Turning the Page on the Pandemic

Vashon’s pandemic response took more than well-wishes and public health pronouncements.

  • Wednesday, June 23, 2021 6:42pm
  • Opinion

This week’s issue marks a milestone in The Beachcomber — it includes the last regular Pandemic Situation Report of VashonBePrepared’s Emergency Operations Center.

A graph accompanying the report shows plummeting case counts for COVID-19 in King County; there is also news that about 77.5 percent of islanders have received two doses of lifesaving vaccine — among the highest rates for communities in our county.

On July 1, one day after Gov. Jay Inslee is scheduled to broadly lift COVID restrictions in Washington, the EOC will publish a final report in The Beachcomber — a compilation of information for islanders going forward as we all bravely step into what EOC manager Rick Wallace said he has toyed with calling “the new abnormal.”

Wallace, as usual, is onto something: our island’s battle with COVID has lasted so long that it has become almost a normal way of life. For some of us, to see others with masks off, doling out hugs, will take some getting used to.

And of course, the pandemic is not over — many other countries that have not vaccinated their populations as widely as the United States are still in lockdown. Those here at home who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised are still at risk of contracting the disease.

But for now, let’s look again at the graph of plummeting cases, and breathe a sigh of relief.

When we began publishing the EOC’s situation reports in The Beachcomber 59 weeks ago, we had no idea how this would all turn out in our remote rural community and our nation.

Now we do — at least for the time being. The United States has suffered the incalculable loss of more than 600,000 souls to COVID-19. But here on Vashon, only 121 cases have been reported since March 2020, according to the Public Health Seattle & King County dashboard, which also records only four hospitalizations and three deaths for Vashon.

These low numbers can’t diminish the grief for families of islanders lost to COVID, which include the loved ones of Tommy Sudduth, Marvin Charles’ Benham, and another islander whose name we never learned. We also know that other islanders lost loved ones who live elsewhere, and our celebration of the waning of the pandemic should be tempered by acknowledgment of those enormous losses. The mental health, educational and economic harms of the pandemic were also devastating for many. COVID, in one way or another, harmed us all.

Still, islanders owe gratitude, beyond measure, to VashonBePrepared, its Emergency Operations Center and its Medical Reserve Corps, as well as Vashon Pharmacy and Sea Mar Clinic, for their remarkable public health efforts for the past year and a half. We must always remember, too, that VashonBePrepared’s COVID Relief Fund has disbursed more than $500,000 to social service and economic recovery agencies during the pandemic.

It took more than well-wishes and public health pronouncements: it took boots on the ground, organization, expertise and cold hard cash.

It also took the simple actions of so many ordinary islanders, who listened and followed the rules in the darkest days of the pandemic. We should also give thanks to business owners, faith leaders, essential workers, social service providers and so many others who never stopped serving our community.

May this be a beautiful and truly safe summer for all of us here on Vashon, as we move towards the future.

For continuing COVID updates, visit VashonBePrepared.com.

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