Getting There: Traveling to your Vaccine Appointment

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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.


Heartful Care

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, Contributing Author 

“Beneath the skin, beyond the differing features and into the true heart of being, fundamentally,  
we are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike.” 

-Dr. Maya Angelou 

As communities across the globe face ongoing challenges of the pandemic and need for vaccinations, we know each of us is affected. Dr. Angelou’s quote, reflects, no matter what our differences, underneath, we all have hearts. Hearts that are vital and keep us moving forward during these unprecedented times. 

Both our physical and emotional hearts need care—especially now, as we are almost a year into this time of drastic change and adjustments. It is important to maintain good heart care, as best we can. Making sure to reach out to our family, friends or professionals, if we experience any physical or emotional concerns or challenges; remembering we are not alone.  

A few months before the pandemic, I participated in a spiritual activism class. One of the exercises was a meditation on our hearts. We were asked to sit quietly and place our hands on our hearts. Breathe in and out at our own pace, and focus in on giving thanks to our hearts. Until that moment, I hadn’t thought of thanking my heart for keeping me alive, blood pumping and all the emotions it holds. It was a moving experience and a good place to start for heartful care and appreciation.

Here are some heartful care suggestions: 

  • Hold our hearts and say, “Thank you!” 
  • Be gentle with ourselves. 
  • Remember to take a few focused intentional breaths. 
  • Get outside as much as we can. 
  • Connect with the earth. 
  • Move our bodies: dance, yoga, hiking, biking, whatever makes us feel good. 
  • Notice the beauty. 
  • Reach out, if feeling isolated. 
  • Check in on family, friends or neighbors. 
  • Continue with regular health check-ups. 
  • Eat some dark chocolate (professionals say it’s good for the heart!). 
  • Keep wearing our masks, good for everyone’s health! 
  • Look into someone’s eyes. 
  • Smile from our hearts. 
  • Drink plenty of water, stay hydrated. 
  • Keep it simple! 

Let’s take care of our health in all ways, so we can show up wholeheartedly for our loved ones, friends and community.  

“Heartful of Seeds,” ©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert 2021 

Glimmers of Light in the Vaccine Observation Room

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Contributing author, Rosemary Alpert.

It has been almost a year since our lives began to be touched by a mysterious virus, one we now know all too well. We watched the evening news: images of people in other countries wearing masks, something so unfamiliar to our “norm” here in the States. 

Then, we were all affected, in one way or another. A challenging time—filled with a plethora of emotions and stories.  

One year later, we are in the midst of mass vaccinations across the country, offering a glimmer of light for our communities. But we’re also encountering new challenges, as the supply of vaccinations is slow and unpredictable. The monumental need for vaccinations can be frustrating: trying to figure out when, where and how to receive the vaccination is not easy.

“Clicker” ©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert 2021 

Despite these challenges and frustrations, our goal continues to be to get as many people vaccinated as possible. With the supply we received last week, Public Health was able to vaccinate more than 1,100 community members at the Skagit County Fairground Vaccination Site. Community members, mostly 65 and older, received their first vaccination dose between Tuesday and Saturday.  

With a heart full of joy, I greeted each community member after they had received their first dose. In the Observation Room, I spoke with each person as they sat for their 15-minute monitoring period.

Clicking off a fuchsia-colored counter is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had; happily greeting and congratulating each person, feeling the smiles hidden beneath our masks, and seeing the welcomed relief and glimmers of sparkling light shining from their eyes. Once again, each person has a story and reasons why they received their vaccination.  

I asked a few community members how they felt and if they’d like to share a thought while sitting in the Observation Space.

Here are some of the responses: 

“Feels like I won the lottery!” 

“It was frustrating at first, trying to get an appointment. Once we got through, everything has been seamless.” 

“Everyone has been so helpful; you’re all so organized.” 

“I feel so relieved.” 

“I’m grateful and concerned for the communities who don’t have access to technology.”

Glimmers of light are found all around our community: in the eyes of each person who is grateful to receive their vaccination, neighbors checking in on one another, a caretaker or support person bringing an elder to receive the vaccine. Creative community collaboration—each of us doing the best we can—making sure we move forward and stay healthy. 

When you come for your first vaccination, here is a reminder:

  • Bring a form of ID
  • Dress appropriately to receive your vaccine (ex: t-shirt or button up)
  • Bring a coat or blanket, since we keep the doors open for ventilation
  • Consider bringing a book, crossword puzzle, knitting–whatever you’d like as you sit for 15 minutes post-vaccination

We have a safe and welcoming space available for our guests, with local artwork on the walls, calming music and great company. I look forward to greeting you on vaccination day and clicking off the counter!

The vaccination process is an enormous collaborative community endeavor. Information is constantly being updated. For the most updated information in both English and Spanish, please visit the Skagit County Public Health website: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine. Please share this information with your friends, especially those who do not have easy access to a computer.  


Looking Toward the Finish Line: Precautions Post Vaccine

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We are at the point in this COVID-19 marathon where the muscles in our legs are burning and our feet are begging for a rest. We have been dealing with this “new normal” for so long, and sometimes it has felt like there will never be an end to it all.

With vaccines now becoming more widely available (though still quite limited, due to supply), many people may feel that the finish line is just within their grasp. And what a wonderful feeling this is!

As more and more people receive the vaccine and as Washington State moves through the Governor’s new Roadmap to Recovery re-opening plan, it is important to remember that the race isn’t over. While we are absolutely looking toward the finish line, it isn’t the time to stop just yet.

There are still precautions to take, even once someone receives the vaccine. We are all tired of these safety measures, but they will continue to be necessary (at least for now). So why do we need to keep taking precautions? Here are some things to consider:

The vaccine is highly effective–but not foolproof.

At present, both vaccines available in the U.S. (Moderna and Pfizer) require two doses. These vaccines have proven to be extremely effective; the first dose gives 50 percent protection against COVID-19, while the second dose raises the effectiveness to about 95 percent. Of course, that means that there is a 5% chance that someone may still contract COVID-19 after receiving both doses.

And while the hope is that most—if not all—people receive the vaccine over the next several months, we know that there are some limitations. Both Moderna and Pfizer have not yet been approved for children (though Pfizer has been approved for people 16 and older). It may be some time until either a new brand of vaccine is approved that is recommended for children, or until Moderna and Pfizer finish clinical trials for minors and are granted approval for this population. So, until this time, children are still at risk of contracting the virus.

We do not yet know how long immunity lasts.

At this stage, experts do not yet know how long people are immune to COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine. Long-term effectiveness will depend on two factors: the duration of one’s immune response and changes in the virus over time. There is a chance that people will need to receive the COVID vaccine yearly, just like the flu, in order to account for any changes. Experts just do not know yet because the vaccine is so new.

That said, some research has indicated that the current vaccines are effective for at least 6 to 12 months. We will become informed in the coming months as more people receive the vaccine and as scientists track long-term effectiveness.

Experts do not yet know whether people can still spread COVID-19 after getting vaccinated.

The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available are designed to keep people from getting sick. Clinical trials did not test whether those vaccinated could still spread SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

This means that someone who has received the vaccine is approximately 95 percent protected against getting sick but could still contract the virus and infect a friend or loved one who has not been fully vaccinated.

Everyone should still wear masks and social distance—even after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

For all the above reasons, it remains crucial that people continue to take pre-cautions—even after receiving the vaccine. Continue to wear your mask when in public, continue to keep gatherings small and keep your distance, and stay home when you are sick. Yes, these precautions aren’t fun. And yes, we are tired and we want so desperately to stop.

The finish line is in sight and we are getting closer. In the meantime, continue to take precautions and make sure to get vaccinated when you are eligible. If you don’t know your phase of eligibility for the vaccine, visit: www.findyourphasewa.org. You can also call Skagit County Public Health’s Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500, Mondays-Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

We will continue to update our webpage when new vaccine developments are available. Go to www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine for updates.

Keep Going! You’ve Got This!


Our Masked Heroes: Community Service During COVID-19

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Post by contributing author, Rosemary Alpert

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is…What are you doing for others?’”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The third week of January, we honored the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; welcomed President Biden and Vice President Harris; and, across the country, remembered all the lives touched and lost by the Coronavirus. With deep gratitude and compassion, two words rise in my heart: community and service. 

Volunteerism: The policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or worthwhile activities, especially in one’s community. (Dictionary.com) 

“Skagit County, Washington”, ©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2021 

Since April 21, 2020, the Skagit County COVID-19 Testing Site has welcomed 196 volunteers to assist with all aspects of support during the pandemic: traffic control, registration, testing, contact tracing and vaccination. These volunteers stepped up to the frontline with the purpose to serve our community. Skagit County Department of Emergency Management’s Volunteer Program Coordinator, Tina Bobbit, coordinates, organizes and schedules all the volunteers. Tina recently shared that as of January 15, 2021, volunteers have given approximately 13,000 hours in support of our community. 

While working at the testing site, I have witnessed the best of volunteerism, remarkable and impressive. Some of the employees at the testing site began early on as volunteers. Each volunteer has a story and reason why they are motivated to serve. All volunteers are Registered WA State Emergency Workers, registered and coordinated through the Skagit County Department of Emergency Management (DEM).  

Volunteers represent various groups:  

  • Skagit County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members from all over the County 
  • Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) 
  • WA State Temporary Emergency Workers—Skagit County, registered to assist with the COVID-19 response drive-thru testing and vaccination site 
  • Skagit County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue 
  • Snohomish County Medical Reserve Corps 
  • Civil Air Patrol (CAP) will be assisting with our Vaccine Operations 

In addition, community agencies around our county have shared paid employees. True community collaboration during these challenging and transformational times. In reference to the awesome volunteers, Tina shared this, “The volunteers are what make my job easy, as they give so much of their time and dedication to helping the community during this COVID-19 response. Appreciate all that they do!” 

I asked a few volunteers at the testing site to share their thoughts in reference to their community service:

“The reason I decide to volunteer is because I was so impressed with how friendly the staff was and how quickly the entire process was at the testing site. I’ve since become a temporary part-time employee. It is a great work environment, feels like I’m doing something positive for the community.” 

“I was trained as a CERT, Community Emergency Response Team, member. As COVID broke out, it made sense to me to give a hand at the test site. I am a traffic guide. It is very safe. People stay in their cars, everybody is wearing masks. The COVID site managers make sure everybody follows safety protocol. Nobody that has worked at the site has gotten COVID. I volunteer twice a week for four hours. It has been a very satisfying job. We are appreciated by the management. It is a way for me to give back to the community.” 

“Some reasons why I started volunteering was to mainly help out the community. I want to see us better as a community and help give information to families that may not be as informed. My experience so far has been great. I really enjoy it!” 

As our National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, wrote so eloquently in the presidential inauguration poem, The Hill We Climb, in honor of all the volunteers and community members who tirelessly serve our communities, the following words are for you: 

When day comes, we step out of the shade,  
aflame and unafraid 
The new dawn blooms as we free it 
For there is always light, 
If only we’re brave enough to see it  
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

If you are interested in volunteering at the COVID-19 testing/vaccine site, please contact Tina Bobbit for more information. She can be reached through email at tinab@co.skagit.wa.us, or by calling the DEM Main Office at 360-416-1850.  Specifically, we are seeking volunteers who can speak Spanish, and can work in either traffic or registration. We are also seeking those who are trained medical personnel. 


Seniors Hopeful for a Vaccination

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Post contributed by Jackie Cress, Skagit County staff.

There is a valid question for many people amid this pandemic: When will life return to normal? Perhaps no one in modern times can truly answer this question. We’d have to step into a time machine and go back to one of the number of historic pandemics to really know.

The first recorded pandemic happened in 430 B.C. and here we are today facing this uncharted territory. Most of us could never imagine what has taken place during this Covid-19 time frame. For some, this would merely be a short inconvenience. We hoped that it would pass with warmer weather or as immunities built up. For others, the fear has been almost paralyzing. What we have in common though, is the knowledge that there is hope on the horizon.

Desmond Tutu said “Hope is being able to see that there is a light despite all of the darkness.” As the vaccine supply increases in the weeks and months to come, it is an important step for our senior community. We know that the risk for severe illness with Covid-19 increases with age and older adults are in the highest risk group. Fundamental ordinances have taken place to keep our communities safe such as instructions to stay-at-home, social distance and wear face coverings when in public. Now that the vaccine is becoming more readily available, we can start to imagine life returning to normal. 

There is much credit to our senior community during this time! Instead of accepting a life that can be often isolating, lonely and boring, seniors have adapted, possibly more than any other group and it is inspiring. Seniors have learned to use technology in a time frame that could have left them behind. Seniors have refused to let the institutions that strive to protect them define them into seclusion! They’ve learned to use smart phones, computers and new programs that brought us all together virtually. We’ve played Bingo together, sang along to online concerts and exchanged our every day celebrations and tribulations through technology. It’s nothing short of remarkable.

Our youth seem to learn all technological things in an instant. They’ve grown up not knowing a world without the internet. For them, familiarizing themselves with new electronic components comes naturally. It’s not so easy for us who have seen the birth of the internet which happened around the late 1980’s. Despite these challenges, seniors have adapted in many innovative ways to meet their needs. This alone is a cause to celebrate! These new found life skills will be advantageous even as we start to return to the life we knew pre-pandemic. 

Getting the Covid-19 vaccine is very literally our best shot at rebounding from what has kept us all apart. The vaccine has been rigorously tested world-wide. Side effects are mild and severe side effects are rare. We are all dreaming of when we can share a meal in person, do a crossword puzzle together and hug our friends. This vaccine is Desmond Tutu’s light in this dark time. Vaccine facts can be found on line at CDC.gov website and on Skagit County’s webpage at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine

Until we meet again, Be safe. Continue to stay at home when possible. Wash your hands frequently. Wear a face covering when in public and most importantly, schedule your Covid-19 vaccination as soon as you are able. 


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).


Eyes of Hope

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, contributing writer. 

Over the past ten months, we have been wearing our masks, washing our hands more than we ever thought we would, strategically getting our groceries, keeping our distance and so much more. A collective community effort to keep ourselves, families and friends healthy.  

Since June, I’ve been looking into thousands of community members’ eyes through car windows while registering them to get tested for COVID-19. First, at Skagit Valley College and now Skagit County Fairgrounds (south entrance, F Barn). Each person has a story for why they are getting tested. Eyes filled with worry, fear, anxiety and deep concern, not only for themselves but for their families too.  

So many eyes. 

Last Thursday, Skagit County Public Health and its community partners worked tirelessly to get our first 1a-eligible COVID-19 vaccine clinic started. The County is working directly with 1a-eligible employers to identify individuals to be vaccinated. Eligible community members were invited and scheduled for a specific time last Thursday and Friday, to receive their first vaccination for the COVID-19 virus.  

From registration to vaccination; a moment in time that I will remember for all of my days. 

I’ve been asked to greet each person immediately after they receive their vaccine: instructing them to sit for 15 minutes post-vaccine, to be observed and make sure that they do not have any reactions. After I shared with a friend and coworker from Skagit Valley Family YMCA about how powerful it is to be a part of this historical time for our County, she said, “You’ve come full circle, starting off being the first person people see when getting tested for the virus, to being the first person they see once they receive the vaccine.” 

Full circle—filled with deep listening, loving-kindness and compassion. 

What profoundly struck me last week, quite unexpectedly, was everyone’s eyes. Each pair of eyes, filled with a sense of relief and gratitude; some glistening with tears, and most of all, eyes filled with HOPE. 

Just as each person has a reason for why they get tested, the relief and appreciation for receiving the vaccine are also deeply meaningful. Some of the responses I heard were: 

“I can’t wait to see my granddaughter.”  

“I have no words. Just so grateful.”  

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  

“This gives me so much hope.” 

#OurShotSkagit. Photo taken by Julie de Losada of Rosemary Alpert receiving her first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Looking into eyes of our community, filled with hope and movement forward. Slow and steady progress.

For a first-hand account, as a frontline worker, I was invited to receive the vaccine. Last Friday afternoon, I received my first shot. After working months, looking into the eyes of our community, I was filled with emotions and gratitude, feeling the light of hope. 

My first thought was my two adult children, who I haven’t been able to see in over a year. My eyes glistened with tears of relief. The only reaction I felt was a sore arm, and the next day, a little tired. I also woke up at 3:38 a.m. the next morning and could feel the vaccine working. It was a wonderful feeling! I visualized the vaccine as golden-healing liquid responding and strengthening my being, heart and eyes full of hope. 

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, please check out Skagit County Public Health’s website at www.skagitounty.net/COVIDvaccine. You can also read our press release with WA DOH’s latest guidance here: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/Home/press/010721.htm.


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.


WA Department of Health Releases Next Phase of Vaccine Prioritization

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January 8, 2021

On January 6th, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released guidance for phase 1B, which is the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine prioritization. DOH worked closely with the Governor’s Office to finalize prioritization for phase 1B, while also relying on federal guidance and public input through focus groups, interviews, and surveys over the past few months.

This guidance is for planning purposes only. Washington State and Skagit County will remain in Phase 1A of vaccinations until all Phase 1A individuals who want the vaccines have it. As a reminder, Phase 1A includes:

Tier 1: High risk workers in health care settings; High risk first responders; and residents and staff of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other community-based, congregate living settings where most individuals over 65 years of age are receiving care, supervision, or assistance.

Tier 2: All workers in healthcare settings.

Skagit County Public Health and its partner providers are ready to vaccinate our community; however, the ability to do so remains reliant on when and how much vaccine is received from the State. Current allocations have been very limited. To date, Skagit County has only received vaccine to meet approximately 25% of our 1A eligible workers and long term care facility residents.  Phase 1A will need to be completed before we will be able to move on to Phase 1B in Skagit County.

People should not expect Skagit County to move into Phase 1B until February at the earliest. If we receive greater dose allocations from the state, this timing will improve. Public Health will announce movement into the next phase of vaccinations via our press release system, web site and social media. Sign up here to get press releases from Skagit County.

“Skagit County Public Health and our partner providers have put a lot of time and effort into preparing for this moment. We are ready! As soon as we receive a consistent supply of vaccine from the State and are clear to begin phase 1B, we will let Skagitonians know how and where to get vaccinated.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

Due to limited vaccine availability, Phase 1B has been broken up into four separate tiers. Groups eligible for vaccination in phase 1B will include:

Phase 1B1 – (Tier 1)

  • All people 70 years and older
  • People 50 years and older who live in multigenerational households

Phase 1B2 – (Tier 2)

  • High risk critical workers 50 years and older who work in certain congregate settings: Agriculture; food processing; grocery stores; K-12 (teachers and school staff); childcare; corrections, prisons, jails or detention facilities (staff); public transit; fire; law enforcement

Phase 1B3 – (Tier 3)

  • People 16 years or older with two or more co-morbidities or underlying conditions

Phase 1B4 – (Tier 4)

  • High-risk critical workers in certain congregate settings under 50 years
  • People, staff and volunteers all ages in congregate living settings:
    • Correctional facilities; group homes for people with disabilities; people experiencing homelessness that live in or access services in congregate settings
Skagit County Public Health’s vaccine roll-out timeline, estimated based on WA DOH’s guidance and timeline, as well as adequate vaccine allocation from federal and state government.

WA DOH has also announced the creation of the Phase Finder online tool that allows people to assess their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. It is currently being tested for Phase 1A eligible individuals and will launch broadly on January 18th. Phase Finder will be available in multiple languages and will be used to confirm individual eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.

For COVID-19 vaccine information, visit our webpage at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.