Firework Safety Tips for Fourth of July

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Fourth of July is just around the corner and already next week which means fireworks and family fun! Although fireworks are fun, they can be very dangerous causing fires and deadly injuries. According to the National Safety Council, due to fireworks an average of 18,500 fires happen each year and about 200 people in the month of July go the emergency room everyday due to firework- related injuries. These injuries range from head, face, ear, arm, leg, hand, or finger and 34% occur to people between ages 24-44. Although, children aged 5-9 are more than twice as likely as other age groups to be injured by fireworks.

To keep yourself, friends and loved ones safe this holiday continue reading for some firework safety tips.

Tips to Celebrate Safely

  • Make sure to purchase legal fireworks from your area and labeled for consumer use.
  • Never leave young children alone with fireworks or to handle on their own, this includes sparklers.
  • Safer options for children are glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.
  • Always keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby, in case of a fire.
  • Never light them indoors.
  • Do not use fireworks while being impaired by drugs or on alcohol.
  • If using fireworks or nearby, consider using protective eye wear.
  • Light fireworks one at a time and make sure to move as quickly as possible after lighting.
  • Do not relight or use a malfunctioning firework. To discard, soak them in water and throw them away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks including sparklers towards no one.  

For more resources visit:

Fireworks | CPSC.gov

Fireworks Safety Tips – National Safety Council (nsc.org)

Summer fire safety outreach materials (fema.gov)


Are you Wildfire Smoke ready!

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Yesterday was officially the first day of summer! This means nice warm weather, but also possible wildfires. Wildfires are unplanned fires that burn in natural areas like forests, grasslands, or prairies. These dangerous fires spread quickly and devastate not only wildlife and natural areas, but also communities.

Wildfire smoke is a major threat to public health. Smoke from wildfires can cause wheezing, coughing, heart and lung disease, and even death. Wildfire smoke is also the largest source of particle pollution in Washington.

Here are some ways that you and your family can prepare for and stay safe during a wildfire. Below you will also find information about what to do following the aftermath of a wildfire in your community.

Prepare for Wildfires

  • Have several ways to receive alerts so you don’t miss anything important. Sign up for community alerts in your area and be aware of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert. Also sign up for CodeRED or download the FEMA app and receive alerts from the National Weather Service.
  • Look out for air quality alerts. To check your air quality visit AirNow.gov
  • Make an emergency plan. Make sure everyone in the household knows what to do if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Know your evacuation zone.
  • Have a communications plan, and make sure everyone in your household knows it.
  • Have an emergency go bag ready for you, household members and pets. For a checklist visit Build A Kit | Ready.gov
  • Review important documents. Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents  are up to date. Create copies and keep them in your go bag!

Stay Safe During a Wildfire

  • Evacuate as soon as authorities tell you to.
  • Pay attention to emergency alerts for information.
  • Call 911 if you’re trapped and give your location.
  • Use an N95 mask to protect you from smoke inhalation.

Returning Home After a Wildfire

  • Do not return home until authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Look out for hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers.
  • Wear protective clothing when doing any cleaning.
  • Document property damage with photographs.
  • Reach out to family to check if they are OK or to let them know you are.

Helpful Resources:

The Northwest Clean Air Agency (NWCAA) offers resources on how to protect yourself and others during wildfire smoke events. See their website’s Wildfire Smoke Information page: https://bit.ly/3wgdcEM. For NWCAA monitors and related air quality information: https://bit.ly/3lXahMq.

For information on low-cost air sensors and a map showing local sensors: https://bit.ly/3iWcwxM.

Wildfires | Ready.gov

May 2 2022: Wildfires and Smoke | AirNow.gov

Wildfire smoke – Washington State Department of Ecology

Smoke From Wildfires – Toolkit | Washington State Department of Health



Are you prepared for this summer’s heat?

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Summer is right around the corner which means sunshine and heat! While Pacific Northwesterners anxiously await these warmer months, we also need to be conscious of potential risks associated with extreme heat. For those who may be heat sensitive or who do not have adequate access to cooling systems or water, extreme temperatures can be life threatening. And with extreme heat events predicted to now be more common due to our changing climate, it is a good time to look at ways to prepare.

As you may recall, last summer we experienced a record-breaking heat wave that lasted 7 days—from June 26th to July 2nd. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there were 100 heat related deaths reported throughout the state. In Skagit County, we sadly lost 6 individuals to heat related complications during this time.

It is crucial that during these times we are ready and prepared. Being ready can help to prevent heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and—most importantly—death. Do you know the signs of heat-related illnesses and ways to respond? Keep reading for some helpful information.

Prepare for Extreme Heat

  • Weather strip doors and windows.
  • Cover windows with drapes or shades.
  • Have at least 2 fans to create air flow in home. Remember fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort but will not reduce your body temperature or prevent heat-related illnesses.
  • Install a window air conditioner and insulate around it.
  • Add insulation to keep the heat out.
  • Know of cooling places like stores or libraries near you! Contact Skagit County Public Health to find a cooling shelter near you—(360) 416-1500.

Be Safe During

  • Stay hydrated and drink lots of fluids.
  • Take cold showers or baths.
  • Go to a cooling center if air conditioning is not available in your home.
  • Never leave people or pets in a closed vehicle on a hot or warm day.
  • Wear loose, light colored clothing, and lightweight clothes.
  • Use your oven less to help reduce heat in your home.
  • Avoid being outside.
  • Check in with family members to let them know you’re okay or to check if they’re okay. As well with neighbors, and friends.
  • Consider pet safety.
  • Watch for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

What is heat illness?

Some common heat illnesses are heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps. Here are some signs to look out for.

Signs of Heat Stroke:

If you suspect a heat stroke, immediately call 9-1-1 or get the person to a hospital as soon as possible.

  • Rapid, strong pulse.
  • Red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat.
  • Dizziness, confusion, or unconsciousness.
  • Extremely high body temperature.

Signs Heat Cramps:

  • Muscle pains.
  • Spasms in the stomach, arms, or legs.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Fast or weak pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If you have signs of heat cramps or heat exhaustion, go to the closest cooling center/location near you. Try to cool down by removing excess clothing and drink water or sports drinks. Call your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.

Helpful Resources:

Extreme Heat | Ready.gov

Summer Safety (weather.gov)

Heat Wave 2021 | Washington State Department of Health


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


To Our Volunteers: Thank you!

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Last Thursday, Skagit County Public Health celebrated the over two hundred and twenty volunteers who dedicated their time and expertise to Skagit’s COVID-19 response since the beginning of the pandemic. From the testing site first opening at Skagit Valley College in April 2020, to the move to the Fairgrounds and the incorporation of a vaccination clinic—from closing then reopening again when the Delta variant first hit—these volunteers stuck with the site through thick and thin, rain and shine.

“For me, some of the most meaningful moments came early after the pediatric vaccines were available. The parents were so emotional and grateful for being able to have their children vaccinated at last, for being able to obtain vaccine protection for them, and to maybe even getting back to a more normal life. It was very moving and helped me better understand that what we were doing was an important and valuable service for our community.”

– Fairgrounds volunteer

It takes a very special kind of person to respond to this type of call to action. When the world seemed so overwhelming and there was so much that we didn’t know, a band of dedicated individuals came together to get the testing site up and running. It was amazing to watch these same people coming back week after week, responding to the incredible needs of our community.

Volunteer Appreciation at the Skagit County Fairgrounds (March 2022)

Between 2020 and 2021, these volunteers accumulated a total of 14,852 hours of service—a level of community response never seen by our County before. From directing traffic, to administering tests and vaccinations, our volunteers have been the heroes of Public Health’s pandemic response.

As we wrap up operation at the Fairgrounds, and Public Health begins the process of relocating our testing services to a new location, we want—we need—to take this time to highlight our volunteers. Public Health could not have achieved what was achieved over the past two years without these individuals.

To our volunteers: Thank you! Whether you dedicated one, or seven hundred hours, each moment of volunteer service has been sincerely appreciated.


Tsunami Preparedness: Before, During, After

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A tsunami advisory was lifted this past Sunday for parts of the U.S. West Coast and Alaska after a volcano erupted in the Pacific on Saturday. The initial advisory went into effect on Saturday morning, with waves projected to be 1-to-3 feet along the coastline spanning from California to Alaska. Emergency alerts went to residents in King and Snohomish counties, as well as many other locations across Puget Sound.

While the Washington coastline thankfully saw minimal impacts from the tremors, we should use this experience as a reminder to be ready for future tsunami events. After all, being prepared is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your loved ones. You can take steps today to lessen the potential impacts of a tsunami event in the future.

Here are some things to consider before, during, and after a tsunami. For the full list, go to Ready.gov.

Prepare NOW

  • If you live near, or regularly visit a coastal area, learn about the risk of tsunami in the area. Some at-risk communities have maps with evacuation zones and routes. If you are a visitor, ask about community plans.

    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. For more information, contact Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management at (360) 416-1850.
  • Learn the signs of a potential tsunami, such as an earthquake, a loud roar from the ocean, or unusual ocean behavior, such as a sudden rise or wall of water or sudden draining of water showing the ocean floor.
  • Know and practice community evacuation plans and map out your routes from home, work, and play. Pick shelters 100 feet or more above sea level, or at least one mile inland. Check with Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management for public shelter information or download the free Red Cross Emergency app for a list of open Red Cross shelters in your area.
  • Create a family emergency communication plan that has an out-of-state contact. Plan where to meet if you get separated. Consider putting together a basic Disaster Supply kit for your family. A checklist can be found here.
  • Help educate your family about the importance of being prepared for natural disasters. Visit Ready.gov/kids for helpful tips.
  • Consider earthquake insurance and a flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood or earthquake damage.

Survive DURING

  • If you are in a tsunami area and there is an earthquake, then first protect yourself from the earthquake. Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops. Crawl only if you can reach better cover, but do not go through an area with more debris. If possible, avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
  • When the shaking stops, if there are natural signs or official warnings of a tsunami, then move immediately to a safe place as high and as far inland as possible. Listen to the authorities, but do not wait for tsunami warnings and evacuation orders.
  • If you are outside of the tsunami hazard zone and receive a warning, then stay where you are unless officials tell you otherwise.
  • Leave immediately if you are told to do so. Evacuation routes are often marked by a wave with an arrow in the direction of higher ground.
  • If you are in the water, then grab onto something that floats, such as a raft, tree trunk, or door. Keep in mind that floodwaters may contain debris, chemicals, or waste that are harmful to your health.  
  • If you are in a boat, then face the direction of the waves and head out to sea. If you are in a harbor, then go inland.

Be Safe AFTER

  • Listen to local alerts and authorities for information on areas to avoid and shelter locations.
  • Avoid wading in floodwater, which can contain dangerous debris. Water may be deeper than it appears. Never drive through standing water.
  • Be aware of the risk of electrocution. Underground or downed power lines can electrically charge water. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water.
  • If you become injured or sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
  • Stay away from damaged buildings, roads, and bridges.
  • Document property damage with photographs. Conduct an inventory and contact your insurance company for assistance. You may also reach out to Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management at (360) 416-1850.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends.
  • Take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the aftermath of a disaster. Follow CDC guidance for managing stress during a traumatic event. The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.

Calling All Volunteers! Volunteers Needed at the Fairgrounds Testing Site

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January 14, 2022

The demand for COVID-19 testing has increased dramatically since the end of December 2021. The new Omicron variant has proven to be highly transmissible, causing a rapid spike in new cases over the past two to three weeks. Aside from vaccination, boosters, and masking, testing is one of the best tools that we have to slow the spread of the virus in our community.

Skagit County Public Health has been working diligently to provide no-cost, low-barrier testing services to Skagitonians since April 2020. The current operation at the Skagit County Fairgrounds allows for an average of 300 tests per evening, every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

While demand for testing services have ebbed and flowed over the course of the pandemic, present demand is overwhelming our Public Health and hospital systems. To address this strain, Public Health is seeking to expand testing hours at the Fairgrounds as soon as possible.

As many know, staffing shortages due to COVID-19 are impacting workplaces across the country. Unfortunately, the Skagit County Fairgrounds has also been affected by these struggles.

“A minimum of 15 staff and volunteers are required to run the Fairgrounds each day,” said Site Manager, Julie de Losada. “To expand our hours, we would need to quickly expand our workforce as well. Without new volunteers, it just isn’t possible.”

Public Health is calling on the community to help support the testing site. If you are 16 years of age or older and can commit to at least one shift per week through the end of February, the site could desperately use your help.

If/when staffing allows, Public Health is hoping to add an early afternoon shift to the current operating schedule on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. A volunteer would need to be available either between 11:30am to 3:00pm or 2:30pm to 7:00pm on these days.

All positions are open: testers, administrative help, traffic, and greeters. No experience is required; training will be provided on site. To be eligible, a background check is required, and only those who are fully vaccinated can volunteer at the site.

Please know that Public Health has had considerable success in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 at the testing site. All volunteers and staff are required to wear a surgical face mask (at minimum) at all times.

If you are interested, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at ralpert@co.skagit.wa.us or call Public Health at (360) 416-1500.

#

¡Llamando a todos los voluntarios! Se necesitan voluntarios en el sitio de pruebas del recinto ferial  

La demanda de pruebas de COVID-19 ha aumentado drásticamente desde finales de diciembre de 2021. La nueva variante de Omicron ha demostrado ser altamente transmisible, causando un rápido aumento en los nuevos casos en las últimas dos o tres semanas. Aparte de la vacunación, los refuerzos y el enmascaramiento, las pruebas son una de las mejores herramientas que tenemos para frenar la propagación del virus en nuestra comunidad. 

Skagit County Public Health ha estado trabajando diligentemente para proporcionar servicios de pruebas sin costo y de baja barrera a los skagitonianos desde abril de 2020. La operación actual en el recinto ferial del condado de Skagit permite un promedio de 300 pruebas por noche, todos los lunes, martes, jueves y viernes.  

Si bien la demanda de servicios de pruebas ha disminuido y fluido en el transcurso de la pandemia, la demanda actual está abrumando nuestros sistemas de salud pública y hospitalarios. Para hacer frente a esta tensión, Salud Pública está tratando de ampliar el horario de pruebas en el recinto ferial lo antes posible. 

Como muchos saben, la escasez de personal debido a COVID-19 está afectando a los lugares de trabajo en todo el país. Desafortunadamente, el recinto ferial del condado de Skagit también se ha visto afectado por estas luchas. 

“Se requiere un mínimo de 15 empleados y voluntarios para administrar el recinto ferial cada día”, dijo la gerente del sitio, Julie de Losada. “Para ampliar nuestros horarios, también tendríamos que ampliar rápidamente nuestra fuerza laboral. Sin nuevos voluntarios, simplemente no es posible. ” 

Salud Pública está pidiendo a la comunidad que ayude a apoyar el sitio de pruebas. Si tiene 16 años de edad o más y puede comprometerse a al menos un turno por semana hasta finales de febrero, el sitio podría usar desesperadamente su ayuda. 

Si / cuando el personal lo permite, Salud Pública espera agregar un turno temprano en la tarde al horario operativo actual de los lunes, martes, jueves y viernes. Un voluntario tendría que estar disponible entre las 11:30 a.m. y las 3:00 p.m. o de 2:30 p.m. a 7:00 p.m. en estos días.  

Todos los puestos están abiertos: probadores, ayuda administrativa, tráfico y saludadores. No se requiere experiencia; la capacitación se proporcionará en el sitio. Para ser elegible, se requiere una verificación de antecedentes, y solo aquellos que están completamente vacunados pueden ser voluntarios en el sitio. 

Tenga en cuenta que Salud Pública ha tenido un éxito considerable en la mitigación de la propagación de COVID-19 en el sitio de prueba. Todos los voluntarios y el personal deben usar una máscara facial quirúrgica (como mínimo) en todo momento.  

Si está interesado, comuníquese con nuestro Coordinador Voluntario en  ralpert@co.skagit.wa.us o llame a Salud Pública al (360) 416-1500. 


Joint Statement on Local Healthcare Capacity & COVID-19 Transmission Rates

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January 13, 2022

Skagit County hospitals have seen a dramatic increase in the number of individuals admitted for inpatient care due to COVID-19 over the past week. This recent spike has only further exacerbated our already overburdened healthcare system both locally and across the state.

Today, our local hospitals together with County Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand are coming together to ask Skagitonians to help in easing the current strain on our healthcare system. Each person can take action to help alleviate this strain on our providers. Please, take necessary precautions to decrease COVID-19 transmission rates and be conscientious of seeking emergency medical services.

Vaccination continues to be the best tool in preventing serious illness due to COVID-19. While we know that breakthrough infections are expected with the Omicron variant, current data has shown that the vast majority of breakthrough infections have resulted in mild to moderate symptoms that do not require medical attention.

Transmission rates are also of grave concern. The Omicron variant is extremely transmissible and has resulted in more than a doubling of COVID-19 cases this week compared to last. Skagitonians can help to control the spread by taking precautions and not gathering when sick or if recently exposed. For this reason, it is our recommendation at this time that people postpone all large indoor gatherings, regardless of the vaccination status of those gathering.

Masking is also still an extremely important tool that people must use when congregating in indoor public settings and certain outdoor public settings. Ensure the quality and fit of your mask by going to the CDC’s masking guidance webpage here.

We understand that testing options are limited at this time, both in Skagit County and throughout Washington. If you are symptomatic or have been recently exposed to COVID-19 and cannot get access to a test, please follow the CDC’s updated isolation and quarantine guidance. Essentially:

IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS but do not need medical care and can’t get a test, assume you have COVID-19.  You should isolate for at least 5 days to keep from spreading the virus to others. Monitor your symptoms.

IF YOU WERE EXPOSED to someone with COVID-19 and need to quarantine and are unable to get a test 5 days after your last close contact, you can leave your home after day 5 if you have not had symptoms; wear a mask for 10 days after last contact.

Our hospitals and urgent care facilities have the capacity to care for those who are acutely ill. These are not the locations to go for COVID-19 testing if you are asymptomatic or are experiencing mild COVID-like symptoms. Please look to community testing sites and local pharmacies for testing options.

Severe COVID-19-related symptoms that would require emergency medical attention include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

“From looking at previous waves, we know that this current surge will level out in time,” said Dr. Leibrand. “Now is not the time to get together or socialize. That time will come, but it isn’t right now. It is essential that we work together to see ourselves out of this current wave.”

To find a vaccine provider near you, please use the Vaccine Locator or call 1-800-525-0127 (press #). For a list of local testing providers, please go to the Testing Locations page here.


Skagit County Health Officer Releases Statement on High Case Rates & Guidance for the Holidays

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October 25, 2021

Today, Skagit County’s Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand issued the following statement:

Our COVID-19 case rates are increasing once again. The WA DOH data dashboard shows our 14-day rate still hovering in the range of 600 per 100,000 population. At present, Skagit is at 552.7 per 100k over the last 14 days, with a hospitalization rate of 12.3 COVID patients per 100k over the last seven days.

Though cases may be declining in other parts of our state, we are not seeing a sustained decrease in cases here in Skagit. To put it mildly, this is not what Public Health—or our exhausted healthcare workers—have been hoping for.

Reported daily case counts are still extremely high. Local data shows that we have had an average of 59 new test positive cases per day reported to Public Health over the past 14 days, from October 8 through October 21. 

It’s very simple: to recover from this most recent wave and prevent needless deaths, people need to get vaccinated as soon as possible. And with Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters now available, we are encouraging each and every person to get their booster when eligible to do so.

Unfortunately, we know that there are folks in our community who are still reluctant to get vaccinated. Though our county’s population is 58.2 percent fully vaccinated now, this means that there is still nearly 40 percent of our residents, including children 11 and younger who aren’t yet eligible, who do not have protection against the virus.

Getting vaccinated not only protects you individually, but it slows spread and protects other vulnerable individuals. For our children’s sake—we are pleading with people to get vaccinated today.

Skagitonians need to continue to be stringent about masking up and limiting social gatherings, especially with the holidays coming up. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have clearly seen spikes in cases after holidays. We cannot afford a spike right now with how high our case and hospitalization rates are at this time.

If you are already vaccinated, please continue to use discretion. If gathering with family or friends who are unvaccinated, use extra precaution—or do not gather at all. Avoid gathering indoors and in poorly ventilated areas. Wear a mask when gathering with folks who are considered higher risk.

If unvaccinated, gathering with others this holiday season is extremely risky. Please know that you are taking a very poor gamble, and putting yours, and your loved ones, health and safety on the line. From state data, we know that unvaccinated 12-64 year-olds are 5-6 times more likely to get COVID-19 compared to those who are fully vaccinated, and 19 times more likely to end up in the hospital with serious health complications. The facts are clear.

Lastly, no one experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms should be attending any group events, going to in-person work, or in-person school. People with symptoms need to stay home until they can get tested and recover from symptoms. If we do not practice these measures, COVID-19 will continue to spread at alarming rates in our community—causing needless long-term illness, death, and disruption to all our daily lives.

We can still have a wonderful holiday season, and we can always turn around our case trends. Please do everything that you can to help your community in this fight.


Dr. Leibrand has served as Skagit’s Health Officer since 1989.


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

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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 months 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.