These days at The Beachcomber, we’re not sure whether to celebrate, sound the alarm or just crawl back under the covers as we enter into our second pandemic spring.
Teenagers are heading back into classrooms.
Vashon-Maury Chamber of Commerce is cautiously planning to present a small Strawberry Festival, with a hyper-local focus. This strikes us as a marvelous idea, not only for now but perhaps into the future as well.
Vashon ranks #1 in King County for the percentage (59.1%) of its population age 16 and above who have been vaccinated. And this week, everyone becomes eligible. But with all this progress comes the whiplash of very troubling news — just as we go to press with this issue of The Beachcomber — about the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, due to cases of blood clots in six women in the United States who have received the vaccine.
Vashon had just received its first-ever allotment of this vaccine.
It seems to be the way things work now, and will most likely continue to work for some time to come: steps forward, steps back.
King County remains in Phase 3 of Gov. Inslee’s reopening plan, but Pierce County had to step back. It could happen here, too. So for some words of wisdom on how to deal with the whiplash, we’ve turned to two public health experts — one on Vashon, one in Seattle.
What both urge is staying the course, remaining vigilant against the virus. We’re not out of the woods, not yet.
“It’s exciting to finally be at this point where everyone aged 16 and over can be vaccinated with no more worries about tiers and ages and comorbidities and congregate setting definitions,” said Dr. Ina Oppliger, the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps lead for vaccination programs. “Even so, all of us are going to need patience for the next month or two. There simply isn’t enough vaccine available to immediately give everyone their injections. We can do hundreds of vaccinations a day, but we can’t vaccinate without vaccine.”
Dr. Oppliger reminded everyone that vaccination is not a magic charm and even with our new freedoms and peace of mind we need to mask and keep our distance when out in public and keep washing hands.
Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, Chief Health Officer of Public Health Seattle & King County, concurs. He described the governor’s decision to keep King County in Phase 3 as tenuous.
“Washington state entered Phase 3 on March 22, allowing more activities and gatherings while cases and more contagious and severe variants were rising,” Duchin said. “Hospitalizations followed, primarily in younger adults. For now, [King County has] leveled off near the Phase 2 cutoffs — where we go next is up to us.”
Though Duchin said we are much closer to putting the worst of the pandemic behind us, we’re not out of danger yet.
“The potential for a severe surge in cases and hospitalizations remains real until more of us are vaccinated,” he said.
To protect yourself, your family, friends, co-workers and community, remember the basics:
COVID-19 is airborne. Limit indoor activities outside the home. Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated indoor spaces. Avoid gathering indoors with unvaccinated people who do not live in your home. Wear a clean, well-made and snug-fitting mask. Maintain physical distance.
Get vaccinated as soon as you can.
“Don’t let your guard down,” Duchin said. “This is definitely not an ‘all clear’ signal. We don’t stop wearing seatbelts just because we haven’t had a crash recently.