That’s a Wrap for the Skagit County Fairgrounds COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This Saturday, June 26th, marks the final day of operation for the Skagit County Fairgrounds COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic. This clinic, run by Skagit County Public Health, has been in operation consistently since December 2020 when the COVID-19 vaccine first became available in Washington state.

Before the Vaccine Site opened, a robust drive-through test site was already operating at the Fairgrounds by Public Health’s crew. In November of 2020, Skagit County Public Health was in desperate need of a new location for its COVID-19 Drive-through Test Site. Severe weather had literally ripped the tents out of the ground at the Test Site’s original location at Skagit Valley College. The Fairgrounds allowed for a safer—and slightly warmer—work environment, which provided a much-needed morale boost for our wind-worn staff.

Once established in the Fairgrounds F-Barn, Public Health quickly got its Test Site back up and running, administering over 10,690 tests until testing operations closed on March 12th, 2021. For a few months, staff was actually running testing and vaccinations at the Fairgrounds simultaneously, with vehicles being directed to all corners of the site by our traffic crew. 

In the early months of vaccine roll-out, supply was extremely limited. Counties and other vaccine providers were receiving weekly shipments from the state, and at times shipments were much smaller than anticipated, or they were delayed due to bad weather. Healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents were prioritized first in December 2020 and January 2021. Eligibility was then expanded by the WA Department of Health to include other at-risk populations, including seniors 65 and older and those 50 years and older living in multigenerational housing.  Childcare providers and K-12 school teachers and staff followed shortly.

People all around Washington were scrambling to find appointments. On one particular Saturday morning, hundreds of appointment slots at the Fairgrounds were grabbed up in only 14 minutes flat!

By March 2021, certain critical workers became eligible for the vaccine, as well as pregnant individuals and those with disabilities over the age of 16. Then, eligibility expanded to all people 60 and older and people 16 and older with two or more co-morbidities.

Finally, all Washingtonians 16 years of age and older became eligible for the vaccine on April 15, 2021, and on May 13, the Pfizer vaccine became available to minors 12-15 years of age in Washington state. At this point, our focus shifted to those who may be less inclined to get the vaccine, or who may have inadequate access.

Public Health launched a Vaccine Hotline early on to help individuals who needed extra assistance in finding a vaccine appointment, offering service in both English and Spanish, six days a week. Staff also worked directly with community partners to ensure that vaccine services were provided equitably for all eligible individuals in our county. The Fairgrounds moved to provide evening and weekend hours on Thursdays and Saturdays to better accommodate our working folks. The site even stopped requiring appointments when it became evident that this step was creating an unnecessary barrier for some.

Staff sought to make the vaccine experience as easy as possible at the Fairgrounds. The drive-through option became a reality once testing wound down in F-Barn, allowing people to get their shot while sitting in their vehicle. At one point, the Fairgrounds even partnered with the Children’s Museum of Skagit County to offer free child-watching services so that parents and caregivers wouldn’t have that extra hurdle.

During its run over the past 6 months, the staff and volunteers at the Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic administered just over 31,000 doses of the vaccine to eligible Washingtonians, both from Skagit and our neighboring counties.

From the beginning, this site was intended to be a gap filler; a location where people could go if they couldn’t get access to a vaccine through their doctor or pharmacy. But what the Fairgrounds ended up being was so much more. It was a hub, a safe space, and a second home to the hundreds of staff and volunteers who worked in its barns and outbuildings in 2020 and 2021.

The Fairgrounds and its crew saw many ups, downs…and everything in between. After providing COVID tests to thousands of people throughout 2020, it was a huge blessing—and a huge relief—to begin administering the vaccine at the site. The first day of vaccinations felt almost like Christmas morning for some; it felt like for the first time, we had a fighting chance.

So, as the team wraps up service at the Fairgrounds and puts its sights solely on mobile vaccine outreach, we reflect on the bitter sweetness of this moment. Many of us just assumed that our job at the Fairgrounds wouldn’t be over until COVID was done and gone. Maybe we expected our last day would be like a graduation of sorts, where we would rip off our masks and throw them in the air.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t quite done with us. We must continue to fight the good fight, to take precaution, and to urge our family and friends to get vaccinated.

Though our doors are closing at the Fairgrounds after this Saturday, Public Health isn’t going anywhere. We will be out in the community all summer long providing better, and more convenient access to the vaccine that will help see us out of this mess.

If you are still needing your vaccine and are able to, come see us during our last week at the Fairgrounds. We’ll be open Thursday from 1-7pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am-4pm. You can also find a list of all providers in our area by going to Vaccinate WA.  

But if we don’t see you then, no worries. Check out our website for a list of our upcoming pop-up clinic dates. We’re excited to see you out and about, friends.


Washington State to Reopen SOON!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As of June 14th, more than 7,528,340 doses of vaccine have been given across the state and more than 4.1 million people have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Washington is getting closer to its 70% initiation goal set by Governor Inslee. The state currently sits at 67.8% of Washingtonians 16 and older who have initiated vaccination, meaning they have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

June 30th or when we hit 70%.

The Governor has stated that Washington will fully reopen on June 30th, though the state could reopen sooner if the 70% initiation goal is met. To reopen before June 30th, at least 70% of people 16 and older need to receive at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

This is an extremely exciting time for many of us, as we begin to see things go back to normal. But with reopening comes great responsibility! It is important to remember as things open back up that we must proceed responsibly and with care and respect for those who are not yet vaccinated and for those who are at increased risk.

Reopening & what to expect:

What happens on June 30th or when we hit 70%?

The state will be open for business and recreation, and people who are vaccinated can go along with their regular lives for the most part. Unvaccinated people will need to continue wearing masks indoors. Most businesses get to operate as they did in January of 2020, with the caveat that they’re following workplace safety requirements (which come from Labor & Industries). Restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, and grocery stores are going to be fully open.

Are there any exceptions to reopening?

The one major public sector that will continue to have some limits is large-scale events that the governor just released guidance for. Events that are indoors with 10k or more people must be limited to 75% occupancy or require vaccination and follow mask requirements.

Higher risk congregant settings like healthcare, long term care facilities, or places where many people are not yet able to be vaccinated like childcare, day camps, K-12 must follow different guidance. In these settings, masking is still required, even among fully vaccinated persons.

Will unvaccinated people still need to wear a mask?

The Secretary of Health’s mask order remains in place, which means that unvaccinated people need to continue to mask in public. This helps protect not only those who are unvaccinated, but also vulnerable children who are not yet able to be vaccinated and others with auto-immune or other conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated.

Can businesses still require people to wear a mask after restrictions are lifted?

Yes, counties and businesses can be more strict and enforce masking, distancing and handwashing, etc. – whatever is appropriate in those spaces.

The situation in Skagit.

In Skagit County, 63.6% of our population 16 years and older have initiated vaccination. From data on the state dashboard, we can see that roughly 81% of our population 65+ have initiated and 64% of people 50-64 have initiated vaccination. The greatest room for growth would be amongst Skagitonians ages 12-49; the smallest percentage being those 12-17 years of age.

“We’re calling all our young adults and families with tweens and teens to get vaccinated now. It wouldn’t take much to get the state over the 70 percent threshold. We could see things reopen in the next few days if all eligible people would access their vaccine now.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

Getting your vaccine.

There continues to be many opportunities to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Skagit County. Getting a vaccine is free, easy, and now—more convenient than ever!

The Skagit County Fairgrounds Clinic is still offering vaccines to anyone 12 and older, though the site closes permanently after June 26th to allow Public Health to focus on mobile outreach and pop-up clinics. To access a Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Fairgrounds, drop by on Thursday from 1-7pm or Friday/Saturday from 10am-4pm.

A list of all upcoming mobile pop-up clinics can be found on Public Health’s website: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine. All pop-ups are available to anyone 12+, unless indicated on the webpage. No appointments are required for these dates and locations.

If none of the above options suit your needs, other vaccine providers and locations can be found at Vaccinate WA or by calling the DOH help line at 1-800-525-0127.

For more information.

WA DOH: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/FrequentlyAskedQuestions

Governor’s Office: http://Governor’s Office: https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/covid-19-resources/covid-19-reopening-guidance

Percentages come from combining data from the Washington State Immunization Information System (IIS) and aggregate data from the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA). To access state and county level vaccine data, go to the state Dashboard at: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard.


What the Data Tells Us: Vaccines Save Lives

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There has sure been a lot of uncertainty since March of 2020; our routines changed dramatically, schools closed then reopened, and vacations were postponed or cancelled all together. There hasn’t been a ton that we could rely on—until now.

The data shows us that we can, and should, rely on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. The data tells us that the vaccines are saving lives in Skagit County, across our country, and throughout the world. As more and more people get vaccinated, we see our case rates drop, our hospitalizations decrease, and the number of COVID-19 deaths decline.

This data tells us that we can count on the vaccine to get us out of the pandemic; that we can count on the vaccine to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy. It gives us reason to get vaccinated against a virus that has taken the lives of 74 Skagitonians thus far.  

COVID-19 vaccines work.

Over 62% of people 16 or older have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Skagit County. Since we began administering COVID-19 vaccines in late December 2020, our 14-day case rate reversed course, dropping from a peak of 459.2 per 100,000 around Thanksgiving of last year, to 74.4 in May 2021. Now, after a quick spike in April, we are seeing lower numbers again.

Outbreaks at long-term care facilities have sharply declined. People living and working there were among the first to be vaccinated. Our highest risk senior populations were also eligible for the vaccine first, and case numbers amongst this population has dropped pretty dramatically since the winter.

Total COVID-19 deaths in Skagit County have slowed, as well, and the people we are seeing in our ICU beds are—by and large—not those who have been vaccinated. We know that vaccinations have played a key role in these falling numbers. We also know that continuing to use our safety precautions when unvaccinated (like mask wearing and social distancing) plays a large part.

Breakthrough cases are expected, but statistically rare.

Data has also shown that no vaccine is 100% effective. Breakthrough cases (when a fully vaccinated person tests positive for COVID-19 more than two weeks after the final dose) can happen, but they are rare. It is expected that a small percentage of fully vaccinated people will get sick with COVID-19; in most cases, these individuals will experience mild symptoms, however, hospitalization and/or death can still happen.

Recent Washington Department of Health statistics tell us that out of 3.1 million vaccinated, 1,471 breakthrough cases occurred. Of those cases, 23 people died. That’s about .0007%, or 1 in 134,782. Half of these deaths were in individuals 84 years of age or older.

In addition, both the Washington Department of Health and the CDC report extremely low rates of COVID-19 breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated people. Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah recently said hospital admission rates in those 45-64 who have not been vaccinated are 21 times higher than those who are fully vaccinated.

From this data we can see: the vast majority of those getting sick, being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 are people who have not been vaccinated.

Getting vaccinated is easy.

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 allows us to get back to the things that we enjoy. Vaccinated people are taking off their masks. Families and friends are gathering again. Restaurants and businesses are seeing more customers and a loosening of restrictions. And now, the data is confirming that the vaccines are effective at preventing sickness and death from COVID-19. The vaccines are our best path out of this pandemic.

Finding your free vaccine is easier than ever. To find a provider near you, go to: https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/. You can also still visit the Skagit Fairgrounds for a free Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine between now and June 26th.

If taking time to go to an appointment or dropping in at a pharmacy or clinic doesn’t work for you, that’s no problem! Skagit Public Health is holding pop-up vaccine clinics around the county all summer long. We’ll be where you are at so getting vaccinated is quick and convenient. For a list of our pop-up dates, go to: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.

If you need help finding vaccine, call our Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500. We look forward to serving you!


COVID Vaccines: Coming to a Community Near You!

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The message around the COVID vaccine has really changed in the past month or two. Back in February and March, Public Health Departments around the country were saying, “We don’t have the supply! Please be patient!” and “Wait until you’re eligible!But now that we have ample supply in our state and eligibility has opened all the way up to include anyone 12 years of age and older, our message is quite different.

With over 46% of our population now well on their way to being fully vaccinated, we’re looking pretty good! Finding a vaccine appointment is now easier than ever, and many provider locations are offering walk-up, drop-in, and drive-thru options. If it has been a while since you’ve looked into getting your vaccine, please know that we are ready and eager to serve you!

This month we’re hearing from the community that the majority of those individuals who were anxiously clicking the refresh button on our online scheduler have now been vaccinated. The people who remain to be vaccinated are those who need the process to be super quick and convenient. At Public Health, we’ve decided that the Fairgrounds mass vaccination site may no longer meet the needs of our population still waiting to be vaccinated—and that’s okay! It is time to shift gears, to get creative, and to meet people where they’re at. And for this reason, we’re ramping up our mobile outreach efforts this month.

To focus full-time on community outreach, Public Health will begin specifically prioritizing second-dose appointments at the Skagit Fairgrounds beginning June 6th. That said, those still needing a first dose are welcome to come to the site for their shot.

If you, a family member, or friend are looking to get vaccinated, there are so many options available! From your local neighborhood pharmacy, to chain pharmacies, to doctor’s offices, and hospitals; the list goes on and on. Between now and June 5th, you can drop by the Skagit Fairgrounds drive-thru clinic or book your spot online. And for a full list of providers in Skagit County, go to: https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/.

But if you don’t have the time or desire to make an appointment, that’s okay too! We’ve been reaching out to community partners to determine the best places for our staff to set up and we are getting our Mobile Outreach Van polished and gassed up! Public Health will be dropping by some community events this spring and summer and we hope to see you there!

Below is a list of just a few community outreach vaccination clinics we have planned. No appointment required! Come get your vaccine and be on your way!

  • Skagit Speedway, Saturday, May 22nd from 5:30-9pm
  • Mount Baker Presbyterian Church, Saturday, May 29th from 10am-2pm
  • Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market, Wednesday June 2nd from 3-7pm
  • Big Lake 3rd of July Festival, Saturday, July 3rd
  • Concrete Youth Activity Day, July 22nd from 3-5pm *tentative*

Need more information about these events or what to expect when you come? Call our Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500 or go to www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.

See you on the road, Skagit!


Attention Employers: We Need Your Help, Too!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When people talk about “workplace culture,” they’re talking about what makes a workplace unique, including its values, traditions, behaviors, attitudes, etc. Typically, the employer sets the tone in a workplace, and a positive workplace culture impacts the happiness, and even performance, of its employees. Simply enough, an employer has a major influence over the health and wellbeing of their workforce. And when it comes to COVID-19, employers play a critical role in the prevention of COVID-19.

One of the biggest impacts an employer can have right now in regards to COVID-19 prevention is making sure that their staff have the necessary information about the COVID-19 vaccine. On April 15th, all Washingtonians 16 years and older became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, meaning that many more people will be able to get the vaccine if they so choose. If you are an employer, read on for three tips to help your employees get their vaccine.

1. Have credible information available

You don’t need to be a doctor to put forth credible information. The idea of starting a conversation with staff about COVID-19 or the vaccine may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! When staff has a question or concern, it’s a one-two punch: 1) Offer your personal reasons for practicing COVID safety and getting vaccinated; and 2) Defer to the experts for specifics.

There are many great resources available online for business owners! From FAQs with answers to commonly asked questions, to resource pages with pre-made flyers for the breakroom; sites like WA Department of Health and the CDC have you covered!

2. Provide information about where they can access the vaccine

Please let your employees know that it is easier now than it has ever been to access a COVID-19 vaccine. For those who live locally, there are many vaccine providers in Skagit that consistently have appointments available, including Public Health, hospitals, clinics, and neighborhood pharmacies.

The easiest way to provide information about access is to promote WA DOH’s vaccine locator page. Here, folks can easily find a nearby provider and schedule an appointment online. If staff needs a bit more assistance, they can call the Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127. Language assistance is available.

To schedule an appointment at the Skagit County Fairgrounds Clinic, people can go to www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call the Vaccine Hotline for assistance, (360) 416-1500. Evening and weekend appointments are available, as well as a free child-watching service provided by the Children’s Museum of Skagit County!

3. Allow employees time to get the vaccine

Some people may be less likely to schedule a vaccine appointment because they are worried about taking the time off. Though appointments are now available in Skagit County on evenings and weekends in order to better serve our workforce, people still may be hesitant because of fear of side effects and needing time off work 24-48 hours post-vaccine. Employers can make a big impact here!

Health and safety are big business! Providing the time and opportunity for employees to get vaccinated is an investment in the safety, productivity and health of your workforce. Even still, the idea of providing this time may seem impossible as you may feel strapped as it is. Thankfully, some help is coming.

On April 21, President Biden called on every employer in America to offer full pay to their employees for any time off needed to get vaccinated and for any time it takes to recover from the after-effects of vaccination. A paid leave tax credit will assist in offsetting the cost for employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide full pay for any time their employees need to get a COVID-19 vaccination or recover from that vaccination. For more information about the new tax credit, go to https://bit.ly/2QvtGcN.

For more information

Most likely you will get some questions that you may not know the answer to—or you may have questions yourself! This is to be expected! The Washington Department of Health has created a list of Frequently Asked Questions just for employers on its website.

Below are just a few answers from that FAQ that may be helpful:

How do I get a vaccine provider to come to my business?

Contact Skagit County Public Health (360-416-1500) to see if there are mobile clinics, pharmacies, or community vaccinators available in your area to partner with for hosting at the worksite.

You may need to consider the number of eligible employees you have who have not been vaccinated yet. With limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, there may be more demand than supply available. Some vaccine providers may require a certain number of people to justify holding a workplace clinic.

Do fully vaccinated staff still need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others?

The COVID-19 vaccines work well, but they are not 100 percent effective. Some people may get COVID-19 even if they’ve been vaccinated. Vaccine studies focused mainly on whether the vaccine keeps you from getting COVID-19. We don’t yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent someone from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people. Until we know more, all employees should continue to:

  • Wear masks
  • Stay at least 6 feet (or 2 meters) away from others
  • Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wash hands often
  • Keep WA Notify enabled

If able to, should I have employees stagger their vaccinations to avoid work shortages due to vaccine side effects?

It’s a good idea if you can. Most side effects are mild (tiredness, headache, and muscle pain) and last one to two days. However, some people may get a fever and need to miss work. For vaccines that need two doses, side effects are often worse after the second dose. You may want to distribute this visual guide to employees so they can understand what symptoms are a reaction to the vaccine, or actual COVID-19 illness.

Tips and considerations:

  • Schedule the vaccine clinic on a Friday if your company is on a Monday to Friday schedule
  • Encourage employees to get the vaccine before their scheduled days off
  • Stagger vaccination for employees in the same job category or area of a facility
  • Encourage employees who have a fever to stay home from work

Can I require my employees to get vaccinated or to show proof of vaccination?

Washington state does not have any mandates for getting vaccinated against COVID-19, but employers may choose to require it. If you require employees to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination from a pharmacy or healthcare provider, you should know that you cannot mandate that the employee provide any further medical information as part of their proof.

You, as an employer, have such a unique opportunity to engage with employees around the issue of COVID-19 safety and vaccination. Please let Public Health know if you need any support in this endeavor, and we will do everything that we can to make this an easy process! THANK YOU!


Moving Forward & What We’ve Learned

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Rosemary Alpert, contributing author

The global pandemic has altered our lives in extraordinary ways. We’ve learned to adjust, as best we can, finding ways to stay connected and keep going during unprecedented circumstances. As we begin to move forward, we welcome opportunities to receive the vaccination and reconnect. We have the potential to re-engage with deepening awareness and cooperation. Together, respectfully sharing our gifts as we progress forward.  

Last week, while welcoming close to 1,200 community members immediately after receiving their first vaccination, I thought about how far we’ve come and still have to go. Looking into the eyes of our community, seeing hope, relief and sincere gratitude. With each vaccination, we are making progress, slowly and steadily. This is a monumental task and takes strategic daily planning from Skagit County Public Health to move our community forward in a healthy, safe manner. 

During this time of transition, it is vitally important to remember that we still need to be vigilant: wear our masks, socially distance, wash our hands and continue to support one another with kindness and consideration. This is not the time to let our guard down, but to remember what we’ve learned. 

Let us take a moment and acknowledge how far we have come since last year. What are the lessons we learned? What are the unexpected gifts we experienced? What will we take with us as we move forward? 

I asked the team of amazing vaccinators these questions; here are some of the responses: 

  • I’ve learned how important and preventative wearing masks are. We’ve had a drastic decrease in the flu this season because of this practice. We must continue to wear our masks, even after being fully vaccinated.” 
  • “Each time I administer a vaccine, I feel like I am injecting hope into each person.” 
  • “I’ve experienced people are more forgiving.” 
  • “This time has given me an opportunity to step up, show up and be fully present for the community.” 
  • “Fills me with hope.” 
  • “I’ve learned how to really look into someone’s eyes.” 
  • “Together, we can accomplish more than we ever thought possible.” 
  • “I’ve learned to slow down, be more patient and appreciate the moment.” 
  • “Grateful to be a part of the team of community all-stars! I will never forget this.” 
  • “Realized how important it is to take each day as a gift and opportunity to be kind.” 

As more community members become eligible to receive their vaccination, we must remember how important it is to be considerate and patient. We still have more miles to travel as we maneuver through this collective journey. Let’s not regress backwards.  

Remember to stay in touch with updated information from reliable sources. Check Skagit County’s website for vaccination availability and information related to COVID-19. For us to move forward, we need cooperation from our entire community, each of us doing our part. If you know of someone who is seeking their first vaccination and does not have a computer, Public Health has a hotline dedicated to scheduling first vaccinations. Call the COVID Vaccine Hotline at 360-416-1500, option 1 for English, 2 for Spanish.  

Each day, while overseeing the post-first dose “Observation Space” at the Skagit County Fairgrounds, I share important “public service announcements.” Most importantly, reminders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends the following to slow the spread of COVID-19: 

  • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect yourself and others. 
  • Stay six feet apart from others who don’t live with you. 
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you. 
  • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available. 

Together, we will move forward, slowly and steadily.

Welcoming in a new norm, where we engage with healthy practices and consideration to support our entire community. Spring welcomes new growth and opportunities to embrace hope.   

“Apple Blossoms” 
©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2017 

To those who are fully vaccinated: We still need your help!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I have been fully vaccinated for some time now. As a Public Health employee and a part-time staff person at the Fairgrounds Vaccine Site, I was given the opportunity to receive my vaccine back in January. I cannot tell you how excited I was to get my second dose, knowing that I would soon (in two weeks) be protected from this virus that has ransacked our lives since last spring.

Over the past several months, I have watched my friends and loved ones receive their doses as well. I have also seen thousands upon thousands of Skagitonians come through our Vaccine Site, all rolling up their sleeves with a glimmer of hope in their eyes. There has been no greater gift than watching my community getting vaccinated and hearing the stories that people share.

I’ve also watched these same individuals walk out of our Observation Room, pull off their masks, and continue to walk through the parking lot carefree. This has been so incredibly concerning to watch.

You, our fully vaccinated residents, can be our number one advocates for safety and precaution. By taking the time to get vaccinated, you have essentially done just that! You are showing your friends, neighbors, and family members that you believe in the power of science, and that you are willing to take actions against COVID-19. You—my fully vaccinated peers—can be a powerful force!

So, I am pleading with you now: Please, please continue to wear your mask in public. And please, continue to limit your social gatherings though it is so incredibly tempting to do otherwise.

Trust me—I get it. There is nothing else that I’d rather do right now than have a barbeque with all of my friends and throw my mask in the dirt. I want to see my mother who lives in Canada and who I haven’t seen in over a year. I want to send my babies to daycare each day without worrying about their health and safety. But I can’t do this right now, whether or not I have received my vaccines. We just aren’t to that point yet.

We are making incredible strides, Skagit County. Our vaccination numbers are great and ever increasing. We now have just over 30% of our eligible residents fully vaccinated, and 40% well on their way with one vaccine to their name. That said, there are still many people who haven’t gotten vaccinated (whether by choice or because they haven’t been eligible or have been underage). These individuals need your help right now in order to stay safe. Your choices—daily—can make a life or death difference. I know that this isn’t a responsibility that I hold lightly.

Together, we can show people that we care and that we are willing to fight. By continuing to wear our masks in public, we are communicating a message to our fellow Skagitonians: that masking should be the norm for right now. That science works. That we care. I’d also hate for someone who isn’t vaccinated to see me walking around sans mask, since they wouldn’t know that I’m fully vaccinated. They’d just assume that I don’t care.

Our case numbers are going up right now. The Governor has now coined it as the “forth wave.” I am sick of this and sick of COVID. And I know you are too. But we know that wearing our masks can make a big difference—heck, it has saved so many lives already. Let’s continue to make progress. We don’t want to move backward; not economically with our reopening, or emotionally (you feel me right?).

Thank you for getting vaccinated. From the bottom of our hearts at the Fairgrounds: Thank you! Now let’s be the change that we want to see in the world. Let’s mask up for each other.

And if you’re wondering then what the point of getting vaccinated is if you can’t get rid of the mask all together, I also get that. There are many benefits to getting vaccinated, both for health and safety reasons…but also for fringe benefits as well! For updated CDC guidelines around travel, gathering, and mask wearing for fully vaccinated folks, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html.


Calling all Millennials, Zennials & Gen Z: GET VACCINATED TODAY!

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Post contributed by Laura Han, Skagit County PIO

Hi everyone!

I got my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine today and I felt compelled to write something to address my follow Millennials. And while I’m at it, let’s not forget our Zennials and Gen Z’ers out there. To our high school seniors, college students, young professionals and young parents…to those helping to care for their parents and those who are just striking out on their own…It’s time for you to get vaccinated!

On April 15, Governor Inslee opened up vaccine eligibility to all Washington residents ages 16 and older. We’re seeing throughout Skagit County that vaccine appointments are open and available. Unlike early on in the vaccination efforts when finding an appointment was a bit of a shot in the dark, you should be able to find appointments via covidwa.com, the Washington State Department of Health Vaccine Locator, and by calling your local health department (360-416-1500).

Laura Han (Skagit PIO and resident Millennial) gets her final COVID-19 vaccine.

And look, I get it. If you’re not living in pandemic response (like me and my Public Health colleagues) and have a low chance of poor health outcomes from COVID-19 (maybe you’ve even already had it and it wasn’t that bad), finding and making a vaccine appointment is like making your yearly dental cleaning: It’s no fun, it’s a pain and it’s a chore that you don’t really have time or emotional energy for.

But here’s the thing: getting everyone vaccinated is the only way out of this pandemic and YOU ARE PART OF EVERYONE. Even if you feel like you don’t ‘need’ it for personal safety. It’s a community effort, ya’ll.

You getting vaccinated not only protects you from getting sick, potentially becoming a long hauler or DYING (which, I have to be honest, seems like motivation enough to me but, I digress), it protects the people around you. It protects your grandparents, your friends who might not be sixteen yet, the kids in the preschool class you teach, your partner with extra risk factors. It helps keep your Uncle’s restaurant open, or your Mom’s yarn store in business.

Anyone who can’t be vaccinated or is at higher risk of poor health outcomes from COVID-19 will be safer because you took the time to get vaccinated and community spread will be slower, allowing us to keep businesses open and focus on moving past the pandemic.

Look, Millennials and younger folks get mocked for ‘wanting to change the world.’ We’re more idealistic, more community focused than our parents and grandparents. How often do you get an easy, one step (okay, two steps) way too make your community better? To make everyone you know and love safer? GET VACCINATED TODAY.

You can find appointments at:
www.covidwa.com
www.vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov

Or by calling Skagit Public Health Vaccine Hotline at 360-416-1500.


“Let’s get out of here!” Traveling After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

Reading Time: 2 minutes

You did it! You got vaccinated! Thank you for doing so. It helps not only protect you but the community at large. We bet that you’re ready to start returning to some of the activities you gave up in March 2020, including travel. If you are, please keep some things in mind.

The COVID-19 vaccines currently in use are highly effective.

Real world data has shown that their nearly 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death amongst fully vaccinated individuals. In fact, Washington State has only observed a breakthrough rate of 0.01%, which is fantastic. Being fully vaccinated means you can do a lot of things again, such as:

  • Gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or social distancing
  • Gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household without masks or social distancing unless one of the participants is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Travel domestically, or return from international travel without getting a negative COVID-19 test or self-quarantining (Note: if you’re traveling internationally, you might still need a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country you’re visiting. Do your research before you go).
  • Unless you live in a group setting (like a correctional facility or group home), you don’t need to quarantine after an exposure to COVID-19 as long as you don’t develop symptoms.

Reminder: After receiving your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or your Johnson & Johnson shot, you need to wait two weeks for immunity to build in your system. After that two week period, you’re considered fully vaccinated.

That said, COVID-19 vaccines aren’t get out of jail free cards.

There is still a risk that you could contract COVID-19 and spread it to loved ones or close contacts. This means that when traveling you should:

  • Keep wearing masks- and two if you can- especially on airplanes, in public spaces and when gathering with unvaccinated individuals from multiple households. 
  • Avoid large gatherings or events, especially when indoors, where people don’t remain in fixed locations, engage in activities that pose great risk for spread (singing, exercising, shouting, etc…) or wear masks aren’t or can’t be worn.
  •  Monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, and if any develop get tested right away.
  • Avoid visiting unvaccinated individuals who are at increased risk for poor health outcomes after traveling or being in public spaces for prolonged periods.
  • Follow your workplace guidance on quarantine when returning, which may be more strict than what is outlined here.

We’re all looking forward to increased travel and activity–but we’re not quite out of the woods yet. Please, continue to be smart and practice good behaviors. Wear your mask, practice social distancing in public or with unvaccinated individuals, wash your hands frequently (like, all the time and for lots of reasons it’s just a good thing to do).

If you’re planning a trip and are nervous about some of the circumstances, we’ve included a handy flow chart that can help guide you towards the best decision for your situation.

We’re in this together and we’ll get through this by protecting our community together.


Needles? No Problem! Coping with your COVID-19 Vaccine

Reading Time: 3 minutes

People react to needles in all sorts of ways: some people are fascinated by them, other people have a mild dislike for them, and many people flat out cannot stand them. Whatever camp you fall into, you most likely already know how important vaccinations are.

And when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, its importance cannot be overstated. A COVID-19 vaccination will help keep you from getting COVID-19—protecting you from severe illness and even death—and may also protect the people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the best tools that we have against ending the pandemic and gradually returning to some type of “normal.”

Still, this may not make lifting your sleeve any easier. Deciding to make an appointment—and actually following through—may seem like an insurmountable feat for someone with an intense fear of needles. After all, a fear of needles (known as trypanophobia) is said to impact about 25 percent of adults in the U.S., and can cause increased heart rate, fainting, and even full-blown panic attacks.

If you are one of those individuals who struggles with vaccinations, here are some tips to prepare yourself for the COVID-19 vaccine.

1. Talk to your doctor

Getting a shot can be anxiety inducing, even when it is something as common as an annual flu shot. With the COVID-19 vaccine, there is a lot of fearmongering and politicization that may be heightening your anxiety. For this reason, you may want to talk with your primary care doctor about the vaccine to dispel any rumors that you’ve heard.

Your doctor will be able to explain the differences between the available vaccine brands, can discuss possible short-term side effects, and can also address any medical concerns that may need to be addressed prior to vaccination.

If you really struggle with vaccinations, talk to your doctor about which local vaccine provider location will be best suited to your needs.

2. Book the appointment

Worrying about making an appointment will not make the process any easier, and it won’t do anything positive for your mental health. When you’ve talked with your doctor, gotten the information you need, and feel ready to take the step forward…do it! Then celebrate your bravery!

3. Familiarize yourself with the site

Sometimes when you feel anxious about a new experience, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the place or process. If you have questions about a specific vaccine provider location, visit their website and read about what you should expect when you arrive for your appointment.

If you are making an appointment with Skagit County Public Health at the Skagit County Fairgrounds, reading our blog post may help to calm your nerves: https://skagitcounty.blog/2021/01/21/covid-19-vaccine-clinic-step-by-step/.  You can also access our website by visiting www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call our Hotline at (360) 416-1500.

4. Take Your Time & Talk to our Nurses

When you arrive to your appointment, make sure to give yourself some time. Try to arrive a few minutes early so you aren’t rushing through traffic and be sure to eat a bit before you come.

If you have questions or concerns, be sure to talk with the nurse. Letting them know that you are nervous about receiving a vaccine is totally okay! Trust us, it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve heard this!

Your nurse will most likely offer some advice on how to deal with getting your shot and will provide you with some information that you will need post-vaccine (such as what to do for pain management if you have a sore arm). If you have questions, ask! We are here for you.

5. Use Your Coping Skills

If you know from experience that you will be feeling particularly anxious during your vaccine appointment, make sure to have some coping skills at your disposal. Here are some examples:

Deep Breathing

Slow, deep, and calming breaths can help you avoid panic. There are many different breathing techniques that you can call upon. It is important to find the ones that work for you.

Box Breathing is an exercise where you breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for another four and repeat. It can help to imagine your breath creating an imaginary box in the air.

Another technique is Pursed Lip Breathing. To practice it, you breathe in through your nose and breathe out at least twice as long through your mouth with pursed lips.

Focus Shifting & Distractions

Distracting yourself may not help you get over your fear of needles, but it can help you cope in the moment. Need some ways to shift your focus or distract yourself? Here are some tricks:

  • Talk to someone about something random—the weather, sports, a TV show. Whatever!
  • Count backwards from 50 or try to say the alphabet backwards.
  • Think about fun plans that you have or what you would like to do on the weekend.
  • Look around and find three things you hadn’t noticed before.

Positive Affirmations

As you are waiting to receive your shot, be thinking about some positive affirmations. Remember that you have gotten vaccinations before and have been fine. That you’ve overcome difficult things. That you are not in danger, though your body or brain may be causing you to think so. You are okay, you are brave. You are making a difference in your community!

For more helpful tips and resources: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/821-133-BehavioralHealthTipsGettingTheVaccine.pdf