Statistics: There were three new COVID-19 cases for Vashon since the last edition. There have been 24 positive tests among Vashon residents since pandemic record-keeping began, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC). Of the 24, 10 are new in the last month. (See article, page. 1.)
Vashon virus rate rising: According to the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) testing team, Vashon’s rate of positive COVID-19 test results reached 3% for the month of September, which is higher than Seattle’s rate. Dr. Jim Bristow, leader of the MRC testing project, reminds everyone, “It’s important to get tested early, even if you have only mild viral symptoms, and if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, in order to slow the spread of the disease.” For a list of symptoms or questions about getting tested, call 844-469-4554, or visit testing.vashonbeprepared.org.
Internet access for online learning: Vashon Island School District will participate in an Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) program to connect low-income families to no-cost internet, to support online learning for the remainder of the 2020/21 school year. Through Comcast, students who are low-income and did not have internet access before August 2020 can receive internet through the end of the 2020–21 school year at no cost to the family. For more information, see tinyurl.com/y6traqgm. For those who may not qualify for this no-cost program, St. Vincent de Paul Vashon (SVdP) is offering financial assistance to families in need of internet service for student online access. SVdP can be reached at (206) 450-7577 or online.
No job search requirement: Governor Inslee has announced that the job search requirement for unemployment benefits will remain suspended through Nov. 9. This means the soonest claimants will be required to actively seek work is Nov. 15. If you are claiming unemployment benefits you can continue to answer “no” to the job search question on your weekly claim until the suspension is lifted. If you need help filing for unemployment, the Chamber of Commerce Ask the Expert person will consult with you on how to proceed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (206) 200-3236.
Substance abuse reduction: Vashon Alliance to Reduce Substance Abuse (VARSA) is the island organization focused on the reduction of substance abuse by the youth of the island. They are now distributing their annual Community Survey. It has major importance in these pandemic times, and the results will inform VARSA’s planning for youth substance use prevention needs and programs. The survey not only looks at substance abuse but also examines islanders’ concerns about the mental health of the whole island and the impacts of COVID on the community. To participate in the Vashon Community Survey, visit varsanetwork.org.
Mental health support on Vashon: This year, with the extra stress of the pandemic, getting help when needed is more important than ever. On Vashon, we have two organizations ready to provide free help. Vashon Youth and Family Services (VYFS) can provide counseling for residents of all ages, via phone, Zoom, or outdoors with social distancing. Contact VYFS at 206-463-5511. A VashonBePrepared partner organization is also available: the MRC’s Community Care Team. Reach their Help Line at 206-701-0694 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, for referrals to spiritual support as well as mental health counseling. Everyone can play a role in community mental health: the CCT’s L.E.A.R.N postcard that arrived in mailboxes last week is a good resource to save on the fridge for reminders of how to spot folks in distress, and what steps to take to help them.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): It has been 30 weeks and one day since our EOC was activated on March 12. Our current operational priorities are health, food and shelter. Community economic recovery efforts continue through our partnership with the Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce. We continue at the Maintenance & Monitoring level of activation.
Situation Report changes: As the EOC continues in the Maintenance & Monitoring level of activation, the working teams seek to streamline our efforts to maintain service to the community and refresh the volunteer staff. Starting this week, the Situation Report is being produced twice per week on Tuesdays and Fridays. All the normal distributions and postings will continue in this reduced frequency of reports.
Virus testing continues: Vashon MRC’s COVID-19 testing program will continue through fall and winter. To protect volunteers from the elements at the testing site, MRC and CERT volunteers are working on setting up safe winter-proof structures. The EOC Logistics team’s knowledge gained from research for VISD’s outdoor learning program is helping with functional and cost-effective choices for the testing site.
Pandemic mental health: Vashon MRC met with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration representatives to engage them in a regional and national project to help communities respond to mental health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rural and tribal communities in particular are at a significant risk of suicides and substance abuse this year. This coordinated effort will unite agency staff (including Governors’ COVID teams), tribal leaders, NGOs, MRCs, and others, to aid communities until Memorial Day 2021. Strategies include sharing effective mental health approaches, such as the projects of Vashon MRC’s Community Care Team. Learn more about the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration online at samhsa.gov.
School reopening: As indicated in the Developments section, the Vashon Island School District has been approved for a new state program of low-cost Internet access for qualifying student families, to support remote learning. EOC Team representatives supported the school district efforts by providing information on Vashon’s needs to the Washington State Broadband Office, and the Educational Technology Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
This information is compiled from the Situation Reports produced by the EOC Situation Section and provided to The Beachcomber to help islanders stay informed and safe. To receive reports and other emergency information emails, go to VoiceOfVashon.org/AlertSignup.