Getting There: Traveling to your Vaccine Appointment

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Vaccine roll-out has been slow over the past two months due to limited supply. Now that we will begin to see more supply arrive in Skagit County, more appointments will be available to those who are eligible. At present, only those who qualify under Phases 1a and 1b-Tier 1 are eligible; however, in the coming days, Public Health expects the State to move to the next phase.

Skagit County Public Health and our partner providers in the County have been working with local transportation providers to work through issues around accessibility. As eligibility widens and more people are able to make an appointment, providers must be able to respond to the needs of our diverse population.

Fairgrounds Clinic Layout

The Vaccine Clinic at the Skagit County Fairgrounds uses a walk-in clinic for first doses. This means that individuals will park their vehicle and enter the clinic on foot. For those with mobility issues, disabled parking is available next to the clinic entrance.

Those who arrive for a second dose at the Fairgrounds will be ushered through our drive-through clinic. Here, people will be able to receive their vaccine without leaving their vehicle. To date, this is the only drive-through vaccine clinic available in Skagit County.

For both first-dose and second-dose appointments, visitors will be required to wait 15 minutes post-vaccination for observation. It is important to keep this in mind when planning for transportation. Appointments can vary in length; it can take between 30-60 minutes from start to finish.

Foot Traffic versus Walk-ups

While there are no walk-ups permitted at the Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic (meaning only those with an appointment will be permitted), the site does allow for individuals who arrive on foot. Because of this, people can absolutely use public transportation to get to and from the Fairgrounds Clinic. This applies to those arriving for both first-dose and second-dose appointments.

For information about how to schedule an appointment at the Skagit Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic, visit: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.

Transportation Assistance Options

For those who need transportation assistance to the Fairgrounds Clinic (or other vaccine provider locations in Skagit County), you have some options:

1. Fixed Route Services through Skagit Transit

Those using the Fixed Route service may access any route—at no cost—by showing proof of a vaccine appointment. Since there are numerous vaccination sites in Skagit County, the driver will ask which location the person is trying to get to.

If traveling to the Fairgrounds Clinic, take Route 202 from Skagit Station and exit at South 2nd Street and Hazel Road. A short walk will get you to the site entrance at 1410 Virginia Street in Mount Vernon. Here, people will check in with staff at the front entrance and will be directed to Registration.

Any person who is unfamiliar with the Fixed Route service and/or bus stop locations should contact Skagit Transit’s Dispatch Center at (360) 757-4433 for assistance on where to catch the bus and/or which routes to take to their destinations. You can also use Skagit Transit’s online trip planner here: https://www.skagittransit.org/trip-planner/.

2. Paratransit Services through Skagit Transit

Those who cannot use the Fixed Route service can use paratransit services. If you respond “NO” to any of the following questions, you may qualify for the Paratransit service.

  • Are you able to get on or off a bus?
  • Are you able to get to or from the nearest bus stop?
  • Are you able to wait (standing) at a bus stop for 5 to 10 minutes?
  • Are you able to ride or to understand instructions on how to ride the bus?

To access this service, riders must call the Dispatch Center at (360) 757-4433 and speak to a Scheduler, who will work with them to find the best possible pickup location and arrange the pickup times. Since Paratransit is a reservation-based service, a minimum of 24-hour advanced notice is required. Riders must be prepared to show the driver proof of a vaccine appointment in lieu of bus fare.

If using the Paratransit service, please keep in mind that the Paratransit driver will most likely not be able to wait the full length of your vaccine appointment. As noted above, it can take 30-60 minutes for an appointment depending on wait-times. When scheduling your ride, be sure to let the scheduler know that you are going to a vaccine appointment and that there will be a wait.

Those arriving by paratransit (or any other service like a cab or Uber) will be dropped off at Registration and will be processed similar to someone who has arrived on foot. Please plan to schedule a pick up at the site following the 15-minute post-vaccine observation period. For those with mobility issues, staff will assist getting individuals to and from the Site entrance.

For more information about Paratransit Services, visit https://www.skagittransit.org/additional-services/dial-a-ride/.

3. Medicaid Transportation

Those who are eligible for Medicaid and have a Medicaid Provider One Identification Card (medical coupon) may be eligible for transportation assistance to a Skagit County vaccine provider location. People must call two days in advance to schedule a trip; call (360) 738-4554 to reserve a ride.

When reserving a Medicaid transport, be sure to let the scheduler know that you are going to a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, and that it may take 30-60 minutes. Your driver may be able to wait on site, or a pick-up will be scheduled. In this case, please let the Vaccine Clinic staff know about your arrangement, and staff can work to accommodate your specific needs. 

Carpooling to the Fairgrounds Site

We realize that it might make sense to carpool with a friend or co-worker if you both have an appointment on the same day. However, for safety reasons, it is still recommended that only those within the same household ride together in a vehicle.

If you do plan to come to the site with someone else, please try to limit to two people per vehicle. This allows for staff to process vehicles more efficiently than if there are multiple people getting a vaccine in a vehicle. Remember: Only those with an appointment will be permitted into the clinic unless assistance is required.

If you have any questions about the information above, contact the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500 or visit our webpage at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.


COVID-19 Testing Site at the Skagit County Fairgrounds to close permanently after Saturday, March 13

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February 10, 2021

Today, Skagit County Public Health announced that the final day of testing at the Fairgrounds drive-through testing site will be Saturday, March 13, 2021. Further, on February 23rd, testing will be operating on reduced hours from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Skagit County Public Health will continue to utilize the Fairgrounds location for COVID-19 vaccinations only. Other testing providers are available in Skagit County.

Many doctor’s offices are now offering COVID-19 testing to their patients. Contact your healthcare provider first to see if they offer COVID-19 testing. Those seeking other testing options can also find a list of providers here: www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirusTESTsites.htm.

Public Health has tested over 43,000 individuals since the Testing Site first opened at Skagit Valley College in April 2020. In November of 2020, the Testing Site moved to the Skagit County Fairgrounds.

“It is time for Public Health to shift focus and resources to vaccine roll-out,” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director. There are many more testing options available to those in Skagit County compared to when we first opened, and this has allowed Public Health to move in this new direction. It is our goal at Public Health to be responsive to the current needs of our community and we are excited to be able to focus on our mass vaccination location at the Fairgrounds.”

When vaccine supply allows, the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at the Fairgrounds location operates by appointment only. Eligible individuals can make appointments online at https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/ when supply is available. Skagit County is currently vaccinating Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1 individuals. Visit www.findyourphasewa.org to determine if you’re eligible.

For more information, visit Public Health’s website: www.skagitcounty.net. For COVID-19 vaccine questions, please visit www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500.  

 


Why Do Baby Teeth Matter?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Saying that new parents are mentally and emotionally overwhelmed is an understatement! Between nighttime feeding, colic, breast or bottle feeding, and sleep training, it is amazing that new moms and dads are capable of handling anything else during the first year!

It is easy to forget all the little details when life is changing so quickly; one of those things that gets forgotten may be your baby’s dental health. Whether your baby pops a few cute teeth right away or rocks a gummy grin for months, it is important to always keep dental—and gum—health in mind!

Those little chompers are doing more than just gnawing on baby teethers and bars of their crib. It may not be obvious why baby teeth are so important, especially since children lose them eventually anyway. But the reality is that these little teeth, and the behaviors that children develop in order to keep them clean, are vitally important to their long-term dental health. Baby teeth can actually impact the health and wellbeing of incoming adult teeth!

Here are some things to consider when thinking about your child’s baby teeth:

Tooth alignment and position

Baby teeth (or “primary teeth”) save space for adult teeth and help to guide the adult teeth into their proper position. So long as the teeth and gums remain healthy (and there are no serious accidents!), these primary teeth stay in place up until the adult teeth underneath are ready to erupt through the gums. 

If a baby tooth is lost early due to tooth decay, the adjacent teeth may drift or tip into that gap. The adult (or “permanent tooth”) then has less room to come in properly.

Speech and facial development

Everything in the mouth plays a part when it comes to forming sounds, including your tongue, cheeks, and teeth. The presence and positioning of baby teeth can impact your baby’s ability to form words correctly.

Tooth structure also provides support for the developing facial muscles and gives shape to your child’s face. A healthy mouth is a happy face! And who doesn’t love a cute little baby face?!

Healthy adult teeth

Permanent teeth develop under the gums, very close to the roots of baby teeth. Cavities can spread very quickly through the thin enamel of baby teeth and can be detrimental to the health of the adult teeth below. If cavities are left untreated, baby teeth can become infected, which can, in turn, cause further damage to the permanent tooth underneath.

Health and nutrition

If your baby is experiencing pain when they chew due to dental infection, this can lead to feeding issues. Nothing is worse than a cranky baby who won’t eat—especially since many times they cannot express why they are upset. Left unchecked, it can even result in nutritional deficiencies. Furthermore, if an infection spreads, it can impact other parts of the body.

Self-esteem and concentration

While your baby or young child may not care how goofy they look, eventually, their appearance will matter. Decayed or missing teeth can impact a child’s confidence, leading to low self-esteem and behavioral issues.

Dental health can also impact your child’s ability to concentrate. If a child is having dental pain, it can get in the way of them paying attention and learning in school. If emergency dental work is needed, this could mean missed school (and work for parents).

So, what should parents do?

It is recommended that parents schedule a dental checkup within 6 months of a child’s first tooth appearing and definitely by age one (regardless of how many teeth the child may have at this point). Why so early? As soon as teeth break through the gums, he or she can develop cavities.

Getting your child used to visiting the dentist from an early age is also a great way to begin developing a healthy relationship between your child and their dentist. It can be intimidating for a child to sit in a dentist chair and have a stranger looking around in their mouth! Parents can do a lot to help to dissipate any fears their young child may have.

Remember to get your child into the dentist at least once a year, if not twice! Routine dental checkups are important in order to prevent cavities and other oral health issues. These appointments also give parents the opportunity to learn more about healthy oral practices that they can encourage at home. 

Looking for resources?

Families with children ages five and younger can call Skagit County’s ABCD program at (360) 416-1500 for help finding dental care for their children. For families who quality, some benefits of the program include:

  • An initial dental exam
  • Two dental exams per year (6 months apart)
  • Three fluoride varnish applications per year
  • Two parent education sessions per child per year
  • Fillings and other dental work (as needed)  

For more information about the ABCD program, visit our webpage at: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthFamily/dental.htm.


Una Guía para el Programador de Vacunas En Línea del Condado de Skagit

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Como muchos han oído, Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit lanzó recientemente una herramienta en línea para programar la vacuna COVID-19. Esta nueva herramienta en línea aumentará una gran medida en nuestra capacidad para registrar personas a medida que el suministro de vacunas esté disponible y a medida que se agregan más fechas de clínicas. Anticipamos que el portal en línea mejora el proceso de registro para las personas durante las próximas semanas.

Hemos escuchado de algunas personas que llaman a nuestra Línea Directa de Vacunas que la herramienta en línea (llamado “PrepMod”) es un poco intimidante para aquellos que están menos familiarizados con las herramientas de programación en línea. Es nuestro objetivo de disminuir las barreras para programar para una vacuna, y queremos hacer todo lo que esté a nuestro poder para continuar haciendo que las vacunas estén ampliamente disponibles para nuestra comunidad.

A medida que más vacunas estén disponibles, Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit podrá proporcionar más fechas de clínicas a través del programador en línea PrepMod. Nos comunicaremos en nuestro sitio web en www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine y en nuestra página de Facebook cuando se agreguen nuevas fechas de las clínicas.

Entonces, aquí va — una guía para el proceso de registro en línea del Condado de Skagit:

1. Familiarícese con el sistema … ¡antes de registrarse!

Mientras que las personas pueden llamar absolutamente en nuestra Línea de Vacunas para obtener ayuda con el registro para una cita, queremos animar a aquellos que pueden registrarse en línea a través de PrepMod.

Hay dos razones para esto: (1) Nuestra línea directa ha estado experimentado un volumen de llamadas extremadamente alto. Aunque hemos extendido nuestro horario y hemos aumentado el personal, todavía hay la posibilidad de que alguien tenga dificultades para comunicarse con personal; y (2) Registrarse en línea tomará entre 10 y 15 minutos (dependiendo de qué tan experto en tecnología sea). Para cuando alguien se comunique con nuestro centro de llamadas, es posible que ya se hayan realizado todas las citas para vacunas.

Por estas razones, animamos a las personas que puedan estar preocupados por su capacidad para utilizar el programador en línea para encontrar una “Buddy de Programación”. La herramienta en línea permite que las personas se registren en nombre de otra persona mediante un apoderado — ¡Solo pedimos que las personas se aseguren de registrar toda la información correctamente al hacerlo!

Y si necesita aclaraciones sobre cualquiera de las siguientes instrucciones, por favor comuníquese con nuestra Línea Directa de Vacunas antes de que planee registrarse para que el personal pueda guiarlo a través del sistema. La Línea Directa ahora está disponible de lunes a sábado de 8:00 a.m. a 5 p.m. al (360) 416-1500.

2. Verificar elegibilidad

Antes de intentar programar una cita en la Clínica del Recinto Ferial del Condado de Skagit, asegúrese de verificar su elegibilidad para la vacuna. Visite www.findyourphasewa.org para hacerlo. Usted tendrá que registrar información personal como ubicación, edad, tipo de ocupación, situación de vida y algunos antecedentes médicos. Su elegibilidad se basa en la información que proporcione.

3. Visite PrepMod para programar en línea

Si en este momento es elegible para una vacuna, ir a https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/ para comenzar a programar su cita.

Haga clic en “Buscar una Clínica de Vacunación” y marque “Vacunación COVID-19” bajo el tipo de servicio en la página siguiente. Puede buscar una clínica registrando su dirección, buscar una clínica específica o buscar por fecha.

La Clínica de Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit está ubicada en el Recinto Ferial del Condado de Skagit y aparecerá como “Skagit County Public Health- Fairgrounds”.

4. Elegir un lugar y la fecha

Las fechas de las clínicas de vacunas se basan en nuestro suministro actual de vacunas. Si busca bajo de “Skagit County Public Health- Fairgrounds” y no hay un botón azul que dice “Regístrese para una vacuna COVID-19,” esto significa que todos los espacios de la clínica están llenos. También puede revisar bajo de “Citas Disponibles” para ver cuántas citas quedan para esa fecha específica de la clínica (ver un ejemplo a continuación).

Encontrarás ubicaciones enumeradas por fecha (la imagen de abajo muestra el 29/01/2021). Encuentre la fecha que le convenga, verifique que haya – de hecho – la disponibilidad y continúe.

Tenga en cuenta: Es posible que durante el tiempo que tarde alguien en registrar información en el sistema, los espacios disponibles sean tomados por otros usuarios. Sabemos que esto puede ser extremadamente frustrante, pero desafortunadamente así es como funciona la programación en línea. Las clínicas de vacunas se han llenado muy rápidamente debido a la alta demanda en las últimas semanas. Por favor, no se desanime si no reservar una cita la primera vez que lo intente. Habrá muchas más oportunidades para programar una cita durante las próximas semanas.

5. Información personal

Por favor, registre la información de la persona que busca una cita, incluyendo el número de teléfono, domicilio postal y correo electrónico. Es crucial que esta información se registre correctamente. El registro de PrepMod DEBE estar completo para cada persona que se registra. NO ingrese dos nombres en un registro o corre el riesgo de no recibir la vacuna.

6. Información sobre seguros médicos

Esta página puede parecer incontenible, ¡pero no se preocupe! La herramienta de programación le pedirá información básica sobre si está asegurado o no, pero nosotros no recogemos ninguna información detallada del seguro, ya que no cobramos ninguna tarifa de administración en nuestro sitio de vacunación.

7. Historia médica

Si está programando una cita para otra persona, será ventajoso registrarse mientras hablando por teléfono con ellos. Se le hará unas series corto de preguntas médicas, así que por favor esté preparado para responder a estos. Las preguntas incluyen cosas como enfermedades crónicas y reacciones previas a las vacunas. Es muy importante que estas preguntas se respondan con honestidad para evitar problemas cuando la persona llegue al Recinto Ferial para su cita.

8. Dar consentimiento

En esta página, se pedirá a las personas que proporcionen una firma que permite el consentimiento para la vacunación.  Al firmar esta forma, usted está dando permiso para que se administre una vacuna y se documente en un registro de la vacuna en una base de datos para monitorear el control de COVID-19. Además, usted está de acuerdo de que la información proporcionada es correcta y que entiende los riesgos y beneficios de recibir la vacuna.

Aquí, un apoderado puede firmar por otra persona, y puede indicar su relación con el paciente. Se le pedirá para proporcionar una firma moviendo el cursor como una pluma (vea a continuación un ejemplo). Como puede ver, la firma no necesita ser perfecta.


Por favor firme su nombre aquí con un dedo o un ratón de computadora.

9. Revisar, elegir una hora y enviar

Tendrá la oportunidad de revisar su información. Si algo no es correcto, puede corregirlo haciendo clic en el botón “ATRÁS”. Tenga en cuenta: !A medida que avanza en las páginas, su información será guardará! No perderá la información registrada si usa el botón “ATRÁS” en la parte inferior de la página.

Finalmente, se le pedirá que elija una hora para la cita; ya habría elegido la fecha en la que comenzó a registrar su información.

Tenga en cuenta: Aquí es donde puede ocurrir la frustración. Es posible que pueda llegar hasta esta página antes de descubrir que no hay citas disponibles. ¡Como se ha mencionado más arriba, por favor no se desanime! Habrá otras oportunidades para programar una cita. También puede visitar www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization/VaccineLocations para ver si hay otras citas disponibilidad con otro proveedor de vacunas.

Sabrá que ha concertado una cita con éxito cuando reciba una confirmación por correo electrónico de Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit. No podemos mantener listas de espera para las clínicas, incluso si PrepMod le ofrece esta opción. Si programa una cita con el Departamento de Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit, se compromete a cumplir con esa cita. NO programe citas con varias clínicas. Si tiene una cita confirmada con nuestra clínica, debe retirarse de las listas de espera de otras clínicas.

Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit reconoce que esta herramienta de programación en línea no puede satisfacer las necesidades de todos, y entendemos que la gente está esperando ansiosamente la oportunidad de vacunarse. Llevará varias semanas para superar nuestra fase de vacuna actual (Fase 1b-Nivel 1), y pedimos que la gente tenga paciencia mientras esperamos que el Estado proporcione más vacunas. Llegará un momento en el futuro en el que las vacunas estarán mucho más disponibles. Tomará un poco de tiempo y esperamos que sea necesario realizar ajustes a lo largo del camino.

Para obtener más información sobre el lanzamiento de la vacuna del condado de Skagit, visite www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.


COVID-19 Vaccine Scams & What You Can Do About Them

Reading Time: 2 minutes

These are very exciting times as we begin to see vaccine administered across the country. It is also the perfect time for scammers to take advantage of individuals who may be feeling particularly vulnerable after months of COVID-19-related anxiety or fatigue.

Right before the holidays, a warning was sent out to the American public about several emerging fraud schemes related to COVID-19 vaccines. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have received complaints of scammers using the public’s interest in COVID-19 vaccines to obtain personally identifiable information and money through various schemes.

So how can you keep yourself and your loved ones safe from scammers? The FBI has provided a helpful list of things to look out for as you are navigating the vaccination process.

What should you look out for?

Any of the following could be an indicator of potential fraud:

  • Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee.
  • Requests to pay out of pocket to obtain the vaccine or to put your name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list.
  • Offers to undergo additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining a vaccine.
  • Marketers offering to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine, domestically or internationally, in exchange for payment of a deposit or fee.
  • Unsolicited emails, telephone calls or personal contact from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company or COVID-19 vaccine center and requesting personal and/or medical information to determine eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine.
  • Claims of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a vaccine that cannot be verified.
  • Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, emails, telephone calls, online or from unsolicited/unknown sources.
  • Individuals contacting you in person, by phone or by email to tell you that government officials require you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Where should you go for credible information?

If you have questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, Skagit County Public Health has two easy ways to get information.

  1. Visit our COVID-19 Vaccine webpage at: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine
  2. Call our new COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500. The hotline is available in English or Spanish, and operates Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

What else can you do?

  • Check the FDA’s website for current information about vaccine emergency use authorizations.
  • Consult your primary care physician before having any vaccination.
  • Don’t share your personal or health information with anyone other than known, trusted medical professionals.
  • Check your medical bills and insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs) for suspicious claims, and promptly report errors to your health insurance provider.
  • Follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other trusted medical professionals.

What should you do if you suspect a scam?

If you believe you have been the victim of a COVID-19 fraud, immediately report it to the FBI (ic3.govtips.fbi.gov, or 1-800-CALL-FBI) or HHS OIG (tips.hhs.gov or 1-800-HHS-TIPS).


What Is Binge Drinking, Anyway?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

New year’s resolutions aren’t for everyone. Making big plans and setting high expectations for the months to come can seem too burdensome for some—and that’s totally fine! The beginning of a new year does present a good opportunity to reflect on the prior year, though. An opportunity to think about the things that we’d like to work on or change.

This past year was definitely a doozy, and it wouldn’t be surprising if some of our routines were uprooted or thrown out the window entirely. While, before last March, it might not have been acceptable to take a meeting in sweats, or to shower in the middle of the workday, we’ve adapted and made concessions out of pure necessity.

Perhaps, for some, one of these concessions has been around drinking habits. While it was once acceptable to have an occasional glass of wine over dinner or a few cocktails on the weekend, now a quaran-tini (or two) each night has become the standard.

While it’s perfectly fine to have a drink here and there, it is important to monitor one’s drinking habits. When does drinking become “too much,” and when do rates of consumption go from healthy to possibly dangerous?

Isolation, the disruption of routine, and an inability to use pre-COVID coping mechanisms can cause one to feel especially vulnerable during times of crisis. Partnered with other stressors like economic uncertainty or unemployment, an individual may be at increased risk of developing a reliance on alcohol or other substances in order to cope.

What is binge drinking?

Not everyone who drinks—even regularly—engages in binge drinking. Even still, the definition of “binge drinking” may surprise you.

Moderate drinking, for men, is drinking no more than 15 drinks per week and no binge drinking. For women, the limit is seven drinks per week, with no binge drinking.

Binge drinking, however, is defined as drinking five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men, and four or more drinks in that same two-hour period for women.

Note: Women metabolize alcohol less efficiently than men, meaning they have higher concentrations of it in their blood when they drink the same amount.

The CDC states that one in six US adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about seven drinks per binge, with the highest percentage of binge drinking happening amongst 25-34 year olds. A person who binge drinks may or may not have an alcohol use disorder.

Recent Findings

A recent study published in the American Journal of Alcohol & Drugs Abuse reported that “thirty-four percent [of those studied] reported binge drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic.” It was also found that more binge drinkers increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic (60%) than non-binge drinkers (28%). And for every one-week increase in time spent at home during the pandemic, there were greater odds of binge drinking.

Also of note was that binge drinkers with a previous diagnosis of depression and current depression symptoms had greater odds of increased alcohol consumption compared to those reporting no depression.

Why can it be dangerous?

Binge drinking is associated with many short- and long-term health problems. Short-term side effects include:

  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Hangover
  • Shakiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Poor decision-making
  • Memory loss

From the American Addiction Centers, some long-term effects of repeated binge drinking include: alcoholism, brain damage, liver damage, cardiovascular disease, and even sexual dysfunction.

Tips for a healthier relationship with alcohol

Keep track. Whether you can keep track in your mind, or you need something in writing to help you monitor throughout the week, it may be a good idea to have a system in place. Did you have a few drinks over the weekend? Maybe take a break for a few days this week. Even taking a couple days off from alcohol can help your physical (and even mental) wellbeing!

Count and measure. Being your own bartender at home can surely be cost efficient, but it can also pose a challenge for proper measuring! According to NIAAA, a standard alcoholic drink is 12 ounces of regular beer (usually about 5% alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (typically about 12% alcohol), and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (about 40% alcohol). Keep these measurements in mind when pouring (and counting) drinks.

Set goals. Along these same lines, try setting some goals for yourself over the coming weeks. Maybe it isn’t realistic right now to cut out alcohol together. How about cutting out a drink here and there to start, and work your way into a healthier routine? Don’t get discouraged if you lapse or if you have to start over. Changing behaviors can be extremely difficult—but also entirely doable! Maybe set a goal with a friend or loved one so that you can work toward a common goal together, while also keeping one another accountable.

Find alternatives. If having a drink at 5 o’clock has become the norm recently, try replacing this habit with something else. Try taking a walk during this time, or taking a hot bath. If having a drink makes you feel calm, find something that provides a similar sensation. If you feel like a drink is a nice way to treat yourself after a long day, find something else that feels like a little reward. Just be sure not to replace one unhealthy habit with another!

Avoid “triggers.” A trigger can be anything that causes you to want to drink. This could be something stressful like watching the nightly news or scrolling social media. However, it can be something pleasurable like cooking a meal or video-chatting with a friend. It is important to recognize what your triggers are in order to plan for and work through it.

Remember non-alcoholic drinks. For some people, just having alcohol in the house can pose a difficulty in regulating consumption. If this is the case, move the alcohol out of the refrigerator, or avoid having it in the home altogether. Try having something in the fridge that you can go to instead when you’re craving a drink. Carbonated water (which comes in a variety of flavors) can be a nice go-to, or even diet soda.

Need more help?

Need a little extra help? That’s okay! The Washington Recovery Helpline is a great resource available to all Washingtonians who may be struggling with substance use. Call 1-866-789-1511 to speak with a specialist (available 24/7/365). You can also text this same number during Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for treatment options, resources, and referrals.

You can also access www.skagithelps.org for a list of helpful resources.


Preventing Poisoning During COVID-19

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Earlier this month, the Washington Poison Center (WAPC) released its data “snapshot” for 2020. This is something that WAPC puts out annually in order to educate the public about poisoning trends at the state level. These trends are based on the types of calls that WPAC’s hotline receives throughout the year, compared to years prior.

This year has been one for the books in so many ways, and the new data snapshot tells an interesting story. I had the opportunity to talk with one of WPAC’s staff, and I’d like to share what I learned.

But first: What is the Washington Poison Center (WAPC)?

The Washington Poison Center (WAPC) provides immediate, free, and expert treatment advice and assistance on the telephone in case of exposure to poisonous, hazardous, or toxic substances. Each year, its specialists answer more than 63,000 calls from Washingtonians related to poisoning and toxic exposures. All calls are free, confidential, and help is available 24/7/365.

Major Takeaways

COVID-19 has increased our risks of accidental poisoning. Period. So what is the reason for this increase? WAPC staff believe that it is due to several factors, including:

  • We are home more due to social distancing and other safety guidance
  • We may have new daily routines this year that are out of the ordinary
  • More products in the home (perhaps due to stockpiling) may cause increased access
  • More stress can cause people to be less focused
  • Rumors and misinformation can lead to dangerous choices

Calls to the Center have increased in 2020, and staff have seen spikes in calls regarding substances common to COVID prevention (hand sanitizer and household cleaners). They have also seen spikes in calls for vulnerable demographics like adolescents and adults over 60.

This data is concerning, and parallels poison trends across the U.S.

Cleaners & Sanitizers

It isn’t unusual for WAPC to receive calls about household cleaners; however, this year has definitely seen a serious uptick. Most calls have been in regards to accidental poisonings, or poisonings due to misuse (mixing products, using in low ventilated areas, etc).

The vast majority of hand sanitizer exposures have been in children ages 0-12, most likely due to increased access to the products in the home. The high alcohol content in these products can be very dangerous for young children, so it is extremely important to supervise kids when using hand sanitizer and to make sure that bottles are always out of reach.

Nicotine

An interesting find this year has been the decrease in nicotine exposure calls. In 2020, nicotine exposure in children ages 0-5 actually decreased—a trend that even WAPC staff were a bit surprised about. Perhaps the decrease is due to parents being home more? Or perhaps the new Tobacco 21 law has decreased access to these products? While it is difficult to pinpoint direct correlations, it is certainly nice to see this type of data!

That said, it is still very important to keep nicotine products stored safely and away from children. The vast majority of calls for 0-5 year old’s were for raw tobacco, with vape products in second. WAPC staff explained that raw tobacco can be dangerous, but vape liquid—if ingested—can be fatal. Always, always, keep these products away from children, as flavored liquids can be especially enticing to little kids.

Cannabis

WAPC 2020 Data Snapshot

Trends for THC exposure are less rosy. All age groups saw an increase in THC exposures this year, with a sizeable increase among children 0-5. Among this group, exposures were almost 100% due to unintentional use (getting a hold of an edible, plant-based product, or concentrate). Safe and secure storage of these products is crucial to keeping kids safe.

Medications

This is another area that has historically been a concern for WAPC, however COVID has exacerbated the problem. Stress, distractions, and new routines can lead to user error and poor judgement. WAPC staff encourage people to use medication lists, trackers, and reminders in order to decrease risk of double-dosing or mixing meds.

It is also encouraged that people secure medications in the home. This simple step can decrease the likelihood of accidental poisonings in young children, or misuse among adolescents.

Adolescent Self-harm

By far, this data tells the most worrisome story. Historically, data has shown an increase in youth self-harm/suicidal intent since 2014, and this trend continues. COVID-19 related isolation and stress may increase these risks—something that mental health experts have been concerned about for months.

WAPC 2020 Data Snapshot

It is encouraging, however, to see this data and to realize just how amazing our kids are. Despite all the ups and downs of 2020, our youth are showing resilience in magnitudes. We must not forget that we can all make a positive difference everyday in the lives of our young people.

Two steps that each of us can take today are: 1) locking up medications (even over-the-counter meds like Tylenol and Advil); and 2) talking to our children about substance use. Don’t know where to start with this? Visit Start Talking Now for some ideas.

What to expect when you call

It doesn’t need to be an emergency to call the Washington Poison Center—you can call to get advice or directions if you are concerned or confused about poison-related issues.

You will speak with an expert (nurse, pharmacist, or poison information provider), and there are always Board Certified Medical Toxicologists on-call if necessary. You are not required to give your name, however providing your age and gender can be extremely helpful in order to gauge risk. What was taken, when, and how much are other vital details to provide to the staff.

These calls are always confidential. You do not need to be worried about law enforcement or CPS getting involved. WAPC is concerned about your safety and about providing care.

Staff are trained to provide direction on what to do, what to watch for, and most of the time this can all happen with the caller at home. If/when it is decided that the caller needs medical intervention, staff can advise the caller to go to the emergency room, or WAPC can actually contact EMS on the caller’s behalf.

Finally, WAPC staff will follow-up with you—just to make sure that everything is alright!

It is important to be vigilant when it comes to poisoning prevention—now more than ever. With that said, I feel comforted in knowing that there are trained professionals available to answer my questions. If you don’t have the Washington Poison Center’s phone number somewhere in your home, I encourage you to jot it down! 1-800-222-1222

You never know when you might need it!

To view the Washington Poison Center’s full data report, visit: www.wapc.org/programs/covid-19-resources-information/covid-19-data/.


Gratitude: 2020 Reflections from Testing Site Staff & Volunteers

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Guest post by Rosemary Alpert, Skagit Valley Family YMCA

For many, the first step in their COVID-19 experience is driving to the testing site, now located at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. You are greeted by a staff member or volunteer, asked a few questions, then directed to the queue, like waiting for a ferry. Upon entering the barn, with your car window cracked, you are greeting by another staff member or volunteer to register you for the test. After, a nurse greets you with important information and directions for taking the test. The journey has begun, with hopes to receive a text in a few days with the singular word, “Negative.”  

As this unprecedented and challenging year comes to a welcome close, I never would have imagined my job as Volunteer and Community Engagement Coordinator for Skagit Valley Family YMCA would evolve into one of the most important experiences of my life: registering community members to get tested for COVID-19. 

Early on during the pandemic, Skagit County Public Health collaborated with the Y to support two full-time employees from the Y to work at the testing site. Over these past nine months, community collaborations have been created. A team of dedicated staff and volunteers have been working on the frontlines tirelessly through summer heat, high winds, bitter cold, sideways rain and ongoing challenges, day after day. These are the faces you see through your car windows: community members wholeheartedly supporting Skagit County.  

In early June, I started splitting my time between the Y and the COVID-19 testing site, registering community members at Skagit Valley College. Then, mid-September, I became full time at the testing site, putting my job at the Y on hold for the time. So many stories, reasons why people come through to get tested, are heartful and sometimes heartbreaking. Eyes to eyes, deeply listening, with respect and compassion. Dedicated coworkers and impeccable leadership keep our team fluid and flexible each day. They’re a privilege to work alongside.  

Last week, this group photograph was taken of our COVID-19 Testing Site team of staff and volunteers. In addition to registration, I was asked to contribute to the Skagit Health Connection weekly blog. This first blog is dedicated to the incredible group of testing site workers. I asked a few to share their thoughts about working at the testing site, what are they grateful for, an experience, or possibly an unexpected gift because of this time. Here are a few of the responses… 

Skagit testing site
Photograph taken inside the Skagit County COVID-19 Testing Site facility at the Skagit County Fairgrounds.

“I am grateful for getting the opportunity to work at the site and help our community get through this pandemic. And meeting all the amazing people who I work with.” 

“I’m grateful for being part of such an amazing team and being able to give back to our community. It’s honestly a rewarding job. You definitely learn how to communicate with so many different people. And being able to provide service for all, even those with a language barrier.” 

“I am grateful to be working at the site because seeing the relief on the faces of the people that go to get tested once they have been helped honestly lights up my day. Being able to provide the reassurance to the people. And unexpected gift I have got from working at the testing site is the ability to interact more with the people in my community and the opportunity I have been given to help better the community.” 

“Working here reminds me that people are kind. Folks wait an hour or more, often in bad weather, sometimes with kids and dogs in the car. All this stuff is scary and frustrating; but people are unfailingly kind, mostly patient, and always ready to share a (masked) smile. This is my best medicine for these times. (And staff and volunteers are wonderful!)” 

“I think I’m most amazed by the 200 volunteers who provided an estimated 12,000 hours of their time. In the rain, snow, smoke, wind and blistering heat, they are there!” 

“Each car is an opportunity to connect with our community, offering a little comfort, reassurance and hope. We keep our community moving forward during these challenging times. I’m grateful for the tiny moments of connection, whether it be the little girl who noticed the twinkling lights or the great-grandma wanting to visit her 16th great-grandchild. I didn’t expect to become a part of an elite team of community rock stars! Grateful for the opportunity to share a little light and serve our community.” 

As we wrap up 2020, let’s keep moving forward, find the moments of gratitude. Be vigilant, wear your masks, wash your hands, practice social distancing, keep your connections safe, and know you are not alone.

Please remember: If you or someone you know needs any support with the mental and emotional challenges of these days, PLEASE reach out! It’s OK to ask for help. The Disaster Distress Helpline 24/7 crisis counseling and support is always available. Call 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66749. Skagit County also has a new website—SkagitHelps—that can assist people in getting connected to local and state resources.


Make Health Your Priority: Tobacco Cessation in 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

By now, it is becoming clear that current and former smokers are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. A recent study has shown that people who smoked were nearly two times more likely to have negative outcomes from COVID-19. While more studies need to be conducted in order to understand the associated between nicotine users and COVID-19 infection rates, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the available evidence suggests that smoking is associated with increased severity of disease and death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Given the well-established harms associated with tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, medical experts are recommending that tobacco users stop using tobacco as soon as possible. By quitting these products (cigarettes, vaping devices, or smokeless products), your lungs and your immune system begin to improve quickly. Healthier lungs and a healthier immune system can help fight against COVID-19 infection and can protect individuals from becoming seriously ill.

There is no better time than the present. And with New Year’s just around the corner, there is no better way to begin 2021!

Thankfully, there are many resources available to Washingtonians when it comes to tobacco cessation. Here are some helpful resources to get you started on your cessation journey:

  • Quitline: Washingtonians age 13+ can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to speak confidentially with a Quit Coach in English, Spanish, or receive support in more than 200 other languages.
  • This is Quitting (TIQ), from Truth Initiative: This is an innovative text-to-quit vaping program for young people ages 13-24. TIQ helps motivate, inspire, and support young people throughout the quitting process. When young people join TIQ, they will receive proven tips and strategies to quit and stay off e-cigarettes and vapor products from other young people just like themselves who tried to quit. To enroll, teens and young adults can text VAPEFREEWA to 88709.
  • 2Morrow Health: This is a smartphone app that helps participants learn new ways to deal with unhelpful thoughts, urges, and cravings caused by nicotine. Participants receive notifications and can track their progress along the way in order to move toward their goal of quitting. The app is available in English and Spanish. Depending on your age and the tobacco product you are trying to quit, you can register for either of the smartphone apps below:
    • Smoking & Tobacco – A program for people who want to quit smoking and/or other tobacco use. A special program for pregnant women is included in this version.
    • Vaping (age 13+) – A program for teens and young adults who want to quit vaping. Older adults who want to quit vaping, but who do not smoke, can also use this program.

It may take many tries to quit. The important thing is not to give up. If 2020 has shown us anything, its that Washingtonians are a strong and capable bunch. Find your team, lean on your resources, and make a plan. You can do this!  


Winter Shelter in Skagit County

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On any given night in Skagit County, dozens of individuals and families experience homelessness. The winter months are always a difficult time for those who are unsheltered but the surge in COVID-19 cases and the economic and mental health impacts of the pandemic make this winter particularly treacherous to those who find themselves in need of shelter.

In past years, the County has supported a congregate-style winter shelter, but COVID-19 has made that option unsafe, as it does not allow for proper social distancing.  In order to temporarily house as many people in our community as possible and prevent the spread of COVID-19, Skagit County Public Health is supporting a number of motel voucher programs throughout the county. These programs provide individuals and families with temporary motel stays until a more permanent housing solution is available.

With the help of Friendship House, Skagit County Community Action, Catholic Community Services of Western Washington and the Anacortes Community Health Council as well as funding from federal, state and local resources, approximately eighty families and individuals will have a warm place to sleep this winter.  Each motel program runs a little differently depending on the funding source. Some programs will focus on helping individuals with behavioral health diagnosis and other significant barriers to housing while other programs will cater specifically to families and offer additional support such as case management for families working to find permanent housing.

While the County regularly budgets funds for winter shelter programs, much of the funding for this winter season came from funds meant to curb the spread of COVID-19. While the additional funds made more beds available this year than in the past, the need is still much greater than the resources available. Currently well over 200 people in Skagit County are seeking housing.

These days, replacing traditional congregate shelters with motel voucher programs is not unique to Skagit County – communities across the country are using this model during the pandemic and there is some preliminary evidence that the benefits of motel voucher sheltering extend beyond curbing the spread of COVID-19. According to Shelterforce.org, organizations that have shifted to individualized care in motel settings are reporting a significant reduction of emotional and behavioral health issues that normally arise in a congregate setting.

These positive outcomes will likely be taken into consideration as the community determines how to best meet the needs of the homeless population in Skagit County beyond this winter and the pandemic. Winter shelter funding will last through mid-March but the County is still without a permanent year round shelter.  Currently the community is looking for ways to support a year-round emergency Shelter in Skagit County.

If you would like to know more about Skagit County’s plans for winter shelters, contact Public Health at (360) 416-1500.