COVID-19 Testing: It’s Still Essential

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We are now at slightly over 65% of all eligible residents in Skagit County having received at least one vaccine dose. It is exciting to think of how far we’ve come in our vaccination journey since December of 2020. Even still, we have a long way to go before COVID-19 is no longer of concern. With the rapid spread of the Delta variant throughout Washington State and rising case counts and hospitalization rates this past month, we know that we are not yet in the clear.

In the latter half of July, Skagit County Public Health was seeing daily new case counts repeatedly in the tens and twenties; a high not seen since our last wave in April of 2021.This increase is likely due to multiple factors, including increased spread of the more contagious Delta variant, increased social gatherings and summer-time travel, and businesses reopening—all happening with fewer people wearing masks.

Skagit County COVID-19 case trends from the WA DOH dashboard. https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard

While the conversation has been primarily focused on vaccination of late, it is important to remember that getting tested for COVID-19 is a tool that we can, and should, use if/when exposed to COVID-19 or when traveling. So, let’s revisit the matter of testing…

Testing is essential.

Anyone with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested as early as possible regardless of vaccination status. With allergy season waning and flu season ramping up, it is no doubt that you’ll feel a tickle or two, or develop a cough at some point this fall. When you know you’ve been exposed; when you feel a little under the weather: Take precaution. GET TESTED!

Not sure if your sniffles warrant a COVID test or not? Use the Coronavirus Self-Checker here.

If you have been exposed to COVID-19.

Whether you have been vaccinated or not, if you’ve been around someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms.

You should continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days following an exposure, and if you develop symptoms, isolate immediately and consider re-testing. If your test is positive, you should isolate for 10 days.

For unvaccinated folks, it is important to note that quarantine guidelines have not changed. If you are unvaccinated and are exposed, along with getting tested, you will need to quarantine for 14 days—even if you do not have symptoms.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, get tested for COVID-19 at a testing location. For a full list of locations, go to: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Note: If you are in quarantine or isolation and you find yourself in need of assistance with getting supplies or food, call Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Testing and Travel

Some restrictions around travel have lifted recently, but it is important to remember that precautions must still be taken. After all, travel increases the chance of contracting and spreading COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend that folks limit travel if unvaccinated, and that all people, regardless of vaccination status, use extra precaution if they do travel.

Here are some important things to keep in mind when making travel plans within the United States:

  • Refrain from travel if not fully vaccinated. The CDC recommends that those who are not fully vaccinated delay their travel. If you must travel, follow safer travel options including a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. If you are traveling with children who cannot get vaccinated at this time, follow recommendations for unvaccinated people and choose safer travel options. 
  • Testing before travel. People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States. Unvaccinated individuals must plan to get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before their trip.
  • Check travel guidance before you go. While most states no longer require a test, travel restrictions vary by state based on vaccination status and are subject to change at any time. Check state and local guidance before you make concrete plans.
  • Wear a mask during travel. Masks are required indoors in travel hubs and on public transportation regardless of vaccination status. Follow all state and local recommendations and requirements for mask wearing and social distancing.
  • After-travel requirements for fully vaccinated. It is not required to get tested before or after you travel if you are fully vaccinated, but you should still follow all other travel recommendations, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, and get tested if you develop symptoms. During travel, if you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms, and wear a mask in indoor public settings until your test result is negative.
  • After-travel requirement for unvaccinated. Those who are unvaccinated must get a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. They should also isolate and monitor for symptoms for a full 14 days and seek repeat testing if symptoms develop. See CDC guidance for unvaccinated travelers.

For international travel:

Those who are traveling internationally should check requirements of their destination country as they may require a test prior to arrival even for vaccinated people. See CDC guidance and testing requirements for international travel.

Where to get tested.

Many doctor’s offices are offering COVID-19 testing to their patients. Contact your healthcare provider first to see if they offer COVID-19 testing. If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest tightness, consider going to an emergency department nearby.

For a list of testing locations in your area, go to: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.  

At-home tests are also now available for purchase. Check out the following links for at-home testing options:

What to bring with you when getting tested.

  • A photo ID with your date of birth. Testing is available regardless of your citizenship/immigration status.
  • Your insurance card if you have insurance. If you have private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid you must provide this information and the lab will bill them. You will not be charged for the test. You do not need to have insurance or a doctor’s note to schedule a test.
  • A well-fitted mask. As healthcare facilities, masks are required at all indoor and outdoor testing locations regardless of vaccination status.

How and when to get results.

  • Most results typically come by email, text, or through the provider’s chosen online portal. Check with your testing provider about how results will be sent.
  • Results are usually available within 48 hours, though it may take up to 72 hours.

If you test positive.

If you test positive, expect a call from Public Health. Our staff is still actively following up on all confirmed cases and will need to ask you some questions. If you receive the call, it is imperative that you pick up and help us with our contract tracing. Thank you!


Prepare Them for Fall; Prepare Them for Life

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Are your kids heading back to school? Whether your child is going to school in person or not, one of the most important things that you can do to prepare them for back-to-school is a visit with their doctor. For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed or pushed back routine doctor visits, including well-child visits and routine vaccinations. Now is the time to get back on track!

Since August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), we figured this would be the perfect time to remind Skagit County families to get caught up on all routine medical appointments! NIAM is an annual observance which highlights the importance of getting recommended vaccines throughout your life.

During NIAM, we encourage you to talk to your doctor or healthcare professional to ensure that you and your family are protected against serious diseases by getting caught up on routine check-ups and vaccinations.

So let’s get ready for back-to-school! Here’s a checklist to help them prepare for a healthy year…

Physical & mental health

During a well-child check, doctors will note a child’s growth and development, based on what’s typical or expected for their age, while also taking into account the child’s personal or family history.

And perhaps of equal importance—and especially so this year—a check-up with your child’s doctor provides a fantastic opportunity to check in on your kiddo’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Talk with your child’s doctor about mental health assessments and discuss any concerns that you may have. We all know that this past year and a half has been tough, so be sure to keep both the head and the heart in mind!

Visit here for more tips on well-child visits.

Vaccinations

One important aspect of the annual visit is to ensure a child’s immunizations are up to date. Vaccinations not only reduce the risk of serious illnesses but also save lives. And vaccinations aren’t only for babies or the very young. As children get older, they will continue to need additional immunizations and booster shots even through adulthood.

As your children head back to school this fall, it’s particularly important for you to work with your child’s doctor or nurse to make sure they get caught up on missed well-child visits and recommended vaccines. For childhood vaccine schedules, check out the links below:

Vaccine Schedule: Birth – 6 Years

Vaccine Schedule: 7 Years – 18 Years

One of the new vaccines this year is, of course, for COVID-19. Children ages 12 and older are now eligible for this vaccination, which will help protect them against the virus and reduce its spread in our communities. To learn more about COVID-19 vaccination, check out the following websites:

Adults: Remember to take care of yourself too! Make sure to receive any vaccines you need to stay healthy. Use CDC’s adult vaccine assessment tool to see which vaccines might be right for you.

Additional exams

In addition to having their overall physical and mental health checked, kids should also have the following special exams on a regular basis:

  • Hearing tests.
  • Vision exams.
  • Dental checkups.
  • For young girls who are going or have gone through puberty, chat with your provider about whether or when they should begin seeing a specialist.

More tips for a healthy year

Here are some more helpful tips to ensure your child is off to a good start this fall:

  • Ease into a fall bedtime schedule.  Good sleep is essential!
  • Know the safety tips for backpack use. Note the fit and keep the weight manageable.
  • Plan lunches and snacks.  Aim for well-balanced nourishing meals.
  • Reduce anxiety and manage stress.  Keep the lines of communication open to talk about what’s on your child’s mind.

Schedule your child’s visit

Now is a good time to call your healthcare provider to schedule a visit for yourself and your children. For those who do not have a healthcare provider or who may be struggling to access healthcare, there is help available.

Help Me Grow Skagit provides a wide range of resources designed to support you and your family. Go to their website or call/ text (360) 630-8352 to talk to a specialist or complete their contact form online.


Calling All Skagitonians! We Need Your Input!

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Every few years, the Population Health Trust is tasked with undergoing a Community Health Assessment (or “CHA”). Through this process, the Trust is able to identify our County’s areas of strength and weakness in regards to the health and wellbeing of our residents.

The CHA is based heavily on data. From this data we are able to better understand what is—and what is not—working for Skagitonians. We compile this data from standard data sources like you can find on SkagitTrends, and for more current data, we partner with community agencies who have strong anecdotal experiences that reflect community need. All this data provides weight and rationale for why the Trust chooses to focus on specific priorities.

But data alone does not drive this ship. The Trust relies on the input and feedback from community members throughout Skagit County.

In a typical CHA cycle, the Trust has collected and analyzed the data, then brought preliminary findings to the public for their thoughts. But this year, we’re doing it a bit differently.

To best serve and respond to the great needs of our constituents, the Trust decided to go to the public first. Based on these initial conversations, the Trust was able to determine the needs and desires most pressing to the public. We were able to learn directly from the people what a healthy, thriving—and recovered—Skagit would look like, and what we would need to do to achieve this outcome.

So now that we’ve taken this information and collected the data necessary to really dive deeply into these topics, the Trust is once again ready for public feedback!

If you are passionate about affecting change in your community; if you feel compelled to weigh in on the health and wellness of Skagit County; if you have creative solutions for difficult challenges: We want you!

Join the Population Health Trust to hear what key sector leaders and other community members have shared with us in a series of interviews and equity panel discussion…and then share your own experiences and perspectives!

Three dates and locations are available for your convenience:

  • Thursday, July 29 – Anacortes Public Library from 5:30-7:00
  • August 3 – Concrete Community Center from 5:30-7:00
  • August 12 – Burlington Senior Center from 12:00-1:30

A light meal will be served. Please wear your mask if unvaccinated.
RSVP is not required but appreciated! To RSVP, email Belen at belenm@co.skagit.wa.us.

Want more info? Email Kristen Ekstran at kekstran@co.skagit.wa.us or call (360) 416-1500.

Hope to see you at one of these events!


Mask Recommendation from Skagit County’s Health Officer

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July 26, 2021

The following is a statement from Dr. Howard Leibrand, Skagit’s Health Officer.

Earlier today, several of my colleagues issued a joint statement recommending masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. It is the goal of this recommendation to protect high-risk individuals and those who are not able to be vaccinated, including children under twelve years old.  

It is clear that masks protect individuals from COVID-19. It is never a bad idea to wear a mask in an indoor situation, particularly as we see the delta variant becoming more prominent in our communities.

With that said, I want to assure my community that vaccination is—and will continue to be—the absolute best tool we have to stop the spread of COVID-19. Local data shows that from March 1, 2021 to July 13, 2021 96% of all COVID cases were in unvaccinated individuals. This perfectly highlights the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.

It is true that the delta variant is particularly concerning. It is much more transmissible than the variants that have been circulating in our county prior to July.  Delta variant may cause more serious illness. If you are unvaccinated and not using precautions like masking and social distancing, you are at very high risk of becoming infected with delta variant and getting seriously ill in the coming days and weeks. Therefore, if you are unvaccinated, I highly recommend that you wear a mask in all crowded situations and continue to encourage your loved ones to do the same.

COVID-19 is likely going to be with us for a long time. Like many reportable diseases, there is no clear end to this health concern. I am encouraging everyone to use every tool available in their toolbelt to protect themselves. Masks will always be a great option, but getting vaccinated is most important.

In summation, the strongest recommendation that I can make as a health professional is this:

Get vaccinated today.


Dr. Leibrand has served as Skagit’s Health Officer since 1989. For more information on Skagit’s COVID-19 response, including upcoming vaccine clinics, visit www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine.


Overdose Prevention: Preparedness Saves Lives

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Overdose deaths accelerated in Washington State in 2020, increasing by 38% in the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2019. Preliminary data show 835 overdose deaths in Washington State in the first six months of 2020 compared to 607 deaths in the first half of 2019. Fentanyl-involved deaths more than doubled from 137 to 309 during that time. Most deaths involved multiple substances and many involved fentanyl. In Skagit County, a total of 143 nonfatal and 28 fatal overdoses were reported in 2020. Of those, 18 nonfatal and 10 fatal were related to fentanyl.

Substance use disorder is a disease that impacts many in our community. Overdose deaths are preventable with preparedness, education, and community care.

Illicit fentanyl is a synthetic or “man-made” opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than other opioids like morphine and heroin. In Washington state, fentanyl has been found in counterfeit pills made to look like prescription opioid pills, as well as in powders and black tar heroin. People may not be able to tell if fentanyl is present based on taste, smell, or the look of the drug. According to the WA Department of Health, people should assume that any drug not from a pharmacy could have fentanyl in it.

Everyone can play a role in saving lives in our community. If someone in your life is struggling with substance use disorder, learn the the signs of opioid overdose including; the inability to wake up; slow or no breathing; and blue, gray or ashy skin, lips or fingernails.

If you are struggling with substance use, do your best not to use alone and start slow using a tester amount to determine strength. If you must use alone, call 800-484-3731 (Never Use Alone) to ensure someone can help in the event of an overdose.

Skagit County also encourages those dealing with substance use disorders to carry at least two doses of Naloxone. Naloxone (also called Narcan®) is a safe and simple medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdose. If someone may be overdosing, call 9-1-1, give naloxone, and perform rescue breathing.

Naloxone can be administered nasally or intramuscularly. There are currently four types of naloxone available. For more information, visit SkagitRising.

Naloxone is easy to access in Washington State:

Under the statewide standing order, anyone can get naloxone at a pharmacy without seeing a doctor first.

Remember, the Good Samaritan Overdose law (RCW 69.50.315) says neither the victim nor people assisting with an overdose will be prosecuted for drug possession.

Help people struggling with opioid use disorder to find the right care and treatment. If you or a loved one want treatment or just want to learn more, see the Washington Recovery Helpline, or call 1-866-789-1511.

For information about what Skagit County is doing about the opioid and fentanyl crisis, for list of local treatment providers, or to learn how to use naloxone, go to www.skagitrising.org or call (360) 416-1500.


Disposing of Used Sharps in Skagit County

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Millions of people use needles, syringes, and other injection tools to self-administer healthcare treatments each year. People use sharps to manage a wide variety of conditions, including allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, psoriasis, and more.

If someone doesn’t have immediate access to an FDA-cleared container, it can be unclear how to dispose of used sharps. Disposal rules can vary by situation and location, which may lead to sharps being disposed of loosely—and improperly—in the trash.  Adding to possible confusion, disposal options are different for businesses and household-generated sharps waste.

For HOUSEHOLD-generated Sharps

An example of an FDA-cleared Sharps Container. For information about Sharps Disposal Containers, check out the FDA webpage.

The best way to dispose of sharps is by using a mail-order, FDA-cleared sharps container. When purchasing this type of container, people can mail back their full containers to the mail-order service that the container was purchased from.

It is important to note that FDA-cleared containers can be purchased from local and chain pharmacies; however, these containers may or may not come with instructions on how to mail them back. And unfortunately, FDA-cleared sharps containers cannot be disposed of with regular household garbage. If you have purchased an FDA-cleared sharps container and are unsure of how to dispose of it, ask your pharmacy or doctor’s office if they will accept your sharps container. You can also look for a disposal site by going to https://safeneedledisposal.org/.

If you cannot purchase an FDA-cleared mail-order sharps waste container in store or online, Skagitonians have another option for disposing of household generated sharps.

In Skagit County, people can dispose of household generated sharps—including used syringes, needles, and lancets—in a correctly labeled container in their household garbage. Follow the steps below to ensure that all used sharps are disposed of safely and properly.

Step 1: Store

Used sharps should be placed in an opaque, hard plastic or metal container with a screw-on or secured lid. An empty bleach or detergent bottle works well! Do not use glass or thin plastic.

Step 2: Seal

When ¾ full (don’t overfill!), screw the lid on tightly and seal around the lid with duct tape or plastic tape.

Step 3: Sticker

Label the container with a special Skagit County Public Health label “Warning: Syringes. Do NOT Recycle.” printed on bright orange or red colored paper. Tape the label securely to the container with clear plastic tape. Labels can be downloaded from the Environmental Health webpage here. You can also request labels from our office by calling (360) 416-1500.

Skagit County Public Health’s approved warning label.

Step 4: Dispose

Dispose of the container with your regular household trash. Do NOT recycle.

Gloves, soiled bandages, and other items should be places in securely fastened plastic bags and disposed of with your regular trash.

For BUSINESS-Generated Sharps

Business are not allowed to dispose of biohazardous sharps with regular solid waste. Businesses are required to dispose of their collected biohazardous sharps via a licensed biomedical waste handler. On-site pick up services and mail order services are available. Businesses can contact Stericycle or Waste Management – Health Care to schedule services.

What about disposing of my unwanted medications in my home?

If you have unwanted, unused, or expired medication, Skagit County residents can safely dispose of these items for free by taking them to secure drop boxes, ordering free mail-back envelopes and/or picking up mail-back envelopes from convenient mailer distribution locations throughout Skagit County.

To find updated information on drop box locations, request mailers, and find mailer distribution locations go to MED-Project.

For more information about Skagit County’s Secure Medicine Return program, visit our webpage at https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/Health/medicinereturn.htm.

For questions, please contact Skagit County Public Health by calling (360) 416-1500.


Confirmed Cases of Delta Variant in Skagit County: What You Need to Know

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July 15, 2021

Two COVID-19 cases attributed to the delta variant have been identified in Skagit County so far, though it can be assumed that the variant has spread more widely given that sequencing is not done on all tests.

The delta variant has been credited for dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases in other parts of the country and globally due to its increased transmissibility (meaning it spreads more easily). As of June 19, the CDC estimated the delta variant accounted for more than 30% of COVID-19 cases in the US. Two weeks earlier, 10% of cases were attributed to the delta variant.

In Washington, the delta variant accounts for about 28% of sequenced cases – that’s up from about 12% the prior two-week period. Not all cases are sequenced in Washington, so that may not represent the actual statewide proportion of cases due to the delta variant.

“While Skagit County continues to see a downward trend in new COVID-19 cases, it is vital that people continue to use precautions. The detection of these COVID-19 variants in our state proves that this pandemic isn’t over just yet.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

New variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.

The good news is the COVID-19 vaccines are providing protection against the delta variant, particularly against severe illness leading to hospitalization and death. Some precautions to take to decrease the spread of the delta variant—and all currently known COVID-19 variants include:

  • Getting vaccinated as soon as possible if 12 years of age or older! Recent Skagit County data shows that 96% of cases since March 1, 2021 were in unvaccinated individuals. The data tells us that the vaccines work!
    • Note: Vaccination is recommended even for individuals who have already had COVID-19, as experts do not yet know how long people are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.
  • If you are not yet vaccinated:
    • Wearing a well-made, well-fitting face mask, even with people you see regularly and in your smallest social circles.
    • Keeping gatherings outside whenever possible.
    • Avoiding any social gatherings indoors, but if participating, wearing a mask and ensuring windows and doors are open to maximize ventilation.
  • For all individuals, staying home if you are sick or if you have been exposed to COVID-19. WA Department of Health data shows that 81% of those vaccinated who experience a breakthrough case are symptomatic. If you feel sick—get tested!
  • Getting tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive.

If you are not yet vaccinated, it’s not too late! Visit your nearby pharmacy or medical clinic to get vaccinated against COVID-19; many locations now offer walk-up appointments! You can also call our vaccine hotline at (360) 416-1500 or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX) to find locations near you with vaccine available.

You can see the state Department of Health’s variant report, updated every Wednesday, here: https://bit.ly/3ehLzo7


Meet the Population Health Trust, Part two

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Now that Washington State has reopened and our vaccination numbers continue to climb, we will begin to see many changes here in Skagit County. For our businesses, schools, and community organizations, these changes are both exciting and (maybe) a bit overwhelming.

The Skagit Valley Family YMCA experienced the great highs and great lows of the pandemic. Its staff answered the call to action when COVID-19 drive-through testing was in dire need, and again when mass vaccinations began in Skagit County at the Fairgrounds. The YMCA itself closed, then opened partially; ebbing and flowing with the changing tides of the pandemic. Staff had to adapt, modify, and innovate on a dime in order to continue serving local individuals and families. Now that the economy is reopen, staff will once again need to evaluate what this change means for their organization.

To continue introducing Population Health Trust members, we thought that now would be a perfect time to highlight the CEO of the Skagit Valley YMCA, Dean Snider. Dean has been a member of the Trust since January of 2020, right before the pandemic hit. We asked him some questions about COVID, the Trust, and the joint mission of these two entities: Building a better and healthier community. Here is what Dean had to say.

Which agency or organization do you represent on the Trust?

I represent the Skagit Valley Family YMCA. Our Y has served the people of Skagit since 1911 with ‘Building Community’ as our Cause. We support vulnerable youth populations at Oasis and provide water safety education and swimming proficiency for countless youth. In addition, we support families with subsidized licensed and educational childcare throughout the county, and our Hoag Road and Bakerview facilities support healthy living across many programs.

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

I think the most important role of the Y is to protect and preserve health for the most vulnerable of our community’s populations. We engage Skagitonians from the earliest years of life to seniors. One of the greatest observed needs in our community, as we emerge from the pandemic, is for services supporting mental health. 

The Skagit Y is exploring how we might be able to step into this gap and offer these much-needed services. With the Oasis Teen Shelter as our launching pad, we hope to build a Y clinical mental health service that is additive to our current Skagit offerings and will begin by serving vulnerable youth. We are currently reaching out to key stakeholders in the community to seek guidance and more fully understand the need as we move forward with our preparations. We welcome all thoughts and feedback.

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

The pandemic hit our Y hard. The forced closureof our Hoag Road and Bakerview facilities resulted in about 75% loss in our membership; an understandable savings for families experiencing uncertain financial times. We are welcoming members back now as the restrictions have been lifted, and we are growing back our staff. We have, however, a long way to go toward recovery.

Dean Snider, CEO, Skagit Valley Family YMCA

During the pandemic and in partnership with Community Action, we used the Hoag facility to provide showers for homeless adults and, together with the Burlington Edison School District, provide school-age childcare for essential and emergency workers early in the pandemic.

Last fall, our school-age programs partnered with MVSD, B-ESD, and ASD to provide all-day classrooms and care and assistance in the virtual learning environment. We were able to add our sports program staff to provide much-needed physical activity for students early in 2021. I am proud of our childcare team, who endured this difficult year with courage and grace as they served families under these difficult circumstances. I am also proud that we were able to partner with Children of the Valley to support two additional classrooms housed at their site in Mount Vernon. Additionally, our Early Learning Centers remained open, focusing on essential workers altering class sizes, safety, and cleaning protocols to keep children and families safe.

At Oasis, we continued to serve vulnerable youth throughout the pandemic, which was only made possible through community and individual contributions to support our emergency shelter, outreach, and drop-in center. We continue to seek financial assisdtance as we protect these young people.

Why is the Population Health Trust important?

The impact of the collective is far greater than any single entity can accomplish on its own. The Trust is this collective in Skagit with entities and organizations committed togerther to build a better and healthier community. 

The Trust is essential, and we at the Y are honored to participate together with our Trust colleagues to impact our community. The mission of the Skagit Y is to create positive community change through relationships by empowering the mind, body, and spirit of ALL. Partnering with the Trust is in perfect alignment with this mission.

For more information about the Skagit Valley Family YMCA, visit their website or call (360) 336-9622.


Shellfish Harvesting & Consumption: What You Know To Know

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With the upcoming warm weather and low tides, you might be venturing out to harvest shellfish from one of Skagit County’s many beaches. With the help of a diligent group of volunteer harvesters, Skagit County Public Health routinely monitors samples of clams, oysters and mussels for the toxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP), and Diarrhetic Shellfish Poison (DSP). 

Consuming shellfish with elevated levels of these marine biotoxins can cause serious illness or death. What begins as a tingling sensation in the lips and tongue can progress to a life-threatening paralysis of the respiratory system. 

Skagit County Public Health works with the Washington State Department of Health to issue beach closures when toxin levels become elevated. Before harvesting shellfish, always check for current beach closures posted on the Shellfish Safety Map or the Marine Biotoxin Bulletin, or call the Marine Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632.

Samish Bay Seasonal Vibrio Advisory

The Department of Health has updated the Shellfish Safety map to reflect the seasonal vibrio bacteria advisory for recreational shellfish harvesting in Samish Bay from May 1- September 30, 2021. Vibrio is a bacteria naturally found in marine coastal waters, normally present in low numbers. When the weather warms up, these bacteria multiply rapidly so shellfish are more likely to be contaminated in the summer.

Tips for Safe Shellfish Consumption

There are a variety of other bacterial and viral illnesses caused by consuming contaminated shellfish. Proper cooking of shellfish before eating is always advised. Eat only well-cooked shellfish, especially during summer months. Do not consider shellfish to be fully cooked when the shells first open; shellfish need to cook for longer and must reach 145° F to be safe to eat. Click the link for more information on how to handle, store, and cook shellfish.

Safe Harvesting

  • Just before you leave, check for closures and advisories due to vibrio, biotoxins, and pollution at on the Shellfish Safety Map, by contacting Skagit County Public Health (360-416-1500), or by calling the Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632.
  • Harvest shellfish as soon as possible with the receding tide.
  • Don’t harvest shellfish that have been exposed to the sun for more than one hour.
  • Keep shellfish on ice immediately after harvesting.
  • Thoroughly cook shellfish. The internal temperature must reach 145 °F for at least 15 seconds. Cooking shellfish thoroughly destroys vibrio bacteria; however, cooking does not destroy biotoxins.
  • If you need a refresher, here is a guide on shellfish identification.
  • More shellfish safety tips.

For questions about shellfish at beaches in Skagit County, please email Samantha Russell at srussell@co.skagit.wa.us or call 360-416-1500.


Get SMOKE READY this Wildfire Season

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Thankfully, we haven’t seen much smoke in Washington skies yet this year. Unfortunately though, we know that all it takes is one spark. Today—June 14th—marks the beginning of Smoke Ready Week, so let’s use this time to get prepared!

Like last year, there continues to be heightened concerns around the health impacts of breathing in wildfire smoke, and how this can worsen symptoms for those with COVID-19—or who may be at increased risk of contracting the virus. How we protect ourselves from wildfire smoke now is different than during other years when COVID-19 wasn’t a factor. Especially for those who are unvaccinated, it may be more difficult to go to public spaces where the air is cleaner and cooler than private homes may be. N95 respirator supplies continue to be somewhat limited, however not nearly as limited as last year. And we now all know from experience that cloth face coverings don’t provide much protection from wildfire smoke!-

So before we dive in, let’s discuss why getting Smoke Ready is important.

How can wildfire smoke harm your health?

Smoke is made up of gasses and microscopic particles. When inhaled, these particles bypass our bodies’ normal defenses, traveling deep into the lungs and even entering the bloodstream. Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including the following:

  • Coughing     
  • Trouble breathing      
  • Stinging eyes     
  • Scratchy throat
  • Runny nose  
  • Irritated sinuses        
  • Wheezing         
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches   
  • Asthma attack           
  • Tiredness         
  • Fast heartbeat

Who is at most risk from wildfire smoke?

Inhaling wildfire smoke can be harmful to anyone, but it is especially harmful to these vulnerable groups: people with heart and lung disease, people with chronic respiratory conditions, infants and children, pregnant women and adults 65 and over. People in these high-risk groups should reach out to their healthcare provider to discuss specific ways to be prepared against wildfire smoke.

So, are you #SmokeReady? Here are 10 tips to help you prepare:

1. Plan ahead with your doctor.

If you or a family member has asthma, or suffers from heart or lung disease, have a plan to manage your condition. Children, pregnant women, and people over age 65 are especially at risk during smoke events. Learn more.

2. Get HEPA filters, recirculate your AC, and share space if able.

Use a HEPA filter in your home’s central air system or your air conditioner unit or air purifier. Learn how to turn your AC to “recirculate” in both your home and your car.

If purchasing a portable room air cleaner isn’t in your current budget, there are DIY instructions for building a “box fan filter.” These are fairly simple to assemble and cost around $50. View a tutorial to create a box fan filter.

For those who are vaccinated, you can also check with your neighbors—something we couldn’t do last year! If you or your neighbor doesn’t have good air filtration or air conditioning at home, arrange to share spaces with those who do.

3. Employers, plan ahead with your employees
.

Have a plan in place for employees who work outdoors. Consider alternate work assignments or relocation to reduce employee exposure to smoke. For staff that work indoors, ensure your air filtration system is protective for smoke. Prepare for employees to face childcare closures, home emergencies, etc. Check with Washington Labor & Industries for guidance

4. Have a Plan B for outdoor events.

Have a contingency plan prepared in case you need to cancel or reschedule. If you have children in summer camps or childcare, ask the organizers about their smoke plan. If the only viable plan B appears to be moving the event indoors, be sure to check with Skagit County Public Health before proceeding with plans. Visit the website or call (360) 416-1500.

5. Information about respirator masks.

If you have to be outdoors for extended periods of time, consider a N95 or N100 respirator. Thankfully, N95s are now a little easier to find in 2021 than last year, but the Washington Department of Health is still encouraging people to look at other options before getting a respirator.

If you do purchase a respirator mask, keep in mind that it can be difficult to find a mask that fits correctly. Test the fit and comfort of your mask before you need it. Learn more.

6. Stock up.

Stock up safely and responsibly. Have several days of water, groceries, and family needs on hand so you don’t have to go out when it’s smoky. Learn how to prepare.

7. Don’t forget your pets!

If the air quality is forecasted to be poor while you’re away from home, plan ahead to keep your pets inside or with a caregiver. Learn more.

8. Learn the air quality index numbers and colors.

During periods of poor air quality, watch for air quality alerts, pay attention to numbers and colors of air quality monitors, and know when to limit your time outdoors.

9. Make sure to get alerts.

Sign up to receive air quality email alerts for your zip code. Also, bookmark or subscribe to this blog for statewide air quality and wildfire updates.

Wildfire season doesn’t need to slow you and your family down, but proper planning is a must! Keep up to date by following the Washington Smoke Information blog. Learn more about being Smoke Ready at EPA’s Smoke-Ready Toolbox for Wildfires and Washington Department of Health’s Smoke From Wildfires Toolkit.