Here’s to the real Valentines on Vashon, in a year like none other.
At this same time in February 2020, our little town was chugging along, back in the exquisitely busy and boring before-times “normal” and all that entailed — concerts, parties, public meetings, youth headed off to school each morning, and commuters lining up on the north and south end ferries to get to their offices on the mainland.
In national news, Donald J. Trump had just been acquitted in his first impeachment trial, and a crowded Democratic presidential primary field was sparring on stage in a series of heated debates. It all seems like a lifetime ago.
Even those of us who were keeping track of a worrisome new coronavirus that had emerged in China could never have dreamed of what was coming next.
But wait, that’s not quite true. An organization had already been carefully built on Vashon, based on the premise that disaster could strike at any time.
That organization — VashonBePrepared — has given our community a tremendous advantage since March 12, 2020, when Incident Commander, Fire Chief Charlie Krimmert activated the group’s Emergency Operation’s Center and other elements of its emergency response coalition.
The group’s operational priorities — public health, food security, housing security and economic recovery — have not waivered in that time.
Built to help the island through an earthquake, VashonBePrepared and the EOC have now instead guided islanders through a pandemic with clear, calm and consistent public health messaging and a suite of services that include a nationally recognized rural testing site and stellar contract tracing efforts by the infectious disease experts that make up its Medical Reserve Corps.
As a result, our infection rate on the island has stayed remarkably low. A dangerous spike that doubled cases in November was shut down fast, and our positivity rate remains one of the lowest in King County.
We are so fortunate.
We should be so grateful to all the volunteers of VashonBePrepared, and especially to Rick Wallace, the EOC’s manager, who has run the organization like a top for the past year.
The EOC keeps meticulous records of its volunteer hours. This week, it reported that the total volunteer hours by those involved in emergency response on our island has totaled 22,380 hours since activation. These endless hours have been spent problem-solving almost all aspects of our public life. And for those who enjoy math, it’s worth noting there are 8,760 hours in a year.
Here at The Beachcomber, our coronavirus coverage is largely left to the EOC, which each week provides the newspaper with a report that updates readers with clear and factual local public health news. Our community newspaper is so much better for this coverage.
Everything is better on Vashon, because of VashonBePrepared. Hence, this humble Valentine.
But another love letter needs to go out to the owners of Vashon Pharmacy. This week’s EOC report in our newspaper features a photo of pharmacy owner Tyler Young standing in the pouring rain at the pharmacy’s drive-through vaccination site.
COVID-19 has already severely disrupted Young’s business, and now he has risked thousands of dollars to offer drive-through vaccinations to the community.
While some islanders have been frustrated by the stop-and-go supply of vaccines provided to islanders, none of that is Young’s fault. Indeed, working closely with the EOC, Young has leaped into service each time a new supply has arrived. Right now, it is predicted that supplies will keep flowing to Vashon in the next two weeks.
It may come to pass, or it may not, but we can be assured that the EOC will let us know when the line is open, and help guide us through the process of signing up. Young will be outside, waiting with the precious vials of vaccine.
What better Valentine could we give back to our town’s heroes, in return for all they have done for us, than to patiently pay attention, follow their instructions and be vaccinated as soon as possible when our turn comes?