December 16, 2021
Today, Skagit County’s Health Officer, Dr. Howard Leibrand, issued the following statement:
This afternoon, we received confirmation from the Washington State Department of Health that the Omicron variant has been identified in three Skagit County residents. Omicron is circulating in our community, and we expect that infections from this new variant will continue to increase over the next several weeks.
It can be unsettling to hear news of a new variant, particularly as we approach the holidays. There are still things that we do not know. Early reports have suggested that the Omicron variant may re-infect people who have since recovered from COVID-19 at greater rates than with other variants. There is also some concern about whether vaccines and antibody treatments will work effectively against Omicron, but the CDC expects that current vaccines will remain effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.
What we do know is that we have the necessary tools to slow the transmission rate of omicron in our community: the layered protection of vaccination, boosters, masking, and testing.
We know what works to prevent the spread of viruses that cause COVID-19, including: wearing high-quality and well-fitting face masks or respirators; improving indoor air quality through ventilation; avoiding crowded indoor spaces and physical distancing; and getting tested and staying home when sick or exposed. These precautions, layered with vaccination and getting a booster dose when eligible, are the best and most important things we can do to protect against COVID-19 and the spread of Omicron.
New variants are unfortunate, but expected, especially when there are still large percentages of our population who are unvaccinated. This variant may pose new, or different challenges that will require a quick response by Public Health and our healthcare partners. But compared to the early days of the pandemic, we know much more about COVID-19 now, and we’re better prepared to respond.
Until we know more, every person should take steps to reduce their risk for contracting or spreading COVID-19. Remember: your choices can have positive or negative consequences. When making decisions about travel or gathering this holiday, please use all necessary precautions to keep yourself, your loved ones, and your community safe.
I wish you all a happy—and safe—holiday season!