C is for Community and Caring in times of COVID

Our community has a long history of taking care of each other and now should be no different.

In a recent Beachcomber article, VashonBePrepared highlighted how our community came together early on in the pandemic to keep our COVID numbers low.

With cases currently on the rise and some businesses and health providers requesting customers and patients to mask, I write this in the hopes that we come together again to keep each other safe.

Our community has a long history of taking care of each other and now should be no different. We know there are easy and simple ways to protect ourselves and community members using layered protections that serve to keep everyone safe.

We also know that while the elderly and immunocompromised can be more susceptible, everyone is vulnerable to COVID. We also know that increasing evidence shows repeat infections increase that vulnerability and the likelihood of complications like disabling Long COVID, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, and more.

The best way to avoid these complications from COVID infection is to not become infected in the first place and/or to reduce repeated infections. With this in mind, reducing infection rates should be our goal for all community members.

We know we have many tools to aid in preventing infection and each tool has limitations. Using them together gives us the greatest advantage to reducing infections. These layered protections include masking, testing, isolating when sick/positive, distancing, vaccines, cleaning the air, hand-washing, and being informed of infection rates.

Any mask is better than no mask but doesn’t offer the same protection a fitted respirator does. N95s offer the greatest protection. There are respirators that can be used again and again with proper cleaning and maintenance for those concerned with mask waste. And I’m hoping if islanders cannot afford quality masks, we will create ways to provide them.

Testing means swabbing the back of the throat, cheeks, and nose for better accuracy, and checking expiration dates on your tests too.

If you are experiencing symptoms, please mask and re-test after 24-48 hours as additional testing can often be needed to verify infection.

With the end of COVID emergency declarations, funding for testing has gone away and I also hope we might find ways to provide tests to those in need here on the island.

We know vaccines offer some protection from severe disease and death, however, they do not prevent re-infection, wane over time, and may not be effective against new variants as they arise. We also know immunity from past infection also wanes and does not necessarily provide protection from newer variants.

It’s still important to get boosted. We have more than one new booster presumably becoming available this month. We are waiting to learn if they will be available for everyone.

Just as with wildfire smoke, cleaning the air can help with COVID as well.

True HEPA filters work best, and building your own Corsi-Rosenthal box can be an affordable solution. Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes were developed by an air quality expert and now dean at the University of California, Davis and are great school projects as well and many have been implemented in classrooms.

You can learn about them and how to make one here.

It’s also important to keep yourself informed about rates of infection. Again due to the end of the COVID declaration, as VashonBePreoared has noted, data is becoming more scarce and less reliable with less test reporting. It is safe to assume undercounts of infection rates due to these issues.

Having a way to directly monitor at least some of the cases on the island is essential. Getting wastewater monitoring set up here would allow our community to track waves and protect our community accordingly. Until then, these links can be helpful: the Centers for Disease Control site and the Biobot Analytics site.

We are in this together and this means we all must participate as best we can in adding these layers to our routines. Let’s continue to do what’s best to protect ourselves and our community.

Kate Munson is a long-time island resident, a disabled sometimes artist, and former mental health counselor and former public relations/communications professional living with her elderly mother and partner who is an essential worker facing COVID exposure at work. She believes Public Health is community driven and she and her family, like so many others, rely on our community to make the choices that protect everyone.”