Connecting the Dots: Youth Alcohol Awareness!

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Did you know, April is Alcohol Awareness Month? If you haven’t already, now may be a good time to reflect on your drinking patterns and the role that alcohol plays in your life.

This year’s theme is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunity for Recovery, which focuses primarily on youth education and prevention. This specific group of individuals can be easily influenced by alcohol and other substances if not educated or informed about risks. For this reason, we are asking you to join us this month to help raise awareness in our communities, schools, and homes on alcohol use. 

Our youth in Skagit County

According to the 2021 Healthy Youth Survey, Alcohol use has been reported by youth as young as 6th grade, and prevalence of regular use increases each year. By 12th grade, approximately 1 in 5 12th graders reported drinking in the past month. This can be for many reasons, perhaps one being that children in these grades are not getting enough information about alcohol.

Why is it important?

Research shows that heavy alcohol use during teen years can permanently damage the still developing brain. Alcohol use at a young age is also associated with violence, poor school performance, suicide, and risky sexual behavior. The use of alcohol at this early age can lead to possible substance abuse later in life and Alcohol use disorder (AUD), which affects about 15 million adults in the United States. There are more than 380 deaths each day in the U.S. due to excessive alcohol use, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation.

Looking for something positive? Research also shows that about 50% of children who have conversations with parents about risks are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, than those who do not. That’s why “connecting the dots” with your child, sibling, cousin, niece, or nephew is so important.

What can we do to help spread awareness?

Although one month out of the year is not enough time to help educate and help everyone recover, continue to spread the word about the importance of alcohol awareness to friends and family.

Get creative and make informational flyers about the topic with resources and distribute them around your neighborhood town, local stores etc. Host a fundraiser to donate money to local non-profit treatment facilities.

For more information please visit:

Alcohol Awareness Month | AlcoholAwareness.org

Alcohol Awareness Month: Learn About Alcohol Use Disorder and Ways to Get Help | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)

Skagit County | Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute (uw.edu)

HYS Fact Sheets (askhys.net)

Alcohol and Public Health | CDC


April is National Minority Health Month!

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April is National Minority Health Month (#NMHM2022)! This year’s theme is Give Your Community a Boost, focusing on the importance of COVID-19 vaccination. CDC data show that some racial and ethnic minority groups have been impacted differently by Covid, showing how these communities have experienced higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death.

Together let’s debunk misinformation and encourage our communities to get fully vaccinated. Join us and @MinorityHealth to learn how to #BoostYourCommunity or visit www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/nmhm/.

Here in Skagit County

According to our 2020-21 Skagit Community Health Assessment when COVID hit, the Hispanic/ Latino community, along with other communities of color were disproportionately harmed by COVID. Why? Hispanics / Latinos are disproportionally represented in essential workforces and consequently, overexposed to the virus.

COVID-19 cases and rates in Skagit per 100,000 population, by race and ethnic origin show how 2,025 cases were made up by Indigenous Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander, Hispanic (all races), American Indian/Alaska Native, people of color and Asian.

Why is it important?

Reducing health disparities and improving health equity for our racial and ethnic minority groups will help save lives, reduce the risk of getting sick and having severe illnesses.

Ways we can help increase vaccine confidence

Presenting several strategies to our communities can help increase COVID-19 vaccine trust and help advance vaccine equity within the community. Here are some ways we could help do that. For more strategies visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/health-equity/race-ethnicity.html

Develop culturally relevant materials

  • Provide messaging and tone that is culturally relevant and predominant languages spoken in the community.
  • For an example, at our mass COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine site we had all materials in both Spanish and English. Also provided patients with Spanish and Mixtec Interpreters at our site.

Partner with trusted messengers within the community

  • Collaborated with community partners like Community-to-Community development (C2C), Skagit County YMCA, Skagit Valley College, Chinook Enterprises, Boys and Girls Club, churches etc.

Address any community concerns or questions

  • Skagit County Public Health nurses, CHWs and Promotoras conducted a Q&A session for Spanish speaking women at the Methodist church. At our mass vaccination site staff created a safe observation area for those who had gotten vaccinated or had any questions or concerns about COVID-19.                                                   

                                                                                         

For more resources please visit:

Disparities in COVID-19-Associated Hospitalizations | CDC

National Minority Health Month 2022 (hhs.gov)

COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities (cdc.gov)

Health Equity Considerations and Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups | CDC

Skagit County Population Health Trust Advisory Committee

SCPH_CHA_2021_FINAL.pdf (skagitcounty.net)


COVID-19 Treatment Options

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COVID-19 medications are now available through your doctor, local pharmacies, and health clinics. If you have COVID-19 symptoms and test positive, do not wait to get treated. Early intervention with COVID-19 therapeutics can reduce the risk of severe illness and hospitalization for people with COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing more serious illness.

If you think you might qualify, please speak to your healthcare provider first and get a referral and/or prescription for treatment. Please note that any healthcare provider can evaluate and prescribe you COVID-19 medication just as they normally would.

For assistance:

What is PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)?

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is medication designed to block a virus from attachment and entering human cells. People 12 years and older may qualify for pre-exposure prophylaxis if persons are:

  • Not currently infected with COVID-19.
  • At least 88 pounds (40 kg) in weight.
  • Moderate to severely immune compromised.
  • Not recommended by their health care provider to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Please note: Pre-exposure prevention with Evusheld is not a substitute for vaccination in individuals for whom COVID-19 vaccination is recommended. 

What are Oral Antivirals?

Two treatments are available: Paxlovid™ (Pfizer) and molnupiravir (Merck). Oral antiviral treatment may help your body fight COVID-19 by stopping the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) from multiplying in your body, lowering the amount of the virus within your body, or helping your immune system. By getting treatment, you could have less serious symptoms and may lower the chances of your illness getting worse and needing care in the hospital. You must take oral COVID-19 medication within 5 days of your first COVID-19 symptoms.

What are Monoclonal Antibody Treatments?

If you are at risk for severe COVID-19 illness and you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, you may want to consider a monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment. You may qualify for a mAb treatment (bebtelovimab) to treat COVID-19 depending on your age, health history, and how long you have had symptoms. A mAb treatment may help people who:

  • Are at high risk of getting more serious symptoms; and
  • Have a positive COVID-19 test with symptoms for 7 days or less; OR
  • Have been in close contact with someone who has recently tested positive.

How much does treatment cost?

Treatment is provided free of charge by the Federal Government, although each provider may charge an administration fee that will be billed to your insurance provider with a possible copay for the patient. If uninsured, call the State COVID-19 Information Hotline for assistance: 1-800-525-0127, then press #.

For more information:


April is National Volunteer Month

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Contributed by guest writer, Rosemary Alpert

Across the country, communities are acknowledging, celebrating, and showing appreciation for volunteers on April 17-23rd, 2022 for National Volunteer Week.

Here is an excerpt from the Presidential Proclamation:

“Over the past year, we have seen that the American spirit of service is alive and well.  Every day, Americans are giving their love and labor to care for seniors, help communities rebuild after disasters, support veterans and military families, tackle climate change, guide and mentor our youth, serve and strengthen the democratic process, feed the hungry, and keep communities healthy and safe.  Tens of millions of Americans collectively volunteer billions of hours of their time each year.  This commitment to service represents the best of who we are as Americans.  During National Volunteer Week, we recognize the contributions that our Nation’s volunteers make every day and encourage all Americans to discover their path to making a difference.” – President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. April 15, 2022

On Monday, April 11th, Skagit County Commissioners gathered and officially proclaimed the entire month of April to be “Volunteer Appreciation Month,” honoring volunteers from across Skagit County. These incredible volunteers dedicated thousands of hours in service, supporting our community’s well-being during these unprecedented times.

April 21st, 2022 marks two years since Skagit County opened its COVID-19 Testing Site at Skagit Valley College. For over two years, volunteers have stepped up, serving on the frontline at the testing and vaccination site, either at Skagit Valley College or the Skagit County Fairgrounds.

Did you know?
Skagit County has hosted the longest running, low barrier
COVID-19 testing site in the state of Washington
—due in large part to the ongoing support of our dedicated volunteers!

Between March 2020 to the present, approximately 270 volunteers have contributed 15,390 hours of service to the County’s emergency response. Each week, volunteers responded to our call for assistance, filling whatever positions needed to be filled, from traffic directors to vaccinators.

In addition to our COVID response, volunteers also helped to staff the Cold Weather Shelter that was opened in Concrete twice during the past winter. This shelter served the community of Concrete (and the surrounding area), saving lives for thirteen extremely cold nights.

Beloved Community, which requires lasting personal commitment that cannot weaken when faced with obstacles.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

People volunteer for many reasons. Each share their life experience, interests, gifts, and most importantly—their time. We’ve heard so many moving stories over the past two years. For example, one of our Medical Reserve Corps volunteer vaccinators shared how touched she was especially when young children were able to be vaccinated. It was a highly emotional time; parents were filled with relief and appreciation, brave children were being cared for by experienced medical volunteers, tending to each person, one arm at a time.

Skagit County has incredible volunteers and there are so many more opportunities to get involved! One of the best resources for volunteer opportunities is through Skagit Volunteer Center (a division of Community Action). For more information, visit their online portal at Skagit Volunteer Center.

This is an exciting time for our community and volunteers as the County Commissioners support the re-building of Skagit County’s Medical Reserve Corps. This will allow Public Health to establishing a team of medical and non-medical volunteers throughout Skagit County in support of the ongoing COVID-19 response, along with new volunteer opportunities for community outreach, wellness, and preparedness. For more information on Skagit County Medical Reserve Corps, please contact ralpert@co.skagit.wa.us.

As the beautiful tulips are blooming across Skagit County, let us celebrate the month of April and recognize the courage and flexibility of our volunteers, as well as their many hours of dedicated volunteer service that has helped to keep our beloved community healthy, safe, and moving forward!

Thank you, volunteers!

For more information about MRC: MRC | Home (hhs.gov).

“Skagit Tulips”, ©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert

April is STD Awareness Month: Say Yes to Test!

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Did you know in 2020 Washington State reported 613 Sexually Transmitted Infections cases in Skagit County? This month is Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Month. Join us by sharing information about STIs to friends and family on how to stay safe and stop the spread!

What is a STI?

A STI is an infection that is passed from one individual to another through sexual contact. STIs are also known as a sexually transmitted disease or STDs.  According to American Sexual Health Association ASHA, Americans contract around 20 million STDs every year, with young people (aged 15-24) making up half of the cases.

Most Common STIs

https://www.cdc.gov/std/statistics/2020/images/infographic-SM-1.png

Current trending STIs are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis. Chlamydia is the most reported STI in the U.S., with 15 – 24-year-olds making up nearly 2/3 of all cases. This STI is known as the silent STI due to it rarely having symptoms, therefore people often spread it before even realizing they have it.

Another prominent STI is Gonorrhea which has seen a 75.2% case increase since 2009. If caught early, it can most likely be cured early with a single dose of antibiotics.

Syphilis can cause serious health problems if not cured with treatment. This infection develops in three stages and has different signs and symptoms. It can also be spread from mother to her unborn child. In 2020 144,000 cases of syphilis were spotted in the country, which has been the highest in 30 years.

Why is it important to seek medical care and get tested?

Some STIs, like Chlamydia, if undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to a serious condition called pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID) that can cause infertility and increase the chances of transmitting or getting HIV.

Say Yes to Test every year and with every new partner! A way to reduce your risk of getting an STI is by practicing safe sex and using condoms every time you engage in sexual activity. Ask your health care provider at your annual check up to do a screening for STDs. For a list of providers near you visit https://gettested.cdc.gov/search_results?location=98273.

What can Skagit County Public Health do for STI prevention and treatment?

Skagit County Public Health (SCPH) does not offer any testing or treatment services to the general public but will test and treat as part of contact investigation for someone who has already been identified by a provider as STI positive. SCPH also provides free testing (via blood sample) and antibiotic treatment for the sex partner of positive cases, through a program called Expedited Partner Treatment (EPT). The patient must live in Skagit County to receive this. If a sex partner lives outside of Skagit County, they will be referred to their local county health department and be provided with adequate care. Our office also offers free condoms for anyone, located in the restrooms!  For questions or concerns feel free to contact us at (360) 416-1500 or visit our website for more info.

For more information please visit:

https://gettested.cdc.gov/

STI Awareness Week — April 11-17 – HIV (va.gov)

STI Awareness Week | Knowtify (nd.gov)

STI Awareness Month (ashasexualhealth.org)



Public Health Is Where You Are: Help Celebrate National Public Health Week!

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These recent years we have seen how critical Public health is.  American Public Health Association and Skagit County Public Health are excited to invite you to celebrate  National Public Health this week. This year’s theme is “Public Health is Where You Are.”

Public health covers countless issues/ topics and practices that help every individual’s ability to live a long, healthy life. Together we can make our communities safer, healthier, and stronger!

So, what are some ways you, friends and family can get involved? Keep scrolling or visit www.NPHW.org for more info.

Get Involved

  • Help spread the word and become a NPHW partner.
  • Host a NPHW activity in your community.
  • Join Generation Public Health, a movement that’s all about creating the healthiest nation in one generation.
  • Help APHA by hosting a Keep It Moving Challenge event or participate in one.
  • Celebrate and support gratitude for public health.
  • Look for ways to strengthen our communities, locally and globally.
  • Help dismantle racism in your community.
  • Hold accountable companies, people, and organizations responsible for climate change.
  • Ensure public health authority to public health workers and families by progressing policies for paid sick leave and living wage.
  • Help make sure that health and wellness are not just available, but accessible to everyone in your community.

There are countless ways to make your voice heard and become part of the movement for public health. To learn more about this year’s daily themes go to https://www.nphw.org/Themes-and-Facts. Also, make sure to check APHA’s toolkits for more ways to keep the momentum going in your community.


Is It COVID-19 or Allergies? What are the Differences?

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Spring season is here and, for several of us, that also means allergy season. Right now, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether you may be experiencing a cold, COVID, or allergies with the change of season.

A safe way to check before spending time with friends or loved ones is to take a COVID-19 test. To look for locations that offer COVID-19 testing, please visit our site at https://skagitcountywa.gov/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirusTESTsites.htm. To identify common symptoms, here are some key differences between COVID and seasonal allergies.

Differences

Seasonal Allergies Symptoms

  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (if you have asthma)
  • Fatigue (mild)
  • Sore throat
  • Wet cough
  • Snoring

Common Symptoms

  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

COVID-19 Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Different types of skin rashes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Sneezing

As you can see, allergies and COVID-19 share several common symptoms. Even though they look similar, there are some distinctions. If you are not sure if you’re suffering from allergies or COVID, please seek out a COVID-19 test to avoid potentially spreading the virus to others. 

When to seek emergency care

If you or someone you know is experiencing trouble breathing, persistent chest pain (pressure in the chest), and skin is looking pale, gray, or blue-colored, please seek medical care right away.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms mentioned above, please feel free to visit us at our COVID-19 Test Site located at the Burlington Cascade Mall for a free COVID-19 rapid antigen test. If you test positive for COVID-19 at home, please stay home and contact your provider. Make sure to monitor and watch for symptoms. For more information check out the CDC website.

For more resources please visit:

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | CDC

Novel Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID19) (skagitcounty.net)


Are You Tsunami Prepared?

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As you may recall, on January 15, 2022, a tsunami warning was placed for parts of the U.S. West Coast and Alaska after a volcano eruption occurred near the Tonga Islands. Waves were projected to be 1-to-3 feet along the western coastline extending from California to Alaska.

Thankfully, this event did not result in any major damage along the Washington coastline. It was a good reminder, however, that we should always be prepared for future tsunami events considering our location here in Skagit County.

Are you and your family prepared for a tsunami? Join us in recognizing Tsunami Preparedness Week this week! Register at Tsunamizone.org for resources and get some tips on how to be safe in the event of a tsunami.

What is the Cascadia subduction zone? Why should you care?

The Cascadia Subduction Zone runs for 7 hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, this zone expands along Oregon and Washington, wrapping around Vancouver, Canada. 

An article (“New tsunami modeling shows more flooding likely for Skagit County”) from the Skagit Valley Herald in 2021 did a great job at summarizing the risks posed by our location. The article informs us that the most recent modeling of a potential Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake alongside the West Coast would result in greater flooding, and a greater risk for a local tsunami event than formerly predicted.

What you should do to prepare before, during, and after a tsunami?

The above goes to show the importance of tsunami preparedness. There is so much that individuals and families can do to prepare for, and anticipate, these types of events. Here are a few simple steps that you can take to ensure that you’re ready if—or when—a tsunami occurs.

BEFORE

Step 1: Get a Kit

Remember, this will be your emergency bag and will be the only thing you’ll have, so make sure to prepare to meet the needs of yourself and/or your household. To find a guide for kit building, visit Ready.gov.

Step 2: Make a Plan

Make a communication and evacuation plan with your friends and family. Remember to have a plan for your pets as well! Have a couple of designated meeting areas for you and your family in case you become separated. Make your plan by visiting Ready.gov!

Step 3: Be informed

Learn what you need to know to keep you and your family safe. Also, monitor the news and share your newly acquired knowledge with family and friends. Basic knowledge of first aid and CPR can also go a very long way!

In Skagit County, a great way to stay informed is by signing up for CodeRed alerts. Register here to receive emergency alerts and notifications in your area through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System. 

DURING

  • If you feel an earthquake: DROP, COVER, and HOLD on to anything you can that is sturdy to protect yourself.
  • When you have noticed that the earthquake has stopped, get together with your household members, and go over your emergency evacuation plan to safely get out.
  • Contact a Coast Guard emergency frequency station or any local radio station for any emergency information and listen for an official tsunami warning. If directed to do so, evacuate at once.
  • Make sure to take your emergency go-bag and your pets with you! If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for them to stay either.
  • Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. The further up and farthest away from the water the safer you and your loved ones will be during the disaster.
  • Avoid any downed power lines, buildings, bridges, or heavy objects during your evacuation.
  • Finally, wait until officials say it is safe before attempting to go home. There can be a series of waves within hours.

AFTER

  • Reach out to family and friends to let them know you are safe and to check in.
  • If you become injured or sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, do not hesitate and call 9-1-1.  
  • If evacuated, only return if authorities have said it is safe to do so.
  • Document any property damage. Take picture and keep an inventory for your insurance company. You can also contact Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management at (360) 416-1850 for assistance.

For more resources please visit:

Tsunami Preparedness | Tsunami Safety Tips | Red Cross

TsunamiZone

SKAGIT COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

New tsunami modeling shows more flooding likely for Skagit County | Environment | goskagit.com


It’s Not Luck! 3 Tips to Prepare for an Emergency

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Have you ever asked yourself if you or your loved ones are ready in case of a disaster? With recent floods within the county, it is smart to start to preparing yourself, family and friends for any type of emergency. This March, in association with St. Patrick’s Day, the “It’s Not Luck” campaign asserts that no one should rely on luck when it comes to being prepared for disasters and emergencies. After all, luck is for the leprechauns. Don’t leave disaster prep to chance.

Don’t know how to prepare in case of an emergency? Keep scrolling for some helpful tips.  

1. Know your risk for the area where you live and work.

Be informed of what disasters and hazards could affect your area, how to get emergency alerts, and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate.  Make sure your family has a plan and practices it often.

Also, find out what plans are available for the locations you go regularly. Customize your personal and household plans based on what household members would do if an emergency occurred while they were at that location. 

2. Make a plan to lessen the impact of those risks.

Come up with a plan with your family, friends, or household and discuss questions like what is my shelter, communication, and evacuation plan to start your emergency plan.

As you make your plan think about specific needs in your household and responsibilities. Share your needs and responsibilities and how people in the community could possibly help each other with communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like operating medical equipment.

Finally, fill out a family emergency plan and practice your plan with your family/ household. You can download one here at https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2021-04/family-emergency-communication-plan.pdf

3. Build a kit to be ready for disasters and emergencies.

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water, and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

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.

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed. Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work, and cars.

Need a checklist, no problem download a printable version to keep or to take to the store with you. https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2021-02/ready_checklist.pdf


Public Health COVID Testing Site to Open at Cascade Mall on March 14th

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March 9, 2022

Skagit County Public Health will be opening a COVID-19 testing site at Cascade Mall, located at 150 Cascade Mall Drive in Burlington, beginning on Monday, March 14th, 2022. The Fairgrounds testing site closed on Friday, March 4th.

The new site will be located on the east side of the mall parking lot near the old Johnny Carino’s restaurant. Testing services will be available on Mondays and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Public Health will be offering rapid antigen testing, with results typically available between 15-45 minutes. All testing will be conducted via drive-through unless accommodations are requested. Testing services are provided at no-cost and are available to those 5 years of age and older who live, work, or go to school in Skagit County. Individuals no longer need to be symptomatic or have been recently exposed to COVID-19 to access testing services at this location.

The move to the mall will allow Public Health to right-size our testing services,” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director. “Demand for testing ebbs and flows, so we need to be flexible to best serve our community. The new location will allow us this flexibility.

There continues to be several other testing options available in Skagit County. An updated list of testing providers can be found on our website. Free at-home test kits are also still available through the state and federal governments’ online ordering portals. For those who have not yet ordered their free COVID test kits, please use the following links to order:

For more information about Public Health’s new testing site, go to www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus or call Public Health at (360) 416-1500.