Testing at home? Here’s what you need to know.

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[Updated January 11, 2022]

The new Omicron variant has been detected here in Skagit County, and we’re expecting to see a dramatic rise in cases over the coming weeks. Thankfully though, we don’t need to fret! Other than getting vaccinated, testing is one of our most important tools for slowing the spread.

Below you’ll find some helpful information about the at-home testing process and what to do once you’ve tested. For more information about COVID-19 testing, visit the Washington State Department of Health’s webpage here.

Why should you test for COVID-19?

Testing saves lives! Testing allows people to take precautions, like quarantining, in a timely manner to stop the virus from spreading; infected people without symptoms can still spread the virus. Testing also helps public health officials identify and respond to outbreaks, and to track new variants of the virus. Testing is an important component in helping resume normal activities.

Who should test?

Anyone, regardless of vaccination status, should get tested if they’re showing symptoms of COVID-19. They should also get tested if they have had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 symptoms may include:

  • 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

If you’re not fully vaccinated, you should also get tested if:

  • You’ve taken part in activities that put you at higher risk, such as being in large gatherings or crowded indoor settings.
  • You’re traveling (even domestically). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends unvaccinated people get tested 1–3 days before a trip and 3–5 days after returning from a trip.

The vaccines are very effective, but breakthrough cases can happen. If you’re fully vaccinated, you may still need to get tested in some instances (even if you’re not showing symptoms). Basically, it comes down to this: When in doubt: Test.

When should you test?

Go to a testing site or use an at-home test if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who may be positive for COVID-19. You should test immediately if having symptoms, or 3-5 days after suspected exposure, even if you don’t experience any symptoms.

Where can you get an at-home test?

Public Health has now run out of at-home testing kits. Please consider for-purchase at-home testing options, available at locations such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, Bartell Drugs, CVS, Walmart, Safeway, and Albertsons.

At present, testing demand is far exceeding availability throughout our state. If you cannot get access to testing, please refer to the CDC’s Isolation and Quarantine Guidance found here: https://bit.ly/3JQLIwF.

IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS but do not need medical care and can’t get a test, you might have COVID-19 and you should isolate for at least 5 days to keep from spreading the virus to others. Monitor your symptoms.

IF YOU WERE EXPOSED to someone with COVID-19 and need to quarantine and are unable to get a test 5 days after your last close contact, you can leave your home after day 5 if you have not had symptoms; wear a mask for 10 days after last contact.

What kind of test is available for at-home use?

All available at-home tests are rapid antigen tests. These tests typically provide results in 10-15 minutes and are used to identify those with active COVID-19 infections. A positive result generally means a person currently has COVID-19 and can spread the virus to others.

What should you do if you test positive?

Please call the state COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127 (press #) as soon as you receive a positive test result. The hotline is available Monday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Tuesday to Sunday (and observed holidays) 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

An interviewer from the Washington State Department of Health will contact you to discuss what’s next and what support is available. Learn more about what to expect if you test positive.

If you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and have symptoms (regardless of vaccination status), you can end home isolation when:

  • It’s been at least 24 hours with no fever without using fever-reducing medication, AND
  • Your symptoms have improved, AND
  • At least 5 days since symptoms first appeared.

If you test positive for COVID-19, but have not had any symptoms, you can end home isolation when:

  • At least 5 days have passed since the date of your first positive COVID-19 test, AND
  • You have had no subsequent illness.

Note: If you need help while you’re isolating at home, you may be able to get support from Care Connect Washington.

What if you tested negative but are experiencing symptoms?

If you test negative but are currently experiencing COVID-like symptoms or have been recently exposed to COVID-19, the safest thing to do is to get a follow-up PCR test. A PCR test is a molecular test that looks for genetic material inside the virus and can determine if a person is “COVID-19 positive.” The turnaround time for results with these tests is usually 24–72 hours. While you wait for your results, please quarantine to avoid any possible spread.

Looking for a PCR test? Visit our website for a full list of testing providers here in Skagit County.


Holiday Operational Changes at the Skagit Fairgrounds Testing & Vaccine Site

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November 3, 2021

The Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccine Site at 501 Taylor Street in Mount Vernon operates on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 3pm to 7pm. During the months of November and December, the site will be closed on the following dates:

  • Thursday, November 11th (Veteran’s Day)
  • Thursday, November 25th (Thanksgiving)
  • Friday, November 26th (Thanksgiving)
  • Friday, December 24th (Christmas Eve)
  • Friday, December 31st (New Year’s Day)

In lieu of these dates, the site will be open on the following days from 3pm to 7pm:

  • Wednesday, November 10th
  • Wednesday November 24th
  • Wednesday, December 22nd
  • Wednesday, December 29th

These dates have been added to ensure that vital vaccination and testing services remain available during the busy holiday season. As a reminder, the Fairgrounds Site should not be used as a testing option for those seeking to travel or attend an event that requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

For a full list of vaccination and testing providers, go to: www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus or call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127, then press #.


Immediate closure of Pass Lake: Danger for toxic blue green algae exposure at Pass Lake, Deception Pass State Park

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August 17, 2021

Users of Deception Pass State Park should be aware that Pass Lake in the Skagit County portion of the park is closed until further notice due to high Anatoxin-a levels. Water samples tested this week detected concentrations of Anatoxin-a in exceedance of the state recreational guidelines.

The preliminary result from the King County Environmental Lab is 2,576 micrograms per liter of anatoxin-a present in the water sample taken from Pass Lake. According to the Washington State Department of Health, the level of public health concern for anatoxin-a is 1 microgram per liter. 

Anatoxin-a is an acute neurotoxin that can be harmful to humans and animals. Even short-term exposure is a concern. Signs of Neurotoxin Poisoning appear within 15-20 minutes of ingestion, and may include:

  • In people: numbness of the lips, tingling in fingers and toes, and dizziness.
  • In animals: weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and death.

Until further testing confirms the toxin levels are back within state recreational guidelines, red “Danger” signs will be posted at the lake advising individuals to keep out of the lake, do not swim, drink lake water, fish, recreate, or allow pets or animals to access the lake.

The toxicity of each bloom can vary and is difficult to predict. Toxicity can change from one day to the next. It isn’t possible to determine how dangerous a bloom is to people and animals by looking at it. Only testing can tell if it is dangerous. Pass Lake will be continuously monitored until the levels drop below recommended guidelines.

The public is encouraged to take the following precautions when choosing a body of water for recreation:

  • Look for signs of toxic algae blooms and pay attention to signage. When in doubt, stay out!
  • Do not swim in, and limit exposure to water that is under a health advisory or is listed as having a toxic algae bloom on the Washington State Department of Ecology toxic algae tracking site.
  • Contact a healthcare provider immediately if you become ill or have symptoms after a suspected exposure to algae bloom.

For questions concerning cyanobacteria blooms within Skagit County lakes, please e-mail Samantha Russell at eh@co.skagit.wa.us or visit the Washington State Department of Health website for Blue-Green Algae. Testing results for Washington Lakes are posted at Washington State Toxic Algae.


Have You Heard About WA Notify?

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Information provided by WA DOH.

On Monday, Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced the launch of WA Notify, a simple, anonymous exposure notification tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

What is WA Notify?

Washington Exposure Notifications (also known as WA Notify) is a new tool that works through smartphones, without sharing any personal information, to alert users if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. It is completely private, and doesn’t know or track who you are or where you go.

How does it work?

When you enable WA Notify, your phone exchanges random, anonymous codes with the phones of people you are near who have also enabled WA Notify. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to exchange these random codes without revealing any information about you. If another WA Notify user you’ve been near in the last two weeks later tests positive for COVID-19 and adds their verification code to the app, you’ll get an anonymous notification that you’ve had a possible exposure. This lets you get the care you need quickly and helps prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to the people around you.

How will it help?

Studies have found that the more people who use exposure notification, the greater the benefit. Models based on three counties in Washington state show that even a small number of people there using WA Notify would reduce infections and deaths. Just like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small, WA Notify is another tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

How do I sign up for notifications?

WA Notify is free and can be enabled in iPhone settings or downloaded as an app from the Google Play Store for Android phones. Users can opt out at any time.

Is it safe to use?

WA Notify uses privacy-preserving technology jointly developed by Google and Apple and works without collecting or revealing any location or personal data. WA Notify is based on Google Apple Exposure Notification technology, which was designed to safeguard user privacy. The system never collects or shares any location data or personal information with Google, Apple, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), or other users. Participation is entirely voluntary. Users can opt in or out at any time.

Once I am signed up, what do I do next?

Additional action is only needed if:
1. You test positive for COVID-19, or
2. You receive a notification that you may have been exposed.

If you test positive, and public health reaches out to you, they will ask if you are using WA Notify. If you are, they will generate a verification code and help you enter it into WA Notify. The code is not tied to your personal information. Public health has no way to know who will be notified by the app about exposure when you enter your code. The notification will not include any information about you. The more people who share their codes, the better we can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If WA Notify detects you may have been exposed, a notification on your phone will direct you to a website with information about what you should do next. This includes how and where to get tested, information about keeping yourself and those close to you safe, and resources to answer your questions. It’s important to read and follow the directions on the website carefully. The notification will not include information about who may have exposed you or where. It’s completely anonymous.

Why did Washington choose this solution?

Washington formed a state oversight group, including security and civil liberties experts and members of several communities, to review the Apple/Google solution. The group recommended adoption based on the platform’s proven reliability, robust data protection and use by other states.

Visit WANotify.org to learn more.

View a video that describes how WA Notify works: