Editor’s Note: The following is an updated version of a COVID update from VashonBePrepared, sent by email to community members on Friday, Nov. 19. The original email is available to read in Spanish and English, at tinyurl.com/yan39zeh.
Boosters Authorized for All Adults
Federal authorities last week authorized Moderna and Pfizer boosters for all adults (18 or older) nationwide. As a practical matter, booster shots have been available for all adults in our region for some time despite the official eligibility rules. However, some people have been confused by the mixed messages at the national level, which set out eligibility rules based on age, work, and living circumstances. The new authorization decision clears up that confusion.
You can get your booster shot at numerous healthcare provider locations, including networks such as Kaiser and others, as well as pharmacy chains. Vashon Pharmacy continues to do booster shots: VashonPharmacy.com/COVID.
The Holiday Gathering Vaccination Conversation
How do you ask Aunt Martha if she has been vaccinated? What if she or anyone else coming to the party says they haven’t been vaccinated? It’s a tough situation, especially if you adore Aunt Martha and haven’t been able to see her since the pandemic hit Vashon last year. With the holidays upon us, it’s a good time for some COVID safety chats among the folks who may get together for celebrations. So, we compiled some tips from our Vashon Medical Reserve Corps with special input from the MRC’s Community Care Team of mental health professionals.
• Involve your friends and relatives in the decision about holiday safety. Call them and ask: “What’s your advice on how we can make sure everyone feels safe when we get together?”
• The rules of quality brainstorming apply. Just begin by collecting ideas, making no judgments. That will help family and friends take more ownership over the chosen idea.
• Make sure you guide the conversation towards solutions. Avoid the thorny political debates over whether COVID is real or any of those other hot-button issues. The objective is to have everyone feel safe and actually be safer.
• Consider limiting the size of your gathering. Many experts advise no more than ten people from no more than two households. That would still be a risk, but it would help reduce the risk.
• One idea that’s pretty popular right now: Everyone agrees to do a rapid test as they arrive, maybe make it a COVID test party. You can use one of the rapid test kits such as Binax. That’s a good time to do the test, because it is likely to identify any guests who have a lot of virus in their noses at that critical moment when the gathering begins.
• Take safety steps to reduce risk. Mask unless actually consuming food or drink. Wash hands. Pick a space where everyone can spread out.
• Get good air circulation. Open doors and windows or even get together outdoors with patio heaters. Inside, consider having a HEPA air filter going full speed if you have one, perhaps from the summer smoke days.
• During your brainstorming, take a realistic look at the risk in the group. Is everyone vaccinated? What’s the case rate in the home community? How many people will be attending? Are any of the party at elevated risk if they get sick from COVID?
Good News, But Will There Be Another Holiday Spike?
The good news: The relatively small number of new Vashon cases in November is way down from the dozens of new cases from the Delta spike that ran for several months beginning in early July. However, Vashon still shows a 4% positivity rate, meaning one out of every 25 tests comes back positive. Delta variant COVID still lurks on Vashon. “Here’s the concern. Even though case rates for Vashon and King County have ebbed and flattened, the current plateau is still too high for safety,” explained Dr. Jim Bristow, co-Coordinator of the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps. “Vashon’s 4% test positivity rate means there is a reservoir of disease on the island that could feed a new spike, just as we are going into the holidays when many people will drop their guard and get exposed to COVID. That’s exactly what drove last winter’s major spike on Vashon. Also, keep in mind that about one-third of the island’s population takes the ferry to the mainland each day, where the case rate still exceeds the CDC’s definition for high transmission. That daily dip into the mainland disease reservoir could also feed a new spike on Vashon.”
Getting Tested for COVID
Following a successful two-week pilot, Vashon Island School District has expanded the hours of its testing program for students and staff, adding an afternoon option. It is now possible to get COVID testing every school day, mornings from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and afternoons from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Here’s a link with all the details: bit.ly/VISD-testing.
VashonBePrepared has refreshed the information on its COVID testing resource page. You can access it at: VashonBePrepared.org/COVID/Testing
If You Didn’t Get to the School Vaccination Clinics
The Vashon Pharmacy/VashonBePrepared school clinics have vaccinated about 350 school children so far. If you missed the deadline to register and participate, you can get your child vaccinated at other locations now that the pediatric vaccine is widely available. Check with your healthcare provider about scheduling an appointment. Many Vashonites, eager to get vaccinations started in time for the holiday gatherings, took early action by going off-island to their healthcare network clinics and other providers, including some mainland pharmacies. Keep in mind that both shots of the Pfizer vaccine are required, plus a two-week wait period after the second shot, to achieve full protection from the vaccination.
Vashon Community COVID Statistics (as of Nov. 19)
239 = Total COVID cases for Vashon residents since the pandemic began.
122 = New cases since early July when the Delta variant hit Vashon.
7 = Patients hospitalized since the pandemic began.
4 = Deaths since the pandemic began.
90.5% = Vashon residents (aged 12+) fully vaccinated (compared to 73% for King County as a whole).
For more resources and information, visit VashonBePrepared.org. Sign up at tinyurl.com/4smk364m to receive email updates from the group, and/or visit VashonBePrepared on Facebook.