Gathering safely this Holiday Season

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Although Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and other celebrations are sure to look a little different again this year, things aren’t looking nearly as ominous as they were in 2020! On Friday, October 15th, the CDC updated its guidance for safe Holiday Celebrations. This year’s holiday guidance ensures that with a few precautions, you’ll still be able to gather with family.

So, what is considered safe, and what could be a bit risky this winter? Here’s how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe this holiday season, based on recommendations from the CDC.

Most importantly…Get vaccinated!

Because many generations tend to gather to celebrate holidays, the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible.

At this time, there is still a percentage of our population that is unvaccinated, including children 11 and younger who aren’t yet eligible. By getting vaccinated, you are doing your part to keep these family members and friends safe.

If you haven’t yet gotten your vaccine, there is still time before Thanksgiving! To be fully vaccinated by Thursday, November 25th, you’ll need to get your first dose of Pfizer by Thursday, October 18th. Want to go the single-dose route? Get your Jonson & Johnson vaccine by November 11th.

To find a vaccine near you, go to https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/.

Outdoors is best. If indoors, wear a mask.

Outdoor gatherings are still safer than indoor gatherings since COVID-19 spreads more easily indoors than outdoors. Studies have also shown that people are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 when they are closer than 6 feet apart from others for longer periods of time.

If possible, plan to host holiday gatherings outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces (think a garage with the door open, a back patio, or nearby park). If gathering indoors, plan for people 5 and older to wear well-fitting masks, especially if folks are not fully vaccinated. For kiddos 2-4 years old, a mask is also recommended at this time considering our high transmission rates.

Note: In Washington, masks are required to be worn by all people five and older, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor public spaces, and in outdoor settings with 500 or more people. Beginning on November 15th, masks will also be required at certain indoor and outdoor large, ticketed events.

If traveling, plan ahead and take precautions.

If you are considering traveling for the holidays this year, visit the CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family.

Some things to note:

Plan to test for COVID-19 before you leave. And remember that testing appointments may be in high demand this holiday season, so if you need proof of a negative test, plan accordingly.

To find a testing location near you, go to www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.

Postpone if sick, and when in doubt…get tested!

If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, don’t host or attend a gathering until your symptoms have cleared. It is better to postpone than to potential spread the virus to those you love. If, in the days prior to your gathering, you develop symptoms of COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, get tested!

So, what if you’ve attended a party or gathering and are now sick with symptoms?

If you are unvaccinated

  • Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.
  • Watch for fever (100.4°F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If possible, stay away from others, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

If you are fully vaccinated

  • Get tested 3-5 days after the exposure, even if you don’t have any symptoms.
  • Wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following the exposure or until your test result is negative.

The holidays are definitely doable this year, we just need to take a little extra precaution. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, gather outdoors if possible, and stay home if sick. It’s as easy as (pumpkin) pie!


Is it safe to Trick-or-Treat this Halloween?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

UPDATE: The CDC is currently in the process of updating its Holiday Guidance. We will update the information below if recommendations change for Halloween 2021.

It’s October, and you know what that means: HALLOWEEN! And since last year was a bit of a dud, it’s no wonder that people have some questions about this year’s trick-or-treating prospects.

This year is different in many ways from Halloween of 2020. Last October, we were still a few months away from any sort of COVID vaccine. This year, our vaccination rates are sitting at just over 72 percent for Skagitonians 12 years and older, and more people are choosing to get vaccinated each day.

Unfortunately, this October, our case and hospitalization rates are also higher than they’ve ever been throughout the pandemic. Though our vaccination rates are promising, we still have approximately 37 percent of our entire population unvaccinated, including kiddos under 11 who are not yet eligible. This means that we still have many Skagitonians who do not have protection against the virus and are at increased risk.

For this reason, it makes sense that people would have some reservations about going out on the 31st. So, is Halloween safe this year? Well … the answer is, like most things these days, not super straight forward.

To Trick-or-Treat, or not?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given the “okay” for children nationwide to trick-or-treat this Halloween—one year after it advised against the tradition last year due to coronavirus concerns. That said, there are a few caveats to consider.

Experts say it’s still best to take precautionary measures for Halloween given that most trick-or-treating children are younger than 11 years old and thus, still unvaccinated. If children do go trick-or-treating, it is recommended that they do so in small groups. Also, when possible, it is best to avoid scenarios where many people are concentrated in a central location.

The CDC has published a helpful guide for people planning to trick-or-treat this year. Some tips for safe trick-or-treating include:

For people passing out candy:

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • And of course, wear a mask!

For kids collecting candy:

  • Wear a mask!
    • PRO TIP: Make the mask a part of the costume! But remember, costume masks are not a substitute for a well-fitting cloth mask.
    • Remember: Kids younger than two years of old should never wear a mask to decrease the risk of suffocation.
  • Wash or sanitize hands frequently. Before settling down to devour treats, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Maintain distance by staying at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.

What about fall festivals and Halloween parties?

In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, like Skagit County, it is recommended that people two years and older wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings and while attending outdoor activities where close contact with others is expected. This would include your fall festivals, pumpkin patches, trunk-or-treating events, and the like.

If planning to go to a large event outdoors, please know that the statewide mask mandate requires that masks are worn at large outdoor events of 500 or more people. This includes all people five years and older, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.   

In general, folks are asked to avoid large Halloween parties this year, especially parties taking place indoors with people from multiple households. When getting together, gathering outdoors is much safer than gathering indoors.

For those who choose to gather indoors, please:

  • Wear a well-fitted face mask
  • Keep your distance (6 feet or more)
  • Ventilate the space by opening doors and windows

If gathering in an indoor public space this year, know that the statewide mandate requires that masks be worn by all people five and older, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

What’s the best thing to do to prepare for fall and winter festivities?

The principles of this pandemic really do continue to hold. Outdoor gatherings are better than indoor gatherings, ventilation is important, and masking remains crucial.

But above all else, the best thing you can do right now is to get vaccinated. This is the easiest thing that you can do to keep yourself, and your loved ones, safe this fall and winter. And while you’re at it, get your flu shot, too!

Getting vaccinated now will help make this Halloween better than last year’s and will ensure many spooky-fun Halloweens to come. Want to be fully vaccinated in time for the 31st? You still have time! Get your single-dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine by October 17th, and you’re covered!

Ready to get your shot? Go to https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/ or stop by the Skagit County Fairgrounds on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday between 3-7pm.

For more holiday gathering guidance, go to the CDC’s webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/index.html.


Suicide Prevention: A Critical Conversation, This Year and Every Year

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This month during National Suicide Prevention Month, we are taking extra time to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and seeking help if and when needed. This year, as we see COVID-19 cases spiking and as many are feeling the affects of moths of chronic stress, it is critical that we revisit some important mental health talking points.

If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. Below are some tips to consider from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline when talking with friends and family about mental health, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

Do They Need Your Help?

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

How Can You Help Them?

Note: It can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide, and it can be difficult to know how a suicidal crisis feels and how to act. Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time for help if someone in your life is struggling.

Contact a Lifeline Center

Never keep it a secret if a friend or family member tells you about a plan to hurt themselves. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) so that you can find out what resources are available to you or encourage your loved one to call.

A few other resources include:

  • Crisis line 24-hour hotline: 800-584-3578 (for Island, Skagit, Snohomish & Whatcom Counties)
  • Veteran Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255 press 1, text 838255, or chat online
  • LGBTQ+ Suicide Hotline (Trevor Project): 866-488-7386 or Text START to 678-678  
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Use The Do’s and Don’ts

Talking with and finding help for someone that may be suicidal can be difficult. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don’t dare him or her to do it.
  • Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action. Remove means, like weapons or pills. Do never put yourself at risk or in harms way. If the situation is unsafe or you feel threatened, call 911.
  • Get help from people or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Go to https://namiskagit.org/ for local resources.

Use the 5 Action Steps

These evidence-based action steps from bethe1to.com provide a blueprint for reaching and helping someone in crisis.

  1. ASK – Yes, you can ask the question: “Are you thinking about suicide?” By asking it directly, you are communicating that you are open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct, unbiased manner, can open the door for healthier, more effective dialogue about their emotional state and can allow everyone to see what next steps need to be taken.
  2. BE THERE – It may seem that “being there” for people is harder recently. But you can be present in different ways. If you can’t physically be with someone, speak with them on the phone when you can or try sending supportive text messages; whatever you can do to show support for the person at risk. An important aspect of this step is to make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person; do not commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present with someone with thoughts of suicide, talk with them to develop some ideas for others who might be able to help as well (again, only others who are willing, able, and appropriate to be there). Listening is again very important during this step – find out what and who they believe will be the most effective sources of help.
  3. KEEP THEM SAFE – First of all, it’s good for everyone to be on the same page. After the “Ask” step, and you’ve determined suicide is indeed being talked about, it’s important to find out a few things to establish immediate safety. Have they already done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you? Does the person experiencing thoughts of suicide know how they would kill themselves? Do they have a detailed plan? What’s the timing for their plan? What sort of access do they have to their planned method?
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT – Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports (like the Lifeline, 800-273-8255) can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Additional components of a safety net might be connecting them with supports and resources in their communities. Explore some of these possible supports with them – are they currently seeing a mental health professional? Have they in the past? Is this an option for them currently? Are there other mental health resources in the community that can effectively help?
  5. FOLLOW UP – After your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing. Leave a message, send a text, or give them a call. The follow-up step is a great time to check in with them to see if there is more you are capable of helping with or if there are things you’ve said you would do and haven’t yet had the chance to get done for the person.

Practice Active Listening

Hearing someone talk is different than actively listening to what that person is saying. Active listening requires concentration and understanding. Improving your listening skills is easy to do with practice and these helpful tips below:

Acknowledge the Speaker

This can be as simple as a head nod or an “Uh huh.” By acknowledging the speaker, you are letting them know that you are listening to what they have to say and reminding yourself to pay attention to what is being said to you.

Respond Verbally

Asking questions or making statements may help clarify what the speaker is saying. It reminds the speaker that you are listening attentively and that you are here to help them and are truly concerned. Be sure to let the speaker finish talking before asking any questions.

Summarize What You Hear

Reflecting on what the listener is saying is also a positive verbal active listening technique. By repeating, paraphrasing, or even summarizing what the speaker has said shows that you are putting in effort to better understand them. Use phrases like; “what I’m hearing is…”or, “sounds like you’re saying….” These tactics can also allow the speaker to hear what they are saying, which may help them find positive reinforcement.

Be Mindful of Body Language

Keeping eye contact, maintaining good posture, and staying focused are key components of active listening and interpersonal communication. Being distracted and unfocused gives the speaker the impression that you aren’t paying attention. When you actively listen to someone, you are letting them know that you care about what they are saying and can indicate that you are concerned for their health and safety.

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It is important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please reach out for support yourself. Know that anyone is encouraged to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline to speak with a trained professional. They’re here for you.

This September let’s actively try to reach out to those in our lives. And if you are struggling yourself, consider reaching out for help. There is absolutely no shame in needing help, and you deserve to feel better.


Prepare to Protect – September is National Preparedness Month

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As if the current pandemic wasn’t enough, the wildfires and extreme heat this summer definitely helped to remind us of the importance of preparing for disasters. Now that we’re in September, it is time to celebrate National Preparedness Month (NPM), an awareness campaign which promotes family and community disaster and emergency planning. It’s an opportunity to remind folks that we all must prepare ourselves and our families for when emergencies happen.

The goal of NPM is to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, school…wherever! This year’s theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.” Each week in September, a different aspect of preparedness is highlighted. The weekly highlights this year include:

September 1-4: MAKE A PLAN

What this means…

It may help to ask yourself a few questions as you create your emergency plan and discuss them with the other members of your household. They include:

  1. How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
  2. What is my shelter plan?
  3. What is my evacuation route?
  4. What is my family/household communication plan?
  5. Check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and update my emergency plans due to COVID-19.
  6. Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Make sure to update your plan based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations due to the coronavirus.

Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Make sure to update your plan based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations due to the coronavirus.

Once you’ve made your emergency plan, practice it! Try testing your communications plan and meeting at your agreed-upon shelter if you get separated. For guidance on making an emergency plan, go visit Ready.gov here.

September 5-11: BUILD A KIT

What this means…

Gather supplies that will last for several days after a disaster for everyone living in your home. Don’t forget to consider the unique needs each person or pet may have in case you have to evacuate quickly. To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Note: Since Spring of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended people include additional items in their kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus or other viruses and the flu. Some additional items include face masks, soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces.

For more guidance on building an emergency kit, go to Ready.gov here.

September 12-18: LOW-COST, NO-COST PREPAREDNESS

What this means…

Limit the impacts that disasters have on you and your family. Know the risk of disasters in your area. Learn how to make your home stronger in the face of storms and other common hazards.  Check your insurance coverage to make sure it is up-to-date. For information on ensuring your property, go here.

September 19-25: TEACH YOUTH ABOUT PREPAREDNESS

What this means…

Talk to your kids about preparing for emergencies and what to do in case you are separated. Reassure them by providing information about how they can get involved.

Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find, and don’t forget to think about specific needs in your family. Your family’s needs change over time, so update your plan regularly. For guidance on emergency plans for families with children, go here.


For more preparedness information, including how to make a disaster or emergency plan and how to make your own emergency kit, go to www.ready.gov.

Skagit County also has local disaster information on our emergency preparedness website. Here, you can register to receive emergency alerts and notifications in your area through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System.  This system is a great way to receive local, timely and critical information when it matters most.


What are Social Determinants of Health?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Post contributed by Aaron Katz, Skagit County Board of Health member

Social Determinants of Health.  The phrase was born out of a growing recognition that medical care is not the main ingredient in good health, despite our tendency to equate health with hospitals and doctors.  In fact, as far back as 2000 – 20 years ago! – researchers estimated that medical care was responsible for only about 10% of our health; the other 90% was mostly the product of environmental, economic, and social factors.

This isn’t surprising – I think most families know their well-being is dependent mostly on whether they have a job with sufficient income, a stable roof over their heads, adequate food, decent recreation opportunities, good relationships, and a safe environment.  Yes, medical care matters, but usually only in exceptional times. 

The Covid pandemic has opened our eyes to how “social determinants” affect us in ways that were, for many of us, invisible before:

  • The structure of the job market – Who knew there were “essential workers”??  And isn’t it interesting that one feature many such workers – hospital staff, farm workers, grocery store clerks – shared was higher risk of Covid infection, because they had to work closely together or in sustained contact with the public.  And they often earned low wages and had few benefits, like health insurance or paid leave for caring for themselves or loved ones.
  • Housing affordability – Every community, large and small, has struggled with assuring every person had stable housing.  Real estate prices continued to grow even during the pandemic, making it more and more difficult for especially lower income workers to live close to their work or to afford to buy enough nutritious food for their children. People without stable housing are more vulnerable to infection much less the health effects of living outdoors during our cold, wet winters.
  • Supply chains – The vibrancy of our economy – as well as our health care system – depends on an intricate web of linkages that supply us with food (remember the flour shortage!), electronic parts, clothing, and toilet paper.  It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how broken supply chains like these worsen our health and well-being.

Ok, so now we can see more clearly how social determinants of health work in our communities.  But the phrase “social determinants” hides an important fact … that the factors like those I note above are neither “determinant” – as in, fated or a forgone conclusion – nor are they “social” – in the sense of being just a product of some natural way that society operates. 

Rather, these “social determinants” are very much the products of how a community shapes itself – the decisions it makes about land use, transportation, taxation, economic development, education, parks and recreation, and environmental protection and restoration. 

So, as we continue to our fight against the Covid pandemic together, we can make decisions that will strengthen our communities, for today and far into the future. If you’d like to learn more about improving health and wellness in the community and the social determinants of health, check out the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Aaron Katz is a Skagit County Board of Health member and Principal Lecturer Emeritus at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Aaron received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1974 and a certificate (master) of public health degree from the University of Toronto in 1975.


Meet the Population health Trust, Part Three

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Skagit County Population Health Trust (or “Trust”) is gearing up to publish its new Community Health Assessment; a document which provides a framework for what the County and its partners will focus on over the next several years. Trust members have been busily collecting data and community input over the spring and summer in order to identify the top health concerns of our residents.

This Assessment, called the CHA, would not be possible without a diverse group of experts coming together with a shared mission and vision. One of its members, Anneliese Vance-Sherman, has shared her thoughts about the importance of the Trust below.

What health topic are you most committed to improving for Skagitonians?

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Ph.D.

My top priority on the Population Health Trust is improving economic health for Skagit County residents. While economic health is not necessarily what comes to mind first for most people, it is a social determinant of health. Economic stability makes it possible for individuals and families to access stable housing, healthy food, routine health checkups and be able to withstand unexpected stresses.

Economic health takes many forms, and shows up in an interconnected web of priorities. I am specifically committed to working with workforce and education partners to help build a financially stable, skilled, and resilient local workforce. I also work closely with economic development and business to attract, build and retain businesses that support jobs in the community. I am also committed to improving access to affordable housing, supporting mental and behavioral health, and ensuring that all families are able to access the resources they need to raise healthy children and pave a pathway for future success.

Which agency or organization do you represent on the Trust?

I represent the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD). ESD’s mission statement reads “We provide communities with inclusive workforce solutions that promote economic resilience and prosperity.” Economic health and financial security are fundamentally connected to community health. Indeed, steady employment and reliable wages make it possible for individuals and families to access resources that contribute to their well-being and that of the community.

What have you/your agency been up to during COVID?

The Employment Security Department has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 employment crisis since day one, in a number of different capacities.

  • The Unemployment Insurance division has assisted an unprecedented number of Washingtonians seeking unemployment benefits. ESD brought in staff from other parts of the agency and even the national guard to process a tsunami of claims as quickly and effectively as possible, while simultaneously working to identify and block fraudulent applications.
  • The constellation of organizations and service providers that make up the WorkSource system reimagined service delivery during the pandemic. Staff assisted job seekers through online meetings and appointments. Many ESD staff in WorkSource also assisted the Unemployment Insurance division during the peak of the pandemic.
  • ESD launched the Paid Family and Medical Leave program during the pandemic.
  • The division I work for (Labor Market and Economic Analysis) collects, analyzes and publishes labor market information. The quickly-evolving situation brought on by the pandemic required us to think about data differently. Our team focused a great deal of attention to unemployment insurance data both because there was heightened demand for it given the nature of the crisis and because with a weekly cadence for reporting, unemployment insurance data helped us to keep closer tabs on the changing economy. 

I have spent the pandemic innovating with my ESD colleagues over zoom meetings and communicating frequently with partner agencies in the economic and workforce development arenas and the media. My desk has been my kitchen table, and my in-person co-workers included two young scholars attending school remotely, my spouse who was also working from home, two dogs, and two cats.

I also volunteered at the Skagit County COVID-19 testing center; first at the Skagit Valley College campus, then at the fairgrounds. It was humbling to see how many people were proactively getting tested, and rewarding to work alongside so many dedicated community-minded neighbors.

Why do you think the Population Health Trust is important?

If you tug on a single thread in a woven piece of cloth, the cloth will pucker and pull. Tugging on the single thread may even tear and destroy the integrity of the cloth. If you are only aware of or focused on the single thread, it is difficult to anticipate how a single action could impact the whole.

The Population Health Trust relies on deep multi-sector engagement of community leaders and stakeholders with a mission to explore and promote community health in Skagit County. The diverse composition of the Trust makes this possible. Our multi-sector team includes representatives from hospitals and health care providers, community organizations, education, state and local government, law enforcement, and more. Together, we explore issues that impact community health, and proactively work toward creative and sustainable strategies that will improve the well-being of communities throughout Skagit County.

Rather than each pulling on our own thread, we can collectively take a step back, understand the strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and connections within and between our communities, and explore optimal solutions through active and creative dialog that centers and prioritizes a broad understanding of health for Skagit County.


Want more information about the Population Health Trust? Go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/PHTAC.


El Condado Lanza Portal de Asistencia de Alquiler para los Residentes de Skagit

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Los residentes del condado de Skagit ahora tienen una opción conveniente para obtener una aprobación previa para recibir ayuda con el alquiler y las facturas de servicios públicos. Esta semana, el condado y sus socios comunitarios lanzaron un nuevo portal en línea donde los inquilinos pueden completar una sencilla encuesta de elegibilidad y consiga un proveedor de asistencia para el alquiler o complete una aplicación para asistencia.

Para acceder al portal, vaya a: www.skagitcounty.net/renthelp.  

El Programa de Asistencia de Alquiler del Condado de Skagit proporciona asistencia financiera a los inquilinos del condado de Skagit que cumplen con los requisitos de ingresos, y sus propietarios, que tal vez están teniendo dificultades para pagar el alquiler y los servicios públicos debido a la pandemia de COVID-19.

El Programa de Asistencia de Alquiler del Condado de Skagit se ha hecho posible gracias a una subvención de $8.9 millones proporcionada por el Departamento de Comercio del Estado de Washington y financiado por el Programa de Asistencia de Renta del Tesoro (T-RAP). El programa está destinado a evitar los desalojos durante la crisis de salud de COVID-19 en pagando pagos atrasado y el alquiler y los servicios públicos actuales / futuros para las personas que necesitan ayuda.

“Sabemos que muchos residentes del Condado de Skagit han sido afectados por COVID-19, y algunos tienen problemas para mantenerse al día con el alquiler. Hay ayuda disponible, y tenemos la esperanza de que el nuevo portal en línea será más fácil para los residentes y propietarios para conectar con los proveedores de asistencia de alquiler.”

– George Kosovich, Analista de Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit

Los hogares deben cumplir con los cuatro de los siguientes criterios de selección para ser elegible para asistencia de alquiler:

  1. Alguien en el hogar ha estado desempleado durante al menos 90 días, o experimentó una reducción en sus ingresos, incurrió en costos significativos o experimentó dificultades financieras durante la pandemia de COVID-19
  2. Debe estar experimentando inestabilidad de la vivienda o riesgo de inestabilidad de la vivienda, lo que puede incluir tarifas de alquiler impagas o anticipación de la imposibilidad de pagar el alquiler futuro
  3. El ingreso familiar está en, o bajo de 80% del Ingreso Medio del Área
  4. El hogar está en el Condado de Skagit

Los residentes que completen la encuesta de elegibilidad en línea serán emparejados con uno de los siguientes proveedores de asistencia para el alquiler:

  • FORWARD Aplicaciones En Línea – Sirviendo a los residentes del Condado de Skagit
  • La Autoridad de Vivienda del Condado de Skagit – Sirviendo a los Titulares de Vales de la Sección 8 e inquilinos de propiedades propiedad de la Autoridad de Vivienda
  • Centro de Trabajadores Agrícolas CCS – Sirviendo a miembros de la comunidad indígena, latina y campesina
  • Voluntarios de América Oeste de Washington – Sirviendo a los residentes del Condado de Skagit
  • Northwest Youth Services – Sirviendo a adultos jóvenes de 18 a 24 años
  • Community Action of Skagit County – Sirviendo a todos los residentes del Condado de Skagit

También, hay tres organizaciones que ofrecerán alcance y asistencia adicional para completar la solicitud de asistencia en línea:

  • Skagit Legal Aid – Sirviendo a los residentes del condado de Skagit y a los hogares que enfrentan el desalojo por razones distintas a la renta atrasada
  • Community to Community Development (C2C) – Sirviendo a miembros de la comunidad de trabajadores agrícolas y Latinx
  • Padres a Padres – Sirviendo a familias donde una o más personas tienen una discapacidad del desarrollo y / o necesidades de atención médica complejas

Para obtener más información sobre el Programa de Asistencia de Alquiler, verificar la elegibilidad o solicitar asistencia, visite www.skagitcounty.net/renthelp o llame al (360) 416-1500.


County Launches New Rental Assistance Online Portal for Skagitonians

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Skagit County residents now have a convenient option to get pre-approved for help with rent and utility bills. This week, the County, and its community partners launched a new online portal where renters can complete a simple eligibility survey and get matched with a rental assistance provider, or complete an application for assistance.  

To access the portal, go to: www.skagitcounty.net/renthelp.

The Skagit County Rental Assistance Program provides financial assistance to income-eligible Skagit County renters, and their landlords, who may be struggling to afford rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Skagit County Rental Assistance Program is made possible by an $8.9 million grant provided by the Washington State Department of Commerce and funded by the Treasury Rent Assistance Program (T-RAP). The program is intended to prevent evictions during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis by paying past due and current/future rent and utilities for people needing relief.

“We know that many Skagit County residents have been impacted by COVID-19, and some are having trouble staying current on rent. Help is available, and we are hopeful that the new online portal will make it easier for residents and landlords to connect up with rental assistance providers.”

– George Kosovich, Skagit County Public Health Analyst

Households must meet all four of the following screening criteria to be eligible for rental assistance:

  1. Someone in the household has been unemployed for at least 90 days, or experienced a reduction in income, incurred significant costs, or experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Must be currently experiencing housing instability or risk of housing instability, which may include unpaid rental fees or anticipation of inability to pay future rent.
  3. Household income is at, or below, 80% of Area Median Income.
  4. Household resides in Skagit County.

Residents who complete the online eligibility survey will get matched with one of the following rental assistance providers:

FORWARD Online Application Serving all Skagit County residents
Housing Authority of Skagit County Serving Section 8 Voucher Holders and tenants of Housing Authority-owned Properties
Catholic Community Services (CCS) Farmworker pr Serving members of the Indigenous, Latinx, and Farmworker Community
Volunteers of America Western Washington Serving all Skagit County residents
Northwest Youth Services Serving young adults ages 18-24
Community Action of Skagit County Serving all Skagit County residents
For contact information, go to: www.skagitcounty.net/renthelp

In addition, three organizations will offer outreach and extra assistance to complete the online assistance application:

  • Skagit Legal Aid: Serving residents of Skagit County and households facing eviction for reasons other than past-due rent
  • Community to Community Development (C2C): Serving members of the farmworker and Latinx community
  • Parent to Parent: Serving families where one or more individual has a developmental disability and/or complex healthcare needs

For more information about the Rental Assistance Program, to check eligibility, or to apply for assistance, go to www.skagitcounty.net/renthelp or call (360) 416-1500.


¿Cuándo debo hacerme la prueba? ¿Qué tipo de prueba debo hacerme?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit ha estado recibiendo muchas llamadas en los últimos días de personas que preguntan sobre las opciones locales de prueba de COVID-19. En la última semana, alrededor del 30% de todas nuestras llamadas entrantes han sido sobre pruebas.

La mayoría de las personas que llaman preguntan sobre el acceso y quieren saber dónde pueden ir localmente para hacerse la prueba. En respuesta, nos hemos asegurado de que nuestra página web de opciones de prueba esté actualizada y coincida también con la lista del Departamento de Salud de Washington. Para obtener una lista de las opciones de prueba locales, vaya a: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirusTESTsites.htm.

Muchas personas que llaman también preguntan acerca de las diferencias entre las ubicaciones de prueba y los tipos de pruebas que ofrecen. Aunque algunas ubicaciones ofrecen pruebas de PCR y de antígeno, mucha de las veces una ubicación proporcionará una u otra. Con la reciente apertura de la frontera canadiense a los estadounidenses completamente vacunados, no es sorprendente que tantas personas preguntan qué tipo de prueba de COVID deberían hacerse.

Aquí hay algunas respuestas que pueden ser útiles al elegir entre las opciones de prueba…

¿Cuándo debo hacerme la prueba?

Si ha tenido una exposición por contacto cercano a un caso de COVID-19 o si le preocupa haber estado expuesto y no experimenta síntomas, se recomienda que espere de 3 a 5 días después de la exposición inicial para hacerse una prueba de diagnóstico. Este tiempo de espera se debe al período de incubación del virus, la cantidad de virus en su cuerpo y las características de las pruebas de diagnóstico.

Aquellosque experimentan síntomas COVID-19 deben hacerse la prueba tan pronto como sea posible.

  • Fiebre o escalofríos
  • Tos
  • Falta de aliento o dificultad para respirar.
  • Cansancio
  • Musculares o dolores en el cuerpo
  • Dolor de cabeza
  • Nueva pérdida del gusto u olfato
  • Dolor de garganta
  • Congestión o secreción nasal.
  • Náuseas o vómitos
  • Diarrea

¿Qué tipos de pruebas están disponibles?

Básicamente, hay dos categorías amplias de pruebas:

Prueba de antígeno (frecuentemente referido como prueba rápida). Esta prueba detecta fragmentos de proteínas específicos del coronavirus. Se puede hacer en una farmacia, clínica, consultorio médico o en un hospital. El tiempo de respuesta de los resultados usualmente es muy rápido y, en algunos casos, los resultados se pueden informar en 15 minutos.

Prueba de PCR (tal vez conocido como una prueba viral o molecular). Las pruebas de PCR se consideran el “estándar de oro” en la detección del SARS-CoV-2. Esta prueba realmente detecta ARN (o material genético) que es específico del virus y puede detectar el virus a los pocos días de la infección, incluso aquellos que no presentan síntomas. La prueba también se puede hacer en una farmacia, clínica, consultorio médico u hospital. El tiempo de respuesta de los resultados puede ser más largo (generalmente en el intervalo de 2-3 días) dado que las muestras de PCR se analizan en un laboratorio.

¿Qué tipo de prueba debo hacerme?

Siempre es mejor hablar con su proveedor de atención médica sobre qué prueba es mejor para usted.

Si tiene síntomas, hágase la prueba rápida de antígenos si está disponible. Si es positivo, puede comenzar a aislar de inmediato para proteger a quienes lo rodean de la propagación del virus. Si la prueba de antígeno es negativa, debe volver a hacerse la prueba con una prueba de PCR y asegúrese de aislarse hasta que reciba el resultado.

Para la mayoría de las personas que no presentan síntomas pero que desean hacerse la prueba porque pueden haber estado expuestas o van a viajar pronto, la prueba de PCR es la mejor opción. Puede encontrar pequeñas cantidades del virus que pueden verse antes de que comiencen los síntomas.

¿Qué tan precisas son estas pruebas?

Las pruebas de PCR funcionan detectando material genético del SARS-CoV-2, el virus que causa COVID-19. El material genético del SARS-CoV-2 no se puede confundir con el material genético de otros virus, así es que este tipo de prueba es muy específico. Esto significa que raro da un falso positivo. Si se hace la prueba y la prueba da positivo, puede estar muy seguro de que usted está infectado con este virus. Las pruebas de antígenos también son muy específicas y raro dan un falso positivo.

Porque los falsos resultados negativos en las pruebas de diagnóstico pueden suceder, un resultado negativo no debe darle una sensación de falsa seguridad. Si tiene algún síntoma de COVID-19, lo más seguro es asumir que está infectado y se ponga en cuarentena.

¿Qué prueba necesito para viajar?

Aunque la prueba COVID-19 más aceptada universalmente es una prueba de PCR molecular, algunos destinos pueden aceptar pruebas de antígeno también. Lo mejor es consultar con su destino, aerolínea (etc.) en la planificación su viaje.

Si no está completamente vacunado y debe viajar a nivel nacional o internacional, se le requerirá a hacerse la prueba de 1-3 días antes de viajar. Aquellos que están completamente vacunados no requieren pruebas antes de viajar dentro del país, sin embargo, la mayoría de los destinos internacionales aún requerirán pruebas previas al viaje.

Para aquellos que viajan, recomendamos las siguientes opciones de prueba de PCR locales:

Auto-servicio Northwest Laboratory: Martes a sábado: 8:30 am a11:45 am; 1:15 pm a 4:30 pm. Se requieren citas. Resultados dentro de las 72 horas.

Estoy buscando una opción de prueba de barrera baja en el Condado de Skagit. ¿A dónde debería ir?

Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit ahora ofrece pruebas de antígenos gratis en nuestras clínicas de vacunas los miércoles por la noche en el Edificio Administrativo del Condado de Skagit: Aceptamos a cualquier persona de 5 años y mayor; no se requiere cita ni seguro. Los resultados de la prueba están disponibles en 15 minutos.

Nota: Esto NO pretende ser una prueba previa al viaje.

¿Qué es una prueba de anticuerpos?

Una prueba de anticuerpos busca la respuesta del cuerpo al SARS-CoV-2, el virus que causa COVID-19. Es un análisis de sangre que sirve para determinar si tuvo la enfermedad, pero no es bueno para determinar si tiene la enfermedad. Como tal, las pruebas de anticuerpos no deben usarse para diagnosticar el virus.

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A pesar de que existe evidencia de que los anticuerpos pueden brindar protección contra la infección, no ha sido probado y por eso, los resultados de una prueba de anticuerpos no deben usarse para determinar la inmunidad. Para obtener más información sobre las pruebas y las preguntas más frecuentes, vaya a la página web de pruebas WA DOH COVID-19: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19


Prueba COVID-19: Sigue Siendo Esencial

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Ahora estamos en un poco más del 65% de todos los residentes elegibles en el condado de Skagit haber recibido al menos una dosis de la vacuna. Es emocionante pensar en lo lejos que hemos llegado en nuestro viaje de vacunación desde diciembre de 2020. Aún así, tenemos un largo camino por delante antes de que COVID-19 ya no sea motivo de preocupación. Con la rápida propagación de la variante Delta en todo el estado de Washington y el aumento de los casos y las tasas de hospitalización el mes pasado, sabemos que aún no estamos a salvo.

En la segunda mitad de julio, Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit estaba viendo recuentos diarios de nuevos casos repetidamente en las decenas y veinte; un máximo no visto desde nuestra última ola en abril de 2021. Este aumento probablemente se deba a múltiples factores, incluido el aumento de la propagación de la variante Delta más contagiosa, aumento de reuniones sociales y viajes en verano, y reapertura de negocios, todo sucediendo con menos personas con máscaras.

Tendencias de Casos de COVID-19 del Condado de Skagit del tablero de WA DOH
https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard

Mientras que la conversación se ha centrado principalmente en la vacunación en los últimos tiempos, es importante recordar que hacerse la prueba para COVID-19 es una herramienta que puede, y debe, de usar si / cuando se expone a COVID-19 o cuando se viaja.

Entonces, revisemos el tema de las pruebas …

Las pruebas son esenciales.

Cualquier persona con signos o síntomas de COVID-19 debe hacerse la prueba tan pronto como sea posible, a pesar del estado de vacunación. Con la disminución de la temporada de alergias y la temporada de gripe aumentando, no hay duda de que sentirá un cosquilleo o dos, o desarrollará tos en algún momento de este otoño. Cuando sepa que ha estado expuesto; cuando se sienta un poco mal: tome precauciones. ¡HACERSE LA PRUEBA!

¿No está seguro de si sus resfriados justifican una prueba de COVID o no? Utilice el Auto comprobador de Coronavirus aquí.

Si ha estado expuesto al COVID-19.

Tanto si ha sido vacunado o no, si has estado cerca de alguien que tiene un caso sospechoso o confirmado de COVID-19, debe hacerse la prueba 3-5 días después de su exposición, incluso si usted no tiene síntomas.

Debe continuar monitoreando los síntomas durante 14 días después de una exposición y, si presenta síntomas, aísle de inmediato y considere volver hacerse la prueba. Si su prueba es positiva, debe aislar durante 10 días.

Para las personas no vacunadas, es importante tener en cuenta que las pautas de cuarentena no han cambiado. Si no está vacunado y está expuesto, además de hacerse la prueba, deberá ponerse en cuarentena durante 14 días – incluso si no tiene síntomas.

Si usted está experimentando cualquiera de los siguientes síntomas, hágase la prueba COVID-19 en un sitio de pruebas. Para obtener una lista completa de ubicaciones, vaya a: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.

Los síntomas pueden incluir:

  • Fiebre o escalofríos
  • Tos
  • Cansancio
  • Dolores musculares o corporales
  • Dolor de cabeza
  • Falta de aliento o dificultad para respirar.
  • Nueva pérdida del gusto u olfato
  • Dolor de garganta
  • Congestión o secreción nasal.
  • Náuseas, vómitos o diarrea

Notar: Si se encuentra en cuarentena o aislamiento y necesita ayuda para obtener suministros o alimentos, llame a Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit al (360) 416-1500 entre las 8:30 a.m. y las 4:30 p.m., de lunes a viernes.

Pruebas y viajes

Algunas restricciones sobre viajes se han eliminado recientemente, pero es importante recordar que aún se deben tomar precauciones. Al fin y al cabo, viajar aumenta la posibilidad de contraer y propagar COVID-19. El Centro para el Control de Enfermedades (CDC) continúa recomendando que las personas limiten los viajes si no están vacunadas y que todas las personas, a pesar del estado de vacunación, tomen precauciones adicionales si viajan.

Estas son algunas cosas importantes que debe tener en cuenta al hacer planes de viaje dentro de los Estados Unidos:

  • Refrain from travel if not fully vaccinated. El CDC recomienda que aquellos que no están completamente vacunados retrasen su viaje. Si tiene que viajar, siga las opciones de viaje seguros, incluyendo una prueba viral 1-3 días antes de viajar. Si viaja con niños que no pueden vacunarse en este momento, seguir las recomendaciones para personas no vacunadas y elija opciones de viaje más seguras.
  • Prueba antes de viajar. Las personas que están completamente vacunadas con una vacuna autorizada por la FDA pueden viajar de manera segura dentro de los Estados Unidos. Las personas no vacunadas deben planear hacerse la prueba con una prueba viral 1-3 días antes de su viaje.
  • Consulte la guía de viaje antes de partir. Aunque la mayoría de los estados ya no requieren una prueba, las restricciones de viaje varían según el estado basado en el estado de vacunación y están sujetas a cambian en cualquier momento. Consulte la guía estatal y local antes de hacer planes concretos.
  • Use una máscara durante el viaje. Se requieren máscaras en interiores en los centros de viaje y en el transporte público, a pesar del estado de vacunación. Siga todas las recomendaciones y los requisitos estatales y locales para el uso de mascarillas y el distanciamiento social.
  • Requisitos después de viaje para estar completamente vacunado. No es necesario hacerse la prueba antes o después de viajar si está totalmente vacunado, pero aún debe seguir todas las demás recomendaciones de viaje, auto-monitor para COVID-19 síntomas, y hacerse la prueba si se presentan síntomas. Durante el viaje, si ha estado cerca de alguien que tiene COVID-19, debe hacerse la prueba de 3 a 5 días después de su exposición, incluso si no tiene síntomas, y usar una máscara en entornos públicos interiores hasta que el resultado de la prueba sea negativo.
  • Requisito después del viaje para los no vacunados. Aquellos que no están vacunados deben hacerse una prueba viral de 3 a 5 días después del viaje Y permanecer en casa y ponerse en cuarentena durante 7 días completos después del viaje. También deben aislar y monitorear los síntomas durante 14 días completos También deben aislar y monitorear los síntomas durante 14 días completos y buscar repetir las pruebas si se presentan síntomas. Consulte la guía de los CDC para viajeros no vacunados.

Para viajes internacionales:

Aquellos que viajan internacionalmente deben verificar los requisitos de su país de destino, ya que pueden requerir una prueba antes de la llegada, incluso para las personas vacunadas. Consulte los requisitos de prueba y guia de los CDC para viajes internacionales.

Dónde hacerse la prueba.

Muchas oficinas del médico están ofreciendo pruebas COVID-19 a sus pacientes. Comuníquese primero con su proveedor de atención médica para ver si ofrecen pruebas de COVID-19. Si usted está experimentando síntomas graves, como dificultad para respirar o sensación de opresión en el pecho, considere ir a un departamento de emergencias cercano.

Para obtener una lista de ubicaciones de prueba en su área, vaya a: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations

Las pruebas en el hogar también están ahora disponibles para su compra. Consulte los siguientes enlaces para conocer las opciones de prueba en el hogar:

  • Kit de recolección casera de prueba COVID-19 de Everlywell
  • Pixel Prueba en Casa de Labcorp
  • Autoprueba de Antígeno de BinaxNOW™

Lo que debe llevar con usted cuando hacerse la prueba.

  • Una identificación con foto con su fecha de nacimiento. Las pruebas están disponibles independientemente de su estado de ciudadanía / inmigración.
  • Su tarjeta de seguro si tiene seguro. Si tiene un seguro privado, Medicare o Medicaid, debe proporcionar esta información y el laboratorio les facturará. No se le cobrará por la prueba. No es necesario tener un seguro médico o una nota del médico para programar una prueba.
  • Una máscara bien ajustada. Como instalaciones de atención médica, se requieren máscaras en todos los lugares de prueba en interiores y exteriores, independientemente del estado de vacunación.

Cómo y cuándo obtener resultados.

  • La mayoría de los resultados típicamente llegara por correo electrónico, mensaje de texto o a través del portal en línea escogida por el proveedor. Consulte con su proveedor de pruebas sobre cómo se enviarán los resultados.
  • Los resultados usualmente estarán disponibles en 48 horas, aunque pueden tardar hasta 72 horas.

Si da positivo.

Si da positivo, espere una llamada de Salud Pública. Nuestro personal sigue realizando un seguimiento activo de todos los casos confirmados y tendrán que hacerle algunas preguntas. Si recibe la llamada, es imperativo que conteste y nos ayude con el rastreo de nuestro contrato. ¡Gracias!