Key indicators slip: A key pandemic recovery index slipped backward last week, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC). The agency maintains a dashboard of key metrics to help gauge when King County might be able to move up to Phase 2 reopening status. As of press time, only five of the eight tracked metrics on the PHSKC dashboard are in the green. However, the latest version of a similar dashboard at the state level shows King County meeting all five of the state’s metric requirements. These dashboard metrics may have a major influence on approval of the King County application to move up to Phase 2 reopening status.
Status quo on Vashon cases: Although key indicators slipped county-wide, on Vashon at press time there have been no new COVID-19 cases since mid-April. According to the official statistics from PHSKC, there have been four confirmed positive cases in zip codes 98070 and 98013, one hospitalization, and zero deaths. PHSKC reports that more than 550 Vashon residents have been tested. (Federal law and PHSKC privacy policies prohibit access to individual patient outcomes.)
Many testing options available: The Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) provides free testing on Vashon Island. If you do not have a healthcare provider, you can receive telescreening by a healthcare provider to determine if a test is appropriate by calling (844) 469-4554, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. MRC testing is available to anyone living or working on island. Both of Vashon’s clinics also provide testing. In addition, new mainland sites for free COVID-19 testing are now open to anyone who cannot access a COVID-19 test through their regular healthcare provider, regardless of immigration or insurance status. Finally, the greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) has resumed testing of home-based, self-collected samples for COVID-19. New SCAN participants are invited to enroll via their website at scanpublichealth.org.
Trying for Phase 2: King County Council has voted unanimously to make an application for Phase 2 reopening status. The application, if approved by the state Department of Health, would increase the allowed size of public gatherings to five people. Phase 2 would also increase the number who can be inside a place of business. For example, restaurants would be allowed to serve tables of up to five guests and would be permitted to seat at 50% normal capacity for indoor capacity.
Currently in Phase 1.5: Vashon – along with the rest of King County – has been at Phase 1.5 of reopening for nearly two weeks. The openings and activities allowed in this phase resemble those that will be available when King County can move to Phase 2. However, they come with more stringent restrictions in the number of people allowed at the same time in such locations as stores, fitness studios, barbershops, salons and restaurants. Find detailed, business-specific guidance links and Phase 1.5 limitations at kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/safe-start.aspx.
Workers must wear masks: As of last week, all workers must wear masks unless they work alone and have no interaction with others. Employers are required to supply the masks.
Hopeful signs for next school year: Washington’s schools chief says local districts may reopen buildings for in-person learning next school year. Students and teachers will be required to wear masks and comply with social distancing guidelines. In addition, public health statistics will be monitored for signs of a spike in infections. Vashon Island School District has been working on the details of an island-specific local reopening plan with a 45+ member team of administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community members.
Summer meals for kids: The Vashon Food Bank will again partner with the School District and offer summer meals for kids under a new Picnics-to-Go program. As in the Picnics in the Park program of previous years, free lunches will be offered to all children under 18. However, the distribution of meals will not be at Ober Park this year, in order to reduce temptations for kids to forget social distancing requirements. Meals will be for pickup at the School District on weekday mornings, and via limited school bus stops on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Severe island unemployment: The EOC Unemployed Worker Support Branch reports 20 additional islanders filed unemployment applications, as shown in the latest report from the state Employment Security Department (ESD). That brings the total of Vashon unemployed to 1,383; over one-fourth of the island’s workforce are now seeking unemployment aid. To get free assistance for obtaining unemployment benefits, email email@example.com or call (206) 200-3236.
More island layoffs: Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) money is running out for local businesses. Originally, funds distributed under the PPP – primarily allocated to employee retention – had to be used within eight weeks to qualify for loan forgiveness. Congress just extended the deadline to 24 weeks, but that extension comes too late for businesses that had already expended funds to meet the original deadline. As a result, some significant layoffs are hitting the island. For example, Sawbones and VCA have reduced staff by 60 and 12 positions respectively.
September bus service cut: King County Metro plans to restore bus service on Vashon in September, but it will not come back at the pre-pandemic level. The announcement from Metro cites funding shortfalls as the cause of the service reduction. Details on the schedules are not yet available, but the reduction will include the two Vashon routes, 118 and 119.
Meanwhile, catch a van ride: In the absence of bus service, Metro Community Van reminds everyone that it has expanded service to four vans on Vashon Island, and can give you a ride to catch a ferry or water taxi. The van program operates 24/7, depending on driver availability. For a Community Van trip, contact Megan Lockhart, Community Transportation Coordinator for Vashon at 206-773-7003 (normal business hours) or at Vashonvan@kingcounty.gov. There’s also an online reservation form at kingcounty.gov/VashonVan.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): Long-range planning has started with an eye to evolving the emergency response, adapting it to changing needs as Phases 2 and 3 unfold, and preparing to monitor for, and be ready to respond to, a potentially dangerous spike in cases as reopening proceeds. This is Day 99 since EOC activation on March 12. Nearly 50 volunteers active with the EOC and VashonBePrepared during this activation have logged more than 9,300 hours of work on behalf of the community.
Medical Support Branch: MRC has been developing a contingency plan in case there is a major spike in the need for COVID-19 testing. The contingency plan provides for up to 100 tests per day and includes trained volunteers to trace contacts to help prevent the spread of the disease. The contingency includes a major software system upgrade written by a volunteer from the EOC Planning Section.
Households and Neighborhoods Support Branch: The next proposed disbursement from the Vashon COVID Relief Fund for social service and economic recovery agencies has been approved by the VashonBePrepared Executive Committee, and the full Board has approved spending authority to cover it.
Unemployed Worker Support Branch: The branch has consulted with Sawbones about their layoff of 60 workers. So far, the branch has conducted over 420 unemployment filing consultations.
Business Support Branch: The branch is continuing to provide support for the Chamber of Commerce back-to-business workshops. The workshops and free reopening tool kits are being funded by the Vashon COVID Relief Fund, which is administered by VashonBePrepared.
EOC Finance Section: Financial projections for the remainder of the year are under discussion, including estimates for how many more disbursements will be possible to social service and economic recovery agencies.
This information is compiled from the daily Situation Reports produced by the EOC Situation Section. Situation Reports are normally internal updates, but for this emergency, VIFR Fire Chief Charlie Krimmert ordered the EOC to share these reports with the public to help islanders stay informed and safe. This partnership with the Beachcomber helps achieve that goal. To receive daily reports and other emergency information emails, go to voiceofvashon.org/Alerts.