Restorative Practices to Heal Brain Fog

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, contributing author

We have weathered this year, experiencing a “new norm.” Every aspect of our lives touched by a global virus, sending us home, keeping us separated and challenging our mental, physical and emotional endurance. It takes energy to keep going under stressful circumstances. If you are feeling exhausted, you are not alone: Pandemic fatigue is real. 

Last week, I forgot what day it was (a few times), my normal patience was running low, and exhaustion was taking hold. Friday, while getting ready for work, on a morning show I heard the term, “brain fog.” This referred to what some people, whether they have had COVID-19 or not, are experiencing after a year living this unusual “new norm.” Hearing the term gave me an odd sense of relief and a name to the mental exhaustion I had been feeling.  

For the past twelve months, we have been running a metaphorical race, restructuring our lives and trying to do the best we can, under extreme circumstances. Our collective exhaustion is understandable. It’s important to remember, take time to pause, breathe deeply and gift ourselves moments of rest. 

While experiencing the fatigue of the pandemic and foggy brains, it is important to be gentle with ourselves and those around us. Remembering the importance of selfcare, setting aside moments for ourselves is not being selfish, rather it is restorative. Not only for us, but for our families, too. The pandemic has taken an exhausting toll on our community from the young to our elders. Supporting one another with loving-kindness can make a huge difference in our collective movement forward.  

Over the weekend, I took time to rest and recharge. Thoughts traveled back to last spring. Remembering the unusual stillness, some days hardly a car drove past my window. It was so quiet. I could feel the earth reawakening, catching its breath without the busyness of all our coming and goings. Now as before the pandemic, I am continually grateful for time tending the garden, watching the hummingbirds zip among the blossoms and listening intently with all my senses to the unfolding of each season. Restorative time spent outside. 

These days, it is vitally important to create ways to recharge our inner beings. Refuel our endurance so we can show up with clarity and presence for our families, friends and community. 

Talking with some coworkers at the Skagit County Public Health vaccination site, each expressed experiencing some form of pandemic fatigue or brain fog over these past many months. I asked, “What is your favorite restorative practice?” 

Here are their responses:

“I head to the mountains.” 

“Every week I buy myself fresh flowers. Along with photography, it’s relaxing and creative.” 

“Play with my dog.” 

“I make sure I practice yoga every day.” 

“Call a friend, meet up for a glass of wine and walk outside.” 

“Crafting, that’s my jam!” 

“Put my phone away and unplug.” 

“Take a nap.” 

“Meditate.” 

“Listen to music.” 

“Sit quietly and watch the clouds.” 

“Gardening, tending the plants and soil, recharges me.” 

“Take a ride to the beach, spend time by the water, listen to the waves.” 

Whatever works, I hope these restorative practices can inspire you to creatively move through moments of fatigue and fogginess. Continue nurturing endurance for the days and months ahead as we move forward with deepening kindness, compassion and joy. 

Welcome Spring! 

“Daffodils” 
©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2021

Phase 3…What Does That Mean?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

On March 22nd, Skagit County—and the rest of the state—moved to Phase 3 of the “Roadmap to Recovery” reopening plan. Counties now move through the phases alone, no longer tied to other counties in their region. What this means is that while Skagit has more freedom to move through the phases, we are also solely responsible for our progress. So how do we keep moving forward and not backwards?

What is Allowed Under Phase 3

Restrictions are looser under Phase 3 than they were under the previous phases. This is exciting news, especially as the weather gets nicer and summer slowly approaches.

That said, it remains more important than ever to continue practicing precautions: mask up, keep your distance, and wash your hands frequently. While restrictions around gathering have relaxed, it is best to continue to limit gatherings as much as possible. This—as well as the precautions above—are our best defenses against the spread of COVID-19.

Below are some of the most notable allowances under Phase 3:

Social and at-home gatherings

  • Indoor social and at-home gatherings have increased to 10 people from outside your household.
  • Outdoor social and at-home gatherings have increased to a maximum of 50 people.

Services (such as dining, retail, worship)

  • Indoor services now allowed at 50% capacity.

Sports and Fitness

  • Indoor sports competitions and tournaments allowed at all risk levels. Fitness/training and indoor sports at a maximum of 50% capacity.
  • Outdoor sports competitions and tournaments allowed at all risk levels. A maximum of 400 spectators allowed with capacity restrictions (depending on the facility).

Entertainment (such as museums, theaters, concert halls)

  • Indoor maximum of 50% capacity or 400 people (whichever is less).
  • Outdoor entertainment allowed by walk-up ticketing, and a maximum of 400 spectators with capacity restrictions (depending on the facility).
For a full list of allowances, you can read WA Department of Health’s report here: https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/HealthyWashington.pdf.

What Metrics Need to be Met to Stay in Phase 3

Forward or backward progress will now be evaluated on a county-by-county basis, rather than by regional grouping. Counties will be evaluated by WA Department of Health (WA DOH) every three weeks to determine progress. Skagit County’s ability to move forward will be determined based on both of the metrics below:

  1. Case Rates: Skagit County must maintain at a case rate lower than 200 per 100,000 in the past 14 days to stay in Phase 3.
    (As of March 21, we are at 132.4 new cases per 100,000)
  2. Hospitalizations: Skagit County must maintain a 7-day average of five or fewer new COVID-19 hospitalizations to stay in Phase 3.

Also, if at any point the statewide Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity reaches greater than 90%, all counties will move down one phase.

As you can see, it wouldn’t take much for Skagit to move backwards. We need to continue limiting our gatherings and wear our masks, even with the lighter restrictions of Phase 3.

It is also critical to continue vaccinating our high-risk populations, as this will greatly impact our hospitalization numbers. Let’s do everything that we can to keep our high-risk populations safe and protected against COVID-19! If you know of someone who is currently eligible for the vaccine, please reach out! Call the Vaccine Hotline to schedule an appointment: (360) 416-1500.

What Comes Next?

We don’t yet know what the next phase will look like for the Roadmap to Recovery. More guidance will come from WA DOH in the coming weeks. In the meantime, let’s all do our part to ensure continued forward motion! Though the road has been long, we have so much to look forward to. Let’s show the state what we are capable of, Skagit!

To read more about the Roadmap to Recovery Plan and to find out guidance specific to businesses and workers, go to: http://bit.ly/3lH6bbI.


This Sunday, Let’s Play it Safe

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’m not going to lie. I do not care about football. At all. Games are long and boring. In pre-COVID times, I’d go shopping while my husband watched games. When it came to the Super Bowl, I was 100% in for the snacks and hanging out with friends. But this year, like so many other things COVID-19 has taken away, I won’t be hanging out with friends. It will just be me and my husband. And the snacks.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still be social! If there is one thing the pandemic has shown us, it’s that it’s really not that hard to connect with friends and family, no matter where they are. Zoom, Skype, FaceTime—whatever your preferred method of video chat—are available 24-7. Use them! If you’re looking for a social connection this Sunday while you watch the game, set up a group call with friends and/or family, and react to the plays (and commercials and halftime show) in real time from a safe distance.

Share snack recipes or see who can come up with the most unique game day treat. Compete with each other for who can dress in the best football garb. Play Game Day or commercial BINGO. There are free printable versions online, or make up your own if you’re creative! Take bets on the final score. Loser owes the winner cupcakes or beef jerky or whatever you’re into.

But if you absolutely cannot fathom being physically apart from friends and/or extended family for the big game, please take steps to keep your party from becoming a super spreader event. Remember: COVID-19 spreads really easily, even without symptoms.

So what can you do to hold a safer gathering?

  1. Limit your gathering to one other household. The more households, the greater the risk of virus transmission.
  2. Stay outside. Use a projector to watch the game. Go inside only when absolutely necessary.
  3. Stay six feet or more from people you don’t live with. This also means no high fives except for air high fives.
  4. Wear a mask. Even if you’re outside and at least six feet apart, you still need to wear a mask. Take it off when you’re actively eating and drinking, but put it back on between bites or sips.
  5. Limit your yelling/cheering. The louder you speak, the more aerosols you emit, and the more likely you are to spread the virus if you have it. Bring a noisemaker, clap, stomp your feet, silently swear to yourself—whatever you need to do to keep your volume down and your aerosols to yourself.
  6. Bring your own food/drinks. Share snacks only with members of your own household. Obviously, this means you need to make the most delicious appetizer so everyone else is jealous. And for once, you don’t need to share!
  7. On that note, bring your own plates, cups, utensils, etc.
  8. Keep hand sanitizer handy. If you touch a common surface, wash your hands or use sanitizer.
  9. Moderate your alcohol intake. We all know alcohol lowers our inhibitions. If you have a few too many, you may be less likely to take proper COVID-19 precautions.
  10. Looking for more tips: Check out these from the CDC.

Public Health definitely doesn’t encourage you to hold or attend a gathering this Sunday. But if you do choose to gather, please be as safe as possible!


Looking Toward the Finish Line: Precautions Post Vaccine

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We are at the point in this COVID-19 marathon where the muscles in our legs are burning and our feet are begging for a rest. We have been dealing with this “new normal” for so long, and sometimes it has felt like there will never be an end to it all.

With vaccines now becoming more widely available (though still quite limited, due to supply), many people may feel that the finish line is just within their grasp. And what a wonderful feeling this is!

As more and more people receive the vaccine and as Washington State moves through the Governor’s new Roadmap to Recovery re-opening plan, it is important to remember that the race isn’t over. While we are absolutely looking toward the finish line, it isn’t the time to stop just yet.

There are still precautions to take, even once someone receives the vaccine. We are all tired of these safety measures, but they will continue to be necessary (at least for now). So why do we need to keep taking precautions? Here are some things to consider:

The vaccine is highly effective–but not foolproof.

At present, both vaccines available in the U.S. (Moderna and Pfizer) require two doses. These vaccines have proven to be extremely effective; the first dose gives 50 percent protection against COVID-19, while the second dose raises the effectiveness to about 95 percent. Of course, that means that there is a 5% chance that someone may still contract COVID-19 after receiving both doses.

And while the hope is that most—if not all—people receive the vaccine over the next several months, we know that there are some limitations. Both Moderna and Pfizer have not yet been approved for children (though Pfizer has been approved for people 16 and older). It may be some time until either a new brand of vaccine is approved that is recommended for children, or until Moderna and Pfizer finish clinical trials for minors and are granted approval for this population. So, until this time, children are still at risk of contracting the virus.

We do not yet know how long immunity lasts.

At this stage, experts do not yet know how long people are immune to COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine. Long-term effectiveness will depend on two factors: the duration of one’s immune response and changes in the virus over time. There is a chance that people will need to receive the COVID vaccine yearly, just like the flu, in order to account for any changes. Experts just do not know yet because the vaccine is so new.

That said, some research has indicated that the current vaccines are effective for at least 6 to 12 months. We will become informed in the coming months as more people receive the vaccine and as scientists track long-term effectiveness.

Experts do not yet know whether people can still spread COVID-19 after getting vaccinated.

The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available are designed to keep people from getting sick. Clinical trials did not test whether those vaccinated could still spread SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

This means that someone who has received the vaccine is approximately 95 percent protected against getting sick but could still contract the virus and infect a friend or loved one who has not been fully vaccinated.

Everyone should still wear masks and social distance—even after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

For all the above reasons, it remains crucial that people continue to take pre-cautions—even after receiving the vaccine. Continue to wear your mask when in public, continue to keep gatherings small and keep your distance, and stay home when you are sick. Yes, these precautions aren’t fun. And yes, we are tired and we want so desperately to stop.

The finish line is in sight and we are getting closer. In the meantime, continue to take precautions and make sure to get vaccinated when you are eligible. If you don’t know your phase of eligibility for the vaccine, visit: www.findyourphasewa.org. You can also call Skagit County Public Health’s Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500, Mondays-Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

We will continue to update our webpage when new vaccine developments are available. Go to www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine for updates.

Keep Going! You’ve Got This!


A Guide To Skagit County Public Health’s Online Vaccine Scheduler

Reading Time: 5 minutes

As many have heard, Skagit County Public Health recently launched an online COVID-19 vaccine scheduling tool. This new online tool will greatly increase our ability to register individuals as vaccine supply becomes available and as more clinic dates are added. We are anticipating that the online portal will streamline the registration process for people over the coming weeks.

We have heard from some individuals calling into our Vaccine Hotline that the online tool (called “PrepMod”) is a bit intimidating for those who are less familiar with online scheduling tools. It is our goal to decrease barriers to scheduling for a vaccine, and we want to do everything in our power to continue to make vaccines widely available to our community.

As more vaccines become available, Skagit County Public Health will be able to provide more clinic dates through the PrepMod online scheduler. We will communicate on our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine and on our Facebook page when new clinic dates have been added.

So, here goes—a guide to Skagit County Public Health’s online registration process:

1. Get acquainted with the system…before you register!

While people can absolutely call into our Vaccine Hotline to get assistance with registering for an appointment, we want to encourage those who are able to do so, to register themselves online through PrepMod.

There are two reasons for this: (1) Our hotline has been experiencing extremely high call volumes. Though we have extended our hours and have increased staffing, there is still a chance that someone may have difficulties getting a hold of staff; and (2) Registering online will take about 10-15 minutes (depending on how tech savvy you are). By the time someone reaches our call center, all vaccine appointments may already be taken.

For these reasons, we encourage people who may be concerned about their ability to use the online scheduler to find a “Scheduling Buddy.” The online tool allows for people to register for someone else by proxy—we just ask that people be sure to enter all information correctly when doing so!

And if you need clarification on any of the directions below, please reach out to our Vaccine Hotline before you plan to register so that staff can walk you through the system. The Hotline is now available Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at (360) 416-1500.

2. Check your eligibility

Before attempting to schedule an appointment at the Skagit County Fairgrounds Clinic, be sure to check your vaccine eligibility. Visit www.findyourphasewa.org to do so. You will need to enter personal information such as location, age, occupation type, living situation, and some medical history. Your eligibility is based on the information that you provide.

3. Visit PrepMod for scheduling online

If you are currently eligible for a vaccine, go to https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/ to begin scheduling your appointment.

Click on “Find a Vaccination Clinic,” and check “COVID-19 Vaccination” under service type on the following page. You can search for a clinic by entering your address, by searching for a specific clinic, or by searching by date.

The Skagit County Public Health Clinic is located at the Skagit County Fairgrounds and will appear as “Skagit County Public Health- Fairgrounds.”

4. Choose a location and date

Vaccine clinic dates are based on our current vaccine supply. If you search under “Skagit County Public Health- Fairgrounds” and there isn’t a blue button that says “Sign up for a COVID-19 Vaccination,” this means that all clinic spaces are currently filled. You can also check under “Available Appointments” to see how many appointments remain for that specific clinic date (see below for example).

You will find locations listed by date (the image below shows 01/29/2021). Find the date that works for you, check that there is—in fact—availability, and proceed.

Please note: It is possible that during the time it takes someone to enter information into the system that available spaces are taken by other users. We know that this can be extremely frustrating, but unfortunately it is just how online scheduling works. Vaccine clinics have been filled very quickly due to high demand in recent weeks. Please do not be discouraged if you do not book an appointment the first time you try. There will be many more opportunities to schedule an appointment over the coming weeks.

5. Personal Information

Please enter information for the person seeking an appointment, including phone number, mailing address, and email address. It is crucial that all of this information is entered correctly. PrepMod registration MUST be fully completed for each person being registered.  DO NOT enter two names into one registration or you risk not receiving vaccine.

6. Health Insurance Information

This page may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry! The scheduling tool will ask you some basic information about whether you are insured or not but we do not collect any detailed insurance information as we do not charge any administration fee at our vaccination site.

7. Medical History

If you are scheduling an appointment for someone else, it will be advantageous to register while on the phone with them. You will be asked a short series of medical questions, so please be prepared to answer these. Questions include things like chronic health conditions and previous reactions to vaccinations. It is very important that these questions are answered honestly in order to avoid any issues when the individual arrives at the Fairgrounds for their appointment.

8. Provide Consent

On this page, people will be asked to provide a signature allowing consent for vaccination. By signing this form, you are giving permission for a vaccination to be administered and a record of the vaccine to be entered into a database to monitor control of COVID-19. Further, you are agreeing that the information provided is correct and that you understand the risks and benefits of getting the vaccine.

Here, a proxy can sign for someone else, and can indicate their relationship to the patient. You will be asked to provide a signature by moving your cursor like a pen (see below for an example). As you can tell, the signature doesn’t need to be perfect!

9. Review, choose a time & submit

You will have an opportunity to review your information. If something is not correct, you can edit by clicking the “BACK” button. Please note: as you progress through the pages, your information will be saved! You will not lose information entered if you use the “BACK” button on the bottom of the page.

Finally, you will be asked to pick an appointment time; you would have already chosen the date when you began entering your information.

Please note: This is where frustration may happen. It is possible that you can get all the way through to this page before finding that no appointments are available. As mentioned above, please do not be discouraged! There will be other opportunities to schedule an appointment. You can also visit www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization/VaccineLocations to see if there is availability with another vaccine provider.

You will know that you have successfully made an appointment when you receive an email confirmation from Skagit County Public Health. We are unable to maintain waitlists for clinics, even if PrepMod gives you this option.  If you make an appointment with Skagit County Public Health, you are committing to keeping that appointment.  DO NOT make appointments with multiple clinics.  If you have a confirmed appointment with our clinic you should remove yourself from waitlists with other clinics.     

Skagit County Public Health recognizes that this online scheduling tool may not meet the needs of everybody, and we understand that people are anxiously awaiting their opportunity to be vaccinated. It will take several weeks to get through our current vaccine phase (Phase 1b-Tier 1), and we ask that people remain patient as we wait for more vaccine supply to become available from the State. There will come a moment in the future when vaccines are much more widely available. It will take a bit of time, and we fully expect that adjustments will need to be made along the way.

For more information about Skagit County’s vaccine roll-out, please visit www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.


Our Masked Heroes: Community Service During COVID-19

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Post by contributing author, Rosemary Alpert

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is…What are you doing for others?’”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The third week of January, we honored the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; welcomed President Biden and Vice President Harris; and, across the country, remembered all the lives touched and lost by the Coronavirus. With deep gratitude and compassion, two words rise in my heart: community and service. 

Volunteerism: The policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or worthwhile activities, especially in one’s community. (Dictionary.com) 

“Skagit County, Washington”, ©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2021 

Since April 21, 2020, the Skagit County COVID-19 Testing Site has welcomed 196 volunteers to assist with all aspects of support during the pandemic: traffic control, registration, testing, contact tracing and vaccination. These volunteers stepped up to the frontline with the purpose to serve our community. Skagit County Department of Emergency Management’s Volunteer Program Coordinator, Tina Bobbit, coordinates, organizes and schedules all the volunteers. Tina recently shared that as of January 15, 2021, volunteers have given approximately 13,000 hours in support of our community. 

While working at the testing site, I have witnessed the best of volunteerism, remarkable and impressive. Some of the employees at the testing site began early on as volunteers. Each volunteer has a story and reason why they are motivated to serve. All volunteers are Registered WA State Emergency Workers, registered and coordinated through the Skagit County Department of Emergency Management (DEM).  

Volunteers represent various groups:  

  • Skagit County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members from all over the County 
  • Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) 
  • WA State Temporary Emergency Workers—Skagit County, registered to assist with the COVID-19 response drive-thru testing and vaccination site 
  • Skagit County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue 
  • Snohomish County Medical Reserve Corps 
  • Civil Air Patrol (CAP) will be assisting with our Vaccine Operations 

In addition, community agencies around our county have shared paid employees. True community collaboration during these challenging and transformational times. In reference to the awesome volunteers, Tina shared this, “The volunteers are what make my job easy, as they give so much of their time and dedication to helping the community during this COVID-19 response. Appreciate all that they do!” 

I asked a few volunteers at the testing site to share their thoughts in reference to their community service:

“The reason I decide to volunteer is because I was so impressed with how friendly the staff was and how quickly the entire process was at the testing site. I’ve since become a temporary part-time employee. It is a great work environment, feels like I’m doing something positive for the community.” 

“I was trained as a CERT, Community Emergency Response Team, member. As COVID broke out, it made sense to me to give a hand at the test site. I am a traffic guide. It is very safe. People stay in their cars, everybody is wearing masks. The COVID site managers make sure everybody follows safety protocol. Nobody that has worked at the site has gotten COVID. I volunteer twice a week for four hours. It has been a very satisfying job. We are appreciated by the management. It is a way for me to give back to the community.” 

“Some reasons why I started volunteering was to mainly help out the community. I want to see us better as a community and help give information to families that may not be as informed. My experience so far has been great. I really enjoy it!” 

As our National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, wrote so eloquently in the presidential inauguration poem, The Hill We Climb, in honor of all the volunteers and community members who tirelessly serve our communities, the following words are for you: 

When day comes, we step out of the shade,  
aflame and unafraid 
The new dawn blooms as we free it 
For there is always light, 
If only we’re brave enough to see it  
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

If you are interested in volunteering at the COVID-19 testing/vaccine site, please contact Tina Bobbit for more information. She can be reached through email at tinab@co.skagit.wa.us, or by calling the DEM Main Office at 360-416-1850.  Specifically, we are seeking volunteers who can speak Spanish, and can work in either traffic or registration. We are also seeking those who are trained medical personnel. 


Seniors Hopeful for a Vaccination

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Post contributed by Jackie Cress, Skagit County staff.

There is a valid question for many people amid this pandemic: When will life return to normal? Perhaps no one in modern times can truly answer this question. We’d have to step into a time machine and go back to one of the number of historic pandemics to really know.

The first recorded pandemic happened in 430 B.C. and here we are today facing this uncharted territory. Most of us could never imagine what has taken place during this Covid-19 time frame. For some, this would merely be a short inconvenience. We hoped that it would pass with warmer weather or as immunities built up. For others, the fear has been almost paralyzing. What we have in common though, is the knowledge that there is hope on the horizon.

Desmond Tutu said “Hope is being able to see that there is a light despite all of the darkness.” As the vaccine supply increases in the weeks and months to come, it is an important step for our senior community. We know that the risk for severe illness with Covid-19 increases with age and older adults are in the highest risk group. Fundamental ordinances have taken place to keep our communities safe such as instructions to stay-at-home, social distance and wear face coverings when in public. Now that the vaccine is becoming more readily available, we can start to imagine life returning to normal. 

There is much credit to our senior community during this time! Instead of accepting a life that can be often isolating, lonely and boring, seniors have adapted, possibly more than any other group and it is inspiring. Seniors have learned to use technology in a time frame that could have left them behind. Seniors have refused to let the institutions that strive to protect them define them into seclusion! They’ve learned to use smart phones, computers and new programs that brought us all together virtually. We’ve played Bingo together, sang along to online concerts and exchanged our every day celebrations and tribulations through technology. It’s nothing short of remarkable.

Our youth seem to learn all technological things in an instant. They’ve grown up not knowing a world without the internet. For them, familiarizing themselves with new electronic components comes naturally. It’s not so easy for us who have seen the birth of the internet which happened around the late 1980’s. Despite these challenges, seniors have adapted in many innovative ways to meet their needs. This alone is a cause to celebrate! These new found life skills will be advantageous even as we start to return to the life we knew pre-pandemic. 

Getting the Covid-19 vaccine is very literally our best shot at rebounding from what has kept us all apart. The vaccine has been rigorously tested world-wide. Side effects are mild and severe side effects are rare. We are all dreaming of when we can share a meal in person, do a crossword puzzle together and hug our friends. This vaccine is Desmond Tutu’s light in this dark time. Vaccine facts can be found on line at CDC.gov website and on Skagit County’s webpage at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine

Until we meet again, Be safe. Continue to stay at home when possible. Wash your hands frequently. Wear a face covering when in public and most importantly, schedule your Covid-19 vaccination as soon as you are able. 


Eyes of Hope

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, contributing writer. 

Over the past ten months, we have been wearing our masks, washing our hands more than we ever thought we would, strategically getting our groceries, keeping our distance and so much more. A collective community effort to keep ourselves, families and friends healthy.  

Since June, I’ve been looking into thousands of community members’ eyes through car windows while registering them to get tested for COVID-19. First, at Skagit Valley College and now Skagit County Fairgrounds (south entrance, F Barn). Each person has a story for why they are getting tested. Eyes filled with worry, fear, anxiety and deep concern, not only for themselves but for their families too.  

So many eyes. 

Last Thursday, Skagit County Public Health and its community partners worked tirelessly to get our first 1a-eligible COVID-19 vaccine clinic started. The County is working directly with 1a-eligible employers to identify individuals to be vaccinated. Eligible community members were invited and scheduled for a specific time last Thursday and Friday, to receive their first vaccination for the COVID-19 virus.  

From registration to vaccination; a moment in time that I will remember for all of my days. 

I’ve been asked to greet each person immediately after they receive their vaccine: instructing them to sit for 15 minutes post-vaccine, to be observed and make sure that they do not have any reactions. After I shared with a friend and coworker from Skagit Valley Family YMCA about how powerful it is to be a part of this historical time for our County, she said, “You’ve come full circle, starting off being the first person people see when getting tested for the virus, to being the first person they see once they receive the vaccine.” 

Full circle—filled with deep listening, loving-kindness and compassion. 

What profoundly struck me last week, quite unexpectedly, was everyone’s eyes. Each pair of eyes, filled with a sense of relief and gratitude; some glistening with tears, and most of all, eyes filled with HOPE. 

Just as each person has a reason for why they get tested, the relief and appreciation for receiving the vaccine are also deeply meaningful. Some of the responses I heard were: 

“I can’t wait to see my granddaughter.”  

“I have no words. Just so grateful.”  

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  

“This gives me so much hope.” 

#OurShotSkagit. Photo taken by Julie de Losada of Rosemary Alpert receiving her first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Looking into eyes of our community, filled with hope and movement forward. Slow and steady progress.

For a first-hand account, as a frontline worker, I was invited to receive the vaccine. Last Friday afternoon, I received my first shot. After working months, looking into the eyes of our community, I was filled with emotions and gratitude, feeling the light of hope. 

My first thought was my two adult children, who I haven’t been able to see in over a year. My eyes glistened with tears of relief. The only reaction I felt was a sore arm, and the next day, a little tired. I also woke up at 3:38 a.m. the next morning and could feel the vaccine working. It was a wonderful feeling! I visualized the vaccine as golden-healing liquid responding and strengthening my being, heart and eyes full of hope. 

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, please check out Skagit County Public Health’s website at www.skagitounty.net/COVIDvaccine. You can also read our press release with WA DOH’s latest guidance here: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/Home/press/010721.htm.


WA Department of Health Releases Next Phase of Vaccine Prioritization

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January 8, 2021

On January 6th, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released guidance for phase 1B, which is the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine prioritization. DOH worked closely with the Governor’s Office to finalize prioritization for phase 1B, while also relying on federal guidance and public input through focus groups, interviews, and surveys over the past few months.

This guidance is for planning purposes only. Washington State and Skagit County will remain in Phase 1A of vaccinations until all Phase 1A individuals who want the vaccines have it. As a reminder, Phase 1A includes:

Tier 1: High risk workers in health care settings; High risk first responders; and residents and staff of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other community-based, congregate living settings where most individuals over 65 years of age are receiving care, supervision, or assistance.

Tier 2: All workers in healthcare settings.

Skagit County Public Health and its partner providers are ready to vaccinate our community; however, the ability to do so remains reliant on when and how much vaccine is received from the State. Current allocations have been very limited. To date, Skagit County has only received vaccine to meet approximately 25% of our 1A eligible workers and long term care facility residents.  Phase 1A will need to be completed before we will be able to move on to Phase 1B in Skagit County.

People should not expect Skagit County to move into Phase 1B until February at the earliest. If we receive greater dose allocations from the state, this timing will improve. Public Health will announce movement into the next phase of vaccinations via our press release system, web site and social media. Sign up here to get press releases from Skagit County.

“Skagit County Public Health and our partner providers have put a lot of time and effort into preparing for this moment. We are ready! As soon as we receive a consistent supply of vaccine from the State and are clear to begin phase 1B, we will let Skagitonians know how and where to get vaccinated.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

Due to limited vaccine availability, Phase 1B has been broken up into four separate tiers. Groups eligible for vaccination in phase 1B will include:

Phase 1B1 – (Tier 1)

  • All people 70 years and older
  • People 50 years and older who live in multigenerational households

Phase 1B2 – (Tier 2)

  • High risk critical workers 50 years and older who work in certain congregate settings: Agriculture; food processing; grocery stores; K-12 (teachers and school staff); childcare; corrections, prisons, jails or detention facilities (staff); public transit; fire; law enforcement

Phase 1B3 – (Tier 3)

  • People 16 years or older with two or more co-morbidities or underlying conditions

Phase 1B4 – (Tier 4)

  • High-risk critical workers in certain congregate settings under 50 years
  • People, staff and volunteers all ages in congregate living settings:
    • Correctional facilities; group homes for people with disabilities; people experiencing homelessness that live in or access services in congregate settings
Skagit County Public Health’s vaccine roll-out timeline, estimated based on WA DOH’s guidance and timeline, as well as adequate vaccine allocation from federal and state government.

WA DOH has also announced the creation of the Phase Finder online tool that allows people to assess their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. It is currently being tested for Phase 1A eligible individuals and will launch broadly on January 18th. Phase Finder will be available in multiple languages and will be used to confirm individual eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.

For COVID-19 vaccine information, visit our webpage at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.


Keep It Simple: Self-Care in the New Year

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Article and image contributed by Rosemary Alpert.

The calendar has turned,
a new year’s begun,
here we go 2021!

Stepping into this new year with hope and resilience, slow and steady movement forward, one day at a time. No resolutions, rather, deciding to keep it simple, focusing on daily self-care and compassion.

At least three times a week, I call a dear friend who turned 99 years old last October. She lives in an assisted living facility in Connecticut. Our conversations are brief and meaningful, for both of us. Almost guaranteed, with each call, especially during challenging days of separation and isolation, my friend, Sylvia, shares two pieces of advice: “Put your oxygen mask on first,” and, “You’re dealt a hand, play it out the best you can.” Daily wisdom from an almost centenarian.

The simplicity of this advice resonates within. “Put your oxygen mask on first,” does not mean being selfish, quite the opposite. Rather, it is true self-care. Being full of care for ourselves is vitally important, especially these days. What works for you?

Keep it Simple. Besides making sure to get enough rest, drink plenty of water, wash our hands, and wear our masks, here are a few keep-it-simple self-care thoughts: Let’s notice our breath; be gentle with ourselves; learn our limits; be our best advocate; ask and reach out; express daily gratitude; get outside; however it may be, take super-duper care! Then, we can show up for one another, with more presence and awareness.

Each day, we are gifted 86,400 seconds, a fresh start. Over these many months, when my mind started to turn into a hamster wheel, spinning out of control, I would stop whatever I was doing. Pause, focus, take a few breaths, remember what my friend Sylvia would say, “You’re dealt a hand, play it out the best you can.” One of my daily practices has become starting fresh with each new day. As with any practice, it is an ongoing learning experience. Some days, it’s not so easy. What this advice has offered is a way to appreciate, notice, and celebrate the littlest of moments within the progress of each day. Our accumulation of seconds count!

While working at the COVID-19 testing site, I asked a few coworkers how they keep it simple with self-care. Here are some of their responses…

  • Relax in bed, all propped up with a bunch of pillows, surround myself with snacks and watch Hallmark movies
  • Take a long hot bath
  • Search for painted rocks on hikes with my son
  • Call a friend
  • Long walks by the river
  • Learned how to quilt
  • Walk my dog
  • Quiet meditation
  • Spend time reading and journaling
  • Go for hikes
  • Spend time gardening, getting my hands in the dirt, connecting to the earth
  • Listen to calming music
  • Make dinner with my partner, then watch a funny movie.

Simple pleasures nourish the soul, keep us in the present, and keep us moving forward. Remember my dear friend Sylvia’s advice: Don’t forget to “put your oxygen mask on first,” and each day, do the best you can with your 86,400 seconds.

Happy New Year!!!