My Vaccination Experience

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Post by Rosemary Alpert, contributing author.

Across the country, vaccination distribution is ramping up. Each week, Skagit Public Health has been working diligently to provide updated, reliable information and notice on vaccine availability. Together, we have experienced an unbelievable year of unknowns, questions and challenges. Each of us, hopefully, doing the best we can and getting the most updated accurate information. 

Since June, I’ve had a firsthand viewpoint on the pandemic, registering thousands of community members to get tested for COVID-19, and now as a part of the vaccination team. Last week, I had the privilege to receive my second Moderna vaccination. Prior to receiving my first vaccination, I had heard all kinds of rumors, including what I read scrolling through social media platforms. I understand how challenging it can be to keep up with information pertaining to the vaccines. And most importantly, making sure to get information from reliable sources. 

My vaccination experience

Engaging with the community has reminded me how unique we all are. Our responses and reactions to COVID-19 and the vaccination are also individual. I would like to share my experience. Because of this work at the testing site, in early January, I was able to receive my first vaccination. My reactions to the first shot were a sore arm and tired the day after receiving the vaccine. I rested and was grateful.  

Prior to receiving my second shot, I heard the possibility of a stronger reaction. Since the data is still being gathered, I had no idea how my body would respond. Some people that I talked with post second shot had little reactions to full blown flu-like symptoms. Within 24 hours of receiving the second vaccination, I experienced a whopper headache, chills, body aches, fever and extreme exhaustion. As uncomfortable as I felt, I knew my body was responding to the vaccine. I personally waited 24 hours before I took a Tylenol for the headache and fever. I rested, kept hydrated and the fever passed.

Within a few days, I felt reinvigorated and sincerely appreciated the opportunity to receive the vaccine.  

Reflections post-vaccination

While resting, I thought about all the lives touched by this virus. Tears fell for the 500,000 people who have died, along with thoughts for their family and friends. Also, grateful for the incredible medical teams of nurses and doctors across the country caring for the patients and administering vaccinations. This reinforced how important it is to be informed with accurate information.  

Upon returning to work, I spoke with my most reliable sources and true “Rock Stars,” the lead nurses at the testing/vaccination site. I shared my body’s response and they said, “That’s great! You have a strong immune system!” I felt much better hearing their words.

Over these many months, the nurses, in addition to the Skagit County Public Health website, have kept me informed. I asked the nurses about frequently asked questions they hear and any suggestions they have pertaining to the vaccinations. Here are their responses. 

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine? 
NO. The vaccine contains a “blueprint” for a specific type of protein so your immune system can recognize that protein if you become exposed to the virus. The vaccine does not contain the actual virus.

Can I take a pain reliever for any symptoms after receiving the vaccine? 
Yes, you can. Research says that people can take an anti-inflammatory and it doesn’t affect the efficacy of the vaccine. 

Which arm should I get the vaccine?
It doesn’t matter. 

The nurses also provided the following suggestions: 

  • Please eat before you come to get your vaccination. 
  • Don’t be afraid of reactions; it’s your body responding. 
  • Be aware of physical and emotional responses. Some people are overwhelmed with relief, gratitude and hope. This can be a tender time. 
  • Please keep wearing your masks and social distancing, even after receiving your second vaccination.  
  • Get your information from reliable sources, not social media. The CDC is always a great place to start, and the WA Department of Health has great information pertinent to our state specifically.  
  • Reach out to assist community members who may not have access to computers. 

Common Side Effects

Each of us responds differently to vaccinations, and this is normal. The side effects that I experienced post-vaccine—though uncomfortable—all fell within the normal range.

In large clinical trials, most side effects have been minor. When side effects occur, they typically last just a few days. A side effect or reaction isn’t necessarily all bad, by the way; it may indicate that the body is building protection against the virus.

Common side effects may include:

  • Pain at the site of the injection
  • Painful, swollen lymph nodes in the arm where the vaccine was injected
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever or chills

Severe Side Effects

Rarely, a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis may occur, most often in people known to have had severe vaccine reactions in the past. Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling of the face and throat
  • Rash
  • Low blood pressure.

Severe side effects usually occur soon after vaccination and can be treated with epinephrine (like an EpiPen). That’s why people are observed for at least 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine with epinephrine at the ready. If you experience any severe reactions post vaccination, please call your doctor or go to emergency department immediately.

V-Safe After Vaccination Health Checker

People can download the V-safe smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Through V-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information. For more information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html.

As a community, we are moving forward. Please keep informed and share reliable sources with your family, friends and neighbors. March is here, spring is approaching, and hope is refreshingly leading the way forward. Stay Healthy! 

For more information about the Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic, call the Skagit County Public Health COVID Vaccine Hotline at 360-416-1500 or visit www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine.

Re-emerging Lupines, ©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2021 

B.1.1.7 COVID-19 Virus Variant Found in Skagit County

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March 3, 2021

Skagit County Public Health released today that evidence of the COVID-19 virus variant has been found in Skagit County. Variant B.1.1.7, also referred to as the U.K. variant, is more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain.

The individual first tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago and has been working with contact tracers. The individual had not traveled and is associated with another known COVID-19 case that is likely another B.1.1.7 variant case. Genome sequencing takes time, so the variant was only discovered last night- more information will likely become available in the coming days. Public Health is thankful to all involved for their cooperation.

We knew this was coming,” said Skagit Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson. “The B.1.1.7 variant has already been found in Whatcom, Snohomish and Island Counties, and given the way COVID-19 spreads it’s likely it’s been here for a while. We should assume that this variant is circulating widely in Skagit at this time.

The B.1.1.7 variant is more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19, it responds to the same safety measures the community has been practicing since the first case of COVID-19 was found in Skagit County. These measures include:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Using good hand hygiene and washing hands frequently
  • Avoiding unnecessary gatherings; particularly informal, indoor social gatherings
  • Staying six feet apart from anyone you do not live with

Additionally, currently in use vaccines are effective against the B.1.1.7 variant, so Public Health encourages all to be vaccinated as soon as you are eligible. For more information about vaccinations in Skagit County visit www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Skagit Public Health at 360-416-1500. For more information about Skagit’s COVID-19 response, visit www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.


Getting There: Traveling to your Vaccine Appointment

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Vaccine roll-out has been slow over the past two months due to limited supply. Now that we will begin to see more supply arrive in Skagit County, more appointments will be available to those who are eligible. At present, only those who qualify under Phases 1a and 1b-Tier 1 are eligible; however, in the coming days, Public Health expects the State to move to the next phase.

Skagit County Public Health and our partner providers in the County have been working with local transportation providers to work through issues around accessibility. As eligibility widens and more people are able to make an appointment, providers must be able to respond to the needs of our diverse population.

Fairgrounds Clinic Layout

The Vaccine Clinic at the Skagit County Fairgrounds uses a walk-in clinic for first doses. This means that individuals will park their vehicle and enter the clinic on foot. For those with mobility issues, disabled parking is available next to the clinic entrance.

Those who arrive for a second dose at the Fairgrounds will be ushered through our drive-through clinic. Here, people will be able to receive their vaccine without leaving their vehicle. To date, this is the only drive-through vaccine clinic available in Skagit County.

For both first-dose and second-dose appointments, visitors will be required to wait 15 minutes post-vaccination for observation. It is important to keep this in mind when planning for transportation. Appointments can vary in length; it can take between 30-60 minutes from start to finish.

Foot Traffic versus Walk-ups

While there are no walk-ups permitted at the Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic (meaning only those with an appointment will be permitted), the site does allow for individuals who arrive on foot. Because of this, people can absolutely use public transportation to get to and from the Fairgrounds Clinic. This applies to those arriving for both first-dose and second-dose appointments.

For information about how to schedule an appointment at the Skagit Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic, visit: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.

Transportation Assistance Options

For those who need transportation assistance to the Fairgrounds Clinic (or other vaccine provider locations in Skagit County), you have some options:

1. Fixed Route Services through Skagit Transit

Those using the Fixed Route service may access any route—at no cost—by showing proof of a vaccine appointment. Since there are numerous vaccination sites in Skagit County, the driver will ask which location the person is trying to get to.

If traveling to the Fairgrounds Clinic, take Route 202 from Skagit Station and exit at South 2nd Street and Hazel Road. A short walk will get you to the site entrance at 1410 Virginia Street in Mount Vernon. Here, people will check in with staff at the front entrance and will be directed to Registration.

Any person who is unfamiliar with the Fixed Route service and/or bus stop locations should contact Skagit Transit’s Dispatch Center at (360) 757-4433 for assistance on where to catch the bus and/or which routes to take to their destinations. You can also use Skagit Transit’s online trip planner here: https://www.skagittransit.org/trip-planner/.

2. Paratransit Services through Skagit Transit

Those who cannot use the Fixed Route service can use paratransit services. If you respond “NO” to any of the following questions, you may qualify for the Paratransit service.

  • Are you able to get on or off a bus?
  • Are you able to get to or from the nearest bus stop?
  • Are you able to wait (standing) at a bus stop for 5 to 10 minutes?
  • Are you able to ride or to understand instructions on how to ride the bus?

To access this service, riders must call the Dispatch Center at (360) 757-4433 and speak to a Scheduler, who will work with them to find the best possible pickup location and arrange the pickup times. Since Paratransit is a reservation-based service, a minimum of 24-hour advanced notice is required. Riders must be prepared to show the driver proof of a vaccine appointment in lieu of bus fare.

If using the Paratransit service, please keep in mind that the Paratransit driver will most likely not be able to wait the full length of your vaccine appointment. As noted above, it can take 30-60 minutes for an appointment depending on wait-times. When scheduling your ride, be sure to let the scheduler know that you are going to a vaccine appointment and that there will be a wait.

Those arriving by paratransit (or any other service like a cab or Uber) will be dropped off at Registration and will be processed similar to someone who has arrived on foot. Please plan to schedule a pick up at the site following the 15-minute post-vaccine observation period. For those with mobility issues, staff will assist getting individuals to and from the Site entrance.

For more information about Paratransit Services, visit https://www.skagittransit.org/additional-services/dial-a-ride/.

3. Medicaid Transportation

Those who are eligible for Medicaid and have a Medicaid Provider One Identification Card (medical coupon) may be eligible for transportation assistance to a Skagit County vaccine provider location. People must call two days in advance to schedule a trip; call (360) 738-4554 to reserve a ride.

When reserving a Medicaid transport, be sure to let the scheduler know that you are going to a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, and that it may take 30-60 minutes. Your driver may be able to wait on site, or a pick-up will be scheduled. In this case, please let the Vaccine Clinic staff know about your arrangement, and staff can work to accommodate your specific needs. 

Carpooling to the Fairgrounds Site

We realize that it might make sense to carpool with a friend or co-worker if you both have an appointment on the same day. However, for safety reasons, it is still recommended that only those within the same household ride together in a vehicle.

If you do plan to come to the site with someone else, please try to limit to two people per vehicle. This allows for staff to process vehicles more efficiently than if there are multiple people getting a vaccine in a vehicle. Remember: Only those with an appointment will be permitted into the clinic unless assistance is required.

If you have any questions about the information above, contact the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500 or visit our webpage at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.


Updated Quarantine Requirements for Vaccinated Persons

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On February 10th, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced some recent changes to quarantine requirements for those who are fully vaccinated. This update comes at a perfect time as more people are getting vaccinated and as many are beginning to wonder what life will look like post-vaccine.

If you have been following the news, or if you have been recently vaccinated, you have most likely heard the recommendations: Vaccinated persons should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and avoiding crowds.

But why must those who have received both doses of vaccine continue to practice these safety precautions? Shouldn’t we be able to go back to normal once vaccines are more readily available?

Well…the science just isn’t there quite yet to tell us otherwise!

What we know—and don’t know just yet

We know that the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, meaning that those who have received a full vaccine series have protection against developing symptoms and are especially protected against severe illness related to COVID-19. The evidence also shows that symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission has a greater role in transmission that purely asymptomatic transmission.

While mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (like Pfizer and Moderna) have demonstrated high efficacy at preventing severe and symptomatic COVID-19, there is limited information on how effective the vaccines are at reducing transmission and how long protection lasts. The efficacy of the vaccines against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants is also not yet known.

As we wait to learn more about how much vaccines are able to reduce transition, it is best to be cautious. Counties across Washington State have shown reductions in COVID-19 cases in the past several weeks, and it is best to keep doing what we know works best against the virus.

If you are like me though, you may be looking for a glimmer of hope for the coming months. The updated CDC quarantine guidelines is a promising example of the benefits that vaccinated individuals will begin to see.

Updated Guidance for Vaccinated Persons

The CDC states that vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria. Persons who do not meet all three of the below criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19:

1. Are fully vaccinated (i.e. it has been longer than two weeks following receipt of the second dose in a two-dose series, or it has been longer than two weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine).

2. Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.

3. Are within three months following receipt of the last dose in the series (meaning that an individual is no more than three months out from their last vaccine dose).

Experts are currently gathering data about the duration of immunity to COVID-19 post-vaccination. At present, we have good data confidence to say that immunity lasts for 90 days (or three months). This may change as more data is gathered and analyzed.

Vaccinated healthcare personnel, patients, and residents in healthcare settings

If you are a healthcare worker, patient, or resident of a healthcare setting, these new updates will not apply to you. This exception is due to the unknown vaccine effectiveness in this population, the higher risk of severe disease and death, and challenges with social distancing in healthcare settings. These individuals must continue to follow current quarantine guidance.

Exposed and feeling sick. Now what?

Fully vaccinated persons who do not quarantine should still watch for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following an exposure. If they experience symptoms, they should be clinically evaluated for COVID-19. In addition, vaccinated persons should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including all other SARS-CoV-2 testing recommendations and requirements, and state, territorial, tribal, and local travel recommendations or requirements. For local information, visit: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirus.htm.

More to come

The CDC quarantine recommendations for vaccinated persons, including the criteria above, will be updated when more data becomes available and additional COVID-19 vaccines are authorized.

To find out if you are currently eligible for vaccine in Washington State, visit www.findyourphasewa.org. If eligible, people can register for an appointment at one of the many vaccine provider locations: https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization/VaccineLocations. Please know that vaccine supply is still quite limited at this time, and it will take several months for all currently eligible individuals to receive vaccine.

For information about Skagit County Public Health’s vaccination clinic at the Skagit County Fairgrounds, visit www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500.


New Mask Guidance from the CDC

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new research that found wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask offers more protection against COVID-19. Findings also showed that tying knots on the ear loops of surgical masks can improve fit and create better protection. This information has prompted new mask guidance at a time when many are experiencing heightened concern over fast-spreading variants of the virus.

Wearing a mask correctly—and consistently—is one of the most effective tools we have against preventing the spread of COVID-19. It is important to choose a mask that fits well and also provides the necessary protection against viruses and aerosols.  

According to the CDC, these are the two most important things to consider when it comes to masks:

1) Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges of the mask; and

2) Pick a mask with layers to keep your respiratory droplets in and others’ out. A mask with layers will stop more respiratory droplets getting inside your mask or escaping from your mask if you are sick.

Here is a list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts”:

DO

Choose a mask with a Nose Wire:

  • A nose wire is a metal strip along the top of the mask. Nose wires prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask.

Use a Mask Fitter or Brace:

  • Use a mask fitter or brace over a disposable mask or a cloth mask to prevent air from leaking around the edges of the mask.

Check that it Fits Snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin:

  • Check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask.
  • Make sure no air is flowing from the area near your eyes or from the sides of the mask.
  • If the mask has a good fit, you will feel warm air come through the front of the mask and may be able to see the mask material move in and out with each breath.

Add Layers of material. Here are three different ways to achieve this:

  • Use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric.
  • Wear one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.
  • Use a two-layer mask that has a pocket for a filter.

Knot and Tuck ear loops of a 3-ply mask:

  • Knot the ear loops of a 3-ply face mask where they join the edge of the mask
  • Fold and tuck the unneeded material under the edges
  • For video instructions, see: https://youtu.be/UANi8Cc71A0external icon.
  • Don’t like this style? You can also try using a mask extender or hair clip to hold the ear loops tightly at the back of your head.

DON’T

Combine two disposable masks: Disposable masks are not designed to fit tightly and wearing more than one will not improve fit.

Combine a KN95 mask with any other mask: Only use one KN95 mask at a time.

For more ways to improve the fit and filtration of your mask, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/mask-fit-and-filtration.html.


Heartful Care

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Rosemary Alpert, Contributing Author 

“Beneath the skin, beyond the differing features and into the true heart of being, fundamentally,  
we are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike.” 

-Dr. Maya Angelou 

As communities across the globe face ongoing challenges of the pandemic and need for vaccinations, we know each of us is affected. Dr. Angelou’s quote, reflects, no matter what our differences, underneath, we all have hearts. Hearts that are vital and keep us moving forward during these unprecedented times. 

Both our physical and emotional hearts need care—especially now, as we are almost a year into this time of drastic change and adjustments. It is important to maintain good heart care, as best we can. Making sure to reach out to our family, friends or professionals, if we experience any physical or emotional concerns or challenges; remembering we are not alone.  

A few months before the pandemic, I participated in a spiritual activism class. One of the exercises was a meditation on our hearts. We were asked to sit quietly and place our hands on our hearts. Breathe in and out at our own pace, and focus in on giving thanks to our hearts. Until that moment, I hadn’t thought of thanking my heart for keeping me alive, blood pumping and all the emotions it holds. It was a moving experience and a good place to start for heartful care and appreciation.

Here are some heartful care suggestions: 

  • Hold our hearts and say, “Thank you!” 
  • Be gentle with ourselves. 
  • Remember to take a few focused intentional breaths. 
  • Get outside as much as we can. 
  • Connect with the earth. 
  • Move our bodies: dance, yoga, hiking, biking, whatever makes us feel good. 
  • Notice the beauty. 
  • Reach out, if feeling isolated. 
  • Check in on family, friends or neighbors. 
  • Continue with regular health check-ups. 
  • Eat some dark chocolate (professionals say it’s good for the heart!). 
  • Keep wearing our masks, good for everyone’s health! 
  • Look into someone’s eyes. 
  • Smile from our hearts. 
  • Drink plenty of water, stay hydrated. 
  • Keep it simple! 

Let’s take care of our health in all ways, so we can show up wholeheartedly for our loved ones, friends and community.  

“Heartful of Seeds,” ©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert 2021 

COVID-19 Testing Site at the Skagit County Fairgrounds to close permanently after Saturday, March 13

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February 10, 2021

Today, Skagit County Public Health announced that the final day of testing at the Fairgrounds drive-through testing site will be Saturday, March 13, 2021. Further, on February 23rd, testing will be operating on reduced hours from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Skagit County Public Health will continue to utilize the Fairgrounds location for COVID-19 vaccinations only. Other testing providers are available in Skagit County.

Many doctor’s offices are now offering COVID-19 testing to their patients. Contact your healthcare provider first to see if they offer COVID-19 testing. Those seeking other testing options can also find a list of providers here: www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirusTESTsites.htm.

Public Health has tested over 43,000 individuals since the Testing Site first opened at Skagit Valley College in April 2020. In November of 2020, the Testing Site moved to the Skagit County Fairgrounds.

“It is time for Public Health to shift focus and resources to vaccine roll-out,” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director. There are many more testing options available to those in Skagit County compared to when we first opened, and this has allowed Public Health to move in this new direction. It is our goal at Public Health to be responsive to the current needs of our community and we are excited to be able to focus on our mass vaccination location at the Fairgrounds.”

When vaccine supply allows, the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at the Fairgrounds location operates by appointment only. Eligible individuals can make appointments online at https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/ when supply is available. Skagit County is currently vaccinating Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1 individuals. Visit www.findyourphasewa.org to determine if you’re eligible.

For more information, visit Public Health’s website: www.skagitcounty.net. For COVID-19 vaccine questions, please visit www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500.  

 


Try the New Isolation & Quarantine Calculator

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When it comes to the health and safety of your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, there isn’t a lot of room for guess work. Figuring out exactly what it means to be quarantined or isolated can be confusing, especially when there are so many factors at play.

For this reason, the Washington State Department of Health has created an Isolation and Quarantine Calculator Tool to simplify these steps. You can check out this new tool at: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/CaseInvestigationsandContactTracing/IsolationandQuarantineforCOVID19/Calculator.

What does Isolation and Quarantine mean?

Snapshot of the new online calculator tool. Find it here.

Isolation and quarantine are key strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you test positive for COVID-19, have symptoms, or are identified as a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, Public Health will ask you to isolate or quarantine as appropriate.

Isolation describes when someone who has COVID-19 symptoms, or has tested positive, stays home and away from others (including household members) to avoid spreading their illness. This would mean that a person eat and sleep separately from other household members, as well as use a separate restroom (when able).  

Quarantine describes when someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 stays home and away from others for the recommended period of time in case they were infected and are contagious. Those in quarantine are still able to interact with those in their immediate household. Quarantine becomes isolation if the person later tests positive for COVID-19 or develops symptoms.

The period of time that someone must isolate or quarantine is reliant on the type of contact the individual has had, whether or not the individual tests positive for COVID-19, and whether this person develops symptoms or not.

The online Calculator will help to determine the dates of your isolation or quarantine if you:

  • Tested positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms;
  • Tested positive for COVID-19 but do not have symptoms;
  • Were exposed to COVID-19 (identified as a close contact); or
  • Previously tested positive for COVID-19 and want to know when you could be re-infected.

If you have been issued an isolation or quarantine letter from Skagit County Public Health, please follow the instructions provided. If you are an at-risk individual who is on quarantine or isolation, and you find yourself in need of assistance with getting supplies or food, call 360-416-1500 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

For more information, visit https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirus.htm#O.


This Sunday, Let’s Play it Safe

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I’m not going to lie. I do not care about football. At all. Games are long and boring. In pre-COVID times, I’d go shopping while my husband watched games. When it came to the Super Bowl, I was 100% in for the snacks and hanging out with friends. But this year, like so many other things COVID-19 has taken away, I won’t be hanging out with friends. It will just be me and my husband. And the snacks.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still be social! If there is one thing the pandemic has shown us, it’s that it’s really not that hard to connect with friends and family, no matter where they are. Zoom, Skype, FaceTime—whatever your preferred method of video chat—are available 24-7. Use them! If you’re looking for a social connection this Sunday while you watch the game, set up a group call with friends and/or family, and react to the plays (and commercials and halftime show) in real time from a safe distance.

Share snack recipes or see who can come up with the most unique game day treat. Compete with each other for who can dress in the best football garb. Play Game Day or commercial BINGO. There are free printable versions online, or make up your own if you’re creative! Take bets on the final score. Loser owes the winner cupcakes or beef jerky or whatever you’re into.

But if you absolutely cannot fathom being physically apart from friends and/or extended family for the big game, please take steps to keep your party from becoming a super spreader event. Remember: COVID-19 spreads really easily, even without symptoms.

So what can you do to hold a safer gathering?

  1. Limit your gathering to one other household. The more households, the greater the risk of virus transmission.
  2. Stay outside. Use a projector to watch the game. Go inside only when absolutely necessary.
  3. Stay six feet or more from people you don’t live with. This also means no high fives except for air high fives.
  4. Wear a mask. Even if you’re outside and at least six feet apart, you still need to wear a mask. Take it off when you’re actively eating and drinking, but put it back on between bites or sips.
  5. Limit your yelling/cheering. The louder you speak, the more aerosols you emit, and the more likely you are to spread the virus if you have it. Bring a noisemaker, clap, stomp your feet, silently swear to yourself—whatever you need to do to keep your volume down and your aerosols to yourself.
  6. Bring your own food/drinks. Share snacks only with members of your own household. Obviously, this means you need to make the most delicious appetizer so everyone else is jealous. And for once, you don’t need to share!
  7. On that note, bring your own plates, cups, utensils, etc.
  8. Keep hand sanitizer handy. If you touch a common surface, wash your hands or use sanitizer.
  9. Moderate your alcohol intake. We all know alcohol lowers our inhibitions. If you have a few too many, you may be less likely to take proper COVID-19 precautions.
  10. Looking for more tips: Check out these from the CDC.

Public Health definitely doesn’t encourage you to hold or attend a gathering this Sunday. But if you do choose to gather, please be as safe as possible!


Glimmers of Light in the Vaccine Observation Room

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Contributing author, Rosemary Alpert.

It has been almost a year since our lives began to be touched by a mysterious virus, one we now know all too well. We watched the evening news: images of people in other countries wearing masks, something so unfamiliar to our “norm” here in the States. 

Then, we were all affected, in one way or another. A challenging time—filled with a plethora of emotions and stories.  

One year later, we are in the midst of mass vaccinations across the country, offering a glimmer of light for our communities. But we’re also encountering new challenges, as the supply of vaccinations is slow and unpredictable. The monumental need for vaccinations can be frustrating: trying to figure out when, where and how to receive the vaccination is not easy.

“Clicker” ©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert 2021 

Despite these challenges and frustrations, our goal continues to be to get as many people vaccinated as possible. With the supply we received last week, Public Health was able to vaccinate more than 1,100 community members at the Skagit County Fairground Vaccination Site. Community members, mostly 65 and older, received their first vaccination dose between Tuesday and Saturday.  

With a heart full of joy, I greeted each community member after they had received their first dose. In the Observation Room, I spoke with each person as they sat for their 15-minute monitoring period.

Clicking off a fuchsia-colored counter is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had; happily greeting and congratulating each person, feeling the smiles hidden beneath our masks, and seeing the welcomed relief and glimmers of sparkling light shining from their eyes. Once again, each person has a story and reasons why they received their vaccination.  

I asked a few community members how they felt and if they’d like to share a thought while sitting in the Observation Space.

Here are some of the responses: 

“Feels like I won the lottery!” 

“It was frustrating at first, trying to get an appointment. Once we got through, everything has been seamless.” 

“Everyone has been so helpful; you’re all so organized.” 

“I feel so relieved.” 

“I’m grateful and concerned for the communities who don’t have access to technology.”

Glimmers of light are found all around our community: in the eyes of each person who is grateful to receive their vaccination, neighbors checking in on one another, a caretaker or support person bringing an elder to receive the vaccine. Creative community collaboration—each of us doing the best we can—making sure we move forward and stay healthy. 

When you come for your first vaccination, here is a reminder:

  • Bring a form of ID
  • Dress appropriately to receive your vaccine (ex: t-shirt or button up)
  • Bring a coat or blanket, since we keep the doors open for ventilation
  • Consider bringing a book, crossword puzzle, knitting–whatever you’d like as you sit for 15 minutes post-vaccination

We have a safe and welcoming space available for our guests, with local artwork on the walls, calming music and great company. I look forward to greeting you on vaccination day and clicking off the counter!

The vaccination process is an enormous collaborative community endeavor. Information is constantly being updated. For the most updated information in both English and Spanish, please visit the Skagit County Public Health website: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine. Please share this information with your friends, especially those who do not have easy access to a computer.