In recent weeks, fully vaccinated islanders have had the sweet relief of opting not to wear masks in indoor public settings, but with a new directive from King County’s top health official, masking in those spaces is recommended once again, at least for now.
The pandemic remains a roller coaster, with the latest hairpin turn being the emergence of the Delta variant, which is causing a rise in cases, and even some breakthrough cases including ones that have cropped up on Vashon.
There is little doubt that Delta has arrived on Vashon.
Here’s how we know that — the testing company that VashonBePrepared works with, Atlas Genomics, has informed our Medical Reserve Corps that virtually all of the positive tests it has processed in the past month, including ones of Vashon’s residents, have come back showing the Delta strain of the disease.
Rick Wallace, manager of Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center, told The Beachcomber that on Tuesday morning, as he urged us to report that Delta infections are fundamentally more contagious than the original strain of the disease.
For the first time, Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps doctors are using the words “community person-to-person spread” to describe what has caused some of the island’s most recent cases. And these cases are different from ones seen in the past, said Dr. Jim Bristow, of the MRC.
“What is being seen nationwide is not only that “breakthrough” cases are both increasing in number, but also that some of these folks are developing symptoms,” said Bristow. “Although these symptoms are not generally severe, it’s different. We are also seeing symptoms in unvaccinated children on Vashon — again not severe, but different. These are probably both a reflection of the fact that those infected with the Delta variant seem to have much higher viral loads than was previously the case.”
We’re heartened that prominent businesses have already stepped forward to remind all islanders about the recommendation to once again don their masks in public places. Thriftway, Vashon Center for the Arts and Vashon Theatre have all said they will inform their patrons about the new masking recommendation from the county.
We applaud these community leaders for getting out in front of the new reality, and we hope other businesses will soon follow their example.
As we write this editorial on Tuesday morning, there are breaking news reports that the CDC will soon announce a reversal of its lifting of mask requirements for vaccinated people in certain parts of the country. Additionally, CNN is reporting that the CDC will also recommend that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.
Here on Vashon, we know many will find this news to be deeply disappointing. It’s been great to see other islanders’ faces in recent weeks. Public-facing employees of local businesses have finally, in just the past few weeks, been able to have some relief from staying masked all day at work, and our hearts must go out now especially to them.
But these are the times we continue to live in, and if science says the rest of us should slip our masks back on when we go into local stores, or go to an indoor show, we should do it. And luckily for us, it’s summertime on Vashon, and there is no shortage of ways to enjoy ourselves outdoors, where we can still flash our beautiful smiles at each other.
We know now what can happen when we follow the rules: cases decline, and life returns to a semblance of normality. We need to make that happen again now, by following a proven method to slow the spread of the virus: masking up when we share public indoor spaces with others. We also need to encourage everyone we know who hasn’t yet been vaccinated to get the vaccine as soon as possible.
It really is that simple.