Septic Tips for National SepticSmart Week

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September 20-24, 2021 is SepticSmart Week—a week during which Skagit County Public Health joins the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Governor Jay Inslee in reminding homeowners and communities about the importance of caring for, and maintaining, their septic systems.

Governor Jay Inslee’s proclamation, declaring SepticSmart Week, underscores the importance of maintaining the approximately 18,000 septic systems in Skagit County. Properly designed, installed, and maintained septic systems can operate for a long time as a mini wastewater treatment plant on your own property! However, poor maintenance and other issues can lead to septic failures, contamination of surface and groundwater, algal blooms in lakes, shellfish closures in marine waters, and other issues.

SepticSmart Week Tips

During SepticSmart Week, the EPA provides homeowners with easy to remember septic maintenance tips and videos. Some tips include:

  • Protect It and Inspect It: Homeowners should have their system inspected. In Skagit County, gravity systems must be inspected every three years; all other systems inspected annually. Pumping is not the same as an inspection. Tanks should be pumped when necessary, typically when 1/3 full of solid material.
  • Think at the Sink: Avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain. These substances can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield. Utilize MedProject locally to safely dispose of medications by finding a local drop box or requesting a prepaid envelope directly to your door.
  • Don’t Overload the Commode: Only put things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Items like coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.
  • Don’t Strain Your Drain: Be water efficient and spread out water use. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day Too much water use at once can overload a system.
  • Shield Your Field: Divert downspouts away from your septic tank and drainfield to avoid extra water. Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.

Failure to maintain a septic system can lead to backups and overflows, which can result in costly repairs. The last thing anyone needs right now is an added headache or expense from a sewage back up. Spend some time learning how to properly operate and maintain your septic system for the long run, so its smooth flushing from here on out!

Homeowner Septic Education Classes

Skagit County Environmental Health offers Septics 101 and Septics 201 (Do-It-Yourself Septic Inspection) classes for free to all Skagit County residents. Classes are available online and can be accessed at any time. To access these classes, go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthEnvironmental/septic101.htm.

The Septic 101 class provides homeowners with an overview of the septic system history, function, operation, and maintenance. It is a 40-minute video followed by a 20-question quiz. The Septic 201 class provides homeowners an overview of the What, Why, & How of safely inspecting your septic system and includes instructional videos.

Note: Not all septic systems are eligible for homeowner inspection so please review our homeowner inspection policy first.

Financial Assistance

We know it’s not easy to think about spending extra money right now. Please know that there is financial assistance available for qualifying individuals.

  • If you need a septic system repair or replacement, Skagit County works with nonprofit lender Craft3 to offer affordable financing with the Clean Water Loan. Learn more and apply at www.Craft3.org/CleanWater
  • If you need assistance with the cost of routine inspections:
    • You may qualify for our low-income assistance program. Please contact our department for information at (360) 416-1500.
    • Submit a rebate application to receive up to $200 back on services.

For more information on septic systems and being SepticSmart, visit www.skagitcounty.net/septicwww.epa.gov/septicsmart, or contact Skagit County Environmental Health at (360) 416-1500.


Suicide Prevention: A Critical Conversation, This Year and Every Year

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This month during National Suicide Prevention Month, we are taking extra time to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and seeking help if and when needed. This year, as we see COVID-19 cases spiking and as many are feeling the affects of moths of chronic stress, it is critical that we revisit some important mental health talking points.

If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. Below are some tips to consider from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline when talking with friends and family about mental health, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

Do They Need Your Help?

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

How Can You Help Them?

Note: It can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide, and it can be difficult to know how a suicidal crisis feels and how to act. Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time for help if someone in your life is struggling.

Contact a Lifeline Center

Never keep it a secret if a friend or family member tells you about a plan to hurt themselves. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) so that you can find out what resources are available to you or encourage your loved one to call.

A few other resources include:

  • Crisis line 24-hour hotline: 800-584-3578 (for Island, Skagit, Snohomish & Whatcom Counties)
  • Veteran Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255 press 1, text 838255, or chat online
  • LGBTQ+ Suicide Hotline (Trevor Project): 866-488-7386 or Text START to 678-678  
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Use The Do’s and Don’ts

Talking with and finding help for someone that may be suicidal can be difficult. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don’t dare him or her to do it.
  • Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action. Remove means, like weapons or pills. Do never put yourself at risk or in harms way. If the situation is unsafe or you feel threatened, call 911.
  • Get help from people or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Go to https://namiskagit.org/ for local resources.

Use the 5 Action Steps

These evidence-based action steps from bethe1to.com provide a blueprint for reaching and helping someone in crisis.

  1. ASK – Yes, you can ask the question: “Are you thinking about suicide?” By asking it directly, you are communicating that you are open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct, unbiased manner, can open the door for healthier, more effective dialogue about their emotional state and can allow everyone to see what next steps need to be taken.
  2. BE THERE – It may seem that “being there” for people is harder recently. But you can be present in different ways. If you can’t physically be with someone, speak with them on the phone when you can or try sending supportive text messages; whatever you can do to show support for the person at risk. An important aspect of this step is to make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person; do not commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present with someone with thoughts of suicide, talk with them to develop some ideas for others who might be able to help as well (again, only others who are willing, able, and appropriate to be there). Listening is again very important during this step – find out what and who they believe will be the most effective sources of help.
  3. KEEP THEM SAFE – First of all, it’s good for everyone to be on the same page. After the “Ask” step, and you’ve determined suicide is indeed being talked about, it’s important to find out a few things to establish immediate safety. Have they already done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you? Does the person experiencing thoughts of suicide know how they would kill themselves? Do they have a detailed plan? What’s the timing for their plan? What sort of access do they have to their planned method?
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT – Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports (like the Lifeline, 800-273-8255) can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Additional components of a safety net might be connecting them with supports and resources in their communities. Explore some of these possible supports with them – are they currently seeing a mental health professional? Have they in the past? Is this an option for them currently? Are there other mental health resources in the community that can effectively help?
  5. FOLLOW UP – After your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing. Leave a message, send a text, or give them a call. The follow-up step is a great time to check in with them to see if there is more you are capable of helping with or if there are things you’ve said you would do and haven’t yet had the chance to get done for the person.

Practice Active Listening

Hearing someone talk is different than actively listening to what that person is saying. Active listening requires concentration and understanding. Improving your listening skills is easy to do with practice and these helpful tips below:

Acknowledge the Speaker

This can be as simple as a head nod or an “Uh huh.” By acknowledging the speaker, you are letting them know that you are listening to what they have to say and reminding yourself to pay attention to what is being said to you.

Respond Verbally

Asking questions or making statements may help clarify what the speaker is saying. It reminds the speaker that you are listening attentively and that you are here to help them and are truly concerned. Be sure to let the speaker finish talking before asking any questions.

Summarize What You Hear

Reflecting on what the listener is saying is also a positive verbal active listening technique. By repeating, paraphrasing, or even summarizing what the speaker has said shows that you are putting in effort to better understand them. Use phrases like; “what I’m hearing is…”or, “sounds like you’re saying….” These tactics can also allow the speaker to hear what they are saying, which may help them find positive reinforcement.

Be Mindful of Body Language

Keeping eye contact, maintaining good posture, and staying focused are key components of active listening and interpersonal communication. Being distracted and unfocused gives the speaker the impression that you aren’t paying attention. When you actively listen to someone, you are letting them know that you care about what they are saying and can indicate that you are concerned for their health and safety.

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It is important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please reach out for support yourself. Know that anyone is encouraged to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline to speak with a trained professional. They’re here for you.

This September let’s actively try to reach out to those in our lives. And if you are struggling yourself, consider reaching out for help. There is absolutely no shame in needing help, and you deserve to feel better.


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.


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.


County Launches New Rental Assistance Online Portal for Skagitonians

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Skagit County residents now have a convenient option to get pre-approved for help with rent and utility bills. This week, the County, and its community partners launched a new online portal where renters can complete a simple eligibility survey and get matched with a rental assistance provider, or complete an application for assistance.  

To access the portal, go to: www.skagitcounty.net/renthelp.

The Skagit County Rental Assistance Program provides financial assistance to income-eligible Skagit County renters, and their landlords, who may be struggling to afford rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Skagit County Rental Assistance Program is made possible by an $8.9 million grant provided by the Washington State Department of Commerce and funded by the Treasury Rent Assistance Program (T-RAP). The program is intended to prevent evictions during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis by paying past due and current/future rent and utilities for people needing relief.

“We know that many Skagit County residents have been impacted by COVID-19, and some are having trouble staying current on rent. Help is available, and we are hopeful that the new online portal will make it easier for residents and landlords to connect up with rental assistance providers.”

– George Kosovich, Skagit County Public Health Analyst

Households must meet all four of the following screening criteria to be eligible for rental assistance:

  1. Someone in the household has been unemployed for at least 90 days, or experienced a reduction in income, incurred significant costs, or experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Must be currently experiencing housing instability or risk of housing instability, which may include unpaid rental fees or anticipation of inability to pay future rent.
  3. Household income is at, or below, 80% of Area Median Income.
  4. Household resides in Skagit County.

Residents who complete the online eligibility survey will get matched with one of the following rental assistance providers:

FORWARD Online Application Serving all Skagit County residents
Housing Authority of Skagit County Serving Section 8 Voucher Holders and tenants of Housing Authority-owned Properties
Catholic Community Services (CCS) Farmworker pr Serving members of the Indigenous, Latinx, and Farmworker Community
Volunteers of America Western Washington Serving all Skagit County residents
Northwest Youth Services Serving young adults ages 18-24
Community Action of Skagit County Serving all Skagit County residents
For contact information, go to: www.skagitcounty.net/renthelp

In addition, three organizations will offer outreach and extra assistance to complete the online assistance application:

  • Skagit Legal Aid: Serving residents of Skagit County and households facing eviction for reasons other than past-due rent
  • Community to Community Development (C2C): Serving members of the farmworker and Latinx community
  • Parent to Parent: Serving families where one or more individual has a developmental disability and/or complex healthcare needs

For more information about the Rental Assistance Program, to check eligibility, or to apply for assistance, go to www.skagitcounty.net/renthelp or call (360) 416-1500.


Statewide Indoor Mask Mandate in Effect August 23 Following Governor Press Conference; New Educator Vaccination Requirement

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August 18, 2021

State-wide Mask Mandate

Today, Governor Inslee announced that the existing statewide mask mandate will be expanded to once again include vaccinated individuals in indoor settings effective Monday, August 23. The mask mandate will apply to most all indoor public places across the state, including restaurants, grocery stores, malls, and public-facing offices, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

This expansion comes after hospitals throughout Washington State are seeing record-breaking numbers of new COVID patients, and as cases continue to surge in every county. At present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has marked all 35 counties in Washington as areas of High Community Transition. Disease prevalence is approaching levels last seen in the winter 2020 surge. In Skagit County, 436 new COVID cases have been reported since last Wednesday alone.

Local cases are increasing at an alarming rate,” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director. “We know that people are worried about what they’re seeing in the news and we are hoping that the community will see this announcement as a positive step in getting things back to a manageable place. Current rates are not sustainable—not for our hospitals or for our families. We ask that people please mask up to keep their loved ones safe.

There will be limited exceptions when face coverings won’t be required, such as office spaces not easily accessible to the public where individuals are vaccinated, and when working alone indoors or in a vehicle with no public face-to-face interaction. Small, private indoor gatherings where all attendees are vaccinated are also exempt. Further, while not required, the Department of Health strongly recommends individuals also wear masks in crowded outdoor settings, such as outdoor concerts, fairs and farmers markets.

Educator vaccine requirement

The Governor also announced today that K -12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities will have until October 18 to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment. The requirement includes public, private and charter schools, and comes as schools across the state prepare to return for the 2021–2022 school year amid rapidly increasing case and hospitalization numbers. This does not impact students, regardless of age.

Vaccines will also be a requirement for employees in Washington’s higher education institutions, as well as for most childcare and early learning providers who serve children from multiple households.

Education staff, faculty and contractors are also required to be fully vaccinated by October 18, consistent with the state worker vaccination requirement timeline.

Inslee stated that, as with state employees and private healthcare workers, there will be no test out option. There are limited exceptions under law which employees may apply for, including legitimate medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs. For full details, please read the press release here: https://medium.com/@GovInslee/inslee-announces-educator-vaccination-requirement-and-statewide-indoor-mask-mandate-a2f5a47d8a31


Immediate closure of Pass Lake: Danger for toxic blue green algae exposure at Pass Lake, Deception Pass State Park

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August 17, 2021

Users of Deception Pass State Park should be aware that Pass Lake in the Skagit County portion of the park is closed until further notice due to high Anatoxin-a levels. Water samples tested this week detected concentrations of Anatoxin-a in exceedance of the state recreational guidelines.

The preliminary result from the King County Environmental Lab is 2,576 micrograms per liter of anatoxin-a present in the water sample taken from Pass Lake. According to the Washington State Department of Health, the level of public health concern for anatoxin-a is 1 microgram per liter. 

Anatoxin-a is an acute neurotoxin that can be harmful to humans and animals. Even short-term exposure is a concern. Signs of Neurotoxin Poisoning appear within 15-20 minutes of ingestion, and may include:

  • In people: numbness of the lips, tingling in fingers and toes, and dizziness.
  • In animals: weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and death.

Until further testing confirms the toxin levels are back within state recreational guidelines, red “Danger” signs will be posted at the lake advising individuals to keep out of the lake, do not swim, drink lake water, fish, recreate, or allow pets or animals to access the lake.

The toxicity of each bloom can vary and is difficult to predict. Toxicity can change from one day to the next. It isn’t possible to determine how dangerous a bloom is to people and animals by looking at it. Only testing can tell if it is dangerous. Pass Lake will be continuously monitored until the levels drop below recommended guidelines.

The public is encouraged to take the following precautions when choosing a body of water for recreation:

  • Look for signs of toxic algae blooms and pay attention to signage. When in doubt, stay out!
  • Do not swim in, and limit exposure to water that is under a health advisory or is listed as having a toxic algae bloom on the Washington State Department of Ecology toxic algae tracking site.
  • Contact a healthcare provider immediately if you become ill or have symptoms after a suspected exposure to algae bloom.

For questions concerning cyanobacteria blooms within Skagit County lakes, please e-mail Samantha Russell at eh@co.skagit.wa.us or visit the Washington State Department of Health website for Blue-Green Algae. Testing results for Washington Lakes are posted at Washington State Toxic Algae.


Third dose of COVID-19 vaccine now recommended for certain immunocompromised individuals

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August 16, 2021

The Washington Department of Health (DOH) released a statement on Saturday, August 14 providing guidance to health care providers regarding administration of third doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to certain immunocompromised individuals. This statement follows recommendations made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices (ACIP), and Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

While authorized vaccines have proven to be more than 90% effective in protecting against most variants, emerging data suggest people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems do not always build the same level of immunity compared to people who are not immunocompromised. The third dose is not considered a booster, rather an additional dose for individuals who did not adequately develop immunities with the initial two-dose series.

People are asked to speak with their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them. CDC does not recommend additional doses or booster shots for any other population at this time.

Currently, CDC is recommending that moderately to severely immunocompromised people receive an additional 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

A full list of conditions is available on the CDC’s website.

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

There is not enough data at this time to determine whether immunocompromised people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also have an improved antibody response following an additional dose of the same vaccine. At this time, no additional dose is recommended for people who had the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. People who received J&J should not get a second dose of either J&J or a dose of an mRNA vaccine.

While a third dose of vaccine is likely to increase protection, people who are immunocompromised should continue to wear a mask, maintain 6 feet of social distancing, avoid crowds, and avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces. Close contacts of immunocompromised people are also strongly encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to further increase protection for those at greater risk.

Skagit County Public Health will now make third doses available to immunocompromised individuals at pop-up vaccine clinics and at our weekly vaccine clinic on Wednesday evenings from 6-9pm at the County Administrative Building (700 S 2nd St, Mount Vernon, WA 98273). Please bring your Vaccination Card with you when seeking a second or third dose. For information about our clinics, go to www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call (360) 416-1500.

To find a full list of vaccine providers near you, go to: https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/. For assistance call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127, then press #. Language assistance is available.


¿Cuándo debo hacerme la prueba? ¿Qué tipo de prueba debo hacerme?

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Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit ha estado recibiendo muchas llamadas en los últimos días de personas que preguntan sobre las opciones locales de prueba de COVID-19. En la última semana, alrededor del 30% de todas nuestras llamadas entrantes han sido sobre pruebas.

La mayoría de las personas que llaman preguntan sobre el acceso y quieren saber dónde pueden ir localmente para hacerse la prueba. En respuesta, nos hemos asegurado de que nuestra página web de opciones de prueba esté actualizada y coincida también con la lista del Departamento de Salud de Washington. Para obtener una lista de las opciones de prueba locales, vaya a: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirusTESTsites.htm.

Muchas personas que llaman también preguntan acerca de las diferencias entre las ubicaciones de prueba y los tipos de pruebas que ofrecen. Aunque algunas ubicaciones ofrecen pruebas de PCR y de antígeno, mucha de las veces una ubicación proporcionará una u otra. Con la reciente apertura de la frontera canadiense a los estadounidenses completamente vacunados, no es sorprendente que tantas personas preguntan qué tipo de prueba de COVID deberían hacerse.

Aquí hay algunas respuestas que pueden ser útiles al elegir entre las opciones de prueba…

¿Cuándo debo hacerme la prueba?

Si ha tenido una exposición por contacto cercano a un caso de COVID-19 o si le preocupa haber estado expuesto y no experimenta síntomas, se recomienda que espere de 3 a 5 días después de la exposición inicial para hacerse una prueba de diagnóstico. Este tiempo de espera se debe al período de incubación del virus, la cantidad de virus en su cuerpo y las características de las pruebas de diagnóstico.

Aquellosque experimentan síntomas COVID-19 deben hacerse la prueba tan pronto como sea posible.

  • Fiebre o escalofríos
  • Tos
  • Falta de aliento o dificultad para respirar.
  • Cansancio
  • Musculares o dolores en el cuerpo
  • Dolor de cabeza
  • Nueva pérdida del gusto u olfato
  • Dolor de garganta
  • Congestión o secreción nasal.
  • Náuseas o vómitos
  • Diarrea

¿Qué tipos de pruebas están disponibles?

Básicamente, hay dos categorías amplias de pruebas:

Prueba de antígeno (frecuentemente referido como prueba rápida). Esta prueba detecta fragmentos de proteínas específicos del coronavirus. Se puede hacer en una farmacia, clínica, consultorio médico o en un hospital. El tiempo de respuesta de los resultados usualmente es muy rápido y, en algunos casos, los resultados se pueden informar en 15 minutos.

Prueba de PCR (tal vez conocido como una prueba viral o molecular). Las pruebas de PCR se consideran el “estándar de oro” en la detección del SARS-CoV-2. Esta prueba realmente detecta ARN (o material genético) que es específico del virus y puede detectar el virus a los pocos días de la infección, incluso aquellos que no presentan síntomas. La prueba también se puede hacer en una farmacia, clínica, consultorio médico u hospital. El tiempo de respuesta de los resultados puede ser más largo (generalmente en el intervalo de 2-3 días) dado que las muestras de PCR se analizan en un laboratorio.

¿Qué tipo de prueba debo hacerme?

Siempre es mejor hablar con su proveedor de atención médica sobre qué prueba es mejor para usted.

Si tiene síntomas, hágase la prueba rápida de antígenos si está disponible. Si es positivo, puede comenzar a aislar de inmediato para proteger a quienes lo rodean de la propagación del virus. Si la prueba de antígeno es negativa, debe volver a hacerse la prueba con una prueba de PCR y asegúrese de aislarse hasta que reciba el resultado.

Para la mayoría de las personas que no presentan síntomas pero que desean hacerse la prueba porque pueden haber estado expuestas o van a viajar pronto, la prueba de PCR es la mejor opción. Puede encontrar pequeñas cantidades del virus que pueden verse antes de que comiencen los síntomas.

¿Qué tan precisas son estas pruebas?

Las pruebas de PCR funcionan detectando material genético del SARS-CoV-2, el virus que causa COVID-19. El material genético del SARS-CoV-2 no se puede confundir con el material genético de otros virus, así es que este tipo de prueba es muy específico. Esto significa que raro da un falso positivo. Si se hace la prueba y la prueba da positivo, puede estar muy seguro de que usted está infectado con este virus. Las pruebas de antígenos también son muy específicas y raro dan un falso positivo.

Porque los falsos resultados negativos en las pruebas de diagnóstico pueden suceder, un resultado negativo no debe darle una sensación de falsa seguridad. Si tiene algún síntoma de COVID-19, lo más seguro es asumir que está infectado y se ponga en cuarentena.

¿Qué prueba necesito para viajar?

Aunque la prueba COVID-19 más aceptada universalmente es una prueba de PCR molecular, algunos destinos pueden aceptar pruebas de antígeno también. Lo mejor es consultar con su destino, aerolínea (etc.) en la planificación su viaje.

Si no está completamente vacunado y debe viajar a nivel nacional o internacional, se le requerirá a hacerse la prueba de 1-3 días antes de viajar. Aquellos que están completamente vacunados no requieren pruebas antes de viajar dentro del país, sin embargo, la mayoría de los destinos internacionales aún requerirán pruebas previas al viaje.

Para aquellos que viajan, recomendamos las siguientes opciones de prueba de PCR locales:

Auto-servicio Northwest Laboratory: Martes a sábado: 8:30 am a11:45 am; 1:15 pm a 4:30 pm. Se requieren citas. Resultados dentro de las 72 horas.

Estoy buscando una opción de prueba de barrera baja en el Condado de Skagit. ¿A dónde debería ir?

Salud Pública del Condado de Skagit ahora ofrece pruebas de antígenos gratis en nuestras clínicas de vacunas los miércoles por la noche en el Edificio Administrativo del Condado de Skagit: Aceptamos a cualquier persona de 5 años y mayor; no se requiere cita ni seguro. Los resultados de la prueba están disponibles en 15 minutos.

Nota: Esto NO pretende ser una prueba previa al viaje.

¿Qué es una prueba de anticuerpos?

Una prueba de anticuerpos busca la respuesta del cuerpo al SARS-CoV-2, el virus que causa COVID-19. Es un análisis de sangre que sirve para determinar si tuvo la enfermedad, pero no es bueno para determinar si tiene la enfermedad. Como tal, las pruebas de anticuerpos no deben usarse para diagnosticar el virus.

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A pesar de que existe evidencia de que los anticuerpos pueden brindar protección contra la infección, no ha sido probado y por eso, los resultados de una prueba de anticuerpos no deben usarse para determinar la inmunidad. Para obtener más información sobre las pruebas y las preguntas más frecuentes, vaya a la página web de pruebas WA DOH COVID-19: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19