To those who are fully vaccinated: We still need your help!

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I have been fully vaccinated for some time now. As a Public Health employee and a part-time staff person at the Fairgrounds Vaccine Site, I was given the opportunity to receive my vaccine back in January. I cannot tell you how excited I was to get my second dose, knowing that I would soon (in two weeks) be protected from this virus that has ransacked our lives since last spring.

Over the past several months, I have watched my friends and loved ones receive their doses as well. I have also seen thousands upon thousands of Skagitonians come through our Vaccine Site, all rolling up their sleeves with a glimmer of hope in their eyes. There has been no greater gift than watching my community getting vaccinated and hearing the stories that people share.

I’ve also watched these same individuals walk out of our Observation Room, pull off their masks, and continue to walk through the parking lot carefree. This has been so incredibly concerning to watch.

You, our fully vaccinated residents, can be our number one advocates for safety and precaution. By taking the time to get vaccinated, you have essentially done just that! You are showing your friends, neighbors, and family members that you believe in the power of science, and that you are willing to take actions against COVID-19. You—my fully vaccinated peers—can be a powerful force!

So, I am pleading with you now: Please, please continue to wear your mask in public. And please, continue to limit your social gatherings though it is so incredibly tempting to do otherwise.

Trust me—I get it. There is nothing else that I’d rather do right now than have a barbeque with all of my friends and throw my mask in the dirt. I want to see my mother who lives in Canada and who I haven’t seen in over a year. I want to send my babies to daycare each day without worrying about their health and safety. But I can’t do this right now, whether or not I have received my vaccines. We just aren’t to that point yet.

We are making incredible strides, Skagit County. Our vaccination numbers are great and ever increasing. We now have just over 30% of our eligible residents fully vaccinated, and 40% well on their way with one vaccine to their name. That said, there are still many people who haven’t gotten vaccinated (whether by choice or because they haven’t been eligible or have been underage). These individuals need your help right now in order to stay safe. Your choices—daily—can make a life or death difference. I know that this isn’t a responsibility that I hold lightly.

Together, we can show people that we care and that we are willing to fight. By continuing to wear our masks in public, we are communicating a message to our fellow Skagitonians: that masking should be the norm for right now. That science works. That we care. I’d also hate for someone who isn’t vaccinated to see me walking around sans mask, since they wouldn’t know that I’m fully vaccinated. They’d just assume that I don’t care.

Our case numbers are going up right now. The Governor has now coined it as the “forth wave.” I am sick of this and sick of COVID. And I know you are too. But we know that wearing our masks can make a big difference—heck, it has saved so many lives already. Let’s continue to make progress. We don’t want to move backward; not economically with our reopening, or emotionally (you feel me right?).

Thank you for getting vaccinated. From the bottom of our hearts at the Fairgrounds: Thank you! Now let’s be the change that we want to see in the world. Let’s mask up for each other.

And if you’re wondering then what the point of getting vaccinated is if you can’t get rid of the mask all together, I also get that. There are many benefits to getting vaccinated, both for health and safety reasons…but also for fringe benefits as well! For updated CDC guidelines around travel, gathering, and mask wearing for fully vaccinated folks, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html.


“Let’s get out of here!” Traveling After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

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You did it! You got vaccinated! Thank you for doing so. It helps not only protect you but the community at large. We bet that you’re ready to start returning to some of the activities you gave up in March 2020, including travel. If you are, please keep some things in mind.

The COVID-19 vaccines currently in use are highly effective.

Real world data has shown that their nearly 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death amongst fully vaccinated individuals. In fact, Washington State has only observed a breakthrough rate of 0.01%, which is fantastic. Being fully vaccinated means you can do a lot of things again, such as:

  • Gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or social distancing
  • Gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household without masks or social distancing unless one of the participants is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Travel domestically, or return from international travel without getting a negative COVID-19 test or self-quarantining (Note: if you’re traveling internationally, you might still need a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country you’re visiting. Do your research before you go).
  • Unless you live in a group setting (like a correctional facility or group home), you don’t need to quarantine after an exposure to COVID-19 as long as you don’t develop symptoms.

Reminder: After receiving your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or your Johnson & Johnson shot, you need to wait two weeks for immunity to build in your system. After that two week period, you’re considered fully vaccinated.

That said, COVID-19 vaccines aren’t get out of jail free cards.

There is still a risk that you could contract COVID-19 and spread it to loved ones or close contacts. This means that when traveling you should:

  • Keep wearing masks- and two if you can- especially on airplanes, in public spaces and when gathering with unvaccinated individuals from multiple households. 
  • Avoid large gatherings or events, especially when indoors, where people don’t remain in fixed locations, engage in activities that pose great risk for spread (singing, exercising, shouting, etc…) or wear masks aren’t or can’t be worn.
  •  Monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, and if any develop get tested right away.
  • Avoid visiting unvaccinated individuals who are at increased risk for poor health outcomes after traveling or being in public spaces for prolonged periods.
  • Follow your workplace guidance on quarantine when returning, which may be more strict than what is outlined here.

We’re all looking forward to increased travel and activity–but we’re not quite out of the woods yet. Please, continue to be smart and practice good behaviors. Wear your mask, practice social distancing in public or with unvaccinated individuals, wash your hands frequently (like, all the time and for lots of reasons it’s just a good thing to do).

If you’re planning a trip and are nervous about some of the circumstances, we’ve included a handy flow chart that can help guide you towards the best decision for your situation.

We’re in this together and we’ll get through this by protecting our community together.


Celebrating Safely This Easter

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“Here comes Peter Cottontail, Hoppin’ down the bunny trail, Hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way…”

Spring is here, the tulips are blooming, and Easter is just a hop-skip and a jump away. Spring is an exciting time—especially in the Skagit Valley—as we say “see ya later” to winter and begin planning for the warmer days ahead.

After a relatively dreary winter season, I’m eager to begin putting together spring and summer plans for my family. Like most, we’ve been essentially homebound this past year, and now that more and more people have gotten vaccinated, I’m feeling excited for what the next several months may bring.

That said, we still have a little ways to go until things can really open up again. COVID-19 is still spreading in our community, and with the new variants that we’re seeing across the state, it remains vitally important that we continue to use precaution.

So, what does that mean for Easter this coming Sunday?

The CDC continues to recommend staying home and postponing travel at this time. Doing so remains the best way to protect yourself and others this springtime. The recommendations are the same as they’ve been for a while: Limit your gatherings, keep a 6-foot distance, avoid unnecessary travel, wear a facemask, and wash your hands frequently.

Skagit County—and the rest of the state—is currently in Phase 3 of the Roadmap to Recovery, which means that indoor social and at-home gatherings have increased to 10 people from outside your household, and outdoor social and at-home gatherings have increased to a maximum of 50 people. When gathering, remember to wear your mask and practice safe distancing from non-household members.

The CDC’s recommendations are slightly different for those who have completed their series of COVID-19 vaccinations and have waited two weeks after their final dose. That said, everyone must continue to do everything that they can to end the pandemic until more is understood about how the vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19 and how long protection lasts for those who have been vaccinated.

If you intend to travel for Easter (or at any time this spring or summer), please keep current travel recommendations and restrictions in mind. It is still recommended that Washingtonians avoid unnecessary travel when possible and delay travel if the traveler is experiencing signs of COVID-19 or has been recently exposed to someone with COVID-19. After all, travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

If you must travel, the CDC offers the following steps to protect yourself and others:

  • If you are eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
  • Before you travel, get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public.
  • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you.
  • Get tested 3-5 days after your trip and stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
  • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements after travel.

This news most likely isn’t what you were hoping for, especially since this is our second COVID Easter. However, compared to 2020 (ugh!), we have a lot more opportunities to celebrate safely this year!

If you’re feeling like me, you may be itching to make this year’s festivities a bit more…festive? The mom guilt is strong and I’m looking for new (and safe) ways to make Easter fun for my family. For those looking to shake up the usual “Easter egg and chocolate” routine, there are some great ideas online! This is the perfect year to try an Easter-themed Nature Scavenger Hunt or an Easter Egg Relay Race.

Looking to do something out of the house and in the community? Check out Skagit Kid Insider’s EASTER EGG HUNTS & ACTIVITIES GUIDE for some local events taking place this Easter weekend. If you decide to take part, please remember to wear your mask and follow all COVID-19 guidelines.

Hoppy Easter!


Reflections: A Year Of COVID-19

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Dr. Howard Leibrand, Skagit County Health Officer 

Today is the first of several heavy anniversaries for Skagit County. On March 10, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Skagit County. On March 13, Governor Inslee closed schools in order to protect students, staff and the community at large from COVID-19 spread. On March 17, Skagit County first became aware of the Chorale outbreak, which would lead to the loss of 2 Skagitonians- some of the first known casualties from COVID-19 in Washington State. On March 23, the first ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy order’ began.

Since then, we’ve learned a lot. The science has come a long way- we now know how effective masks are at preventing spread of COVID-19; we know that surface transmission is pretty unlikely (so wiping down groceries isn’t really necessary), and we have three vaccines that are highly effective against the wild coronavirus.  All of this is a testament to human innovation and resiliency. 

We’ve also worked incredibly hard. Skagit Public Health, Department of Emergency Management and Unified Command have put in long, hard hours and accomplished so much. Skagit operated the longest continuously running COVID-19 mass testing site and has opened one of the largest mass vaccination clinics in the region. This clinic has administered over 6,000 doses of vaccine so far and has the capacity to do up to 940 total doses per day.

Residents and friends of Skagit County have also made huge efforts. Beyond everyone taking precautions to keep the community safe, individuals have donated thousands of masks, volunteered over 14,000 hours at the test site, vaccine clinic and staffing the hotline, and given $700,000 dollars to the Skagit Community Foundation’s COVID-19 fund which helped families in need through this difficult year. I am continuously in awe of my colleagues and the community that I serve. 

Unfortunately, the work is not yet over. While I look forward to further reopening of Skagit businesses and activities, now is not the time to let up on our basic precautionary measures. The B117 variant was confirmed in Skagit County two weeks ago, and it is likely that this more contagious version of the virus is circulating at large in the Community. Because it spreads more quickly and easily, if we don’t continue to observe precautions we risk a large fourth wave of illness. We also risk the B117 or the wild virus potentially mutating further and lessening vaccine efficacy; something that we have seen early evidence of in places like Brazil (P1) and South Africa (B1351). I encourage the community to double down their precautionary efforts. Wear masks- two if you can- at all times in public or during private social gatherings. Stay six feet apart from anyone you don’t live with, continue to practice good hand hygiene and please, stay home if you feel ill. 

I promise you, spring is coming. We will further reopen, and learn to live with COVID-19. You will see loved ones in unmasked social gatherings again. Vaccines will protect us. But we cannot get there without everyone’s help. Over the last year, I’ve said this many times but it bears repeating: wear a mask, wash your hands, and stay safe, stay healthy. 


B.1.1.7 COVID-19 Virus Variant Found in Skagit County

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March 3, 2021

Skagit County Public Health released today that evidence of the COVID-19 virus variant has been found in Skagit County. Variant B.1.1.7, also referred to as the U.K. variant, is more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain.

The individual first tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago and has been working with contact tracers. The individual had not traveled and is associated with another known COVID-19 case that is likely another B.1.1.7 variant case. Genome sequencing takes time, so the variant was only discovered last night- more information will likely become available in the coming days. Public Health is thankful to all involved for their cooperation.

We knew this was coming,” said Skagit Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson. “The B.1.1.7 variant has already been found in Whatcom, Snohomish and Island Counties, and given the way COVID-19 spreads it’s likely it’s been here for a while. We should assume that this variant is circulating widely in Skagit at this time.

The B.1.1.7 variant is more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19, it responds to the same safety measures the community has been practicing since the first case of COVID-19 was found in Skagit County. These measures include:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Using good hand hygiene and washing hands frequently
  • Avoiding unnecessary gatherings; particularly informal, indoor social gatherings
  • Staying six feet apart from anyone you do not live with

Additionally, currently in use vaccines are effective against the B.1.1.7 variant, so Public Health encourages all to be vaccinated as soon as you are eligible. For more information about vaccinations in Skagit County visit www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Skagit Public Health at 360-416-1500. For more information about Skagit’s COVID-19 response, visit www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.


Updated Quarantine Requirements for Vaccinated Persons

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On February 10th, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced some recent changes to quarantine requirements for those who are fully vaccinated. This update comes at a perfect time as more people are getting vaccinated and as many are beginning to wonder what life will look like post-vaccine.

If you have been following the news, or if you have been recently vaccinated, you have most likely heard the recommendations: Vaccinated persons should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and avoiding crowds.

But why must those who have received both doses of vaccine continue to practice these safety precautions? Shouldn’t we be able to go back to normal once vaccines are more readily available?

Well…the science just isn’t there quite yet to tell us otherwise!

What we know—and don’t know just yet

We know that the currently approved COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, meaning that those who have received a full vaccine series have protection against developing symptoms and are especially protected against severe illness related to COVID-19. The evidence also shows that symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission has a greater role in transmission that purely asymptomatic transmission.

While mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (like Pfizer and Moderna) have demonstrated high efficacy at preventing severe and symptomatic COVID-19, there is limited information on how effective the vaccines are at reducing transmission and how long protection lasts. The efficacy of the vaccines against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants is also not yet known.

As we wait to learn more about how much vaccines are able to reduce transition, it is best to be cautious. Counties across Washington State have shown reductions in COVID-19 cases in the past several weeks, and it is best to keep doing what we know works best against the virus.

If you are like me though, you may be looking for a glimmer of hope for the coming months. The updated CDC quarantine guidelines is a promising example of the benefits that vaccinated individuals will begin to see.

Updated Guidance for Vaccinated Persons

The CDC states that vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria. Persons who do not meet all three of the below criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19:

1. Are fully vaccinated (i.e. it has been longer than two weeks following receipt of the second dose in a two-dose series, or it has been longer than two weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine).

2. Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.

3. Are within three months following receipt of the last dose in the series (meaning that an individual is no more than three months out from their last vaccine dose).

Experts are currently gathering data about the duration of immunity to COVID-19 post-vaccination. At present, we have good data confidence to say that immunity lasts for 90 days (or three months). This may change as more data is gathered and analyzed.

Vaccinated healthcare personnel, patients, and residents in healthcare settings

If you are a healthcare worker, patient, or resident of a healthcare setting, these new updates will not apply to you. This exception is due to the unknown vaccine effectiveness in this population, the higher risk of severe disease and death, and challenges with social distancing in healthcare settings. These individuals must continue to follow current quarantine guidance.

Exposed and feeling sick. Now what?

Fully vaccinated persons who do not quarantine should still watch for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following an exposure. If they experience symptoms, they should be clinically evaluated for COVID-19. In addition, vaccinated persons should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including all other SARS-CoV-2 testing recommendations and requirements, and state, territorial, tribal, and local travel recommendations or requirements. For local information, visit: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirus.htm.

More to come

The CDC quarantine recommendations for vaccinated persons, including the criteria above, will be updated when more data becomes available and additional COVID-19 vaccines are authorized.

To find out if you are currently eligible for vaccine in Washington State, visit www.findyourphasewa.org. If eligible, people can register for an appointment at one of the many vaccine provider locations: https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization/VaccineLocations. Please know that vaccine supply is still quite limited at this time, and it will take several months for all currently eligible individuals to receive vaccine.

For information about Skagit County Public Health’s vaccination clinic at the Skagit County Fairgrounds, visit www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500.


This Sunday, Let’s Play it Safe

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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

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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!


Preventing Poisoning During COVID-19

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Earlier this month, the Washington Poison Center (WAPC) released its data “snapshot” for 2020. This is something that WAPC puts out annually in order to educate the public about poisoning trends at the state level. These trends are based on the types of calls that WPAC’s hotline receives throughout the year, compared to years prior.

This year has been one for the books in so many ways, and the new data snapshot tells an interesting story. I had the opportunity to talk with one of WPAC’s staff, and I’d like to share what I learned.

But first: What is the Washington Poison Center (WAPC)?

The Washington Poison Center (WAPC) provides immediate, free, and expert treatment advice and assistance on the telephone in case of exposure to poisonous, hazardous, or toxic substances. Each year, its specialists answer more than 63,000 calls from Washingtonians related to poisoning and toxic exposures. All calls are free, confidential, and help is available 24/7/365.

Major Takeaways

COVID-19 has increased our risks of accidental poisoning. Period. So what is the reason for this increase? WAPC staff believe that it is due to several factors, including:

  • We are home more due to social distancing and other safety guidance
  • We may have new daily routines this year that are out of the ordinary
  • More products in the home (perhaps due to stockpiling) may cause increased access
  • More stress can cause people to be less focused
  • Rumors and misinformation can lead to dangerous choices

Calls to the Center have increased in 2020, and staff have seen spikes in calls regarding substances common to COVID prevention (hand sanitizer and household cleaners). They have also seen spikes in calls for vulnerable demographics like adolescents and adults over 60.

This data is concerning, and parallels poison trends across the U.S.

Cleaners & Sanitizers

It isn’t unusual for WAPC to receive calls about household cleaners; however, this year has definitely seen a serious uptick. Most calls have been in regards to accidental poisonings, or poisonings due to misuse (mixing products, using in low ventilated areas, etc).

The vast majority of hand sanitizer exposures have been in children ages 0-12, most likely due to increased access to the products in the home. The high alcohol content in these products can be very dangerous for young children, so it is extremely important to supervise kids when using hand sanitizer and to make sure that bottles are always out of reach.

Nicotine

An interesting find this year has been the decrease in nicotine exposure calls. In 2020, nicotine exposure in children ages 0-5 actually decreased—a trend that even WAPC staff were a bit surprised about. Perhaps the decrease is due to parents being home more? Or perhaps the new Tobacco 21 law has decreased access to these products? While it is difficult to pinpoint direct correlations, it is certainly nice to see this type of data!

That said, it is still very important to keep nicotine products stored safely and away from children. The vast majority of calls for 0-5 year old’s were for raw tobacco, with vape products in second. WAPC staff explained that raw tobacco can be dangerous, but vape liquid—if ingested—can be fatal. Always, always, keep these products away from children, as flavored liquids can be especially enticing to little kids.

Cannabis

WAPC 2020 Data Snapshot

Trends for THC exposure are less rosy. All age groups saw an increase in THC exposures this year, with a sizeable increase among children 0-5. Among this group, exposures were almost 100% due to unintentional use (getting a hold of an edible, plant-based product, or concentrate). Safe and secure storage of these products is crucial to keeping kids safe.

Medications

This is another area that has historically been a concern for WAPC, however COVID has exacerbated the problem. Stress, distractions, and new routines can lead to user error and poor judgement. WAPC staff encourage people to use medication lists, trackers, and reminders in order to decrease risk of double-dosing or mixing meds.

It is also encouraged that people secure medications in the home. This simple step can decrease the likelihood of accidental poisonings in young children, or misuse among adolescents.

Adolescent Self-harm

By far, this data tells the most worrisome story. Historically, data has shown an increase in youth self-harm/suicidal intent since 2014, and this trend continues. COVID-19 related isolation and stress may increase these risks—something that mental health experts have been concerned about for months.

WAPC 2020 Data Snapshot

It is encouraging, however, to see this data and to realize just how amazing our kids are. Despite all the ups and downs of 2020, our youth are showing resilience in magnitudes. We must not forget that we can all make a positive difference everyday in the lives of our young people.

Two steps that each of us can take today are: 1) locking up medications (even over-the-counter meds like Tylenol and Advil); and 2) talking to our children about substance use. Don’t know where to start with this? Visit Start Talking Now for some ideas.

What to expect when you call

It doesn’t need to be an emergency to call the Washington Poison Center—you can call to get advice or directions if you are concerned or confused about poison-related issues.

You will speak with an expert (nurse, pharmacist, or poison information provider), and there are always Board Certified Medical Toxicologists on-call if necessary. You are not required to give your name, however providing your age and gender can be extremely helpful in order to gauge risk. What was taken, when, and how much are other vital details to provide to the staff.

These calls are always confidential. You do not need to be worried about law enforcement or CPS getting involved. WAPC is concerned about your safety and about providing care.

Staff are trained to provide direction on what to do, what to watch for, and most of the time this can all happen with the caller at home. If/when it is decided that the caller needs medical intervention, staff can advise the caller to go to the emergency room, or WAPC can actually contact EMS on the caller’s behalf.

Finally, WAPC staff will follow-up with you—just to make sure that everything is alright!

It is important to be vigilant when it comes to poisoning prevention—now more than ever. With that said, I feel comforted in knowing that there are trained professionals available to answer my questions. If you don’t have the Washington Poison Center’s phone number somewhere in your home, I encourage you to jot it down! 1-800-222-1222

You never know when you might need it!

To view the Washington Poison Center’s full data report, visit: www.wapc.org/programs/covid-19-resources-information/covid-19-data/.


New COVID-19 Guidance That Impacts Skagit Residents

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November 11, 2020

On Sunday, Governor Inslee announced changes to current COVID-19 guidance. The new guidance will take effect at midnight on Monday, November 16 (with a few exceptions) and be in place until at least December 14, 2020. There are many changes including:

  • No indoor social gatherings are allowed. Outdoor social gatherings can have five or fewer people from outside an immediate household.
  • Restaurants and bars are open for outdoor dining and takeout only- no indoor dining is allowed (these restrictions will go into effect on Wednesday, November 18).
  • Bowling alleys, movie theaters, museums, zoos and indoor fitness facilities are closed.
  • Personal services (such as hair dressers, nail salons, etc…) and retail occupancy, including grocery stores are limited to 25 percent of capacity.
  • Long term care facilities can only allow outdoor visitation, except in the cases of end of life care and essential support personnel.
  • Religious services are limited to 25 percent indoor occupancy or 200 people, whichever is fewer. No choir, band or ensemble shall perform during these services. Facial coverings must be worn at all times by congregation members, and there cannot be any congregational singing.
  • Wedding receptions are prohibited. Wedding ceremonies will be allowed with no more than 30 people in attendance.
  • Youth (school and non-school) and adult sporting activities are limited to outdoor only for intra-team practices, and all athletes must wear masks.
  • No real estate open houses.

“Cases have been spiking throughout Washington, including in Skagit County. These restrictions are necessary to prevent further spread, deaths and potential hospital overwhelm. I’m glad Governor Inslee is taking these steps, and encourage everyone to follow them; if not for their own health, for their neighbors.”

Skagit Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand

Governor Inslee is also requiring that those who are able to work from home do so. If a business is not able to operate remotely, only 25 percent of the buildings capacity can work from there at one time. Further, no public services should be provided wherever possible. No changes have been made to the guidance’s governing schools or childcare facilities.

This is not a complete list. Full text of the new guidance is available here.

Skagit County has reported more than 150 cases this week. According to the Governor’s risk assessment dashboard, Skagit County has 90.6 cases per 100,000 over the last fourteen days. Skagit’s percent positive test rate, which indicates the percentage of total COVID-19 tests that are coming back positive, has increased to 3.4%.

“I know it’s hard to think about spending this holiday season away from our families, but these restrictions will save lives, and they will the lives of people you personally know,” said Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson. “Following these guidelines will help keep you, your family and our community at large from facing a total health system crisis. Please, do your part.”

More information on Skagit County’s COVID-19 response is available at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.

A link to Skagit County’s press release can be found here.