That’s a Wrap for the Skagit County Fairgrounds COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This Saturday, June 26th, marks the final day of operation for the Skagit County Fairgrounds COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic. This clinic, run by Skagit County Public Health, has been in operation consistently since December 2020 when the COVID-19 vaccine first became available in Washington state.

Before the Vaccine Site opened, a robust drive-through test site was already operating at the Fairgrounds by Public Health’s crew. In November of 2020, Skagit County Public Health was in desperate need of a new location for its COVID-19 Drive-through Test Site. Severe weather had literally ripped the tents out of the ground at the Test Site’s original location at Skagit Valley College. The Fairgrounds allowed for a safer—and slightly warmer—work environment, which provided a much-needed morale boost for our wind-worn staff.

Once established in the Fairgrounds F-Barn, Public Health quickly got its Test Site back up and running, administering over 10,690 tests until testing operations closed on March 12th, 2021. For a few months, staff was actually running testing and vaccinations at the Fairgrounds simultaneously, with vehicles being directed to all corners of the site by our traffic crew. 

In the early months of vaccine roll-out, supply was extremely limited. Counties and other vaccine providers were receiving weekly shipments from the state, and at times shipments were much smaller than anticipated, or they were delayed due to bad weather. Healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents were prioritized first in December 2020 and January 2021. Eligibility was then expanded by the WA Department of Health to include other at-risk populations, including seniors 65 and older and those 50 years and older living in multigenerational housing.  Childcare providers and K-12 school teachers and staff followed shortly.

People all around Washington were scrambling to find appointments. On one particular Saturday morning, hundreds of appointment slots at the Fairgrounds were grabbed up in only 14 minutes flat!

By March 2021, certain critical workers became eligible for the vaccine, as well as pregnant individuals and those with disabilities over the age of 16. Then, eligibility expanded to all people 60 and older and people 16 and older with two or more co-morbidities.

Finally, all Washingtonians 16 years of age and older became eligible for the vaccine on April 15, 2021, and on May 13, the Pfizer vaccine became available to minors 12-15 years of age in Washington state. At this point, our focus shifted to those who may be less inclined to get the vaccine, or who may have inadequate access.

Public Health launched a Vaccine Hotline early on to help individuals who needed extra assistance in finding a vaccine appointment, offering service in both English and Spanish, six days a week. Staff also worked directly with community partners to ensure that vaccine services were provided equitably for all eligible individuals in our county. The Fairgrounds moved to provide evening and weekend hours on Thursdays and Saturdays to better accommodate our working folks. The site even stopped requiring appointments when it became evident that this step was creating an unnecessary barrier for some.

Staff sought to make the vaccine experience as easy as possible at the Fairgrounds. The drive-through option became a reality once testing wound down in F-Barn, allowing people to get their shot while sitting in their vehicle. At one point, the Fairgrounds even partnered with the Children’s Museum of Skagit County to offer free child-watching services so that parents and caregivers wouldn’t have that extra hurdle.

During its run over the past 6 months, the staff and volunteers at the Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic administered just over 31,000 doses of the vaccine to eligible Washingtonians, both from Skagit and our neighboring counties.

From the beginning, this site was intended to be a gap filler; a location where people could go if they couldn’t get access to a vaccine through their doctor or pharmacy. But what the Fairgrounds ended up being was so much more. It was a hub, a safe space, and a second home to the hundreds of staff and volunteers who worked in its barns and outbuildings in 2020 and 2021.

The Fairgrounds and its crew saw many ups, downs…and everything in between. After providing COVID tests to thousands of people throughout 2020, it was a huge blessing—and a huge relief—to begin administering the vaccine at the site. The first day of vaccinations felt almost like Christmas morning for some; it felt like for the first time, we had a fighting chance.

So, as the team wraps up service at the Fairgrounds and puts its sights solely on mobile vaccine outreach, we reflect on the bitter sweetness of this moment. Many of us just assumed that our job at the Fairgrounds wouldn’t be over until COVID was done and gone. Maybe we expected our last day would be like a graduation of sorts, where we would rip off our masks and throw them in the air.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t quite done with us. We must continue to fight the good fight, to take precaution, and to urge our family and friends to get vaccinated.

Though our doors are closing at the Fairgrounds after this Saturday, Public Health isn’t going anywhere. We will be out in the community all summer long providing better, and more convenient access to the vaccine that will help see us out of this mess.

If you are still needing your vaccine and are able to, come see us during our last week at the Fairgrounds. We’ll be open Thursday from 1-7pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am-4pm. You can also find a list of all providers in our area by going to Vaccinate WA.  

But if we don’t see you then, no worries. Check out our website for a list of our upcoming pop-up clinic dates. We’re excited to see you out and about, friends.


Let’s Be “Water Safe” This Summer!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s hot this week. Like, hot-hot. And this weekend looks like its going to be a scorcher. With seriously warm weather coming, you and your family might be planning to spend some time in, or near, water this weekend. Whether you’re planning a trip to the beach, to the lake, or just a casual Saturday around the kiddie pool, it is critical to be thinking about water safety at all times.

Why is water safety important?

It only takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text, check a fishing line or apply sunscreen. Death and injury from drownings happen every day in home pools and hot tubs, at the beach or in oceanslakes, rivers and streams, bathtubs, and even buckets. 

How do you ensure water safety?

Being “water safe” means that you’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety of yourself and your loved ones while enjoying time in, and around, the water. These steps include:

  1. Buddying Up: Always swim with other people. Designate a buddy from your household to swim with before you enter the water.
  2. Suiting Up: Always wear life jackets on boats. Make sure everyone has U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets at all times.
  3. Knowing Your Limits: Only swim as far as you can safely get back. Don’t hold your breath for longer than you can. Stay close to shore and rest if you are cold or tired.
  4. Knowing the Water: Don’t enter cold water or very fast-moving water. Always jump feet first into unknown water.
  5. Keeping an Eye Out: Actively supervise young children and inexperienced swimmers. Stay within arm’s reach and avoid distractions.

How do you make water safety a priority, in every location and situation?

Use “Layers of Protection” In & Around Water

There are things that you can actively do to ensure water safety and prevent drowning. Here are just a few:

  • Even if lifeguards are present, you (or another responsible adult) should stay with your children.
  • Be a “water watcher” – provide close and constant attention to children you are supervising; avoid distractions, including cell phones.
  • Teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
  • Children, inexperienced swimmers, and all boaters should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  • Take specific precautions for the water environment you are in, such as:
    • Fence pools and spas with adequate barriers, including four-sided fencing that separates the water from the house.
    • At the beach, always swim in a lifeguarded area.

Know the Risks & Take Sensible Precautions – Even If You’re a Strong Swimmer

  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • Don’t use alcohol or drugs (including certain prescription medications) before or while swimming, diving or supervising swimmers.
  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boating or fishing, even if you don’t intend to enter the water.

Ensure That the Entire Family Learns How to Swim

Now is a great time to look into swim lessons for everyone in your family! Most fitness centers with a pool offer swim lessons for kiddos 6 months and older. For a list of swimming lessons being offered in Skagit County, go to: https://skagit.kidinsider.com/pools. Note: Some information may have changed due to COVID.

Know how to respond in case of emergency

One of the best, and proactive things that you can do to ensure water safety is to learn how to respond during an emergency. Want to become CPR certified? Find a course nearby!

Some helpful links:

The American Red Cross has fantastic resources available that cover every water safety topic. For more information, visit: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety.html.

Links to specific topics:

  1. Drowning Prevention Facts
  2. Home pool & hot tub safety
  3. Swimming Safely at the Beach

Washington State to Reopen SOON!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As of June 14th, more than 7,528,340 doses of vaccine have been given across the state and more than 4.1 million people have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Washington is getting closer to its 70% initiation goal set by Governor Inslee. The state currently sits at 67.8% of Washingtonians 16 and older who have initiated vaccination, meaning they have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

June 30th or when we hit 70%.

The Governor has stated that Washington will fully reopen on June 30th, though the state could reopen sooner if the 70% initiation goal is met. To reopen before June 30th, at least 70% of people 16 and older need to receive at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

This is an extremely exciting time for many of us, as we begin to see things go back to normal. But with reopening comes great responsibility! It is important to remember as things open back up that we must proceed responsibly and with care and respect for those who are not yet vaccinated and for those who are at increased risk.

Reopening & what to expect:

What happens on June 30th or when we hit 70%?

The state will be open for business and recreation, and people who are vaccinated can go along with their regular lives for the most part. Unvaccinated people will need to continue wearing masks indoors. Most businesses get to operate as they did in January of 2020, with the caveat that they’re following workplace safety requirements (which come from Labor & Industries). Restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, and grocery stores are going to be fully open.

Are there any exceptions to reopening?

The one major public sector that will continue to have some limits is large-scale events that the governor just released guidance for. Events that are indoors with 10k or more people must be limited to 75% occupancy or require vaccination and follow mask requirements.

Higher risk congregant settings like healthcare, long term care facilities, or places where many people are not yet able to be vaccinated like childcare, day camps, K-12 must follow different guidance. In these settings, masking is still required, even among fully vaccinated persons.

Will unvaccinated people still need to wear a mask?

The Secretary of Health’s mask order remains in place, which means that unvaccinated people need to continue to mask in public. This helps protect not only those who are unvaccinated, but also vulnerable children who are not yet able to be vaccinated and others with auto-immune or other conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated.

Can businesses still require people to wear a mask after restrictions are lifted?

Yes, counties and businesses can be more strict and enforce masking, distancing and handwashing, etc. – whatever is appropriate in those spaces.

The situation in Skagit.

In Skagit County, 63.6% of our population 16 years and older have initiated vaccination. From data on the state dashboard, we can see that roughly 81% of our population 65+ have initiated and 64% of people 50-64 have initiated vaccination. The greatest room for growth would be amongst Skagitonians ages 12-49; the smallest percentage being those 12-17 years of age.

“We’re calling all our young adults and families with tweens and teens to get vaccinated now. It wouldn’t take much to get the state over the 70 percent threshold. We could see things reopen in the next few days if all eligible people would access their vaccine now.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

Getting your vaccine.

There continues to be many opportunities to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Skagit County. Getting a vaccine is free, easy, and now—more convenient than ever!

The Skagit County Fairgrounds Clinic is still offering vaccines to anyone 12 and older, though the site closes permanently after June 26th to allow Public Health to focus on mobile outreach and pop-up clinics. To access a Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Fairgrounds, drop by on Thursday from 1-7pm or Friday/Saturday from 10am-4pm.

A list of all upcoming mobile pop-up clinics can be found on Public Health’s website: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine. All pop-ups are available to anyone 12+, unless indicated on the webpage. No appointments are required for these dates and locations.

If none of the above options suit your needs, other vaccine providers and locations can be found at Vaccinate WA or by calling the DOH help line at 1-800-525-0127.

For more information.

WA DOH: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/FrequentlyAskedQuestions

Governor’s Office: http://Governor’s Office: https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources/covid-19-reopening-guidance

Percentages come from combining data from the Washington State Immunization Information System (IIS) and aggregate data from the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA). To access state and county level vaccine data, go to the state Dashboard at: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard.


Summer Vaccine Pop-Ups

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, contributing author

It’s mid-June, summer is right around the corner. Time for sunshine and enjoying the beauty of our vibrant Skagit County, and the state of Washington. Are you ready? Have you started to make plans? First on the list, if you haven’t already, should be to get vaccinated! There are plenty of opportunities to receive your vaccine…you just have to decide to do it! 

As Skagit County Public Health’s COVID-19 vaccination site at the Skagit County Fairgrounds winds down, “Pop-Up” vaccination clinics have begun and are scheduled across Skagit County. The last day to receive a Pfizer or J&J vaccination at the fairgrounds will be Saturday, June 26, 2021. Anyone 12 or over can still receive a first or second dose Pfizer vaccine at the fairgrounds. If receiving a first dose Pfizer, you will be given information for options where to receive the second dose.  Johnson and Johnson vaccine is one dose and available for anyone 18 years and older. Remember you are considered fully vaccinated fourteen days post second dose Pfizer or one dose J&J. 

“Mount Baker Presbyterian Church, Pop-up Vaccination Clinic” 
©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert 2021 

Over the past few weeks, Skagit County Public Health has held “Pop-Up” vaccination clinics at a variety of locations across the county. To name a few: Skagit Speedway, Mount Baker Presbyterian Church in Concrete, Skagit Transit, Mount Vernon and Sedro Woolley Farmer’s Markets, Terramar Brewstillery in Edison, and the Marblemount Community Center.  There are even more to come as we transition away from our mass vaccination site to fully mobile this summer. Please see our schedule for listing of mobile clinics on our website.

Skagit County Public Health’s vaccination team will be coming to you. In addition to the “Pop-Up” clinics, we’ve started canvassing local businesses, reaching out to homebound community members, and even vaccinating crews’ onboard ships coming into the local ports. All this outreach is to ensure that we are reaching those who may not have had an opportunity to get their vaccination otherwise.

Last week while visiting local businesses, our mobile team was able to vaccinate community members who couldn’t get to the fairgrounds or had been “on the fence” about getting vaccinated. Each individual vaccinated was grateful that we had come to them. Many of these individuals were also also waiting for the one dose J&J vaccine, because of their busy work schedules.  

Here are some of the responses from our “Pop-Ups” and community canvassing: 

  • “With my work schedule, I was never able to get to the Fairgrounds.” 
  • “I was waiting for the J&J vaccine. One dose vaccine is perfect for me.” 
  • “So happy; I’ll be able to see my new granddaughter!” 
  • “Your timing is perfect. I’ve been hesitant about getting the vaccine. Now I’m ready.” 
  • “My mom is going to be so happy!”
  • “Thank you for coming to us.”
  • “This was so easy!”

If you have a business with employees needing to receive the vaccine or know of anyone that is homebound, please reach out to Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500. As we move into summer, Public Health is here for you. We know that the COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to ensure that people are protected from becoming seriously ill. We know that the vaccines will keep people out of the ICU. Working together, we can see the light at the end of this tunnel.

We look forward to seeing you out in the community!


Get SMOKE READY this Wildfire Season

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Thankfully, we haven’t seen much smoke in Washington skies yet this year. Unfortunately though, we know that all it takes is one spark. Today—June 14th—marks the beginning of Smoke Ready Week, so let’s use this time to get prepared!

Like last year, there continues to be heightened concerns around the health impacts of breathing in wildfire smoke, and how this can worsen symptoms for those with COVID-19—or who may be at increased risk of contracting the virus. How we protect ourselves from wildfire smoke now is different than during other years when COVID-19 wasn’t a factor. Especially for those who are unvaccinated, it may be more difficult to go to public spaces where the air is cleaner and cooler than private homes may be. N95 respirator supplies continue to be somewhat limited, however not nearly as limited as last year. And we now all know from experience that cloth face coverings don’t provide much protection from wildfire smoke!-

So before we dive in, let’s discuss why getting Smoke Ready is important.

How can wildfire smoke harm your health?

Smoke is made up of gasses and microscopic particles. When inhaled, these particles bypass our bodies’ normal defenses, traveling deep into the lungs and even entering the bloodstream. Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including the following:

  • Coughing     
  • Trouble breathing      
  • Stinging eyes     
  • Scratchy throat
  • Runny nose  
  • Irritated sinuses        
  • Wheezing         
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches   
  • Asthma attack           
  • Tiredness         
  • Fast heartbeat

Who is at most risk from wildfire smoke?

Inhaling wildfire smoke can be harmful to anyone, but it is especially harmful to these vulnerable groups: people with heart and lung disease, people with chronic respiratory conditions, infants and children, pregnant women and adults 65 and over. People in these high-risk groups should reach out to their healthcare provider to discuss specific ways to be prepared against wildfire smoke.

So, are you #SmokeReady? Here are 10 tips to help you prepare:

1. Plan ahead with your doctor.

If you or a family member has asthma, or suffers from heart or lung disease, have a plan to manage your condition. Children, pregnant women, and people over age 65 are especially at risk during smoke events. Learn more.

2. Get HEPA filters, recirculate your AC, and share space if able.

Use a HEPA filter in your home’s central air system or your air conditioner unit or air purifier. Learn how to turn your AC to “recirculate” in both your home and your car.

If purchasing a portable room air cleaner isn’t in your current budget, there are DIY instructions for building a “box fan filter.” These are fairly simple to assemble and cost around $50. View a tutorial to create a box fan filter.

For those who are vaccinated, you can also check with your neighbors—something we couldn’t do last year! If you or your neighbor doesn’t have good air filtration or air conditioning at home, arrange to share spaces with those who do.

3. Employers, plan ahead with your employees
.

Have a plan in place for employees who work outdoors. Consider alternate work assignments or relocation to reduce employee exposure to smoke. For staff that work indoors, ensure your air filtration system is protective for smoke. Prepare for employees to face childcare closures, home emergencies, etc. Check with Washington Labor & Industries for guidance

4. Have a Plan B for outdoor events.

Have a contingency plan prepared in case you need to cancel or reschedule. If you have children in summer camps or childcare, ask the organizers about their smoke plan. If the only viable plan B appears to be moving the event indoors, be sure to check with Skagit County Public Health before proceeding with plans. Visit the website or call (360) 416-1500.

5. Information about respirator masks.

If you have to be outdoors for extended periods of time, consider a N95 or N100 respirator. Thankfully, N95s are now a little easier to find in 2021 than last year, but the Washington Department of Health is still encouraging people to look at other options before getting a respirator.

If you do purchase a respirator mask, keep in mind that it can be difficult to find a mask that fits correctly. Test the fit and comfort of your mask before you need it. Learn more.

6. Stock up.

Stock up safely and responsibly. Have several days of water, groceries, and family needs on hand so you don’t have to go out when it’s smoky. Learn how to prepare.

7. Don’t forget your pets!

If the air quality is forecasted to be poor while you’re away from home, plan ahead to keep your pets inside or with a caregiver. Learn more.

8. Learn the air quality index numbers and colors.

During periods of poor air quality, watch for air quality alerts, pay attention to numbers and colors of air quality monitors, and know when to limit your time outdoors.

9. Make sure to get alerts.

Sign up to receive air quality email alerts for your zip code. Also, bookmark or subscribe to this blog for statewide air quality and wildfire updates.

Wildfire season doesn’t need to slow you and your family down, but proper planning is a must! Keep up to date by following the Washington Smoke Information blog. Learn more about being Smoke Ready at EPA’s Smoke-Ready Toolbox for Wildfires and Washington Department of Health’s Smoke From Wildfires Toolkit.


Eat & Be Well: Food Safety Tips from Public Health

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This past Monday, June 7th, was World Food Safety Day. The United Nations has declared this day to draw global attention to the health consequences of contaminated food and water. Food safety and illness prevention and investigation are some of Public Health’s primary functions here in Skagit County, so we’d like to take this time to share some food safety tips with you!

But first…What is Foodborne Illness?

Foodborne illness often presents itself as flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever, so many people may not recognize the illness is caused by bacteria or other pathogens in food. Thousands of types of bacteria are naturally present in our environment.

Not all bacteria cause disease in humans. For example, some bacteria are used beneficially in making cheese and yogurt. Bacteria that cause disease are called pathogens. When certain pathogens enter the food supply, they can cause foodborne illness. Millions of cases of foodborne illness occur each year. Most cases of foodborne illness can be prevented. Proper cooking or processing of food destroys bacteria.

How Bacteria Get in Food?

Bacteria may be present on products when you purchase them. Plastic-wrapped boneless chicken breasts and ground meat, for example, were once part of live chickens or cattle. Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs are not sterile. Neither is fresh produce such as lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, and melons. Foods, including safely cooked, ready-to-eat foods, can become cross-contaminated with bacteria transferred from raw products, meat juices or other contaminated products, or from food handlers with poor personal hygiene.

So how do you keep your food safe and pathogen free?

There are Four Steps to Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill.

1. Clean

  • Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
  • Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

2. Separate

Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate. Here are some tips for avoiding cross-contamination:

  • Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • When grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge.

3. Cook

Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. You can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.

Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Check this chart for a detailed list of foods and temperatures.

  • 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
  • 160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork
  • 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey
  • 165°F for leftovers and casseroles
  • 145°F for fresh ham (raw)
  • 145°F for fin fish or cook until flesh is opaque

4. Chill

  • Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below and know when to throw food out.  
  • Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. (If outdoor temperature is above 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour.)
  • Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter, because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.
  • Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if it’s hotter than 90°F outside).

For more information, visit our webpage here! To submit a question, report a health hazard or concern to Environmental Health, go to our online feedback page.

You can also find other helpful information here:


What the Data Tells Us: Vaccines Save Lives

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There has sure been a lot of uncertainty since March of 2020; our routines changed dramatically, schools closed then reopened, and vacations were postponed or cancelled all together. There hasn’t been a ton that we could rely on—until now.

The data shows us that we can, and should, rely on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. The data tells us that the vaccines are saving lives in Skagit County, across our country, and throughout the world. As more and more people get vaccinated, we see our case rates drop, our hospitalizations decrease, and the number of COVID-19 deaths decline.

This data tells us that we can count on the vaccine to get us out of the pandemic; that we can count on the vaccine to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy. It gives us reason to get vaccinated against a virus that has taken the lives of 74 Skagitonians thus far.  

COVID-19 vaccines work.

Over 62% of people 16 or older have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Skagit County. Since we began administering COVID-19 vaccines in late December 2020, our 14-day case rate reversed course, dropping from a peak of 459.2 per 100,000 around Thanksgiving of last year, to 74.4 in May 2021. Now, after a quick spike in April, we are seeing lower numbers again.

Outbreaks at long-term care facilities have sharply declined. People living and working there were among the first to be vaccinated. Our highest risk senior populations were also eligible for the vaccine first, and case numbers amongst this population has dropped pretty dramatically since the winter.

Total COVID-19 deaths in Skagit County have slowed, as well, and the people we are seeing in our ICU beds are—by and large—not those who have been vaccinated. We know that vaccinations have played a key role in these falling numbers. We also know that continuing to use our safety precautions when unvaccinated (like mask wearing and social distancing) plays a large part.

Breakthrough cases are expected, but statistically rare.

Data has also shown that no vaccine is 100% effective. Breakthrough cases (when a fully vaccinated person tests positive for COVID-19 more than two weeks after the final dose) can happen, but they are rare. It is expected that a small percentage of fully vaccinated people will get sick with COVID-19; in most cases, these individuals will experience mild symptoms, however, hospitalization and/or death can still happen.

Recent Washington Department of Health statistics tell us that out of 3.1 million vaccinated, 1,471 breakthrough cases occurred. Of those cases, 23 people died. That’s about .0007%, or 1 in 134,782. Half of these deaths were in individuals 84 years of age or older.

In addition, both the Washington Department of Health and the CDC report extremely low rates of COVID-19 breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated people. Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah recently said hospital admission rates in those 45-64 who have not been vaccinated are 21 times higher than those who are fully vaccinated.

From this data we can see: the vast majority of those getting sick, being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 are people who have not been vaccinated.

Getting vaccinated is easy.

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 allows us to get back to the things that we enjoy. Vaccinated people are taking off their masks. Families and friends are gathering again. Restaurants and businesses are seeing more customers and a loosening of restrictions. And now, the data is confirming that the vaccines are effective at preventing sickness and death from COVID-19. The vaccines are our best path out of this pandemic.

Finding your free vaccine is easier than ever. To find a provider near you, go to: https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/. You can also still visit the Skagit Fairgrounds for a free Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine between now and June 26th.

If taking time to go to an appointment or dropping in at a pharmacy or clinic doesn’t work for you, that’s no problem! Skagit Public Health is holding pop-up vaccine clinics around the county all summer long. We’ll be where you are at so getting vaccinated is quick and convenient. For a list of our pop-up dates, go to: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.

If you need help finding vaccine, call our Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500. We look forward to serving you!


Playground Safety: A Mom’s Public Service Announcement

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It has been a real privilege to share information on our Skagit Health Connection Blog over the past year. One of the greatest gifts of my role as Communications Coordinator is being able to share with you both professional and personal information I’ve gleaned over the years as a Public Health employee, wife, mother, and Skagitonian. Creating content for the blog has been—in many ways—a cathartic experience during these difficult months; a place where I can share my thoughts, but also provide content that is essential for the health, safety, and wellbeing of our community.

Today’s post comes from a more personal perspective: it is a PSA provided by me, a 30-something mother of two young children; a bit crazed after a long rainy winter and weather-worn from COVID. It also comes from a place of humility as I share some things I’ve learned from my most recent “mommy fail.”

About a month ago I took a quick trip to a local playground with my two young daughters, ages 4 and 18 months. It was a park that we’d never been to before and my girls were running hog wild! At one point my youngest made her way to the top of the tallest slide, and, instead of grabbing her off and suffering the consequences of a toddler tantrum, I decided to take her down on my lap.

Big mistake. Her leg must have caught or twisted just so, resulting in a spiral fracture to her left tibia. 6 weeks with a full-leg cast. Not cool.

It was only after a blubbery call to my husband and a lengthy urgent care trip that I was informed by the doctor that sliding with a child on your lap isn’t something that you should do. I had no idea!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an estimated 352,698 children under the age of 6 were injured on slides in the United States from 2002 through 2015, and many of those injuries were leg fractures. Of those under 6 years old, toddlers age 12-23 months had the highest percentage of injuries. The most common injury overall was a fracture at 36 percent, usually involving the lower leg.

The biggest issue appears to be the size and weight of adults. When a young child slides down by themselves, they are unlikely to get a severe injury to their leg, even if the foot catches due to the relatively low forces involved. The force generated by the forward momentum of an adult with a child on their lap is much greater and can easily break a bone if a child’s foot gets caught on the slide.

Thankfully, my daughter’s leg is healing quickly enough and the cast is scheduled to come off in the next few weeks. However, the experience has definitely left me a bit unnerved. I am now finding every opportunity to share what I’ve learned with friends and family—and I hope you will share this information, too!

To prepare for the fun days of summer ahead, I am taking time to read up on other playground safety tips. If you’re interested in this type of information, here is a great place to start. Play equipment like swings and monkey bars can be incredibly fun, but they can also pose safety risks for children—especially those a bit more daring than the rest.

I hope you and your family enjoy our local playgrounds and have a wonderful June.

Play safe and have fun!


Vaccine Next Steps & What You Need To Know

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You might have heard that this is the final week for first-dose services at the Skagit County Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic. But what does that mean? It makes sense that people may have questions about what the County’s plans are for COVID-19 vaccinations as we move away from our mass vaccination model this summer. Do you have questions? Please read below to get in-the-know about our next steps.

Is the Fairgrounds Vaccine Site closing completely after June 5?

No. Public Health will continue to operate at the Fairgrounds through June 26, however, we will be wrapping up our first-dose Pfizer services after Saturday, June 5. What this means is that after June 5, people who receive their first-dose Pfizer vaccine at the Fairgrounds will need to get their second dose from another location. Please know that our staff will work with these individuals to find a second dose—we are here to help! But if you want the convenience of getting your second dose at the same location, then the time is now to get your first at the Fairgrounds.

We will continue to provide second-dose Pfizer vaccinations at the Fairgrounds until we close permanently after June 26.

Will you turn me away if I come to the Fairgrounds for a first-dose after June 5?

No! Our staff will not turn away any eligible person (anyone 12+) who comes to the site for a vaccine after June 5. If you get your first-dose of Pfizer with us after June 5, we’ll make sure to get you connected with a second dose at a provider near you.

We will also have Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine available at the Fairgrounds after June 5, and this will be available to anyone 18 and older! This is a single-dose vaccine, so no second dose will be necessary! This is an awesome option for anyone looking for a quick and easy one-and-done vaccine! Getting a J&J shot in June will guarantee that you’re protected from COVID-19 all summer long! There’s no better way to start your summer than this!

Will vaccines still be available in Skagit County after the Fairgrounds closes on June 26?

Yes—absolutely! Skagit County has many vaccine providers, including neighborhood pharmacies, clinics, and major chain grocery stores (like Safeway and Haggen). You can find a list of all vaccine providers near you by going to https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/.

Skagit County Public Health will also continue to provide COVID vaccines, but we will be relying on a mobile outreach approach instead of our brick and mortar system at the Fairgrounds. This shift in our approach is a response to the changing needs of our community; we want to be accessible to all people, no matter where they live or work! For a list of our up-coming pop-up vaccine clinics, visit our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.

Our pop-up clinics are available to anyone 12+ (if providing Pfizer) or 18+ (if providing J&J). No need to register or schedule an appointment; just visit us at our pop-up tent and we’ll get you in and out in about 20 minutes! Check us out at community events all summer long!

How do I get more information about COVID vaccinations in Skagit County?

Skagit County Public Health will continue to operate our Vaccine Hotline on Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm. Just call (360) 416-1500 to speak with one of our staff!

And as always, go to our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine for more information.

Have an idea for a pop-up vaccine clinic? Contact Julie de Losada at julied@co.skagit.wa.us.


Finally, fully vaccinated! Now what?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, contributing author

Summer is right around the corner. Time to get outside and enjoy opportunities to reconnect with families and friends; especially if you are fully vaccinated. But you may have questions! “What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?” “Do I still need to wear my mask?” “Can I hug my grandchildren?” These are a few of the questions I’ve been asked while welcoming and observing community members after receiving their first and second vaccinations at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. 

With each step of the COVID-19 road to recovery, our collective movement forward has relied on accurate, updated information. This can be challenging to keep up with! Reliable sources are vitally important and ensure that we keep informed, and also help us to make the best decisions for ourselves and families. Resources like www.coronavirus.wa.gov can answer the above questions and much more.

Still wondering? Here are a few common questions I’ve gotten at the site:

“What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?”

You are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks (14 days) after you have received your second vaccination if you had to get two doses (Pfizer or Moderna), or two weeks after receiving a single dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson).  

“Do I still have to wear my mask?”

If you are fully vaccinated, the answer to that question is yes and no, depending on the circumstance. 

The data shows you can visit with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or physically distancing. To protect others and yourself, it is important to continue to wear your mask in crowded settings like sporting/music events or public indoor settings like grocery stores. If you are traveling, please check with mask requirements for the state you’re traveling to, and continue to wear your mask when using all forms of public transportation. Airlines are still requiring you to wear your mask, even if you are fully vaccinated. The reason to continue wearing a mask is because we do not have enough information yet about whether the vaccine prevents the spread of COVID-19 from one to another. The best answer? Be responsible and respectful; use your best judgement and be safe. 

“Can I hug my grandchildren?”

I know for myself, I have been desperately missing hugs. If you are fully vaccinated, you can now hug other fully vaccinated people! This is a welcome relief and reward after the past year when we endured separation and isolation from family and friends. Please remember though that as we move forward, it is important to remain careful while engaging in group settings. We’re not out of the woods just yet. Enjoy those longed for hugs, and while you’re at it, give yourself one for getting fully vaccinated! 

While making post-fully vaccinated plans, keep up with the most updated accurate information. Be aware that not everyone in public will be vaccinated, and for that reason, it is recommended that people continue to wear their mask in public and when in large gatherings–especially indoors. We are certainly moving forward in a positive direction! But the coming months are critical in our road to recovery, and our day-to-day choices matter.

“Fully Vaccinated!” 
Photograph courtesy of Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2021 

For me, personally, the top of my post-fully vaccinated bucket list was visiting my grown adult children. Last month, I was finally able to reunite with my daughter and her husband! As soon as I received word that they were fully vaccinated, I got on a plane and flew to California. It was wonderful to see the Seattle skyline for the first time in over a year! 

To ease my trepidation about traveling and getting on a plane, I made sure to prepare myself. I made sure to have masks on hand, as well as a face shield and gloves while entering the airport. I felt comfort in knowing that I know how to protect myself after over a year of working the COVID testing and vaccination sites! I kept my distance as best I could, and honestly…I wholeheartedly enjoyed the opportunity to be with people, traveling once again! I am grateful to be fully vaccinated and there was nothing better than finally getting that long-awaited reunion hug with my daughter. 

Enjoy your fully vaccinated life, stay healthy, make plans, get outside, hug your family and friends…Appreciate the moments as we reengage with new awareness and understanding of community!

For more information about post vaccination guidelines, visit: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/information-for/you-and-your-family/life-after-vaccine.