Statewide COVID-19 Vaccine Verification for Large Events to Begin November 15

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October 15, 2021

Yesterday, Governor Inslee announced that, beginning on November 15, individuals 12 years and older who attend certain large events will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or a negative test result.

This new statewide Vaccination Verification Program will apply to indoor events of 1,000 or more attendees and outdoor events of 10,000 or more attendees. It will not apply to settings without defined entrances, such as shopping malls. Also exempt from the new requirement are museums, religious institutions, and events held on school property.

Event attendees will have several options for showing proof of vaccination, including the following:

  • CDC Vaccination Card given at the time of vaccination
  • Print out or screenshot of one’s vaccination records from MyIRMobile
  • Other immunization records provided by one’s medical provider
  • QR Code that can be downloaded through MyIRMobile

Unvaccinated attendees may instead show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of the event. Please check with the event vendor for specific testing requirements. 

This announcement follows King County’s recent decision to require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result to enter certain indoor and outdoor events and establishments beginning October 25.

Vaccination continues to be the safest, easiest—and most convenient—option for Washingtonians. Routine testing cannot ensure one’s safety. Vaccination is the best tool when it comes to preventing serious illness and death.

As a reminder, the Skagit County Fairgrounds is not an option for those seeking testing to attend an event. Testing at this site is limited to those who live, work, or go to school in Skagit, and people must either be currently symptomatic, or have been recently exposed to COVID-19.

“Planning is going to be key for people who are unvaccinated. To ensure that someone can get a test within 72 hours of their event, they’ll need to book a testing appointment in advance or plan to wait in line at a drop-in site.”

– Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

To find a vaccination provider near you, go to: https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/. For a list of Skagit County testing providers, visit the Public Health website: www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.


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

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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 #.


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

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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.


Booster? Third Dose? What’s the Difference?

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You’ve probably heard…Pfizer booster doses are now authorized for certain individuals. But what does this mean? And what is the difference between a Booster and a third dose? After all, haven’t third doses been available for a while now?

If you are confused, you’re not alone! Have questions? We’ve got your answers!

What’s the difference between a third dose and a booster?

These terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably! They do—in fact—mean two separate things.

A third dose (also known as an additional dose) is for people who are immunocompromised. Sometimes people who are immunocompromised do not build enough protection when they first get fully vaccinated. When this happens, getting another dose of a vaccine can help them build more protection against the disease. Third doses of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine are currently available for certain immunocompromised individuals.

A booster refers to a dose of a vaccine that is given to someone who built enough protection after vaccination, but that protection decreased over time (waning immunity). This is why you need a tetanus booster every 10 years, because the protection from your childhood tetanus vaccine wanes over time. Only Pfizer boosters are currently available for certain populations.

Am I eligible for a third dose?

Currently, the CDC is recommending that moderately to severely immunocompromised people receive a third dose. This includes people who have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

People should talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting a third dose is appropriate for them.

A person receiving a third dose should get it at least 28 days after dose two. When possible, the individual should receive the same vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) as the first two doses but may receive the other mRNA vaccine brand if the original vaccine is not available.

At this time, no third dose is recommended for people who had the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. People who received J&J should not get a second dose of either J&J or a dose of an mRNA vaccine. Additionally, people with competent immune systems should not receive a third dose.

Am I eligible for a booster?

At this time, only Pfizer Boosters are authorized, and are only for specific groups. First off, only those who received a first and second dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine should seek out a booster dose at this time. Those who initially received Moderna or J&J will need to wait (see more about this below).

It is recommended that the following people receive a Pfizer booster dose:

  • People 65 and older
  • People 18 and older living in long-term care settings
  • People 50 – 64 with underlying medical conditions or those at increased risk of social inequities

Additionally, the following people may receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine:

Eligible people will need to wait to receive their Pfizer booster until at least 6 months after their second dose of Pfizer. This means that—at the time of this article—only those who received their second dose in March or earlier should seek out a booster.

Additional populations may be recommended to receive a Pfizer booster shot as more data become available.

Is a third dose or booster really necessary?

A third dose may prevent serious and possibly life-threatening COVID-19 disease in people with compromised immune systems who may not have responded to their initial vaccine series.

Although we still have much to learn, early findings are very encouraging. Research published by the Israeli Health Ministry suggests that a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine significantly improves protection for those 60 and older from infection and serious illness, compared to those who received just two doses.

As for boosters, the COVID-19 vaccines continue to be very effective at reducing the risk of severe disease. Data show that protection against COVID-19 from vaccination begins to decrease over time as it does with other diseases like tetanus or whooping cough.

Paired with the dominance of the delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease. As a result, the CDC now recommends booster shots for certain individuals to increase—and extend—protection against the virus.

What if I got Moderna or the J&J single dose vaccine?

At this time, there are not yet booster recommendations for people who received the Moderna or J&J COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC and FDA will evaluate data in the coming weeks and may make additional recommendations for other vaccine types.

How can I make an appointment?

If you’re looking for a third dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, talk with your health care provider first to make sure that a third dose is right for you. If so, there are many vaccine provider locations available to you, including the Skagit County Fairgrounds.  

Looking for a Pfizer booster? Use the Vaccine Locator online tool, check in with your local pharmacy, or give the COVID Hotline a call at 1–800–525–0127, then press #.

Folks can also schedule an appointment for a Pfizer booster at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. To make an appointment, use the PrepMod online appointment finder and search for “Skagit County Public Health” under Name of Location.

Please note that appointments are limited at this time. If no appointments appear when you search, check back the following Monday for newly added appointments. The COVID Hotline is also available if you need further assistance: 1–800–525–0127, then press #.

What should I bring with me?

When seeking out a third dose or booster, please remember to bring your Vaccination Card with you! Can’t find it? Visit MyIR Mobile to pull your vaccination record or call the State COVID-19 Hotline for assistance at 1–800–525–0127, then press #.


What You Need to Know About Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment

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UPDATE: As of September 21, 2021, local supply of Monoclonal antibodies is extremely low, and is expected to remain so for two or more weeks. If you are seeking treatment, you will need to go through your health care provider for a referral. Please do not call local treatment providers or go to the emergency department for monoclonal antibody treatment.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others against COVID-19. We know that people who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to get COVID-19, and that the vaccines continue to prove effective in keeping people from getting seriously sick or dying if they catch the virus.

We also know that COVID-19—and especially the delta variant—are still circulating widely in our community. Local case and hospitalization rates are at the highest that they’ve ever been, with unvaccinated people representing the vast majority of these cases. Breakthrough cases (when someone who is fully vaccinated and contracts COVID-19) are also a reality, and in rare circumstances, fully vaccinated folks are still becoming critically ill with the virus.

Thankfully, for certain high risk individuals who do get COVID-19—regardless of vaccination status—there is some good news available.

What are monoclonal antibodies?

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that help jumpstart your immune system so you can fight off a COVID-19 infection. They can be given by a shot or an IV infusion. Studies show that the treatments successfully fight the virus and prevent serious illness.

Is Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment safe?

To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorization for several monoclonal antibody treatments. The FDA currently recommends the REGEN-COV™ and Sotrovimab monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

Just like with any medication, the safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continues to be evaluated by the FDA for treatment of COVID-19.

Potential side effects of REGEN-COV™ and Sotrovimab include allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, as well as infusion-related reactions, including pain, bruising of the skin, soreness, swelling, and possible infection at the injection site.

Who should get this treatment and when?

Monoclonal antibody therapies can treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and children 12 and older (must weigh at least 88 lbs.), who are at high risk for developing severe illness. Some fully vaccinated people may even qualify for antibody treatment if they are in a high-risk category.

Regardless of vaccination status, timing is important. Monoclonal antibodies must be given within 10 days of getting symptoms to work best. Once someone is hospitalized or needs oxygen therapy due to COVID-19, they are no longer eligible to receive monoclonal antibody treatments. Check with your doctor right away to decide if this treatment is right for you.

If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your healthcare professional if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Do I still need to get vaccinated if this treatment is available?

Monoclonal antibody therapies are not authorized for pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19. These therapies do not replace vaccination against COVID-19. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent against contracting COVID-19 and is recommended by the CDC for everyone 12 years and older.   

How are vaccines and monoclonal therapies different?

A vaccine helps stimulate and prepare your immune system to respond if or when you are exposed to COVID-19. Two weeks following your final dose, your immune system is prepped and ready to create antibodies, even before they are needed.

Monoclonal antibodies boost the immune system after you are already sick with COVID-19. The treatment speeds up your immune response to prevent a person’s symptoms from getting worse. Monoclonal antibodies act as guided missiles that target the virus, but protection doesn’t stick around. While monoclonal antibodies are effective for a short period, COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to still offer significant protection months down the road.

While Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment is a great option for people who are already sick with the virus and at an increased risk for complications, vaccination is the easiest and most effective option for keeping people safe.

Is this treatment free?

The federal government provides some monoclonal antibody treatments for free. Depending on insurance coverage, some may need to pay an administration fee. This is to cover the costs of giving the treatment, not for the antibodies. As always, check with your insurance provider to learn more about treatment costs for your specific plan, first. For people with Medicare and Medicaid, the cost of administering the treatment should be covered.

Where can I get Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment?

Monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy is available in Washington state with a provider’s recommendation for certain high risk individuals. People can be at high risk because of many reasons including their age, having an underlying medical condition, and other things. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Age ≥ 65 years
  • Obesity or being overweight based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clinical growth charts
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Immunosuppressive disease or immunosuppressive treatment
  • Heart or circulatory conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, and possibly high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Chronic lung diseases including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate to severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy
  • Having a medical device (for example, tracheostomy, gastrostomy, or positive pressure ventilation [not related to COVID-19])

If you think you might qualify for this treatment, please speak to your healthcare provider first and get a referral before contacting these sites to arrange an appointment. There is limited capacity at certain sites, and it is preferred that individuals contact these facilities over the phone to arrange an appointment time, in order to limit exposure for staff and other patients.

To find a Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment location near you, go to: https://bit.ly/3hVhagX.


For Our Health Care Workers, It’s Not Just About COVID-19

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Post contributed by Josh Pelonio, Skagit County EMS Director

Our healthcare system, including hospitals, emergency departments and emergency medical services (EMS) are there to take care of you during times of crisis, but we’re unable to do this critical work if we’re in crisis ourselves. With COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations continuing to be at historic highs, the healthcare system is taxed and we’re seeing impacts to quality, and availability of care, system wide.

Increased hospital patient volumes are creating region-wide challenges with bed availability. When emergency department or in-patient hospital beds aren’t available, hospitals in Skagit enter what’s called ‘diversion status,’ meaning that EMS personnel are asked to route patients arriving by ambulance to alternate hospitals, including neighboring counties. EMS personnel must then drive farther to get patients the care they need, or they must wait longer at local hospitals for emergency department beds to become available. Either way, hospital bed delay results in delayed patient care and can negatively impact patient outcome. It can also mean a delay in available personnel and equipment to respond to the next emergency in the community.

Statewide, we are seeing the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rates ever, with 17.7 patients per 100,000 residents between August 22 and August 28 (the most current complete data). This is higher than December 2020, when we saw between 8 and 10 patients per 100,000 residents averaged over a seven-day period.

We also seeing about one-third of all ICU beds in the State being occupied by COVID-19 patients, which is again higher than December 2020 when we saw about one-fifth of beds occupied. Locally, our total ICU occupancy is at 88 percent, meaning that we’re nearly at capacity.

All this to say, the healthcare system is overwhelmed and healthcare staff, including first responders are exhausted. Skagit—we need your help to protect the capacity of our healthcare system.  

This situation doesn’t just impact COVID-19 patients. It impacts car crash victims, heart attack patients, people in mental health crisis, those struggling to control their diabetes, gunshot victims and the child who broke his arm climbing a tree. It impacts everyone. When our healthcare services are in crisis, every single individual in our community is at greater risk of poor health outcomes from any acute injury or illness. This is not a good situation to be in.

Fortunately, there are two simple things that you can do to help:

1. Reduce your risk. Not just from COVID-19, but from all injuries and illnesses. Take caution and use appropriate healthcare services like your primary care doctor or urgent care for minor illness and injury and only use 911 for emergencies.

If looking for COVID-19 testing, please do not go to your local emergency department ! Find a testing provider near you by going to: www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.

2. Get vaccinated against COVID-19. And if you have been vaccinated, talk to others  in your life about getting vaccinated as well. Getting the vaccine is a safe, effective, and totally free tool that you have available to you. CDC data shows that over 99.99% of people who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 did not die or even require hospitalization and the highest hospitalization rates remain in areas with low vaccination rates. By getting vaccinated, you help stabilize our healthcare system, and directly help improve health outcomes for those in crisis.

Skagit Public Health offers free COVID-19 vaccination for those 12 years of age or older at the Fairgrounds site from 5 p.m. –  8 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also find other providers in our community at www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine.

Get vaccinated, or help someone get vaccinated, today.


New Operational Changes for the Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site

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September 10, 2021

Beginning on Monday, September 13, the Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site will be changing its operations, limiting testing and vaccination services to individuals who live, work, or go to school in Skagit County. This change is due to high demand and supply chain issues with testing supplies.

Also beginning on September 13, testing will be limited to individuals 5 and older who are actively exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or who have had a known COVID-19 exposure. Limiting to these two groups will allow us to ensure access to testing for disease mitigation purposes.

As a reminder, the Skagit County Fairgrounds location provides antigen testing and should not be used for pre-travel. If seeking a test before traveling, please seek out a testing provider that uses PCR testing. A full list of providers can be found on our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.

Testing should not be used as a way to guarantee safety. Testing is a point-in-time measure of whether someone has COVID-19 and should not be used to justify decisions that are risky if you are unvaccinated, like travel or gathering in large groups. The best way to be safe is by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask when in crowded settings.

The Skagit County Fairgrounds Site will be closed today (Friday, September 10) due to a scheduling conflict, and will reopen on Monday, September 13 at 5:00 p.m. Those seeking testing or vaccination, and who meet the new operational criteria, are asked to come to the South Gate Entrance at 501 Taylor Street in Mount Vernon. Services are free; no appointment or insurance is required.

For more information about the Skagit County fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site, please go to our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus or call (360) 416-1500.


What are Social Determinants of Health?

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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

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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.


We’re Open Again: COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination to Begin at Skagit County Fairgrounds on August 30th

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August 25, 2021

[updated August 27, 2021]

Beginning Monday, August 30th, Skagit County will once again be operating a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. Both testing and vaccination will be available to the public free of cost, Monday through Friday from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Note: The Fairgrounds testing and vaccine site will be closed on Monday, September 6th for the Labor Day holiday, and Friday, September 10th due to an event that was pre-scheduled to take place on site.

The decision to reopen the Fairgrounds location was made due to the recent spike in cases in Skagit County, and the accompanying increase in demand for testing services. The latest COVID-19 modeling and surveillance situation report from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) shows current COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions at their highest levels to-date. The high case numbers are likely to continue in the coming month due to the delta variant, putting increased strain on our hospitals and medical staff.

Vaccination is—and will continue to be—the best tool for preventing COVID-19. The County also aims to be proactive in response to this week’s news regarding Pfizer’s full FDA approval for those 16 years and older, as well as the Governor’s recent vaccination requirements for employees of certain sectors. Public Health’s goal is to continue to make vaccines easily accessible for all eligible individuals, particularly as families gear up for the new 2021/2022 school year.

“We understand that this decision to reopen the Fairgrounds site may seem like we are moving backwards to some, but this decision is a sign of our county’s strength and endurance. We are fortunate to be able to respond to rising cases and increasing demand for testing and vaccination by reopening the site. It shows that we can act quickly and effectively when action is needed.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

All Public Health testing and vaccine services (except for a select few outreach locations) will now move officially to the Fairgrounds beginning on August 30th. Mobile vaccine clinics this fall will be prioritized based on location, need, and risk, and most people needing low barrier vaccination will be directed to the Fairgrounds clinic or another Skagit provider. 

Those seeking testing or vaccination are asked to come to the South Gate Entrance of the Fairgrounds, located at 501 Taylor St, Mt Vernon, WA 98273. Both testing and vaccination will be operating as a drive-through clinic, though accommodations will be available to those who arrive on foot or who require assistance.

For Testing

Public Health will be using self-swab antigen testing at this location, with results available within 15 minutes. The site can serve anyone 5 years and older for testing. No insurance or appointment will be required. Please note that antigen testing is not intended for pre-travel. Those seeking testing for travel should find a location offering PCR testing.

A full list of testing providers can be found at: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations

For Vaccination

All three currently authorized vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, will be available at the Fairground Vaccination site. Anyone 12 years and older can utilize this site to access a first or second dose of vaccine; no appointment required.

For certain immunocompromised individuals, Public Health will also make third doses of either Pfizer or Moderna available. Please speak with your doctor before seeking a third dose of vaccine. Third doses will not be available for the general public until a determination is made by the FDA, CDC, and Washington Department of Health. For anyone seeking a second or third dose, please bring your Vaccination Card with you when you come to the site.

For more information about the Skagit County fairgrounds testing and vaccination site, please go to our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus or call (360) 416-1500.