New Operational Changes for the Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site

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September 10, 2021

Beginning on Monday, September 13, the Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site will be changing its operations, limiting testing and vaccination services to individuals who live, work, or go to school in Skagit County. This change is due to high demand and supply chain issues with testing supplies.

Also beginning on September 13, testing will be limited to individuals 5 and older who are actively exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or who have had a known COVID-19 exposure. Limiting to these two groups will allow us to ensure access to testing for disease mitigation purposes.

As a reminder, the Skagit County Fairgrounds location provides antigen testing and should not be used for pre-travel. If seeking a test before traveling, please seek out a testing provider that uses PCR testing. A full list of providers can be found on our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.

Testing should not be used as a way to guarantee safety. Testing is a point-in-time measure of whether someone has COVID-19 and should not be used to justify decisions that are risky if you are unvaccinated, like travel or gathering in large groups. The best way to be safe is by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask when in crowded settings.

The Skagit County Fairgrounds Site will be closed today (Friday, September 10) due to a scheduling conflict, and will reopen on Monday, September 13 at 5:00 p.m. Those seeking testing or vaccination, and who meet the new operational criteria, are asked to come to the South Gate Entrance at 501 Taylor Street in Mount Vernon. Services are free; no appointment or insurance is required.

For more information about the Skagit County fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site, please go to our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus or call (360) 416-1500.


We’re Open Again: COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination to Begin at Skagit County Fairgrounds on August 30th

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August 25, 2021

[updated August 27, 2021]

Beginning Monday, August 30th, Skagit County will once again be operating a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. Both testing and vaccination will be available to the public free of cost, Monday through Friday from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Note: The Fairgrounds testing and vaccine site will be closed on Monday, September 6th for the Labor Day holiday, and Friday, September 10th due to an event that was pre-scheduled to take place on site.

The decision to reopen the Fairgrounds location was made due to the recent spike in cases in Skagit County, and the accompanying increase in demand for testing services. The latest COVID-19 modeling and surveillance situation report from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) shows current COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions at their highest levels to-date. The high case numbers are likely to continue in the coming month due to the delta variant, putting increased strain on our hospitals and medical staff.

Vaccination is—and will continue to be—the best tool for preventing COVID-19. The County also aims to be proactive in response to this week’s news regarding Pfizer’s full FDA approval for those 16 years and older, as well as the Governor’s recent vaccination requirements for employees of certain sectors. Public Health’s goal is to continue to make vaccines easily accessible for all eligible individuals, particularly as families gear up for the new 2021/2022 school year.

“We understand that this decision to reopen the Fairgrounds site may seem like we are moving backwards to some, but this decision is a sign of our county’s strength and endurance. We are fortunate to be able to respond to rising cases and increasing demand for testing and vaccination by reopening the site. It shows that we can act quickly and effectively when action is needed.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

All Public Health testing and vaccine services (except for a select few outreach locations) will now move officially to the Fairgrounds beginning on August 30th. Mobile vaccine clinics this fall will be prioritized based on location, need, and risk, and most people needing low barrier vaccination will be directed to the Fairgrounds clinic or another Skagit provider. 

Those seeking testing or vaccination are asked to come to the South Gate Entrance of the Fairgrounds, located at 501 Taylor St, Mt Vernon, WA 98273. Both testing and vaccination will be operating as a drive-through clinic, though accommodations will be available to those who arrive on foot or who require assistance.

For Testing

Public Health will be using self-swab antigen testing at this location, with results available within 15 minutes. The site can serve anyone 5 years and older for testing. No insurance or appointment will be required. Please note that antigen testing is not intended for pre-travel. Those seeking testing for travel should find a location offering PCR testing.

A full list of testing providers can be found at: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations

For Vaccination

All three currently authorized vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, will be available at the Fairground Vaccination site. Anyone 12 years and older can utilize this site to access a first or second dose of vaccine; no appointment required.

For certain immunocompromised individuals, Public Health will also make third doses of either Pfizer or Moderna available. Please speak with your doctor before seeking a third dose of vaccine. Third doses will not be available for the general public until a determination is made by the FDA, CDC, and Washington Department of Health. For anyone seeking a second or third dose, please bring your Vaccination Card with you when you come to the site.

For more information about the Skagit County fairgrounds testing and vaccination site, please go to our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus or call (360) 416-1500.


Taking the Guesswork out of Getting Tested

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Skagit County Public Health has been receiving a lot of calls in recent days from people asking about local COVID-19 testing options. In the past week alone, about 30% of all our incoming calls have been about testing.

Most callers are asking about access and want to know where they can go locally to get tested. In response, we have made sure that our testing options webpage is up-to-date and matches the Washington Department of Health’s list as well.

For a list of local testing options, go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirusTESTsites.htm.

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

Many callers are also wondering about the differences between testing locations and the types of tests that they offer. While some locations offer both PCR and Antigen testing, many times a location will provide one or the other. With the recent opening of the Canadian border to fully vaccinated Americans, it is not surprising that so many people are wondering about which type of COVID test they should get.

So, here are some answers that may be helpful as you choose between testing options:

When should I get tested?

If you have had close contact exposure to a COVID-19 case or if you are concerned that you may have been exposed and are not experiencing symptoms, it is recommended that you wait 3 to 5 days after that initial exposure to get a diagnostic test. This wait time is due to the incubation period of the virus, the amount of the virus in your body, and the characteristics of diagnostic tests.

Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should get tested as soon as possible. Symptoms may include the following:

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

What types of tests are available?

There are essentially two broad categories of testing:

  1. Antigen test (frequently referred to as a rapid test). This test detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus. It can be done in at a pharmacy, clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital. Turnaround time for results is usually very quick, and in some cases, results can be reported within 15 minutes.
  1. PCR test (may be referred to as a viral or molecular test). PCR testing is considered the “gold standard” in SARS-CoV-2 detection. This test actually detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even those who have no symptoms. The test can also be done at a pharmacy, clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital. Turnaround time for results can be longer (generally in the 2-3 day range) since PCR samples are tested in a lab.

What kind of test should I get?

It is always best to talk with your health care provider about which test is best for you.

If you have symptoms, get the quick antigen test if it is available. If it is positive, you can start isolating right away to protect those around you from the spread of the virus. If the antigen test is negative, you should get retested using a PCR test and be sure to isolate yourself until you receive the result.

For most people who do not have symptoms but want to be tested because they may have been exposed or are traveling soon, the PCR test is the better choice. It can find small amounts of the virus that might be seen before symptoms start.

How accurate are these tests?

PCR tests work by detecting genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 cannot be confused with the genetic material from other viruses, so this kind of test is highly specific. This means it rarely gives a false positive. If you are tested and the test comes back positive, you can be very sure that you are infected with this virus. Antigen tests are also very specific and rarely give a false positive.

Unfortunately, neither test is equally sensitive. If the specimen collection is not done perfectly, or if you are in an early stage of infection or already partially recovered, a sample might not contain enough viral material to come back positive. This is why timing is key for getting a positive test result. If you have been potentially exposed to COVID-19 but are not sick, it is best to get tested at least 5 days after the last potential exposure.

Because false negative results on diagnostic tests can happen, a negative result should not give you a sense of false security. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, it is safest to assume you are infected and self-quarantine.

What test do I need to travel?

While the most universally accepted COVID-19 test is a molecular PCR test, some destinations may accept antigen tests as well. It is best to check with your destination, airline (etc.) when planning your trip.

If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel domestically or internationally, you will be required to get tested 1-3 days before your trip. Those who are fully vaccinated do not require testing before domestic travel, however most international destinations will still require pre-travel testing.

For those traveling, the best local PCR testing option is:

I’m looking for a low barrier testing option in Skagit County. Where should I go?

Skagit County Public Health is now offering free antigen testing at our Wednesday evening vaccine clinics at the Skagit County Administrative Building (700 S 2nd Street Mount Vernon, WA 98273) from 6-9pm.

We accept anyone 5 years and older; no appointment or insurance required. Test results are available in 15 minutes.

Note: This is NOT intended as a pre-travel test.

Can I use an At-Home Test Kit?

If you need to be tested for COVID-19 and can’t get tested by a healthcare provider or another testing location, you can consider using either a self-collection kit or a self-test that can be performed at home or anywhere else. Sometimes a self-test is also called a “home test” or an “at-home test.”

The following At-Home Tests are recommended by the Washington Department of Health (DOH):

When using an At-Home Test, please keep the following in mind:

  • All instructions for performing the test must be followed.
  • Self-tests can be used by anyone who is symptomatic regardless of their vaccination status.
  • Unvaccinated persons with no COVID-19 symptoms can also use self-tests, especially if they were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • If an individual tests positive, they should isolate and inform any close contacts.

Those who test positive are asked to call the WA State COVID-19 Hotline at 1-800-525-0127 as soon as possible. The hotline is open from 6 AM to 10 PM Monday, and 6 AM to 6 PM Tuesday – Friday (and observed state holidays). Language assistance is available.

What is an Antibody test?

An antibody test looks for the body’s response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It is a blood test that is good at determining if you had the disease, but not good for determining if you have the disease. As such, antibody tests should not be used to diagnose the virus.

While there is evidence that antibodies may provide protection from infection, that has not yet been proven and therefore results of an antibody test should not be used to determine immunity.

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For more information about testing and for frequently asked questions, go to the WA DOH COVID-19 Testing webpage: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19.