Virus statistics: Twelve Vashon residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since pandemic record-keeping began at Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC). That’s an increase of two since the last edition of this report. It’s important to note that one of the cases was later retested and came back negative. The Vashon EOC Situation Report maintains data consistency by relying on the official counts provided by PHSKC.
COVID-19 is on Vashon: Dr. Jim Bristow, Chair of the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps testing project, points out that Vashon has had five new cases in less than 30 days. “We are fortunate that our infection rate remains relatively low compared to the mainland, but that will change if we become complacent,” he emphasized. “COVID-19 is here on Vashon. There will be more cases. Folks should assume that anyone they encounter may be capable of spreading the disease. Keep doing the proven things that keep you and those around you safe.” He urged everyone to wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands frequently, and stay at home to the extent possible. He pointed out that these steps are especially important now when so many people come to the island from the mainland to enjoy the summer good weather and Vashon’s reputation for being relatively COVID safe.
Unemployment boost ended: The federally funded $600 boost to state unemployment benefits has expired with no replacement legislation yet passed by Congress. Any additional federal benefits passed by Congress could be retroactive to cover any gap weeks, but there is no assurance that the Senate, House and President will agree on a new stimulus package. At this writing, they are far apart on a range of issues. Although the federal boost has ended, regular state unemployment benefits and the federal benefits created by the CARES Act continue. The CARES Act benefits that continue through December 26, include Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (which expands eligibility) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (which provides 13 additional benefit weeks for eligible claimants).
Missed work benefits in quarantine: Islanders who have COVID symptoms, or who have had contact with a COVID-positive person and are asked to quarantine will miss work for 10 to 14 days. Your employer may let you take sick leave or provide special paid time off for COVID. If not, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for those days off. It is important that you file a claim the first week that you miss work (otherwise, more paperwork). For assistance in filing, contact email@example.com or (206) 200-3236.
Nationally, increased deaths projected: Updated University of Washington projections now estimate there will be 230,822 US deaths from COVID-19 by November. Over 152,000 people have already died so the projection means another 80,000 people could die between now and November, according to the study from the University’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). According to the Institute’s latest computer modeling, if the US universally adopted wearing masks, the number of deaths by November would drop to nearly 198,831, saving nearly 32,000 lives. Full details available at covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america.
Freeze on phase move-ups: Governor Jay Inslee has indefinitely extended the pause in the Safe Start Washington plan. Washington counties may no longer advance to the next phase of the reopening plan until the pause is lifted. King County, and therefore Vashon Island, is at Phase 2. This indefinite freeze likely means it will be some time before Phase 3 can begin here.
Personal information protection bolstered: Governor Inslee strengthened the protection of personal information for persons responding to contact tracing requests. Inslee said “The success of the response to the COVID-19 epidemic depends in part on the free flow of information and individuals’ willingness to share information and cooperate with public health authorities. Ensuring the protection of a person’s personally identifiable information may determine whether that person will fully cooperate with COVID-19 case investigators.” Get more info at tinyurl.com/y4r7cwyt.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): This is day 148 (21 weeks and 1 day) since EOC activation on March 12. Currently, we are activated at the Maintenance & Monitoring level.
Mask Distribution: The drive continues to distribute the thousands of masks provided to the island by King County. Vashon Social Services Network, Chamber of Commerce, and the Emergency Operations Center have been coordinating efforts. A new mask distribution program kicked off last week with U.S. Bank distributing bags of five single-use paper masks to all comers going through their drive-through service — customers and non-customers. The mask handouts are available from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. The program will be distributing as many as 1,000 masks per week. High-quality fabric masks are also available at no charge by going to the Masks for Vashon website at MasksForVashon.org.
COVID-19 Testing: Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps testing project did 267 tests in July. That single month total equals the combined number of MRC tests for the first three months of operation. The July test total represents 58% of all testing of Vashon residents for the month. The remainder of the 453 tests of Vashon residents in July were performed by local clinics, off-island healthcare providers (e.g., Kaiser, Franciscan, Multicare, etc.) and SCAN Public Health. In all, about 4.5% of the island population was tested for COVID-19 during July.
School Reopening: The EOC Team continues its work in support of the Vashon Island School District as it formulates reopening plans. For example, the EOC has been working with District leadership on options to support small group outdoor teaching if that is possible, given that the schools will begin the year with online instruction only.
Economic Recovery: The Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce has fielded a survey of businesses on the island on their current situation, given the pandemic. The survey went to all businesses on the chamber mailing list, members and non-members. The EOC Team provided input into the survey, the third in a series aimed at tracking pandemic impacts.
Finance Section: A multi-track strategy has been agreed upon for applying for reimbursement of emergency response costs, after consultations with the King County Office of Emergency Management and the state Emergency Management Division. Based on an analysis of eligibility requirements, there will be three applications for FEMA reimbursement by Vashon Island Fire & Rescue, VashonBePrepared, and King County on behalf of VashonBePrepared. Unfortunately, any FEMA reimbursements typically arrive long after the emergency response has ended, often more than a year of lag time.
Public Information: The Community Engagement group has produced a draft campaign plan for raising awareness of disease prevention practices for island visitors and those they are visiting. The draft plan is in the costing and budgeting process now. In addition, Community Engagement has joined the task force working on a suicide and domestic abuse prevention campaign contemplated to launch in September.
Long Range Planning: The Fire District Board of Commissioners has adopted the five-year update of the Hazard Mitigation Plan and sent it to King County Office of Emergency Management. The plan is one of several federally-defined plans that help organize local priorities and is a keystone element in applying for some FEMA grants.
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.