 tests: The Vashon Medical Reserve Corps testing project has received a number of queries about the two Chase bank branch employees who tested positive for COVID-19 last week. (Note that one of the employees lives off island and that case will be counted in the patient’s home county, not included in Vashon’s count, stated above.) The state Department of Health, and Public Health — Seattle & King County, are responsible for contact tracing. Those who are concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19 should consult their healthcare provider for advice, or are welcome to call the MRC testing team to discuss quarantine and screening for testing. The Vashon MRC testing project may be reached at (844) 469-4554. Information about testing is available by visiting online at testing.vashonbeprepared.org. (Editor’s note: For more information, see the related story on the front page.)
Multiple government agencies point to rising infection rates on the mainland: Vashon has been fortunate, so far, in having a much lower disease rate than on the mainland (about one-seventh the rate of King County as a whole). However, public health authorities have recently raised major concerns about the rising spread of COVID-19 around us in King County and around the state. The state Department of Health said, “transmission is accelerating statewide and will continue to do so in the absence of decisive preventative action. Washington state is in the early stages of an exponential statewide outbreak.” In a news conference, the Governor said that almost every part of the state is “on the path to runaway transmission rates of COVID-19,” adding that Washington is in a place similar to where Florida was several weeks ago.
Schools will open remotely: Vashon Island School District schools will not provide in-person classroom teaching when they reopen for the new school year. Schools Superintendent Dr. Slade McSheehy announced that school will open with online learning only. Dr. McSheehy indicated the new distance learning system will be substantially improved over the one utilized in the spring and the district will continue to explore possibilities for small scale outdoor education. He explained that the district’s reopening plan depended on getting to Phase 3 of the Governor’s Safe Start Plan. However, the Governor and Public Health — Seattle & King County have reduced the number of people who can gather in Phase 3. Therefore, the superintendent said, it will not be safe to open schools in-person by the Aug. 31 start date, especially considering the significant number of high-risk school staff and teachers.
Safe Start changes: Given the increase in COVID-19 cases around the state, Gov. Inslee announced additional limits on restaurants, bars, fitness centers, weddings and funerals. Wedding and funeral ceremonies are permitted but receptions are prohibited and attendance is limited to 20% capacity or 30 people, whichever is less. Indoor dining has been limited to household members and no indoor bar service is allowed. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/NewRollbacks. An earlier order prohibited all live entertainment —indoor and outdoor —including drive-in concerts, comedy clubs and music in restaurants. Drive-in movie theaters are still permitted.
Expanded face-covering order: Mask requirements have been expanded, requiring masks to be worn in all common indoor spaces, including elevators, hallways, and shared spaces in apartment buildings, university housing, and hotels, as well as nursing homes and other congregate settings. Previously the order covered only public buildings.
Federal unemployment boost ending: The federally funded $600 boost to state unemployment benefits expired over the weekend, with no replacement legislation yet passed by Congress. All eligible claims for benefits between April 1 and July 25 will receive the allowable state benefit plus the federal $600/week, even though state benefits were not approved before July 25 and even if the federal program is not extended. Any additional federal benefits passed by Congress could be retroactive to cover any weeks in between. Regular state unemployment and benefits created by the CARES Act, including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (which expands eligibility) and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (which provides 13 additional benefit weeks for eligible claimants), will continue through Dec. 26, 2020.
Wildfires: With summertime comes the potential for wildfires in the region. Experts suggest you should prepare now with plans and supplies to protect yourself from smoke. N95 masks are still in short supply and needed in health care settings, so plan for alternative types of protection: Get an air filter before the rush, set up a “clean room,” or take other steps to provide a clean air environment at home, where we are still safest from COVID-19. You can get more info at tinyurl.com/SmokeAirFiltration and tinyurl.com/SmokeCleanRoom.
Eviction moratorium extended to Oct. 15: The Governor’s Office has extended protection for renters and will convene an informal working group of landlords and tenants to discuss changes to the order in the short- and long-term as the pandemic progresses.
Oral history project suspended: The Vashon COVID Stories project has been suspended for now as a pandemic safety precaution. Voice of Vashon and Heritage Museum volunteers had been out in the community collecting oral histories to preserve the memories of pandemic times on the island. However, there have been multiple announcements this week about the rising danger of infection in King County and around the state. Although the disease rate on Vashon has been relatively low so far, the project leaders decided to suspend out of an abundance of caution, especially given the many summer warm weather visitors coming to Vashon from the mainland. The project will resume when it’s safe to do so.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): This is day 141 (20 weeks and one day) since EOC activation on March 12. Currently at Maintenance & Monitoring level. Volunteers from the EOC Team, Community Emergency Response Team and the Medical Reserve Corps have so far contributed over 12,500 hours of work. That total does not include the thousands of hours contributed by volunteers at our social services and economic recovery partner organizations.
School Reopening: EOC Team members have been working with the School District to provide support for school reopening. The EOC shared research on potential sources for tents that might be available for very small group in-person outdoor learning for elementary grades. A needs assessment has also been underway for masks for students and staff.
Mask Supply: Most of the 24,000 multi-use cloth masks supplied by King County have been distributed in the community, with a strategic reserve being maintained in case of an outbreak on the island. A large quantity of single-use paper masks remains, and distribution is being arranged for them. Another source for high-quality free masks is Masks For Vashon at masksforvashon.org.
Planning Contingencies: A series of EOC Command Group meetings has started formulating concept plans for several potential scenarios the island could face as the pandemic continues. We could have a major outbreak from a super spreader event. It is also possible that we could have a second event on top of the pandemic, such as influenza, wildfire, earthquake, or severe storm. Any of these situations would pose major challenges given the island’s limited resources.
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/Alerts.