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If Skagit has ever faced a challenge, this is it.

There is much unknown, and often the unknown leads to reasonable fear and anxiety. However, we are a strong community. You can see it in our people who come from all walks of life. People who are supporting neighbors, taking care of their families and changing their lives in order to protect us all. This mix of connection and diversity might be rooted in our geography. Skagit stretches from idyllic islands to unending miles of shoreline to incredibly rich farmland to the foothills of the majestic Cascade range. Yet all this varied land and diverse people are linked together in ways that are obvious, even during social distancing.

In this trying time, we strive to bring you useful information, health guidance, COVID-19 updates, stories of people persevering and some lightness to ease our uncertainty. These days, connection often seems a rare commodity, yet it somehow remains the foundation of the Skagit community. We look forward to the possibility of a continued connection with you.


What You Need to Know About Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment

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UPDATE: As of September 21, 2021, local supply of Monoclonal antibodies is extremely low, and is expected to remain so for two or more weeks. If you are seeking treatment, you will need to go through your health care provider for a referral. Please do not call local treatment providers or go to the emergency department for monoclonal antibody treatment.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others against COVID-19. We know that people who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to get COVID-19, and that the vaccines continue to prove effective in keeping people from getting seriously sick or dying if they catch the virus.

We also know that COVID-19—and especially the delta variant—are still circulating widely in our community. Local case and hospitalization rates are at the highest that they’ve ever been, with unvaccinated people representing the vast majority of these cases. Breakthrough cases (when someone who is fully vaccinated and contracts COVID-19) are also a reality, and in rare circumstances, fully vaccinated folks are still becoming critically ill with the virus.

Thankfully, for certain high risk individuals who do get COVID-19—regardless of vaccination status—there is some good news available.

What are monoclonal antibodies?

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that help jumpstart your immune system so you can fight off a COVID-19 infection. They can be given by a shot or an IV infusion. Studies show that the treatments successfully fight the virus and prevent serious illness.

Is Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment safe?

To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorization for several monoclonal antibody treatments. The FDA currently recommends the REGEN-COV™ and Sotrovimab monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

Just like with any medication, the safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continues to be evaluated by the FDA for treatment of COVID-19.

Potential side effects of REGEN-COV™ and Sotrovimab include allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, as well as infusion-related reactions, including pain, bruising of the skin, soreness, swelling, and possible infection at the injection site.

Who should get this treatment and when?

Monoclonal antibody therapies can treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and children 12 and older (must weigh at least 88 lbs.), who are at high risk for developing severe illness. Some fully vaccinated people may even qualify for antibody treatment if they are in a high-risk category.

Regardless of vaccination status, timing is important. Monoclonal antibodies must be given within 10 days of getting symptoms to work best. Once someone is hospitalized or needs oxygen therapy due to COVID-19, they are no longer eligible to receive monoclonal antibody treatments. Check with your doctor right away to decide if this treatment is right for you.

If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your healthcare professional if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Do I still need to get vaccinated if this treatment is available?

Monoclonal antibody therapies are not authorized for pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19. These therapies do not replace vaccination against COVID-19. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent against contracting COVID-19 and is recommended by the CDC for everyone 12 years and older.   

How are vaccines and monoclonal therapies different?

A vaccine helps stimulate and prepare your immune system to respond if or when you are exposed to COVID-19. Two weeks following your final dose, your immune system is prepped and ready to create antibodies, even before they are needed.

Monoclonal antibodies boost the immune system after you are already sick with COVID-19. The treatment speeds up your immune response to prevent a person’s symptoms from getting worse. Monoclonal antibodies act as guided missiles that target the virus, but protection doesn’t stick around. While monoclonal antibodies are effective for a short period, COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to still offer significant protection months down the road.

While Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment is a great option for people who are already sick with the virus and at an increased risk for complications, vaccination is the easiest and most effective option for keeping people safe.

Is this treatment free?

The federal government provides some monoclonal antibody treatments for free. Depending on insurance coverage, some may need to pay an administration fee. This is to cover the costs of giving the treatment, not for the antibodies. As always, check with your insurance provider to learn more about treatment costs for your specific plan, first. For people with Medicare and Medicaid, the cost of administering the treatment should be covered.

Where can I get Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment?

Monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy is available in Washington state with a provider’s recommendation for certain high risk individuals. People can be at high risk because of many reasons including their age, having an underlying medical condition, and other things. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Age ≥ 65 years
  • Obesity or being overweight based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clinical growth charts
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Immunosuppressive disease or immunosuppressive treatment
  • Heart or circulatory conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, and possibly high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Chronic lung diseases including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate to severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy
  • Having a medical device (for example, tracheostomy, gastrostomy, or positive pressure ventilation [not related to COVID-19])

If you think you might qualify for this treatment, please speak to your healthcare provider first and get a referral before contacting these sites to arrange an appointment. There is limited capacity at certain sites, and it is preferred that individuals contact these facilities over the phone to arrange an appointment time, in order to limit exposure for staff and other patients.

To find a Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment location near you, go to: https://bit.ly/3hVhagX.


Septic Tips for National SepticSmart Week

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September 20-24, 2021 is SepticSmart Week—a week during which Skagit County Public Health joins the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Governor Jay Inslee in reminding homeowners and communities about the importance of caring for, and maintaining, their septic systems.

Governor Jay Inslee’s proclamation, declaring SepticSmart Week, underscores the importance of maintaining the approximately 18,000 septic systems in Skagit County. Properly designed, installed, and maintained septic systems can operate for a long time as a mini wastewater treatment plant on your own property! However, poor maintenance and other issues can lead to septic failures, contamination of surface and groundwater, algal blooms in lakes, shellfish closures in marine waters, and other issues.

SepticSmart Week Tips

During SepticSmart Week, the EPA provides homeowners with easy to remember septic maintenance tips and videos. Some tips include:

  • Protect It and Inspect It: Homeowners should have their system inspected. In Skagit County, gravity systems must be inspected every three years; all other systems inspected annually. Pumping is not the same as an inspection. Tanks should be pumped when necessary, typically when 1/3 full of solid material.
  • Think at the Sink: Avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain. These substances can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield. Utilize MedProject locally to safely dispose of medications by finding a local drop box or requesting a prepaid envelope directly to your door.
  • Don’t Overload the Commode: Only put things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Items like coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.
  • Don’t Strain Your Drain: Be water efficient and spread out water use. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day Too much water use at once can overload a system.
  • Shield Your Field: Divert downspouts away from your septic tank and drainfield to avoid extra water. Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.

Failure to maintain a septic system can lead to backups and overflows, which can result in costly repairs. The last thing anyone needs right now is an added headache or expense from a sewage back up. Spend some time learning how to properly operate and maintain your septic system for the long run, so its smooth flushing from here on out!

Homeowner Septic Education Classes

Skagit County Environmental Health offers Septics 101 and Septics 201 (Do-It-Yourself Septic Inspection) classes for free to all Skagit County residents. Classes are available online and can be accessed at any time. To access these classes, go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthEnvironmental/septic101.htm.

The Septic 101 class provides homeowners with an overview of the septic system history, function, operation, and maintenance. It is a 40-minute video followed by a 20-question quiz. The Septic 201 class provides homeowners an overview of the What, Why, & How of safely inspecting your septic system and includes instructional videos.

Note: Not all septic systems are eligible for homeowner inspection so please review our homeowner inspection policy first.

Financial Assistance

We know it’s not easy to think about spending extra money right now. Please know that there is financial assistance available for qualifying individuals.

  • If you need a septic system repair or replacement, Skagit County works with nonprofit lender Craft3 to offer affordable financing with the Clean Water Loan. Learn more and apply at www.Craft3.org/CleanWater
  • If you need assistance with the cost of routine inspections:
    • You may qualify for our low-income assistance program. Please contact our department for information at (360) 416-1500.
    • Submit a rebate application to receive up to $200 back on services.

For more information on septic systems and being SepticSmart, visit www.skagitcounty.net/septicwww.epa.gov/septicsmart, or contact Skagit County Environmental Health at (360) 416-1500.


Suicide Prevention: A Critical Conversation, This Year and Every Year

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This month during National Suicide Prevention Month, we are taking extra time to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and seeking help if and when needed. This year, as we see COVID-19 cases spiking and as many are feeling the affects of moths of chronic stress, it is critical that we revisit some important mental health talking points.

If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. Below are some tips to consider from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline when talking with friends and family about mental health, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

Do They Need Your Help?

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

How Can You Help Them?

Note: It can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide, and it can be difficult to know how a suicidal crisis feels and how to act. Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time for help if someone in your life is struggling.

Contact a Lifeline Center

Never keep it a secret if a friend or family member tells you about a plan to hurt themselves. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) so that you can find out what resources are available to you or encourage your loved one to call.

A few other resources include:

  • Crisis line 24-hour hotline: 800-584-3578 (for Island, Skagit, Snohomish & Whatcom Counties)
  • Veteran Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255 press 1, text 838255, or chat online
  • LGBTQ+ Suicide Hotline (Trevor Project): 866-488-7386 or Text START to 678-678  
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Use The Do’s and Don’ts

Talking with and finding help for someone that may be suicidal can be difficult. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don’t dare him or her to do it.
  • Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action. Remove means, like weapons or pills. Do never put yourself at risk or in harms way. If the situation is unsafe or you feel threatened, call 911.
  • Get help from people or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Go to https://namiskagit.org/ for local resources.

Use the 5 Action Steps

These evidence-based action steps from bethe1to.com provide a blueprint for reaching and helping someone in crisis.

  1. ASK – Yes, you can ask the question: “Are you thinking about suicide?” By asking it directly, you are communicating that you are open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct, unbiased manner, can open the door for healthier, more effective dialogue about their emotional state and can allow everyone to see what next steps need to be taken.
  2. BE THERE – It may seem that “being there” for people is harder recently. But you can be present in different ways. If you can’t physically be with someone, speak with them on the phone when you can or try sending supportive text messages; whatever you can do to show support for the person at risk. An important aspect of this step is to make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person; do not commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present with someone with thoughts of suicide, talk with them to develop some ideas for others who might be able to help as well (again, only others who are willing, able, and appropriate to be there). Listening is again very important during this step – find out what and who they believe will be the most effective sources of help.
  3. KEEP THEM SAFE – First of all, it’s good for everyone to be on the same page. After the “Ask” step, and you’ve determined suicide is indeed being talked about, it’s important to find out a few things to establish immediate safety. Have they already done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you? Does the person experiencing thoughts of suicide know how they would kill themselves? Do they have a detailed plan? What’s the timing for their plan? What sort of access do they have to their planned method?
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT – Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports (like the Lifeline, 800-273-8255) can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Additional components of a safety net might be connecting them with supports and resources in their communities. Explore some of these possible supports with them – are they currently seeing a mental health professional? Have they in the past? Is this an option for them currently? Are there other mental health resources in the community that can effectively help?
  5. FOLLOW UP – After your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing. Leave a message, send a text, or give them a call. The follow-up step is a great time to check in with them to see if there is more you are capable of helping with or if there are things you’ve said you would do and haven’t yet had the chance to get done for the person.

Practice Active Listening

Hearing someone talk is different than actively listening to what that person is saying. Active listening requires concentration and understanding. Improving your listening skills is easy to do with practice and these helpful tips below:

Acknowledge the Speaker

This can be as simple as a head nod or an “Uh huh.” By acknowledging the speaker, you are letting them know that you are listening to what they have to say and reminding yourself to pay attention to what is being said to you.

Respond Verbally

Asking questions or making statements may help clarify what the speaker is saying. It reminds the speaker that you are listening attentively and that you are here to help them and are truly concerned. Be sure to let the speaker finish talking before asking any questions.

Summarize What You Hear

Reflecting on what the listener is saying is also a positive verbal active listening technique. By repeating, paraphrasing, or even summarizing what the speaker has said shows that you are putting in effort to better understand them. Use phrases like; “what I’m hearing is…”or, “sounds like you’re saying….” These tactics can also allow the speaker to hear what they are saying, which may help them find positive reinforcement.

Be Mindful of Body Language

Keeping eye contact, maintaining good posture, and staying focused are key components of active listening and interpersonal communication. Being distracted and unfocused gives the speaker the impression that you aren’t paying attention. When you actively listen to someone, you are letting them know that you care about what they are saying and can indicate that you are concerned for their health and safety.

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It is important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please reach out for support yourself. Know that anyone is encouraged to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline to speak with a trained professional. They’re here for you.

This September let’s actively try to reach out to those in our lives. And if you are struggling yourself, consider reaching out for help. There is absolutely no shame in needing help, and you deserve to feel better.


For Our Health Care Workers, It’s Not Just About COVID-19

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Post contributed by Josh Pelonio, Skagit County EMS Director

Our healthcare system, including hospitals, emergency departments and emergency medical services (EMS) are there to take care of you during times of crisis, but we’re unable to do this critical work if we’re in crisis ourselves. With COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations continuing to be at historic highs, the healthcare system is taxed and we’re seeing impacts to quality, and availability of care, system wide.

Increased hospital patient volumes are creating region-wide challenges with bed availability. When emergency department or in-patient hospital beds aren’t available, hospitals in Skagit enter what’s called ‘diversion status,’ meaning that EMS personnel are asked to route patients arriving by ambulance to alternate hospitals, including neighboring counties. EMS personnel must then drive farther to get patients the care they need, or they must wait longer at local hospitals for emergency department beds to become available. Either way, hospital bed delay results in delayed patient care and can negatively impact patient outcome. It can also mean a delay in available personnel and equipment to respond to the next emergency in the community.

Statewide, we are seeing the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rates ever, with 17.7 patients per 100,000 residents between August 22 and August 28 (the most current complete data). This is higher than December 2020, when we saw between 8 and 10 patients per 100,000 residents averaged over a seven-day period.

We also seeing about one-third of all ICU beds in the State being occupied by COVID-19 patients, which is again higher than December 2020 when we saw about one-fifth of beds occupied. Locally, our total ICU occupancy is at 88 percent, meaning that we’re nearly at capacity.

All this to say, the healthcare system is overwhelmed and healthcare staff, including first responders are exhausted. Skagit—we need your help to protect the capacity of our healthcare system.  

This situation doesn’t just impact COVID-19 patients. It impacts car crash victims, heart attack patients, people in mental health crisis, those struggling to control their diabetes, gunshot victims and the child who broke his arm climbing a tree. It impacts everyone. When our healthcare services are in crisis, every single individual in our community is at greater risk of poor health outcomes from any acute injury or illness. This is not a good situation to be in.

Fortunately, there are two simple things that you can do to help:

1. Reduce your risk. Not just from COVID-19, but from all injuries and illnesses. Take caution and use appropriate healthcare services like your primary care doctor or urgent care for minor illness and injury and only use 911 for emergencies.

If looking for COVID-19 testing, please do not go to your local emergency department ! Find a testing provider near you by going to: www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.

2. Get vaccinated against COVID-19. And if you have been vaccinated, talk to others  in your life about getting vaccinated as well. Getting the vaccine is a safe, effective, and totally free tool that you have available to you. CDC data shows that over 99.99% of people who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 did not die or even require hospitalization and the highest hospitalization rates remain in areas with low vaccination rates. By getting vaccinated, you help stabilize our healthcare system, and directly help improve health outcomes for those in crisis.

Skagit Public Health offers free COVID-19 vaccination for those 12 years of age or older at the Fairgrounds site from 5 p.m. –  8 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also find other providers in our community at www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine.

Get vaccinated, or help someone get vaccinated, today.


New Operational Changes for the Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site

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September 10, 2021

Beginning on Monday, September 13, the Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site will be changing its operations, limiting testing and vaccination services to individuals who live, work, or go to school in Skagit County. This change is due to high demand and supply chain issues with testing supplies.

Also beginning on September 13, testing will be limited to individuals 5 and older who are actively exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or who have had a known COVID-19 exposure. Limiting to these two groups will allow us to ensure access to testing for disease mitigation purposes.

As a reminder, the Skagit County Fairgrounds location provides antigen testing and should not be used for pre-travel. If seeking a test before traveling, please seek out a testing provider that uses PCR testing. A full list of providers can be found on our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.

Testing should not be used as a way to guarantee safety. Testing is a point-in-time measure of whether someone has COVID-19 and should not be used to justify decisions that are risky if you are unvaccinated, like travel or gathering in large groups. The best way to be safe is by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask when in crowded settings.

The Skagit County Fairgrounds Site will be closed today (Friday, September 10) due to a scheduling conflict, and will reopen on Monday, September 13 at 5:00 p.m. Those seeking testing or vaccination, and who meet the new operational criteria, are asked to come to the South Gate Entrance at 501 Taylor Street in Mount Vernon. Services are free; no appointment or insurance is required.

For more information about the Skagit County fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site, please go to our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus or call (360) 416-1500.


Prepare to Protect – September is National Preparedness Month

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As if the current pandemic wasn’t enough, the wildfires and extreme heat this summer definitely helped to remind us of the importance of preparing for disasters. Now that we’re in September, it is time to celebrate National Preparedness Month (NPM), an awareness campaign which promotes family and community disaster and emergency planning. It’s an opportunity to remind folks that we all must prepare ourselves and our families for when emergencies happen.

The goal of NPM is to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, school…wherever! This year’s theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.” Each week in September, a different aspect of preparedness is highlighted. The weekly highlights this year include:

September 1-4: MAKE A PLAN

What this means…

It may help to ask yourself a few questions as you create your emergency plan and discuss them with the other members of your household. They include:

  1. How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
  2. What is my shelter plan?
  3. What is my evacuation route?
  4. What is my family/household communication plan?
  5. Check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and update my emergency plans due to COVID-19.
  6. Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Make sure to update your plan based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations due to the coronavirus.

Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Make sure to update your plan based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations due to the coronavirus.

Once you’ve made your emergency plan, practice it! Try testing your communications plan and meeting at your agreed-upon shelter if you get separated. For guidance on making an emergency plan, go visit Ready.gov here.

September 5-11: BUILD A KIT

What this means…

Gather supplies that will last for several days after a disaster for everyone living in your home. Don’t forget to consider the unique needs each person or pet may have in case you have to evacuate quickly. To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Note: Since Spring of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended people include additional items in their kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus or other viruses and the flu. Some additional items include face masks, soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces.

For more guidance on building an emergency kit, go to Ready.gov here.

September 12-18: LOW-COST, NO-COST PREPAREDNESS

What this means…

Limit the impacts that disasters have on you and your family. Know the risk of disasters in your area. Learn how to make your home stronger in the face of storms and other common hazards.  Check your insurance coverage to make sure it is up-to-date. For information on ensuring your property, go here.

September 19-25: TEACH YOUTH ABOUT PREPAREDNESS

What this means…

Talk to your kids about preparing for emergencies and what to do in case you are separated. Reassure them by providing information about how they can get involved.

Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find, and don’t forget to think about specific needs in your family. Your family’s needs change over time, so update your plan regularly. For guidance on emergency plans for families with children, go here.


For more preparedness information, including how to make a disaster or emergency plan and how to make your own emergency kit, go to www.ready.gov.

Skagit County also has local disaster information on our emergency preparedness website. Here, you can register to receive emergency alerts and notifications in your area through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System.  This system is a great way to receive local, timely and critical information when it matters most.


What are Social Determinants of Health?

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Post contributed by Aaron Katz, Skagit County Board of Health member

Social Determinants of Health.  The phrase was born out of a growing recognition that medical care is not the main ingredient in good health, despite our tendency to equate health with hospitals and doctors.  In fact, as far back as 2000 – 20 years ago! – researchers estimated that medical care was responsible for only about 10% of our health; the other 90% was mostly the product of environmental, economic, and social factors.

This isn’t surprising – I think most families know their well-being is dependent mostly on whether they have a job with sufficient income, a stable roof over their heads, adequate food, decent recreation opportunities, good relationships, and a safe environment.  Yes, medical care matters, but usually only in exceptional times. 

The Covid pandemic has opened our eyes to how “social determinants” affect us in ways that were, for many of us, invisible before:

  • The structure of the job market – Who knew there were “essential workers”??  And isn’t it interesting that one feature many such workers – hospital staff, farm workers, grocery store clerks – shared was higher risk of Covid infection, because they had to work closely together or in sustained contact with the public.  And they often earned low wages and had few benefits, like health insurance or paid leave for caring for themselves or loved ones.
  • Housing affordability – Every community, large and small, has struggled with assuring every person had stable housing.  Real estate prices continued to grow even during the pandemic, making it more and more difficult for especially lower income workers to live close to their work or to afford to buy enough nutritious food for their children. People without stable housing are more vulnerable to infection much less the health effects of living outdoors during our cold, wet winters.
  • Supply chains – The vibrancy of our economy – as well as our health care system – depends on an intricate web of linkages that supply us with food (remember the flour shortage!), electronic parts, clothing, and toilet paper.  It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how broken supply chains like these worsen our health and well-being.

Ok, so now we can see more clearly how social determinants of health work in our communities.  But the phrase “social determinants” hides an important fact … that the factors like those I note above are neither “determinant” – as in, fated or a forgone conclusion – nor are they “social” – in the sense of being just a product of some natural way that society operates. 

Rather, these “social determinants” are very much the products of how a community shapes itself – the decisions it makes about land use, transportation, taxation, economic development, education, parks and recreation, and environmental protection and restoration. 

So, as we continue to our fight against the Covid pandemic together, we can make decisions that will strengthen our communities, for today and far into the future. If you’d like to learn more about improving health and wellness in the community and the social determinants of health, check out the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Aaron Katz is a Skagit County Board of Health member and Principal Lecturer Emeritus at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Aaron received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1974 and a certificate (master) of public health degree from the University of Toronto in 1975.


Meet the Population health Trust, Part Three

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The Skagit County Population Health Trust (or “Trust”) is gearing up to publish its new Community Health Assessment; a document which provides a framework for what the County and its partners will focus on over the next several years. Trust members have been busily collecting data and community input over the spring and summer in order to identify the top health concerns of our residents.

This Assessment, called the CHA, would not be possible without a diverse group of experts coming together with a shared mission and vision. One of its members, Anneliese Vance-Sherman, has shared her thoughts about the importance of the Trust below.

What health topic are you most committed to improving for Skagitonians?

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Ph.D.

My top priority on the Population Health Trust is improving economic health for Skagit County residents. While economic health is not necessarily what comes to mind first for most people, it is a social determinant of health. Economic stability makes it possible for individuals and families to access stable housing, healthy food, routine health checkups and be able to withstand unexpected stresses.

Economic health takes many forms, and shows up in an interconnected web of priorities. I am specifically committed to working with workforce and education partners to help build a financially stable, skilled, and resilient local workforce. I also work closely with economic development and business to attract, build and retain businesses that support jobs in the community. I am also committed to improving access to affordable housing, supporting mental and behavioral health, and ensuring that all families are able to access the resources they need to raise healthy children and pave a pathway for future success.

Which agency or organization do you represent on the Trust?

I represent the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD). ESD’s mission statement reads “We provide communities with inclusive workforce solutions that promote economic resilience and prosperity.” Economic health and financial security are fundamentally connected to community health. Indeed, steady employment and reliable wages make it possible for individuals and families to access resources that contribute to their well-being and that of the community.

What have you/your agency been up to during COVID?

The Employment Security Department has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 employment crisis since day one, in a number of different capacities.

  • The Unemployment Insurance division has assisted an unprecedented number of Washingtonians seeking unemployment benefits. ESD brought in staff from other parts of the agency and even the national guard to process a tsunami of claims as quickly and effectively as possible, while simultaneously working to identify and block fraudulent applications.
  • The constellation of organizations and service providers that make up the WorkSource system reimagined service delivery during the pandemic. Staff assisted job seekers through online meetings and appointments. Many ESD staff in WorkSource also assisted the Unemployment Insurance division during the peak of the pandemic.
  • ESD launched the Paid Family and Medical Leave program during the pandemic.
  • The division I work for (Labor Market and Economic Analysis) collects, analyzes and publishes labor market information. The quickly-evolving situation brought on by the pandemic required us to think about data differently. Our team focused a great deal of attention to unemployment insurance data both because there was heightened demand for it given the nature of the crisis and because with a weekly cadence for reporting, unemployment insurance data helped us to keep closer tabs on the changing economy. 

I have spent the pandemic innovating with my ESD colleagues over zoom meetings and communicating frequently with partner agencies in the economic and workforce development arenas and the media. My desk has been my kitchen table, and my in-person co-workers included two young scholars attending school remotely, my spouse who was also working from home, two dogs, and two cats.

I also volunteered at the Skagit County COVID-19 testing center; first at the Skagit Valley College campus, then at the fairgrounds. It was humbling to see how many people were proactively getting tested, and rewarding to work alongside so many dedicated community-minded neighbors.

Why do you think the Population Health Trust is important?

If you tug on a single thread in a woven piece of cloth, the cloth will pucker and pull. Tugging on the single thread may even tear and destroy the integrity of the cloth. If you are only aware of or focused on the single thread, it is difficult to anticipate how a single action could impact the whole.

The Population Health Trust relies on deep multi-sector engagement of community leaders and stakeholders with a mission to explore and promote community health in Skagit County. The diverse composition of the Trust makes this possible. Our multi-sector team includes representatives from hospitals and health care providers, community organizations, education, state and local government, law enforcement, and more. Together, we explore issues that impact community health, and proactively work toward creative and sustainable strategies that will improve the well-being of communities throughout Skagit County.

Rather than each pulling on our own thread, we can collectively take a step back, understand the strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and connections within and between our communities, and explore optimal solutions through active and creative dialog that centers and prioritizes a broad understanding of health for Skagit County.


Want more information about the Population Health Trust? Go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/PHTAC.


We’re Open Again: COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination to Begin at Skagit County Fairgrounds on August 30th

Reading Time: 3 minutes

August 25, 2021

[updated August 27, 2021]

Beginning Monday, August 30th, Skagit County will once again be operating a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. Both testing and vaccination will be available to the public free of cost, Monday through Friday from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Note: The Fairgrounds testing and vaccine site will be closed on Monday, September 6th for the Labor Day holiday, and Friday, September 10th due to an event that was pre-scheduled to take place on site.

The decision to reopen the Fairgrounds location was made due to the recent spike in cases in Skagit County, and the accompanying increase in demand for testing services. The latest COVID-19 modeling and surveillance situation report from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) shows current COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions at their highest levels to-date. The high case numbers are likely to continue in the coming month due to the delta variant, putting increased strain on our hospitals and medical staff.

Vaccination is—and will continue to be—the best tool for preventing COVID-19. The County also aims to be proactive in response to this week’s news regarding Pfizer’s full FDA approval for those 16 years and older, as well as the Governor’s recent vaccination requirements for employees of certain sectors. Public Health’s goal is to continue to make vaccines easily accessible for all eligible individuals, particularly as families gear up for the new 2021/2022 school year.

“We understand that this decision to reopen the Fairgrounds site may seem like we are moving backwards to some, but this decision is a sign of our county’s strength and endurance. We are fortunate to be able to respond to rising cases and increasing demand for testing and vaccination by reopening the site. It shows that we can act quickly and effectively when action is needed.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

All Public Health testing and vaccine services (except for a select few outreach locations) will now move officially to the Fairgrounds beginning on August 30th. Mobile vaccine clinics this fall will be prioritized based on location, need, and risk, and most people needing low barrier vaccination will be directed to the Fairgrounds clinic or another Skagit provider. 

Those seeking testing or vaccination are asked to come to the South Gate Entrance of the Fairgrounds, located at 501 Taylor St, Mt Vernon, WA 98273. Both testing and vaccination will be operating as a drive-through clinic, though accommodations will be available to those who arrive on foot or who require assistance.

For Testing

Public Health will be using self-swab antigen testing at this location, with results available within 15 minutes. The site can serve anyone 5 years and older for testing. No insurance or appointment will be required. Please note that antigen testing is not intended for pre-travel. Those seeking testing for travel should find a location offering PCR testing.

A full list of testing providers can be found at: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations

For Vaccination

All three currently authorized vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, will be available at the Fairground Vaccination site. Anyone 12 years and older can utilize this site to access a first or second dose of vaccine; no appointment required.

For certain immunocompromised individuals, Public Health will also make third doses of either Pfizer or Moderna available. Please speak with your doctor before seeking a third dose of vaccine. Third doses will not be available for the general public until a determination is made by the FDA, CDC, and Washington Department of Health. For anyone seeking a second or third dose, please bring your Vaccination Card with you when you come to the site.

For more information about the Skagit County fairgrounds testing and vaccination site, please go to our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus or call (360) 416-1500.


El Condado Lanza Portal de Asistencia de Alquiler para los Residentes de Skagit

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Los residentes del condado de Skagit ahora tienen una opción conveniente para obtener una aprobación previa para recibir ayuda con el alquiler y las facturas de servicios públicos. Esta semana, el condado y sus socios comunitarios lanzaron un nuevo portal en línea donde los inquilinos pueden completar una sencilla encuesta de elegibilidad y consiga un proveedor de asistencia para el alquiler o complete una aplicación para asistencia.

Para acceder al portal, vaya a: www.skagitcounty.net/renthelp.  

El Programa de Asistencia de Alquiler del Condado de Skagit proporciona asistencia financiera a los inquilinos del condado de Skagit que cumplen con los requisitos de ingresos, y sus propietarios, que tal vez están teniendo dificultades para pagar el alquiler y los servicios públicos debido a la pandemia de COVID-19.

El Programa de Asistencia de Alquiler del Condado de Skagit se ha hecho posible gracias a una subvención de $8.9 millones proporcionada por el Departamento de Comercio del Estado de Washington y financiado por el Programa de Asistencia de Renta del Tesoro (T-RAP). El programa está destinado a evitar los desalojos durante la crisis de salud de COVID-19 en pagando pagos atrasado y el alquiler y los servicios públicos actuales / futuros para las personas que necesitan ayuda.

“Sabemos que muchos residentes del Condado de Skagit han sido afectados por COVID-19, y algunos tienen problemas para mantenerse al día con el alquiler. Hay ayuda disponible, y tenemos la esperanza de que el nuevo portal en línea será más fácil para los residentes y propietarios para conectar con los proveedores de asistencia de alquiler.”

– George Kosovich, Analista de Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit

Los hogares deben cumplir con los cuatro de los siguientes criterios de selección para ser elegible para asistencia de alquiler:

  1. Alguien en el hogar ha estado desempleado durante al menos 90 días, o experimentó una reducción en sus ingresos, incurrió en costos significativos o experimentó dificultades financieras durante la pandemia de COVID-19
  2. Debe estar experimentando inestabilidad de la vivienda o riesgo de inestabilidad de la vivienda, lo que puede incluir tarifas de alquiler impagas o anticipación de la imposibilidad de pagar el alquiler futuro
  3. El ingreso familiar está en, o bajo de 80% del Ingreso Medio del Área
  4. El hogar está en el Condado de Skagit

Los residentes que completen la encuesta de elegibilidad en línea serán emparejados con uno de los siguientes proveedores de asistencia para el alquiler:

  • FORWARD Aplicaciones En Línea – Sirviendo a los residentes del Condado de Skagit
  • La Autoridad de Vivienda del Condado de Skagit – Sirviendo a los Titulares de Vales de la Sección 8 e inquilinos de propiedades propiedad de la Autoridad de Vivienda
  • Centro de Trabajadores Agrícolas CCS – Sirviendo a miembros de la comunidad indígena, latina y campesina
  • Voluntarios de América Oeste de Washington – Sirviendo a los residentes del Condado de Skagit
  • Northwest Youth Services – Sirviendo a adultos jóvenes de 18 a 24 años
  • Community Action of Skagit County – Sirviendo a todos los residentes del Condado de Skagit

También, hay tres organizaciones que ofrecerán alcance y asistencia adicional para completar la solicitud de asistencia en línea:

  • Skagit Legal Aid – Sirviendo a los residentes del condado de Skagit y a los hogares que enfrentan el desalojo por razones distintas a la renta atrasada
  • Community to Community Development (C2C) – Sirviendo a miembros de la comunidad de trabajadores agrícolas y Latinx
  • Padres a Padres – Sirviendo a familias donde una o más personas tienen una discapacidad del desarrollo y / o necesidades de atención médica complejas

Para obtener más información sobre el Programa de Asistencia de Alquiler, verificar la elegibilidad o solicitar asistencia, visite www.skagitcounty.net/renthelp o llame al (360) 416-1500.