It wasn’t the way we pictured ringing in the new year, with many islanders not only housebound due to the inclement weather, but also by a most unwelcome holiday visitor — Omicron.
Vashon has taken a hard hit in this latest pandemic surge, with VashonBePrepared reporting what even in the depths of December 2020 would have seemed unthinkable: more than 60 cases in a single week (see page 1).
Vashon Island School District announced that five of the new cases were due to an outbreak on its boys’ varsity basketball team, but let us be clear — young people are not driving this surge.
According to county data, new cases are occurring at the same rate in school-age children as in the general population.
But in its continued efforts to assist our school district, our Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) this week helped the school district with both rapid antigen testing and PCR testing, depending on patient symptoms or exposures.
Their all-out effort, as school started, was aimed at testing as many of the district’s students, faculty and staff as possible, with the hope of slowing community spread.
The district’s own testing program will also help keep schools open — an important objective particularly for students whose parents do not have the privilege to keep them home.
Still, we hope the district will consider, for the future, some model of hybrid learning which would allow students to zoom into their classrooms while in quarantine or isolation. Omicron has once again reminded us that it is essential to have a back-up plan, and home is the safest place to be right now.
It hurts to read that Vashon has now lost its status as the safest community in Puget Sound, spiking up to a case rate equal to the mainland.
But the high case rate also gives us the impetus to return to tried-and-true measures of prevention and mitigation: we need to up our mask game, break out the Scrabble boards at home, catch up on our Netflix queue, and sit tight and wait for better times.
In this latest round of the pandemic, we are still so fortunate to still have one of the strongest community pandemic response teams imaginable in place.
Our MRC is led by a heroic group of doctors with 100 combined years of expertise and experience in internal medicine, pediatrics, infectious disease, immunology and molecular diagnostics.
We must listen to them — theirs is the best possible advice we could ever have. Here’s what they say:
Get vaccinated and boostered — it is the best protection against getting severely ill or dying.
Get tested for any symptoms — you don’t have to be very sick to spread COVID.
Quarantine if exposed — you may get sick up to 10 days after an exposure, and infect others before symptoms appear.
Avoid gatherings outside of immediate family — most recent cases can be traced to large family gatherings.
And remember — for King County, the Public Health dashboard says that unvaccinated people are six times more likely to get COVID, 33 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID and 45 times more likely to die of COVID.
Stay safe, Vashon. Stay well.