Want COVID data? The Data Dashboard has you covered!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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.


Top 6 Things to Know About VAERS

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has gotten a lot of attention on social media and in the news this year. This database, which includes hundreds of thousands of reports of health events that occurred minutes, hours, or days after vaccination, is a go to spot for many people looking for information about COVID-19 vaccine safety.

While VAERS is an extremely helpful tool used by experts to track adverse reactions and safety concerns associated with vaccinations (not just COVID-19, but all vaccines!), it is important to know a few things about the system before digging in too deeply.

Scientists and health experts consider VARES to be a starting point in the search for rare but potentially serious vaccine side effects. It is by no means the only system in place to track this data.

So, when reading about VAERS reports in the news or when talking with friends and loved ones about specific reports, be sure to have the following 6 things in mind:

1. VAERS is a national vaccine safety surveillance program that helps to detect unusual or unexpected reporting patterns of adverse events for vaccines.

Established in 1990, VAERS is the nation’s early warning system that monitors the safety of vaccines after they are authorized or licensed for use by the FDA. VAERS is part of the larger vaccine safety system in the United States that helps make sure all vaccines are safe. The system is co-managed by CDC and FDA.

Other pieces of this safety system include the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) and the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) project. These reporting systems are much better at assessing overall health risks and possible connections between adverse events and a vaccine.

2. VAERS accepts reports from anyone, including patients, family members, healthcare providers and vaccine manufacturers.

Anyone can submit a report to VAERS — healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and the general public. VAERS welcomes all reports, regardless of seriousness, and regardless of how likely the vaccine may have been to have caused the adverse event. Reports can be submitted successfully even if they are incomplete or are missing key details.

3. VAERS is not designed to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event. A report to VAERS does not mean the vaccine caused the event.

This fact has caused much confusion, specifically regarding the number of reported deaths associated with COVID-19 vaccines. In the past, there have been instances where people misinterpreted reports of death following vaccination as death caused by the vaccines; that is a mistake.

VAERS accepts all reports of adverse events following vaccination without judging whether the vaccine caused the adverse health event. Some reports to VAERS might represent true vaccine reactions, and others might be coincidental adverse health events not related to vaccination at all. Generally, a causal relationship cannot be established using information from VAERS reports alone.

Reports can also be made days, weeks, and months following a vaccination. That means that if a vaccinated person dies in a car accident, drowns, or dies from any other “natural” or “unnatural” cause, their death must be reported to VAERS as an adverse event. Since we’ve now vaccinated over 334 million people in the United States, it is to be expected that many deaths will occur coincidentally after vaccination.

4. VAERS is a passive surveillance system, meaning it relies on people sending in reports of their experiences after vaccination.

As a passive reporting system, VAERS relies on individuals to send in reports of adverse health events following vaccination.

The information collected by VAERS can quickly provide an early warning of a potential safety problem with a vaccine. Patterns of adverse events, or an unusually high number of adverse events reported after a particular vaccine, are called “signals.” If a signal is identified through VAERS, experts may conduct further studies to find out if the signal represents an actual risk.

5. Healthcare providers and vaccine manufacturers are required by law to report certain events after vaccination.

Healthcare providers are required to report to VAERS the following adverse events after COVID-19 vaccination under Emergency Use Authorization, and other adverse events if later revised by FDA.

Some things that healthcare providers are required to report on include:

  • Vaccine administration errors, whether or not associated with an adverse event.
  • Serious adverse events regardless of death. This could include:
    1.  Death
    2.  A life-threatening adverse event
    3.  Inpatient hospitalization or prolongation of existing hospitalization
    4.  A persistent or significant incapacity or substantial disruption of the ability to conduct normal life functions
    5.  A congenital anomaly/birth defect
    6.  An important medical event that based on appropriate medical judgement may jeopardize the individual and may require medical or surgical intervention to prevent one of the outcomes listed above
  • Cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS).
  • Cases of COVID-19 that result in hospitalization or death.

Further, healthcare providers are encouraged to report to VAERS any additional clinically significant adverse effects following vaccination, even if they are not sure if vaccination caused the event.

6. If VAERS detects a pattern of adverse events following vaccination, other vaccine safety monitoring systems conduct follow up studies.

The information that the VAERS system provides to the FDA and CDC is vitally important. If it looks as though a vaccine might be causing a wide-spread problem, the FDA and the CDC will investigate further and take action if needed.

We saw this system in action just recently when the CDC paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). This pause allowed time for the FDA and CDC to investigate these reports and examine any possible linkages. A similar review process was followed when reports of myocarditis in the United States began to circulate. The J&J pause and investigation into cases of myocarditis are all signs that the VAERS reporting system is working extremely well! If at any point the CDC and FDA saw evidence showing a direct linkage between a vaccine and permanent disability and/or death, proper steps would be taken to ensure safety.

Note: For public awareness and in the interest of transparency, CDC is providing timely updates on the following serious adverse events of interest: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html


Get SMOKE READY this Wildfire Season

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Thankfully, we haven’t seen much smoke in Washington skies yet this year. Unfortunately though, we know that all it takes is one spark. Today—June 14th—marks the beginning of Smoke Ready Week, so let’s use this time to get prepared!

Like last year, there continues to be heightened concerns around the health impacts of breathing in wildfire smoke, and how this can worsen symptoms for those with COVID-19—or who may be at increased risk of contracting the virus. How we protect ourselves from wildfire smoke now is different than during other years when COVID-19 wasn’t a factor. Especially for those who are unvaccinated, it may be more difficult to go to public spaces where the air is cleaner and cooler than private homes may be. N95 respirator supplies continue to be somewhat limited, however not nearly as limited as last year. And we now all know from experience that cloth face coverings don’t provide much protection from wildfire smoke!-

So before we dive in, let’s discuss why getting Smoke Ready is important.

How can wildfire smoke harm your health?

Smoke is made up of gasses and microscopic particles. When inhaled, these particles bypass our bodies’ normal defenses, traveling deep into the lungs and even entering the bloodstream. Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including the following:

  • Coughing     
  • Trouble breathing      
  • Stinging eyes     
  • Scratchy throat
  • Runny nose  
  • Irritated sinuses        
  • Wheezing         
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches   
  • Asthma attack           
  • Tiredness         
  • Fast heartbeat

Who is at most risk from wildfire smoke?

Inhaling wildfire smoke can be harmful to anyone, but it is especially harmful to these vulnerable groups: people with heart and lung disease, people with chronic respiratory conditions, infants and children, pregnant women and adults 65 and over. People in these high-risk groups should reach out to their healthcare provider to discuss specific ways to be prepared against wildfire smoke.

So, are you #SmokeReady? Here are 10 tips to help you prepare:

1. Plan ahead with your doctor.

If you or a family member has asthma, or suffers from heart or lung disease, have a plan to manage your condition. Children, pregnant women, and people over age 65 are especially at risk during smoke events. Learn more.

2. Get HEPA filters, recirculate your AC, and share space if able.

Use a HEPA filter in your home’s central air system or your air conditioner unit or air purifier. Learn how to turn your AC to “recirculate” in both your home and your car.

If purchasing a portable room air cleaner isn’t in your current budget, there are DIY instructions for building a “box fan filter.” These are fairly simple to assemble and cost around $50. View a tutorial to create a box fan filter.

For those who are vaccinated, you can also check with your neighbors—something we couldn’t do last year! If you or your neighbor doesn’t have good air filtration or air conditioning at home, arrange to share spaces with those who do.

3. Employers, plan ahead with your employees
.

Have a plan in place for employees who work outdoors. Consider alternate work assignments or relocation to reduce employee exposure to smoke. For staff that work indoors, ensure your air filtration system is protective for smoke. Prepare for employees to face childcare closures, home emergencies, etc. Check with Washington Labor & Industries for guidance

4. Have a Plan B for outdoor events.

Have a contingency plan prepared in case you need to cancel or reschedule. If you have children in summer camps or childcare, ask the organizers about their smoke plan. If the only viable plan B appears to be moving the event indoors, be sure to check with Skagit County Public Health before proceeding with plans. Visit the website or call (360) 416-1500.

5. Information about respirator masks.

If you have to be outdoors for extended periods of time, consider a N95 or N100 respirator. Thankfully, N95s are now a little easier to find in 2021 than last year, but the Washington Department of Health is still encouraging people to look at other options before getting a respirator.

If you do purchase a respirator mask, keep in mind that it can be difficult to find a mask that fits correctly. Test the fit and comfort of your mask before you need it. Learn more.

6. Stock up.

Stock up safely and responsibly. Have several days of water, groceries, and family needs on hand so you don’t have to go out when it’s smoky. Learn how to prepare.

7. Don’t forget your pets!

If the air quality is forecasted to be poor while you’re away from home, plan ahead to keep your pets inside or with a caregiver. Learn more.

8. Learn the air quality index numbers and colors.

During periods of poor air quality, watch for air quality alerts, pay attention to numbers and colors of air quality monitors, and know when to limit your time outdoors.

9. Make sure to get alerts.

Sign up to receive air quality email alerts for your zip code. Also, bookmark or subscribe to this blog for statewide air quality and wildfire updates.

Wildfire season doesn’t need to slow you and your family down, but proper planning is a must! Keep up to date by following the Washington Smoke Information blog. Learn more about being Smoke Ready at EPA’s Smoke-Ready Toolbox for Wildfires and Washington Department of Health’s Smoke From Wildfires Toolkit.


Playground Safety: A Mom’s Public Service Announcement

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It has been a real privilege to share information on our Skagit Health Connection Blog over the past year. One of the greatest gifts of my role as Communications Coordinator is being able to share with you both professional and personal information I’ve gleaned over the years as a Public Health employee, wife, mother, and Skagitonian. Creating content for the blog has been—in many ways—a cathartic experience during these difficult months; a place where I can share my thoughts, but also provide content that is essential for the health, safety, and wellbeing of our community.

Today’s post comes from a more personal perspective: it is a PSA provided by me, a 30-something mother of two young children; a bit crazed after a long rainy winter and weather-worn from COVID. It also comes from a place of humility as I share some things I’ve learned from my most recent “mommy fail.”

About a month ago I took a quick trip to a local playground with my two young daughters, ages 4 and 18 months. It was a park that we’d never been to before and my girls were running hog wild! At one point my youngest made her way to the top of the tallest slide, and, instead of grabbing her off and suffering the consequences of a toddler tantrum, I decided to take her down on my lap.

Big mistake. Her leg must have caught or twisted just so, resulting in a spiral fracture to her left tibia. 6 weeks with a full-leg cast. Not cool.

It was only after a blubbery call to my husband and a lengthy urgent care trip that I was informed by the doctor that sliding with a child on your lap isn’t something that you should do. I had no idea!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an estimated 352,698 children under the age of 6 were injured on slides in the United States from 2002 through 2015, and many of those injuries were leg fractures. Of those under 6 years old, toddlers age 12-23 months had the highest percentage of injuries. The most common injury overall was a fracture at 36 percent, usually involving the lower leg.

The biggest issue appears to be the size and weight of adults. When a young child slides down by themselves, they are unlikely to get a severe injury to their leg, even if the foot catches due to the relatively low forces involved. The force generated by the forward momentum of an adult with a child on their lap is much greater and can easily break a bone if a child’s foot gets caught on the slide.

Thankfully, my daughter’s leg is healing quickly enough and the cast is scheduled to come off in the next few weeks. However, the experience has definitely left me a bit unnerved. I am now finding every opportunity to share what I’ve learned with friends and family—and I hope you will share this information, too!

To prepare for the fun days of summer ahead, I am taking time to read up on other playground safety tips. If you’re interested in this type of information, here is a great place to start. Play equipment like swings and monkey bars can be incredibly fun, but they can also pose safety risks for children—especially those a bit more daring than the rest.

I hope you and your family enjoy our local playgrounds and have a wonderful June.

Play safe and have fun!


Finally, fully vaccinated! Now what?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, contributing author

Summer is right around the corner. Time to get outside and enjoy opportunities to reconnect with families and friends; especially if you are fully vaccinated. But you may have questions! “What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?” “Do I still need to wear my mask?” “Can I hug my grandchildren?” These are a few of the questions I’ve been asked while welcoming and observing community members after receiving their first and second vaccinations at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. 

With each step of the COVID-19 road to recovery, our collective movement forward has relied on accurate, updated information. This can be challenging to keep up with! Reliable sources are vitally important and ensure that we keep informed, and also help us to make the best decisions for ourselves and families. Resources like www.coronavirus.wa.gov can answer the above questions and much more.

Still wondering? Here are a few common questions I’ve gotten at the site:

“What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?”

You are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks (14 days) after you have received your second vaccination if you had to get two doses (Pfizer or Moderna), or two weeks after receiving a single dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson).  

“Do I still have to wear my mask?”

If you are fully vaccinated, the answer to that question is yes and no, depending on the circumstance. 

The data shows you can visit with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or physically distancing. To protect others and yourself, it is important to continue to wear your mask in crowded settings like sporting/music events or public indoor settings like grocery stores. If you are traveling, please check with mask requirements for the state you’re traveling to, and continue to wear your mask when using all forms of public transportation. Airlines are still requiring you to wear your mask, even if you are fully vaccinated. The reason to continue wearing a mask is because we do not have enough information yet about whether the vaccine prevents the spread of COVID-19 from one to another. The best answer? Be responsible and respectful; use your best judgement and be safe. 

“Can I hug my grandchildren?”

I know for myself, I have been desperately missing hugs. If you are fully vaccinated, you can now hug other fully vaccinated people! This is a welcome relief and reward after the past year when we endured separation and isolation from family and friends. Please remember though that as we move forward, it is important to remain careful while engaging in group settings. We’re not out of the woods just yet. Enjoy those longed for hugs, and while you’re at it, give yourself one for getting fully vaccinated! 

While making post-fully vaccinated plans, keep up with the most updated accurate information. Be aware that not everyone in public will be vaccinated, and for that reason, it is recommended that people continue to wear their mask in public and when in large gatherings–especially indoors. We are certainly moving forward in a positive direction! But the coming months are critical in our road to recovery, and our day-to-day choices matter.

“Fully Vaccinated!” 
Photograph courtesy of Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2021 

For me, personally, the top of my post-fully vaccinated bucket list was visiting my grown adult children. Last month, I was finally able to reunite with my daughter and her husband! As soon as I received word that they were fully vaccinated, I got on a plane and flew to California. It was wonderful to see the Seattle skyline for the first time in over a year! 

To ease my trepidation about traveling and getting on a plane, I made sure to prepare myself. I made sure to have masks on hand, as well as a face shield and gloves while entering the airport. I felt comfort in knowing that I know how to protect myself after over a year of working the COVID testing and vaccination sites! I kept my distance as best I could, and honestly…I wholeheartedly enjoyed the opportunity to be with people, traveling once again! I am grateful to be fully vaccinated and there was nothing better than finally getting that long-awaited reunion hug with my daughter. 

Enjoy your fully vaccinated life, stay healthy, make plans, get outside, hug your family and friends…Appreciate the moments as we reengage with new awareness and understanding of community!

For more information about post vaccination guidelines, visit: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/information-for/you-and-your-family/life-after-vaccine.


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!


Have You Heard About WA Notify?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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:


SkagitRising: A New Opioid & Substance Use Resource

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Watch out, there is a new resource website in town!

Last week, Skagit County officially announced the launching of a new website pertaining to local opioid and substance use resources. This website is called SkagitRising and was created in partnership between Skagit County Public Health, the Population Health Trust and the Opioid Workgroup Leadership Team, to connect community members to pertinent behavioral health information and services. SkagitRising aims to provide community members—a.k.a you and me—with educational information, harm reduction/prevention techniques, local resources, tips for supporting others, and more.

Don’t know if SkagitRising houses the information you are looking for? Keep reading!

The Motivation Behind SkagitRising

In 2015, Public Health conducted a Community Health Assessment, and the community clearly identified the opioid crisis as a main public health concern. Over the last five years, Public Health, the Population Health Trust and the Opioid Workgroup Leadership Team have advocated for and acted on a variety of programs, services and policies to improve the lives of individuals impacted by substance use. One of the goals that these groups advocated for was the creation of an interactive, virtual “hub” that would make it easier to gain information and access to support services. SkagitRising is the result of this goal.

Navigating the behavioral health* system can be challenging. If you’ve done it, or know someone who has, then you know what I mean. SkagitRising breaks down barriers to accessing information and presents local resources and support services in an attempt to reduce stigma and the impact of substance use in our community.

*Behavioral health is a common Public Health term that encompasses both mental health and substance use disorders.

How to Access SkagitRising

To access SkagitRising, either type or copy and paste www.skagitrising.org into your browser’s address bar (also known as the URL bar). You can also search “skagitrising.org” or “skagitrising” using Google or a similar platform, and the website should auto populate as one of the first search results. SkagitRising is both browser and mobile friendly. If you have an internet connection, you should be able to access the website without any problem.

How to Know if SkagitRising Has Information for You

Are you interested in learning more about opioids, opioid use disorder or substance use disorders? Do you currently use either prescription or recreational drugs? Do you have a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor who uses prescription or recreational drugs? If you answered “yes” to any of these three questions, then this website is for you. AND even if you didn’t answer “yes,” this website is still worth checking out.

When visiting skagitrising.org, you will find an abundance of information. You can:

  • Review data
  • Learn how opioids impact the brain
  • Find out common symptoms of addiction
  • Read tips for talking to your doctor, kids and/or elders
  • Learn how to help in an opioid overdose and how to reduce stigma
  • Read about treatment terms and types
  • Discover resources and support services
  • Find out what is being done in Skagit County
  • Find ways that you can get involved

P.S. There are more topics than those just listed … but I can’t give is all away! You’ll have check out SkagitRising for yourself.

Resources

While SkagitRising is an opioid and substance use resource website, we understand there are many factors that influence an individual’s ability to live a healthy life. This is why you will find resources not only pertaining to treatment and recovery, but also housing, urgent care, legal, veterans, and senior services. SkagitRising also offers resources for employers, community members and property owners, and medical providers and prescribers.  

Additionally, throughout SkagitRising, you will see several sections of text or images that are linked to external reputable websites such as stopoverdose.org, the WA Recovery Helpline, the WA State Department of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Help spread the word! Please consider sharing SkagitRising by word-of-mouth, by posting about this website on social media or by displaying SkagitRising Rack Cards (available in English and Spanish) in your place of business.

If you would like to request Rack Cards, add to or edit the listed resources, or have questions, please contact us here: https://skagitrising.org/contact/