Moving Beyond the Statewide Mask Mandate

Reading Time: 3 minutes

On February 17th, Governor Inslee announced that the statewide indoor mask mandate will be lifted on March 21st, 2022. This mandate, which includes indoor locations such as restaurants, grocery stores, malls, and public-facing offices, has been in effect in some capacity since June 24, 2020. Beginning on March 21st, the mandate will also be lifted for K-12 schools and childcare locations throughout the state.

For many people, this is going to feel like a big change. After all, we’ve been required to wear a face covering for nearly two years now. If you have questions or concerns about this shift in direction—if you are feeling big emotions like frustration, anger, fear, or apprehension—please know that all these responses are valid.

Current Disease Summary

We are still experiencing a level of disease activity across the state that is considered high by the CDC, with case, hospitalization, and death rates still well above what we would have considered “acceptable” prior to the Omicron surge. So, you may ask, why end the mask mandate now?

The governor’s decision is based on science and our current statewide data. While rates are still high, we have been seeing a decrease in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations for several weeks now and, as a result, our hospitals are better able to care for patient loads. The date was selected based on our hospitalization trends and where the state predicts we will be in the next several weeks. It has been determined that by March 21st, Washington state will be at a safe level of disease activity, which will allow our hospitals to operate at a sustainable level.

We have also seen similar trends around the globe where Omicron surged before us. Many experts are predicting that the pandemic may be on the way to becoming endemic, meaning most cases will be less severe, and the disease’s impact on society will be more predictable and (in theory) less disruptive.

By the end of March, statewide COVID-19 hospital admissions are projected to fall to levels that no longer overwhelm hospital systems.

Another big factor? More than 73 percent of Washingtonians are now at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 and over 2 million boosters have been administered. The large number of people who were infected during the Omicron surge will also likely result in some additional community immunity, at least for the short term. However, because we don’t know yet how long this immunity lasts or have a way to test for it in individuals, vaccination is recommended for everyone, even those who have been previously infected.

Change Will Be A Gradual Process

It is important to remember that change will be gradual. The governor began the process last Friday by lifting the outdoor mask mandate, which included large outdoor gathering and events with more than 500 attendees. Now, folks are free to attend outdoor concerts, street fairs, and farmers markets sans mask—something that many of us wouldn’t have considered doing back in the thick of 2020 or 2021.

The lifting of the indoor mask mandate on March 21st will also not include certain indoor settings considered to be high-risk for disease spread, like healthcare settings, long-term care, and correctional facilities.

Also still in effect is the federal mask mandate that requires masking on all forms of public transportation, including buses, trains, and airplanes, and in transportation hubs. This mandate is still in place, though the White House is reviewing data and may announce changes in the near future.

And though the mandate will be lifted for K-12 schools on March 21st, schools will still be required to report COVID cases and outbreaks and work with local public health departments to monitor disease activity. Routine testing, isolation, and quarantine protocols will also remain in place per the CDC’s guidance.

Feel Empowered to Mask Up

For those who are weary about taking off their mask, please know that Washingtonians can make their own decisions about when it may be appropriate to wear a mask, even after the mask mandate ends. This goes for businesses, as well, which still retain the right to choose stricter requirements.

Those who want or need to wear a mask in public can continue to do so. If you are at greater risk because of factors such as your age or underlying health conditions, you are encouraged to continue to take more precautions. There also may be certain settings where wearing a mask makes sense, like when caring for someone who is high-risk, if you are sick, if you’re in a location where social distancing isn’t possible, or if you are not fully vaccinated.

And if you are choosing to wear a mask in certain settings, you may wonder what mask you should wear. The answer is simple: Wear the mask that you will use consistently—and correctly.


For additional information on Governor Inslee’s announcement, please read the full press release or call the State COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127. For local questions related to COVID-19, you may contact Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Want COVID data? The Data Dashboard has you covered!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

[UPDATE: Significant changes were made to the Data Dashboard on January 21, 2022. Read the full press release for more information.]

As of January 3rd, 2022, Skagit County Public Health is no longer updating ongoing COVID-19 case, hospitalization, death, and demographic data on its website. Instead, Skagitonians are asked to refer to the statewide COVID-19 Data Dashboard for all COVID-19 related data.

We understand that it can be uncomfortable navigating a new website, especially when you’ve gotten used to using a different one. As we transition away from updating COVID-19 data on the Public Health website, please know that we’re here to help! Below you will find a video with directions on how to navigate the Dashboard. This video can also be found on our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.

If you need further assistance using the Dashboard, please call the state COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127. You can also contact Skagit County Public Health directly at danicas@co.skagit.wa.us.

Data Dashboard Navigation Video – Skagit County Public Health

Video Transcript:

Hello, my name is Danica Sessions and I’m with Skagit County Public Health. In this video, I will be providing some directions on how to navigate the Washington state COVID-19 Data Dashboard, seen here on my screen.

This dashboard is updated Monday through Friday by the Washington State Department of Health and includes a variety of COVID-related data sets and helpful reports. This is the best tool to use to stay up-to-date about current state and county-level case, hospitalization, and death rates. It is also a helpful tool to see current our current vaccination status here in Skagit County—and throughout the state.

To get to this dashboard, please go to www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard.

Once here, scroll down slightly to find the dashboard.

The first thing you’ll see is our state’s current status. In order to narrow it down to Skagit County, find the “select county” box along the left of the dashboard and scroll down to Skagit County. Click the box to select.

So once you’ve clicked on Skagit County, you’ll see our current status. This includes total confirmed cases, as well as total hospitalizations and deaths to date. You’ll also notice a few other helpful data points.

To see how we compare to other counties, you can go to the tabular view here. To get back to maps, click on the Map View button.

You’ll note that in the upper-right hand corner, a different date will appear instead of today’s date. This is because all of this data must be verified by the state before it is published. Typically, data will lag by 2 to 3 days. You’ll also notice that the state no longer updates data on the weekends.

To find our vaccination status, click on Vaccinations when you’re still in the “Current Status” tab. Please note that sometimes when you move throughout the dashboard, the county will unselect. To ensure that you’re looking at Skagit County data, make sure that the box is checked.

Here you can see total doses administered in our county to date. By clicking here, you can see our percentages of partially and fully vaccinated populations. You can also see who is getting vaccinated by clicking here. Data is broken out by sex, age, and race/ethnicity.

If you’re looking to see historic case counts or you’d like to know how many new cases we’re seeing each day, go to “Cumulative Counts” here. Click Skagit County. You can navigate by hovering on the blue line. To see our current status, go to the far right. You’ll see our total cases to date, as well as how many new cases were reported since yesterday.

As you can see, we’re seeing some of our largest daily increases right now compared to any other time during the pandemic.

You can see similar data for hospitalizations and deaths by toggling between these tabs here.

If you’re looking for case, hospitalization, and death rates (essentially trends over time), click on “Epidemiologic Curves,” then click “rates.” You can see 7 day or 14 day averages. The waves of the pandemic are very obvious here. This is also a good place to go to see whether we will be trending upward or downward. Please note that the grey dots are an estimation based on prilimary data, and numbers can change.

Find hospitalization and death rates by toggling between the two buttons here.

There are a few more helpful functions including demographics, COVID-like illness hospitalizations, and healthcare system readiness (which shows statewide ICU occupancy). Play around with these different functions to gather more information.

Lastly, I wanted to highlight some really awesome reports that are available on the dashboard webpage. Scroll down to Reports. Some that I have found very useful are the COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths by Vaccination Status Report, the Sequencing and Variants report, and the Breakthrough Surveillance Report.

Most reports are updated weekly or bi-monthly so it is helpful to check back for the most recent information.

We understand that it can be uncomfortable navigating a new website, especially when you’ve gotten used to using a different one. As we transition away from updating COVID-19 data on the Public Health website, please know that we’re here to help.

If you need further assistance with the Dashboard, please call the state COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127. You can also contact Skagit County Public Health directly at danicas@co.skagit.wa.us.

Thank you for watching.


Skagit County Reports 10,000 COVID-19 Cases and 100 Deaths

Reading Time: 2 minutes

October 12, 2021

According to the WA Department of Health Data Dashboard, on Saturday, October 9, Skagit County surpassed a cumulative total of 10,000 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The day prior- October 8- Skagit County reported its 100th death due to the virus.

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director said, “This is an upsetting milestone for the County. These numbers represent people. Our residents—families, friends, and neighbors—have dealt with so much over these past 20 months, with loved ones getting sick and battling this awful virus. We want to encourage people to continue to do their part to curb the spread of COVID-19, to mask up, and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Skagit currently has a case rate of 666.2 per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days, and a hospitalization rate of 13.0 COVID-19 patients per 100,000 over the last 7 days. These rates are still extremely high—with Skagit County expecting to see a record case rate high of 670.0 in the next day or so. It appears, based on incomplete data on the Data Dashboard, that the county will start to see a decrease in new cases and hospitalizations over the coming days. However, it is too early to say whether this downward trend will continue, and for how long.

Skagit County is currently sitting at 66.9 percent fully vaccinated amongst residents 12 years and older. Of the entire population, the percentage of fully vaccinated is 57.4 percent. This means that 42.6 percent of Skagit County residents, including children under 12 years old, are still unprotected against COVID-19.

The recommendation continues to be the same: Get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccination is a critical tool for containing the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and greatly reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

As weather gets colder and people begin to move inside, it is important that Skagit County residents continue to use precaution when gathering with people from outside of their households. All the risk mitigation strategies that people have been using since the beginning of the pandemic continue to be the best course of action: mask up when in crowded indoor and outdoor locations, get tested when feeling sick or when notified of recent COVID-19 exposure, and stay at home when ill with COVID-like symptoms.

To find a list of COVID-19 testing and vaccination providers in Skagit County, go to: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call the WA COVID-19 Information Hotline: Dial 1-800-525-0127, then press #.