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Many of us on Vashon have questions. Find your answers here! If you still have a question email, Q (at) VashonBePrepared.org.
About COVID-19 on Vashon
Q: How many Vashon residents have tested positive for COVID-19?
A: So far, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC), the number of cases on Vashon has fortunately remained low and there have been no deaths from COVID-19 on Vashon. You can check on the current figure by going to a “dashboard” that has been put up by Public Health. Click on the "Geography" tab and then "ZIP" (this includes island cases associated with a PO Box address). Roll your computer cursor over Vashon to see a pop up window:
NOTE: Federal law prohibits Public Health - Seattle and King County from releasing the names of infected people (HIPAA Act). Public health experts say we should all assume the virus may be in our community and continue safe distancing and hand washing.
Q: How do we know who may have been exposed?
A: The best advice from the experts is to assume everyone has been exposed. That’s why the Governor put the Stay Home, Stay Safe order in place. The best way to keep from getting COVID-19 is to stay home, keep six feet away from others if you must go out. Remember, many with the virus do not show symptoms, so just assume anyone may have the virus.
It’s important to know that federal HIPAA privacy laws very strictly prohibit release of names and medical conditions. So there will be no lists published of who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Q: There are so many conflicting claims and myths. Where can I learn more about COVID-19?
A: For basic medical information about COVID-19, we recommend the experts at Public Health – Seattle and King County (PHSKC). You can contact their call center between 8 AM to 7 PM PST at 206-477-3977. They also have a helpful question and answer page here:
Q: How do I know if a loved one or I have COVID-19?
A: Call your regular doctor or your insurance hot line if you have symptoms such as cough, fever or other respiratory problems. If testing seems advised, the doctor will order the test. That’s an essential step because all the area testing points, including the ones on Vashon, are requiring a doctor’s order. Get your regular doctor’s advice before going to an emergency room because ERs need to be kept clear for critical cases.
Q: How can I stay up on the latest information about COVID-19 on Vashon?
A: The Beachcomber continues to publish the weekly newspaper and posts daily to its website:
Information is updated regularly on Facebook/VashonBePrepared and the VashonBePrepared.org news blog.
Subscribe to email bulletins from the Emergency Alert System operated by Voice of Vashon and you will receive emails about significant developments. You will also receive an email at the end of every weekday with the daily Situation Report from the Vashon Emergency Operations Center:
Getting Tested for COVID-19 on Vashon
Q: What’s being done for testing on Vashon?
A: Two testing sites are open on Vashon.
One test site is being operated by VashonBePrepared’s volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps with support from volunteers fro our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Any Vashon Island resident or essential worker on Vashon who has symptoms of Covid-19 may be tested at this site with a scheduled appointment. Residents without health insurance will not have to pay for the test. It’s important to emphasize: You can’t just drive up and ask for a test. You will only be tested if you have been referred by a medical provider or have been screened by an MRC volunteer and scheduled for testing. You can find more information about scheduling a Covid-19 test at the website: https://testing.vashonbeprepared.org/.
The other testing site is being operated by the Neighborcare clinic.
Testing is only one piece of stopping the spread of the virus. It helps doctors to know who has the virus; and to contact, track and test others who have been exposed and those with symptoms. That is the fastest and most efficient way to stop the spread of COVID-19. But social distancing is key to keeping the exposures and spread low. Please stay with it, stay home, stay 6 feet apart.
Q: How can I get tested by Vashon's Medical Reserve Corps?
A: Testing by Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps is by appointment only: Residents with a referral from a medical care provider – on or off island – will get an appointment with the Medical Reserve Corps team for a self-test . If you do not have a provider you can contact the MRC volunteers who will screen your symptoms, and if appropriate, schedule you for testing. Testing times depends on the availability of testing materials and volume of people needing testing allows. Details at: https://testing.vashonbeprepared.org/, or send questions to RT3@VashonBePrepared.org or, if you do not have a care provider, call 844-469-4554 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m..
Q: What kind of test is being administered at the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps location?
A: The Vashon Covid-19 Testing Project uses an FDA approved patient-administered nasal swab test. The patients perform the nasal swab while seated inside their cars at the testing site with instructions and direction from medical provider volunteers. The volunteers are with the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps in collaboration with VashonBePrepared. This test process minimizes exposure of patients and volunteer staff and the need for precious personal protective equipment.
Q: How can I get tested at the Neighborcare location at Sunrise Ridge?
A: Testing at Neighborcare Vashon is by appointment only . Call the clinic first at 206-463-3671 to be screen by a medical provider. In order to protect patients and staff and to conserve medical supplies the clinic says do not walk in or drive to the clinic without an appointment. The care will be in outdoor tents to allow the clinic to continue other health care service.
Q: My regular doctor is off island. Can I be tested here on Vashon?
A: Yes. The Vashon Medical Reserve Corps testing site will test any resident of Vashon who is referred by a doctor or other medical care provider. As long as your health care provider provides a referral, you will be tested.
Q: What if I don’t have a regular doctor?
A: Neighborcare Health on Vashon has offered help for this situation. If you do not have a care provider, you may contact NeighborCare Health at Vashon at 206-463-3671. You can also call the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps team to be screened for testing at (844) 469-4554, only between the hours of 9am-6pm.
Emergency Response on Vashon
Q: I’m afraid that mainland medical facilities will be swamped. Is VashonBePrepared setting up a virus field hospital?
A: No temporary virus hospital is planned on Vashon. A team of Vashon Medical Reserve Corps medical professionals carefully analyzed the idea. They recommended against it. Here’s why:
- There are buildings that could be used but Vashon does not have the skilled medical people or the sophisticated medical equipment to keep severely ill patients alive and help them get well.
- We would not be able to get the specialists, equipment and supplies because they are all in very short supply. Plus, taking them away from mainland hospitals would defeat the purpose.
- Our regional hospitals have been preparing for a peak surge for weeks and they have the expertise and resources needed to care for our Vashon loved ones and neighbors.
Fortunately, transporting seriously ill patients has been workable with the ferries and our Vashon island Fire and Rescue personnel (who use COVID-19 protocols to protect themselves, patients and the community).
You can read the full recommendation here: https://vashonbeprepared.org/MRC-CarePlan.pdf
Q: What kind of facilities are being set up on the mainland to help avoid hospital overwhelm?
A: King County has set up hundreds of isolation and quarantine beds. These facilities will relieve pressure on hospitals by caring for those who are subacute or have been released from hospital for recovery. A good source for keeping up to date on this and other issues is the Public Health News and Blog website: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/news.aspx
Q: Who put VashonBePrepared in charge? How can you deal with something so huge?
A: VashonBePrepared works for the Incident Commander, Fire Chief Charles Krimmert, who manages the island Fire District, Vashon Island Fire and Rescue. We are a community organizing coalition that helps recruit, train and operate the Vashon Emergency Operations Center when the Chief activates us.
We have worked for years, getting ready to help our community during a big emergency. This emergency is different from the Big One earthquake. That’s for sure. But the same emergency response process that we’ve studied and practiced for many years in the island’s Emergency Operations Center adapts very well to this historic crisis. We follow the national standard Incident Command System and for this emergency have tweaked it a bit. In addition to supporting the medical response in many ways, we have created teams to support needs of unemployed workers, households and neighborhoods, businesses and nonprofits.
Q: What, exactly, is VashonBePrepared? And the Vashon Emergency Operations Center?
A: VashonBePrepared is a 501c3 federally registered nonprofit group. It and its ancestor organization have been working for preparedness and resilience for almost 20 years. The coalition of island groups and individuals primarily focuses on community organizing to help islanders be ready for a big emergency. A lot of work has been done to educate people about earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, major storms and other natural disasters.
The Emergency Operations Center Team (EOC Team) is one of the main coalition members in VashonBePrepared. The team of volunteers has been training for years to deal with emergencies. That means gathering information to help make resource decisions and organizing resources to support the response to the emergency. For this emergency the EOC Team obviously supports the medical response to the pandemic. In addition, the virus has had severe economic and social impact on our community so the Team has organized to support the suddenly unemployed and local businesses plus households and neighborhoods where people are home bound for isolation and quarantine. The EOC works under the direction of Incident Commander, Fire Chief Charlie Krimmert, and organizes its efforts using the federal standard Incident Command System.
Q: Should I wear a face mask for protection when I go out in public?
A: Yes, according to the latest advice from the state Department of Health and from the federal Centers for Disease Control. Medical grade masks must be conserved for health care workers and others who are working directly with patients. But it appears that wearing cloth face covering, properly adjusted, could make a difference in the spread of the disease. The number one way to prevent COVID-19 is still staying at home and still washing your hands frequently. But if you go out in public, such as a trip to buy food, wear a cloth face covering. A good explanation of this has been put out by the state Department of Health:
Q: Can I get – or pass on – the virus by petting my or other people’s dogs or cats?
A: The World Health Organization says: “There is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself,clean your handsfrequently and thoroughly.” At the same time, WHO points out that the COVID-19 virus is a new one and more studies are needed to fully understand it. Experts advise social distancing by staying at least six feet away from other people and you are likely to be closer than that if you are petting a person’s dog or cat.
Q: Could I catch COVID-19 by touching packages of food or takeout meals from restaurants?
A: The Centers for Disease Control advice says experts generally believe the virus is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. It may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your face however CDC says the risk is low. CDC also urges frequent hand washing, including before preparing or eating food. It is important to maintain social distancing when receiving take out food.
Q: May I send letters or packages – and how safe are they to open when I get them?
A: The World Health Organization has stated that there is no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail or through other package delivery services: “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and been exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.” And according to the CDC, “in general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets.”
Q: I have immune compromised family members but I have to work with the public. How can I protect my family?
A: Please consult with your medical care provider about this difficult situation. The risk for immune compromised individuals is high so it will be important to take precautions. It may be necessary to isolate the person at risk from anyone who can’t maintain the Stay Home, Stay Safe precautions.
Coping with Stay Home, Stay Safe
Q: I live alone. What help can I get if I am quarantined?
A: The Emergency Operations Center has a group to support households and neighborhoods. We have been helping the service agencies on the island come together for home support. There are also stores and restaurants that deliver following public health guidelines. A really helpful step would be to make contact with your neighbors through the Neighborhood Emergency Response Organization (NERO) program. To get a list of all the resources and contact info for NERO go this page on the VashonBePrepared.org website:
Q: I have to work and daycare is tough, is there any help?
A: There is some child care relief coming online from King County government for first responders and other essential workers: (https://www.kingcounty.gov/council/news/2020/March/3-31-CB-childcare-covid-release.aspx). For details, call Child Care Resources at 1-800-446-1114.
Vashon Kids, a program of Vashon Youth and Family Services, is operating Monday through Thursday 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Vashon Kids will be available for children age 5 to 12. You can contact Vashon Kids at Vashonkids@vyfs.org or call (206) 930-2592.
You will want to make sure that any childcare provider you choose is following the guidance from Public Health – Seattle & King County (https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/communicable-diseases/disease-control/novel-coronavirus/childcare.aspx).
Taking Care of Business and Unemployed Workers
Q: Will Vashon survive as a community, given the huge economic and social impact of the virus?
A: Lost wages and failed businesses are badly hurting Vashon households and businesses. Vashon Emergency Operations Center response has organized some groups that are working to support laid off workers, households, neighborhoods, businesses and nonprofits. And there are many other generous folks working on how we can keep our community supported and together.
Q: How badly has our community been hit?
A: An initial survey by the Chamber of Commerce found that 40% of Vashon businesses have shut down and have fired or furloughed workers. More than 80% of businesses report income has dropped, in some cases significantly. If unemployment on Vashon matches the national statistic there are hundreds of people out of work in our community. It’s happening everywhere across the country.
Q: Where can I get advice if I’ve been laid off or furloughted?
A: A group in the Emergency Operations Center has put together a one-stop-shop web resource for folks who have ended up out of work due to the virus crisis. Links on the page help you apply for unemployment. There’s advice about a list of emergency relief for everything from rent to student loans, utilities, insurance and so on. Go here to get details:
Q: How can I help our local businesses?
A: Shop locally if you can. A number of businesses are still open because they are in one of the essential infrastructure categories listed with Governor Inslee’s stay home order. Many local restaurants are offering curbside pickup and some are even delivering. Same thing with groceries. When the virus abates, know this: The survival of our community depends on keeping local businesses alive. Many businesses will be on the financial brink. There will never be a more important time to shop locally.
Q: Where can I turn for business advice for Vashon businesses?
A: The Chamber of Commerce has been working closely with the Emergency Operations Center to help businesses access the relief that is available through local, state and federal sources.
Online services include a one-on-one office tele-hub, a seminar series of advice on the programs coming online from state and federal government and video conferences for sharing solutions among similar businesses facing similar challenges.
Will It Ever End?
Q: How long will we be under a stay at home order?
A: At least until May 4th, the latest order by the Governor. Experts at the Washington State Department of Health, CDC and WHO agree that social distancing (along with frequent hand washing and other steps you have no doubt seen) will really make a difference in how many people get the virus and how long the pandemic will continue.
Q: When will the COVID-19 crisis end, so we can go back to normal life?
A: Nobody can say for sure when the pandemic will subside. Here in Washington state the rate of infection is still high and the number of cases has been growing. One hopeful sign will be when the number of new cases begins to fall. You can monitor the statistics by signing up for the Voice of Vashon Emergency Alert System where the Vashon Emergency Operations Center sends out the daily Situation Report: https://bit.ly/2ybIDXR