Saturday, October 23 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

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National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is taking place on Saturday, October 23rd from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at various locations across Skagit County. This is a national event, organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in collaboration with community law enforcement and prevention partners.

Since 2010, Take Back Day events have provided easy, anonymous opportunities to remove medicines in the home that are highly susceptible to misuse, abuse, and theft. Through the National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative, a grand total of 985,392 pounds of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription medications were collected during last year’s October event. In Skagit County alone, 289 community members participated in a Take Back Day event, disposing a total of 512.4 pounds of unwanted medication.

Events will be taking place on Saturday, October 23rd from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Burlington: Public Safety Building, 311 Cedar St.
  • La Conner: Swinomish Police Dept., 17353 Reservation Rd.
  • Mount Vernon: Skagit Valley Family YMCA, 1901 Hoag Rd.
  • Sedro-Woolley: Sedro-Woolley City Hall, 325 Metcalf St.

Due to COVID-19, all locations will be operating a drive-through system for medication drop-off. Event coordinators ask that the public please wear their mask and practice physical distancing.

If you cannot attend a Take Back Day event this Saturday, please know that Skagit County operates a year-round Secure Medicine Return Program. Prescription medicines, legally prescribed controlled substances (e.g., narcotics and stimulants), over-the-counter medicines, and pet medications can all be disposed using a Secure Medicine Return drop box. Current Drop Box locations are listed at: https://med-project.org/.

For those with mobility concerns, pre-paid no-cost medicine return mailers are available, to be sent directly to your home. Please go to https://med-project.org/  or call 1-844-633-7765 to order mailers. You can get standard mailers or special mailers for inhalers and prefilled auto-injectors.

For updates and additional information on DEA’s Take Back events, please visit www.DEATakeBack.com or visit United General District 304’s webpage for more information.  

Want to know more about Skagit County’s Secure Medicine Return program, substance use prevention, treatment, or local recovery options? Visit www.skagitrising.org or call Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Are you Prepared for a Flood?

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On October 4th, the Skagit County Commissioners declared this week (October 11-15, 2021) Flood Awareness Week. Flood Awareness Week offers multiple opportunities for community members to get involved and learn about flood preparedness for themselves and their families.

Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than any other hazard related to thunderstorms. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself, your family, and your home! A great way to learn about floor preparedness is participating in two free webinars being held this week:

Flood Awareness with the Department of Emergency Management
Wednesday, October 13 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Join via zoom here: https://bit.ly/3uqlmdE

NOAA Weather Spotter Training
Thursday, October 14 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Join via Zoom here: https://bit.ly/3uE569d

Not able to attend a training this week? That’s okay! Keep reading for some important steps to reduce the harm caused by flooding.

Stay informed about flooding risks in your area

Photo from the Roger Fox Collection, taken from Burlington Hill looking down into town during the flood of 1921.

Information about flooding in Skagit County, and some helpful flood preparation resources, can be found at www.skagitcounty.net/flood. Skagit also prepares a Flood Awareness Week booklet each year, which you can find that booklet online here.

Skagit County offers a variety of alert tools for residents, as well. You can sign up for CodeRed Alerts, follow @SkagitGov on Twitter, or sign up for news releases to receive key emergency information before, during, and after an event.

For more information on Skagit County flood response, call 360-416-1400 or visit www.skagitcounty.net/flood.

Prepare for Flooding

Sometimes floods develop slowly, and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs. Oftentimes flash floods can occur within minutes and sometimes without any sign of rain. Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.

Create a Communications Plan

It is important to be able to communicate with your family and friends in the event of a disaster. Whether it’s having a specific person identified to contact for status updates or a safe location to meet up with family members, having a plan in place will give you peace of mind if disaster does strike.

Assemble an Emergency Kit

It is good practice to have enough food, water, and medicine on hand to last you at least 3 days in the case of an emergency. Water service may be interrupted or unsafe to drink and food requiring little cooking and no refrigeration may be needed if electric power is interrupted.

You should also have batteries, blankets, flashlights, first aid kit, rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a NOAA Weather Radio or other battery-operated radio easily available.

Prepare Your Home

Burlington Northern Sante Fe Bridge over the Skagit that failed in 1995, stopping rail traffic for a couple of weeks.

1. If you have access to sandbags or other materials, use them to protect your home from flood waters if you have sufficient time to do so. Filling sandbags can take more time than you may think.

2. Have a professional install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your home. Make sure your sump pump is working and consider having a backup. Make sure your electric circuit breakers, or fuses, are clearly marked for each area of your home.

3. Since standard homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover flooding, ensure coverage by contacting your insurance company or agent to purchase flood insurance. This must be done before there is even a threat of flooding as insurance companies stop issuing policies if there is a threat of flooding. (i.e. an approaching hurricane).

Many flood insurance policies take at least 30 days to go into effect so even if you can buy it as a storm is approaching, it may not protect your home. For more flood insurance facts: https://www.fema.gov/flood-insurance

During a Flood Watch or Warning

  • Listen to your local radio or television station for updates.
  • Evacuate immediately, if told to evacuate. Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
  • Prepare your family and pets. You may be evacuated, so pack in advance. Don’t wait until the last moment to gather the essentials, including emergency supplies.
  • Have immunization records handy. Store immunization records in a waterproof container.
  • Fill bathtubs, sinks, gallon jars, and plastic soda bottles so that you will have a supply of clean water. Sanitize sinks/tubs first by cleaning them using a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water. Then rinse and fill with clean water.
  • Bring in outdoor possessions (lawn furniture, grills, trash cans) or tie them down securely.
  • Charge your essential electronics. Make sure your cell phone and portable radios are all charged in case you lose power or need to evacuate. Also make sure you have back-up batteries on hand.
  • If evacuation appears necessary: turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve.
  • Leave areas subject to flooding, like low spots, canyons, washes, etc. (Rememberavoid driving through flooded areas and standing water.)

After Flooding Has Occurred

  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters or standing water. Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • If you have been evacuated, return to your home only after local authorities have said it is safe to do so.
  • Do not drink flood water, or use it to wash dishes, brush teeth, or wash/prepare food. Drink clean, safe water. Listen to water advisory from local authorities to find out if your water is safe for drinking and bathing. During a water advisory, use only bottled, boiled, or treated water for drinking, cooking, etc.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food and bottled water that comes/may have come into contact with flood water.
  • Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Use generators at least 20 feet from any doors, windows, or vents. If you use a pressure washer, be sure to keep the engine outdoors and 20 feet from windows, doors, or vents as well.
Aerial photo of the town of Hamilton in 2003.

The initial damage caused by a flood is not the only risk. Standing flood waters can also spread infectious diseases, bring chemical hazards, and cause injuries. After you return home, if you find that your home was flooded, practice safe cleaning.

For ways to stay safe after flooding, visit: https://www.ready.gov/floods#prepare.

For more information:

https://www.ready.gov/floods
https://www.weather.gov/safety/flood


Booster? Third Dose? What’s the Difference?

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You’ve probably heard…Pfizer booster doses are now authorized for certain individuals. But what does this mean? And what is the difference between a Booster and a third dose? After all, haven’t third doses been available for a while now?

If you are confused, you’re not alone! Have questions? We’ve got your answers!

What’s the difference between a third dose and a booster?

These terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably! They do—in fact—mean two separate things.

A third dose (also known as an additional dose) is for people who are immunocompromised. Sometimes people who are immunocompromised do not build enough protection when they first get fully vaccinated. When this happens, getting another dose of a vaccine can help them build more protection against the disease. Third doses of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine are currently available for certain immunocompromised individuals.

A booster refers to a dose of a vaccine that is given to someone who built enough protection after vaccination, but that protection decreased over time (waning immunity). This is why you need a tetanus booster every 10 years, because the protection from your childhood tetanus vaccine wanes over time. Only Pfizer boosters are currently available for certain populations.

Am I eligible for a third dose?

Currently, the CDC is recommending that moderately to severely immunocompromised people receive a third dose. This includes people who have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

People should talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting a third dose is appropriate for them.

A person receiving a third dose should get it at least 28 days after dose two. When possible, the individual should receive the same vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) as the first two doses but may receive the other mRNA vaccine brand if the original vaccine is not available.

At this time, no third dose is recommended for people who had the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. People who received J&J should not get a second dose of either J&J or a dose of an mRNA vaccine. Additionally, people with competent immune systems should not receive a third dose.

Am I eligible for a booster?

At this time, only Pfizer Boosters are authorized, and are only for specific groups. First off, only those who received a first and second dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine should seek out a booster dose at this time. Those who initially received Moderna or J&J will need to wait (see more about this below).

It is recommended that the following people receive a Pfizer booster dose:

  • People 65 and older
  • People 18 and older living in long-term care settings
  • People 50 – 64 with underlying medical conditions or those at increased risk of social inequities

Additionally, the following people may receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine:

Eligible people will need to wait to receive their Pfizer booster until at least 6 months after their second dose of Pfizer. This means that—at the time of this article—only those who received their second dose in March or earlier should seek out a booster.

Additional populations may be recommended to receive a Pfizer booster shot as more data become available.

Is a third dose or booster really necessary?

A third dose may prevent serious and possibly life-threatening COVID-19 disease in people with compromised immune systems who may not have responded to their initial vaccine series.

Although we still have much to learn, early findings are very encouraging. Research published by the Israeli Health Ministry suggests that a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine significantly improves protection for those 60 and older from infection and serious illness, compared to those who received just two doses.

As for boosters, the COVID-19 vaccines continue to be very effective at reducing the risk of severe disease. Data show that protection against COVID-19 from vaccination begins to decrease over time as it does with other diseases like tetanus or whooping cough.

Paired with the dominance of the delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease. As a result, the CDC now recommends booster shots for certain individuals to increase—and extend—protection against the virus.

What if I got Moderna or the J&J single dose vaccine?

At this time, there are not yet booster recommendations for people who received the Moderna or J&J COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC and FDA will evaluate data in the coming weeks and may make additional recommendations for other vaccine types.

How can I make an appointment?

If you’re looking for a third dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, talk with your health care provider first to make sure that a third dose is right for you. If so, there are many vaccine provider locations available to you, including the Skagit County Fairgrounds.  

Looking for a Pfizer booster? Use the Vaccine Locator online tool, check in with your local pharmacy, or give the COVID Hotline a call at 1–800–525–0127, then press #.

Folks can also schedule an appointment for a Pfizer booster at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. To make an appointment, use the PrepMod online appointment finder and search for “Skagit County Public Health” under Name of Location.

Please note that appointments are limited at this time. If no appointments appear when you search, check back the following Monday for newly added appointments. The COVID Hotline is also available if you need further assistance: 1–800–525–0127, then press #.

What should I bring with me?

When seeking out a third dose or booster, please remember to bring your Vaccination Card with you! Can’t find it? Visit MyIR Mobile to pull your vaccination record or call the State COVID-19 Hotline for assistance at 1–800–525–0127, then press #.


Knock Out Flu: Think of It as Your Best Defense

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From the WA Department of Health

Think of It as Your Best Defense

This year, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated against the flu. The flu vaccine can keep you from getting and spreading the flu to others during the COVID-19 pandemic and help keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Why is it so important to get the flu vaccine this year?

Flu activity was unusually low last year. People in Washington did a great job getting their flu vaccine, and the COVID-19 safety measures like masking, staying home, and limiting gatherings also helped limit the spread of the flu. But this year, many of these safety measures are lifted.

Some people are returning to work in-person, and most children are going back to in-person school. That means we have a much higher risk of exposure to the flu virus. And with last year’s low activity, most people weren’t as exposed to flu viruses, so they don’t have much natural immunity to the flu anymore. Getting the flu vaccine is your best defense.

Should I still get the flu vaccine if I’m usually healthy?

Yes, we recommend the flu vaccine for everyone six months and older. The flu vaccine protects not only you, but also the people you’re around. Flu can be serious even in healthy people, but some people are at higher risk including:

  • People 65 years and older
  • Young children, especially those under 5 years of age
  • Pregnant people
  • People with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or neurologic conditions

While flu illness can be mild in most people, it’s important to remember how serious flu really is. Sadly, over 900 people in Washington died from flu-related illness in the last five years, including many children. The flu vaccine saves lives.

When should I get the flu vaccine?

You should get your flu vaccine before the end of October for the best protection through the fall and winter months when flu is most likely to spread. You can even get your COVID19 and flu vaccines at the same time. You can still get a flu vaccine for several months after October and get protection through the end of the flu season in the spring.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?

You can visit your local doctor’s office, pharmacy or clinic event in your area. Visit www.vaccinefinder.org or call the Help Me Grow Washington hotline at 1-800-322-2588 (language assistance available) to find a flu vaccine location near you. If you’re working,
you can also check with your employer to see if they are hosting an on-site clinic for their staff.

Does my insurance cover the flu vaccine?

Most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare part B, cover the cost of flu vaccine for adults. If you do not have insurance, you may still be able to get the flu vaccine at no cost.

Children aged 18 and under in Washington can get a flu vaccine and other recommended vaccines at no cost. The provider may charge an administration fee to give the vaccine. You can ask them to waive this fee if you cannot afford it.

For more information, visit www.KnockOutFlu.org.


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.


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.


Third dose of COVID-19 vaccine now recommended for certain immunocompromised individuals

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August 16, 2021

The Washington Department of Health (DOH) released a statement on Saturday, August 14 providing guidance to health care providers regarding administration of third doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to certain immunocompromised individuals. This statement follows recommendations made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices (ACIP), and Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

While authorized vaccines have proven to be more than 90% effective in protecting against most variants, emerging data suggest people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems do not always build the same level of immunity compared to people who are not immunocompromised. The third dose is not considered a booster, rather an additional dose for individuals who did not adequately develop immunities with the initial two-dose series.

People are asked to speak with their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them. CDC does not recommend additional doses or booster shots for any other population at this time.

Currently, CDC is recommending that moderately to severely immunocompromised people receive an additional dose. This includes people who have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

A full list of conditions is available on the CDC’s website.

A person receiving a third dose should get it at least 28 days after their second dose. When possible, the individual should receive the same vaccine as the first two doses but may receive the other mRNA vaccine brand if the other vaccine is not available. 

There is not enough data at this time to determine whether immunocompromised people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also have an improved antibody response following an additional dose of the same vaccine. At this time, no additional dose is recommended for people who had the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. People who received J&J should not get a second dose of either J&J or a dose of an mRNA vaccine.

While a third dose of vaccine is likely to increase protection, people who are immunocompromised should continue to wear a mask, maintain 6 feet of social distancing, avoid crowds, and avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces. Close contacts of immunocompromised people are also strongly encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to further increase protection for those at greater risk.

Skagit County Public Health will now make third doses available to immunocompromised individuals at pop-up vaccine clinics and at our weekly vaccine clinic on Wednesday evenings from 6-9pm at the County Administrative Building (700 S 2nd St, Mount Vernon, WA 98273). Please bring your Vaccination Card with you when seeking a second or third dose. For information about our clinics, go to www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call (360) 416-1500.

To find a full list of vaccine providers near you, go to: https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/. For assistance call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127, then press #. Language assistance is available.


¿Cuándo debo hacerme la prueba? ¿Qué tipo de prueba debo hacerme?

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Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit ha estado recibiendo muchas llamadas en los últimos días de personas que preguntan sobre las opciones locales de prueba de COVID-19. En la última semana, alrededor del 30% de todas nuestras llamadas entrantes han sido sobre pruebas.

La mayoría de las personas que llaman preguntan sobre el acceso y quieren saber dónde pueden ir localmente para hacerse la prueba. En respuesta, nos hemos asegurado de que nuestra página web de opciones de prueba esté actualizada y coincida también con la lista del Departamento de Salud de Washington. Para obtener una lista de las opciones de prueba locales, vaya a: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirusTESTsites.htm.

Muchas personas que llaman también preguntan acerca de las diferencias entre las ubicaciones de prueba y los tipos de pruebas que ofrecen. Aunque algunas ubicaciones ofrecen pruebas de PCR y de antígeno, mucha de las veces una ubicación proporcionará una u otra. Con la reciente apertura de la frontera canadiense a los estadounidenses completamente vacunados, no es sorprendente que tantas personas preguntan qué tipo de prueba de COVID deberían hacerse.

Aquí hay algunas respuestas que pueden ser útiles al elegir entre las opciones de prueba…

¿Cuándo debo hacerme la prueba?

Si ha tenido una exposición por contacto cercano a un caso de COVID-19 o si le preocupa haber estado expuesto y no experimenta síntomas, se recomienda que espere de 3 a 5 días después de la exposición inicial para hacerse una prueba de diagnóstico. Este tiempo de espera se debe al período de incubación del virus, la cantidad de virus en su cuerpo y las características de las pruebas de diagnóstico.

Aquellosque experimentan síntomas COVID-19 deben hacerse la prueba tan pronto como sea posible.

  • Fiebre o escalofríos
  • Tos
  • Falta de aliento o dificultad para respirar.
  • Cansancio
  • Musculares o dolores en el cuerpo
  • Dolor de cabeza
  • Nueva pérdida del gusto u olfato
  • Dolor de garganta
  • Congestión o secreción nasal.
  • Náuseas o vómitos
  • Diarrea

¿Qué tipos de pruebas están disponibles?

Básicamente, hay dos categorías amplias de pruebas:

Prueba de antígeno (frecuentemente referido como prueba rápida). Esta prueba detecta fragmentos de proteínas específicos del coronavirus. Se puede hacer en una farmacia, clínica, consultorio médico o en un hospital. El tiempo de respuesta de los resultados usualmente es muy rápido y, en algunos casos, los resultados se pueden informar en 15 minutos.

Prueba de PCR (tal vez conocido como una prueba viral o molecular). Las pruebas de PCR se consideran el “estándar de oro” en la detección del SARS-CoV-2. Esta prueba realmente detecta ARN (o material genético) que es específico del virus y puede detectar el virus a los pocos días de la infección, incluso aquellos que no presentan síntomas. La prueba también se puede hacer en una farmacia, clínica, consultorio médico u hospital. El tiempo de respuesta de los resultados puede ser más largo (generalmente en el intervalo de 2-3 días) dado que las muestras de PCR se analizan en un laboratorio.

¿Qué tipo de prueba debo hacerme?

Siempre es mejor hablar con su proveedor de atención médica sobre qué prueba es mejor para usted.

Si tiene síntomas, hágase la prueba rápida de antígenos si está disponible. Si es positivo, puede comenzar a aislar de inmediato para proteger a quienes lo rodean de la propagación del virus. Si la prueba de antígeno es negativa, debe volver a hacerse la prueba con una prueba de PCR y asegúrese de aislarse hasta que reciba el resultado.

Para la mayoría de las personas que no presentan síntomas pero que desean hacerse la prueba porque pueden haber estado expuestas o van a viajar pronto, la prueba de PCR es la mejor opción. Puede encontrar pequeñas cantidades del virus que pueden verse antes de que comiencen los síntomas.

¿Qué tan precisas son estas pruebas?

Las pruebas de PCR funcionan detectando material genético del SARS-CoV-2, el virus que causa COVID-19. El material genético del SARS-CoV-2 no se puede confundir con el material genético de otros virus, así es que este tipo de prueba es muy específico. Esto significa que raro da un falso positivo. Si se hace la prueba y la prueba da positivo, puede estar muy seguro de que usted está infectado con este virus. Las pruebas de antígenos también son muy específicas y raro dan un falso positivo.

Porque los falsos resultados negativos en las pruebas de diagnóstico pueden suceder, un resultado negativo no debe darle una sensación de falsa seguridad. Si tiene algún síntoma de COVID-19, lo más seguro es asumir que está infectado y se ponga en cuarentena.

¿Qué prueba necesito para viajar?

Aunque la prueba COVID-19 más aceptada universalmente es una prueba de PCR molecular, algunos destinos pueden aceptar pruebas de antígeno también. Lo mejor es consultar con su destino, aerolínea (etc.) en la planificación su viaje.

Si no está completamente vacunado y debe viajar a nivel nacional o internacional, se le requerirá a hacerse la prueba de 1-3 días antes de viajar. Aquellos que están completamente vacunados no requieren pruebas antes de viajar dentro del país, sin embargo, la mayoría de los destinos internacionales aún requerirán pruebas previas al viaje.

Para aquellos que viajan, recomendamos las siguientes opciones de prueba de PCR locales:

Auto-servicio Northwest Laboratory: Martes a sábado: 8:30 am a11:45 am; 1:15 pm a 4:30 pm. Se requieren citas. Resultados dentro de las 72 horas.

Estoy buscando una opción de prueba de barrera baja en el Condado de Skagit. ¿A dónde debería ir?

Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit ahora ofrece pruebas de antígenos gratis en nuestras clínicas de vacunas los miércoles por la noche en el Edificio Administrativo del Condado de Skagit: Aceptamos a cualquier persona de 5 años y mayor; no se requiere cita ni seguro. Los resultados de la prueba están disponibles en 15 minutos.

Nota: Esto NO pretende ser una prueba previa al viaje.

¿Qué es una prueba de anticuerpos?

Una prueba de anticuerpos busca la respuesta del cuerpo al SARS-CoV-2, el virus que causa COVID-19. Es un análisis de sangre que sirve para determinar si tuvo la enfermedad, pero no es bueno para determinar si tiene la enfermedad. Como tal, las pruebas de anticuerpos no deben usarse para diagnosticar el virus.

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A pesar de que existe evidencia de que los anticuerpos pueden brindar protección contra la infección, no ha sido probado y por eso, los resultados de una prueba de anticuerpos no deben usarse para determinar la inmunidad. Para obtener más información sobre las pruebas y las preguntas más frecuentes, vaya a la página web de pruebas WA DOH COVID-19: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19


Excessive Heat Warning and Air Quality Alert Issued for Skagit County

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August 12, 2021

Today, the National Weather Service issued both an Excessive Heat Warning and an Air Quality Alert for Skagit County and the surrounding region. The Excessive Heat Warning is expected to be in effect through Friday at 8pm, and the Air Quality Alert through Saturday at 7pm.

Dangerously hot conditions with temperatures rising into the 90s to near 100 degrees is expected for Thursday and Friday, with highs remaining near 90 on Saturday. Extreme heat will significantly increase the potential for heat related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities.

The Washington State Department of Health is advising people to take precautions during this extreme heat event. In Skagit County, there are several Cooling Stations available to people who are seeking relief. A list of locations can be found on our website at www.skagitcounty.net.

Other key recommendations for heat safety include:

  • Stay indoors and in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible. Consider wearing a mask whenever you’re indoors with people who don’t live with you.
  • Keep your home cool by pulling window shades closed throughout the day. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your only cooling source. While electric fans might provide some comfort, they won’t prevent heat-related illness when temperatures are very hot.
  • Check on your friends, family and neighbors before bedtime. The heat isn’t expected to dip at night, so people who need help may not realize it until much later in the day. Assist those who are vulnerable or at higher risk, neighbors who are elderly, ill or may need help.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids but don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Keep outdoor pets safe in the heat, make sure they have protection from heat. Walk on grass instead of asphalt, which can burn your pet’s paws. Never leave any person or pet in a parked vehicle.
  • If you notice symptoms of heat illness (dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps), act immediately. Move to a cooler location to rest for a few minutes and seek medical attention immediately if you do not feel better. 
  • Follow water safety tips if you go swimming or boating. Remember that swimming in open water is very different from swimming in a pool and make sure to wear a life jacket that fits you.

Adding to this weekend’s safety concerns, people must take precaution when spending time outdoors. The Northwest Clean Air Agency is currently reporting “Unhealthy” air quality for Sensitive Groups for parts of Skagit County.

The following are health safety tips for periods of poor, or unhealthy, air quality:

  • Avoid outdoor physical activity.
  • Stay indoors and take steps to keep your indoor air as clean as possible.
    • Keep windows and doors closed.
    • Set air conditioners to re-circulate.
    • Don’t add to indoor pollution (avoid burning candles or incense, smoking, diffusing essential oils, broiling or frying foods, and vacuuming)
  • Consider leaving the area if the air quality remains poor and it is not possible to keep the air in your home clean.
  • It’s often hot when it’s smoky outside. Pay attention to heat and signs of overheating.
    • Use portable fans and close curtains or window shades during the day.
    • If you can’t keep cool and do have a way to filter the air in your home (see below), open windows when it’s coolest and run a portable HEPA or box fan filter to help clean the air.
    • If it’s still too hot, and you don’t have options to filter air, open windows to avoid heat exhaustion and other heat illnesses.

Read CDC’s list of frequently asked questions regarding extreme heat here.
For more smoke safety tips, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/wildfires/index.html