Joint Statement on Local Healthcare Capacity & COVID-19 Transmission Rates

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January 13, 2022

Skagit County hospitals have seen a dramatic increase in the number of individuals admitted for inpatient care due to COVID-19 over the past week. This recent spike has only further exacerbated our already overburdened healthcare system both locally and across the state.

Today, our local hospitals together with County Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand are coming together to ask Skagitonians to help in easing the current strain on our healthcare system. Each person can take action to help alleviate this strain on our providers. Please, take necessary precautions to decrease COVID-19 transmission rates and be conscientious of seeking emergency medical services.

Vaccination continues to be the best tool in preventing serious illness due to COVID-19. While we know that breakthrough infections are expected with the Omicron variant, current data has shown that the vast majority of breakthrough infections have resulted in mild to moderate symptoms that do not require medical attention.

Transmission rates are also of grave concern. The Omicron variant is extremely transmissible and has resulted in more than a doubling of COVID-19 cases this week compared to last. Skagitonians can help to control the spread by taking precautions and not gathering when sick or if recently exposed. For this reason, it is our recommendation at this time that people postpone all large indoor gatherings, regardless of the vaccination status of those gathering.

Masking is also still an extremely important tool that people must use when congregating in indoor public settings and certain outdoor public settings. Ensure the quality and fit of your mask by going to the CDC’s masking guidance webpage here.

We understand that testing options are limited at this time, both in Skagit County and throughout Washington. If you are symptomatic or have been recently exposed to COVID-19 and cannot get access to a test, please follow the CDC’s updated isolation and quarantine guidance. Essentially:

IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS but do not need medical care and can’t get a test, assume you have COVID-19.  You should isolate for at least 5 days to keep from spreading the virus to others. Monitor your symptoms.

IF YOU WERE EXPOSED to someone with COVID-19 and need to quarantine and are unable to get a test 5 days after your last close contact, you can leave your home after day 5 if you have not had symptoms; wear a mask for 10 days after last contact.

Our hospitals and urgent care facilities have the capacity to care for those who are acutely ill. These are not the locations to go for COVID-19 testing if you are asymptomatic or are experiencing mild COVID-like symptoms. Please look to community testing sites and local pharmacies for testing options.

Severe COVID-19-related symptoms that would require emergency medical attention include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

“From looking at previous waves, we know that this current surge will level out in time,” said Dr. Leibrand. “Now is not the time to get together or socialize. That time will come, but it isn’t right now. It is essential that we work together to see ourselves out of this current wave.”

To find a vaccine provider near you, please use the Vaccine Locator or call 1-800-525-0127 (press #). For a list of local testing providers, please go to the Testing Locations page here.


Omicron and Masking: Is it time to update your mask collection?

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The new Omicron variant is now circulating in Washington State. Although we do not yet have an official report of the variant here in Skagit County, now is the time to be taking precautions. There is still much that experts don’t know about this new variant. What we do know, though, is that we already have the tools we need to fight the spread of omicron.

The CDC has listed vaccination, boosters, testing, and masking as the best ways to keep omicron under control. We know that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death, and the CDC recommends that those 16 years and older who are eligible for a booster go and get theirs now.

As for masking—we know that face masks offer protection against all variants, including omicron. The CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, regardless of vaccination status. Here in Washington, the statewide mask mandate requires that all people five years of age and older must wear a mask in public indoor settings and at large, outdoor events with 500 or more attendees, including sporting events, fairs, parades, and concerts, regardless of vaccination status.

We’ve been masking up for 21 months at this point, and some of us have amassed quite the collection! Some of those masks may be getting a bit worn, or maybe they’re not fitting as snugly as you’d like. If you’re wondering if those cloth face masks from 2020 are still offering the right amount of protection, please read on.

NOTE: No child under the age of two should wear a face mask for safety reasons.

It comes down to fit and quality.

When choosing a face mask, it comes down to fit and quality. So, let’s discuss fit first.

Masks that are loose, with gaps around your face or nose, are not as helpful in protecting you or others. A mask should completely cover your nose and mouth and should fit snugly against the sides of your face without any gaps.

To ensure a proper fit, you can choose masks with a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask. You can also use a mask fitter to help ensure a snug fit with a cloth mask. For visuals of these tips, visit the guidance for improved mask use from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Knotting and tucking is also a good way to improve the fit of a medical procedure mask. Knot the ear loops of the mask where they join the edge of the mask, then fold and tuck the unneeded material under the edges. (For instructions, see the following https://youtu.be/GzTAZDsNBe0)

Wearing a mask with at least two layers is also important. Some people even opt to wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask. (Note: N95/KN95 masks should not be layered with other masks.)

And for quality…

The highest quality masks are designed and tested to ensure they meet a standard. That means they perform at a consistent level to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The level of quality you need will be dependent on the situation. Sometimes a cloth mask will work just fine, and at other times, a higher quality mask may be called for.

The highest quality, in order, are:

  1. N95 and KN95 (as well as KF94) are the most effective, provided they are genuine and have been tested to meet a standard. These are disposable, so you will need to replace them (depending on how much you wear it). These are not available in children’s sizes and are more expensive.
  2. Surgical masks that have been tested to meet a national standard (ASTM 2/3). These are also disposable.  
  3. Cloth masks that have a double layer. These can be washed and re-used.

When to consider wearing a N95 or KN95 mask. 

For the best protection against COVID-19 variants such as omicron, there are times when folks may want to consider a higher quality mask. However, it is important to note that if you do not have this type of mask available, a high-quality, well-fitting surgical or cloth mask will do just fine.  

The following scenarios may warrant the need for better protection against COVID-19:

Should you use N95 and KN95 masks for everyday use?

The supply of high-quality N95 and KN95 masks have definitely improved since the early days of the pandemic. These are better at filtering the virus and now are more widely available for the public. Even still, the CDC does not recommend the use of N95 respirators for protection against COVID-19 in non-healthcare settings, stating that these masks should be prioritized for healthcare personnel and for other workers who are required to wear them for protection against other hazards. An exception to this would be for scenarios such as the ones listed above.

These types of masks are highly effective when used properly. They are tight-fitting respirators that—when fit properly—filter out at least 95% of particles in the air, including large and small particles. These masks meet a standard of quality, meaning that they are designed and tested to ensure they perform at a consistent level to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As stated above, N95 and KN95 masks are not available in children’s sizes and can be more expensive. If folks decide to go this route for everyday use, that is perfectly fine. But remember: a high-quality, well-fitting surgical or cloth mask are great everyday options for the whole family (minus those itty bitty kiddos and babies).

For N95 and KN95 masks, fit and quality are key.

Most people outside of health care settings don’t have access to fit testing to ensure proper use with minimal air leakage. If an N95 does not fit tightly, you won’t get the full benefit. Aside from fit testing, some people might find that N95s are less comfortable for everyday use. For these reasons, you should use your best judgement on how much value these types of masks add in a particular scenario.

Counterfeits are a challenge, so find a reputable dealer and make sure the product is legitimate. KN95 masks are commonly made and used in China. Some KN95 masks sold in the United States meet requirements similar to those set by NIOSH, while other KN95 masks do not. It is also important to know that about 60% KN95 masks in the United States are counterfeit (fake)and DO NOT meet NIOSH requirements. Some N95 masks also are counterfeits, described in this article from the CDC.

Need a good resource to ensure the quality and legitimacy of your mask? Project N95 aims to help people find a credible source for buying N95 and KN95. 


As we learn more about omicron, please use everything in your toolkit to keep yourself and your family safe. Mask up, get tested and stay home when sick or exposed, and—most importantly—get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. To find your vaccine, go to Vaccine Locator today or give the COVID-19 Info Hotline a call at 1-800-525-0127, then press #.


What You Need to Know About Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment

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

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

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

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

What are monoclonal antibodies?

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

Is Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment safe?

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

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

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

Who should get this treatment and when?

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

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

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

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

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

How are vaccines and monoclonal therapies different?

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

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

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

Is this treatment free?

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

Where can I get Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment?

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

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

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

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


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.


COVID-19 Testing: It’s Still Essential

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We are now at slightly over 65% of all eligible residents in Skagit County having received at least one vaccine dose. It is exciting to think of how far we’ve come in our vaccination journey since December of 2020. Even still, we have a long way to go before COVID-19 is no longer of concern. With the rapid spread of the Delta variant throughout Washington State and rising case counts and hospitalization rates this past month, we know that we are not yet in the clear.

In the latter half of July, Skagit County Public Health was seeing daily new case counts repeatedly in the tens and twenties; a high not seen since our last wave in April of 2021.This increase is likely due to multiple factors, including increased spread of the more contagious Delta variant, increased social gatherings and summer-time travel, and businesses reopening—all happening with fewer people wearing masks.

Skagit County COVID-19 case trends from the WA DOH dashboard. https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard

While the conversation has been primarily focused on vaccination of late, it is important to remember that getting tested for COVID-19 is a tool that we can, and should, use if/when exposed to COVID-19 or when traveling. So, let’s revisit the matter of testing…

Testing is essential.

Anyone with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested as early as possible regardless of vaccination status. With allergy season waning and flu season ramping up, it is no doubt that you’ll feel a tickle or two, or develop a cough at some point this fall. When you know you’ve been exposed; when you feel a little under the weather: Take precaution. GET TESTED!

Not sure if your sniffles warrant a COVID test or not? Use the Coronavirus Self-Checker here.

If you have been exposed to COVID-19.

Whether you have been vaccinated or not, if you’ve been around someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms.

You should continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days following an exposure, and if you develop symptoms, isolate immediately and consider re-testing. If your test is positive, you should isolate for 10 days.

For unvaccinated folks, it is important to note that quarantine guidelines have not changed. If you are unvaccinated and are exposed, along with getting tested, you will need to quarantine for 14 days—even if you do not have symptoms.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, get tested for COVID-19 at a testing location. For a full list of locations, go to: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Note: If you are in quarantine or isolation and you find yourself in need of assistance with getting supplies or food, call Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Testing and Travel

Some restrictions around travel have lifted recently, but it is important to remember that precautions must still be taken. After all, travel increases the chance of contracting and spreading COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend that folks limit travel if unvaccinated, and that all people, regardless of vaccination status, use extra precaution if they do travel.

Here are some important things to keep in mind when making travel plans within the United States:

  • Refrain from travel if not fully vaccinated. The CDC recommends that those who are not fully vaccinated delay their travel. If you must travel, follow safer travel options including a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. If you are traveling with children who cannot get vaccinated at this time, follow recommendations for unvaccinated people and choose safer travel options. 
  • Testing before travel. People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States. Unvaccinated individuals must plan to get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before their trip.
  • Check travel guidance before you go. While most states no longer require a test, travel restrictions vary by state based on vaccination status and are subject to change at any time. Check state and local guidance before you make concrete plans.
  • Wear a mask during travel. Masks are required indoors in travel hubs and on public transportation regardless of vaccination status. Follow all state and local recommendations and requirements for mask wearing and social distancing.
  • After-travel requirements for fully vaccinated. It is not required to get tested before or after you travel if you are fully vaccinated, but you should still follow all other travel recommendations, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, and get tested if you develop symptoms. During travel, if you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms, and wear a mask in indoor public settings until your test result is negative.
  • After-travel requirement for unvaccinated. Those who are unvaccinated must get a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. They should also isolate and monitor for symptoms for a full 14 days and seek repeat testing if symptoms develop. See CDC guidance for unvaccinated travelers.

For international travel:

Those who are traveling internationally should check requirements of their destination country as they may require a test prior to arrival even for vaccinated people. See CDC guidance and testing requirements for international travel.

Where to get tested.

Many doctor’s offices are offering COVID-19 testing to their patients. Contact your healthcare provider first to see if they offer COVID-19 testing. If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest tightness, consider going to an emergency department nearby.

For a list of testing locations in your area, go to: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.  

At-home tests are also now available for purchase. Check out the following links for at-home testing options:

What to bring with you when getting tested.

  • A photo ID with your date of birth. Testing is available regardless of your citizenship/immigration status.
  • Your insurance card if you have insurance. If you have private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid you must provide this information and the lab will bill them. You will not be charged for the test. You do not need to have insurance or a doctor’s note to schedule a test.
  • A well-fitted mask. As healthcare facilities, masks are required at all indoor and outdoor testing locations regardless of vaccination status.

How and when to get results.

  • Most results typically come by email, text, or through the provider’s chosen online portal. Check with your testing provider about how results will be sent.
  • Results are usually available within 48 hours, though it may take up to 72 hours.

If you test positive.

If you test positive, expect a call from Public Health. Our staff is still actively following up on all confirmed cases and will need to ask you some questions. If you receive the call, it is imperative that you pick up and help us with our contract tracing. Thank you!


Mask Recommendation from Skagit County’s Health Officer

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July 26, 2021

The following is a statement from Dr. Howard Leibrand, Skagit’s Health Officer.

Earlier today, several of my colleagues issued a joint statement recommending masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. It is the goal of this recommendation to protect high-risk individuals and those who are not able to be vaccinated, including children under twelve years old.  

It is clear that masks protect individuals from COVID-19. It is never a bad idea to wear a mask in an indoor situation, particularly as we see the delta variant becoming more prominent in our communities.

With that said, I want to assure my community that vaccination is—and will continue to be—the absolute best tool we have to stop the spread of COVID-19. Local data shows that from March 1, 2021 to July 13, 2021 96% of all COVID cases were in unvaccinated individuals. This perfectly highlights the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.

It is true that the delta variant is particularly concerning. It is much more transmissible than the variants that have been circulating in our county prior to July.  Delta variant may cause more serious illness. If you are unvaccinated and not using precautions like masking and social distancing, you are at very high risk of becoming infected with delta variant and getting seriously ill in the coming days and weeks. Therefore, if you are unvaccinated, I highly recommend that you wear a mask in all crowded situations and continue to encourage your loved ones to do the same.

COVID-19 is likely going to be with us for a long time. Like many reportable diseases, there is no clear end to this health concern. I am encouraging everyone to use every tool available in their toolbelt to protect themselves. Masks will always be a great option, but getting vaccinated is most important.

In summation, the strongest recommendation that I can make as a health professional is this:

Get vaccinated today.


Dr. Leibrand has served as Skagit’s Health Officer since 1989. For more information on Skagit’s COVID-19 response, including upcoming vaccine clinics, visit www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine.


Firework Safety this Fourth of July

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Fire Officials Urge Extreme Caution on Firework Use

Recent extreme temperatures and dry weather has caused our state to be more vulnerable to wildfires in advance of this Fourth of July weekend. Following days of record-breaking heat across Washington, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has asked Washingtonians to do whatever they can to help prevent wildfires.

“Due to our current temperatures and extreme dry conditions, the county is experiencing unprecedented high fire risk at this time. We are encouraging everyone to refrain from discharging consumer grade fireworks this season and attend commercial public displays instead. As a reminder, while it may be legal to discharge certain fireworks, you may still be liable for damage caused as a result. We need to have everyone do their part to avoid potential loss of life or risk property damage.”

Bonnie LaCount, Skagit County Deputy Fire Marshall

In Skagit County, a burn ban is currently in effect due to the recent extreme temperatures and dry weather conditions; however, there are no fireworks restrictions in unincorporated Skagit County between June 28 and July 5th. Even still, and though temperatures have cooled, our grasses, brush, and shrubs continue to have very low moisture content. Such dry conditions pose a serious wildfire risk for Skagit County and the surrounding region.

Fireworks are a common cause of large-scale fires, including the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon. The fire was started by a teen igniting a firework and ultimately burned 50,000 acres. The teen was ultimately criminally sentenced and order to pay millions of dollars in restitution.

If residents do choose to use backyard fireworks, please keep wildfire safety and prevention at the forefront.

Below are some tips for using fireworks safely in dry weather:

  • Do not use fireworks on or near dry vegetation or combustible materials.
  • Be cautious when lighting fireworks when conditions are windy. The wind could blow a burning spark and set a nearby area on fire.
  • When using fireworks, always have a fire extinguisher, water supply, hose, or bucket of water nearby in case of a fire. Before discarding devices, be sure to douse them thoroughly with water.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry area to prevent an accidental ignition.
  • Supervise children closely when using fireworks. Sparklers are a popular firework given to children, and they burn at an extremely high temperature and can cause major injuries. For more tips on fireworks safety and children, visit: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/fireworks.html
  • Never light more than one firework at a time, and never attempt to re-light one that did not ignite completely.
  • If a firework device ignites a fire, contact the local fire department or 911 immediately. Do not attempt to extinguish a large fire.

Fireworks are not the only concern this weekend for local and state fire officials. Under dry conditions, summer activities such as grilling also have the potential to cause large fires. Under Skagit’s current burn ban, it is asked that residents refrain from setting outdoor fires until further notice. Recreational and cooking fires—limited to 3 feet in diameter and two feet high—remain allowed within enclosures and when safety precautions are followed. Officials ask that residents douse recreational fires with water, stir it, and douse the fire again until it’s cool to the touch before leaving.

Please note: Skagit County regulates fireworks within the unincorporated portions of the county, i.e., outside the boundaries of the cities and towns. In unincorporated Skagit County, only fireworks allowed by state law are allowed. Fireworks are illegal on state forestlands and in most parks.

In unincorporated Skagit County, it is illegal to discharge fireworks except during the following dates and times:

HolidayDateSales Legal BetweenDischarge Legal Between
Fourth of JulyJune 2812 p.m. –11 p.m.12 p.m. –11 p.m.
 June 29 – July 39 a.m.–11 p.m.9 a.m.–11 p.m.
 July 49 a.m.– 11 p.m.9 a.m.–Midnight
 July 59 a.m.–9 p.m.9 a.m.–11 p.m.

For a list of public fireworks displays here in Skagit County, go to the County Fire Marshall webpage.

For questions about fireworks and/or open burning in Skagit County, please contact the Skagit County Fire Marshal’s Office at 360-416-1840, or go to the website at www.skagitcounty.net/firemarshal.  


Moving Indoors: Staying Safe & Healthy this Winter Season

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The summer clothes have been put away and the coats have officially come out. It seems that there have been more rainy days than sunny ones in the last few weeks, and temperatures have been dropping steadily. The leaves are hanging on, but winter is just around the corner. As we plan to snuggle in for the colder months ahead, it is time to begin thinking about safety precautions regarding COVID-19 and being indoors.

Is outdoors really safer?

Up until this point, Washingtonians have been pretty lucky given our temperate climate. Unlike our fellow states to the South, where people have sought shelter indoors during the hot summer months, we have been able to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors.

Being outdoors poses fewer health risks, since natural outdoor airflow and sunlight help to dissipate or kill viruses. Now that the weather will force many of us inside this winter, we will need to be more thoughtful about the way we live and socialize indoors.

Why does being indoors pose more risks?

Closed windows and doors decrease fresh airflow which can increase risk, especially when you have more people inside. Drier, less humid air from heating may also increase the risk.  

Although the virus spreads mainly through close contact with an infected person, studies have shown that COVID-19 can at times spread farther than six feet through the air. While these situations have been relatively uncommon, spread can be a problem where COVID-19 can build up in the air, such as in crowded, enclosed settings.

What can we do to decrease risk while indoors?

The risk of COVID-19 transmission increases with indoor gatherings compared to outdoors, but there are ways to reduce the spread and stay healthy. While the recommendation is still to avoid gathering with people who are not in your household, and to socialize outdoors when gatherings are unavoidable, we must realistically expect that there will be times when social events will take place indoors this winter.

Here are some tips for reducing the risks of transmission if you do plan to gather with non-household family members or friends:

1. Mask up: Cloth face masks should be worn at all times in indoor public places, including in your own home when visitors are present. You do not need to wear a mask indoors at home with your household members. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information about masks and which ones are most effective.

2. Keep your circle small: Try to limit the number of people you and your household are around as much as possible, and also be mindful of the amount of time you spend with these individuals indoors.  When socializing, stay as far apart as possible, even with masks on.  Remember, the guidance is not “mask up OR stay six feet or more of distance.” Rather, the safer thing to do is to wear a mask AND stay six feet or more apart from others.

3. Increase air flow:  Do what you can to improve ventilation in indoor spaces, including opening windows when possible. More fresh air means lower risk. The COVID-19 virus can build up in the air over time, especially in crowded, enclosed settings, where ventilation is limited. The risk of transmission further increases when people are not wearing masks, or when groups are doing activities that involve speaking loudly, singing or exercising (when we exhale more virus-containing particles into the air). 

If possible, adjust the ventilation system to increase the intake of outdoor air; this can be achieved by placing a fan on a window sill and encouraging outdoor air to flow into the room, or opening windows on either side of the home to encourage airflow throughout the house. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk to children or other family members (e.g., risk of falling or triggering asthma symptoms).

Check out the EPA’s webpage on home ventilation for more tips: www.epa.gov/coronavirus/indoor-air-homes-and-coronavirus-covid-19.

4. Clean and disinfect: The primary and most important mode of transmission for COVID-19 is through close contact between people. However, it may be possible for a person to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. While experts do not believe that this is the main way the virus spreads, it is good to take precautions.

If an indoor visit is unavoidable, be sure to clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces, including counter tops, door knobs, light switches, and toilet seats. And of course, be sure that people are washing and disinfecting hands frequently. For cleaning tips, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html.

5. Take sniffles seriously: If you, or a potential guest, are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 (no matter how mild), it is best to postpone your get-together for another time. It is much safer to take a rain check than to put yourself and your loved ones at risk of infection.

It is also important to remember that COVID-19 often spreads from people before they develop symptoms or recognize that they are sick. This means that there is a risk of transmission any time a group of non-household members congregate, so all the above precautions are necessary.

We can’t depend on any one preventative measure alone. Instead, we need to use a combination of strategies to most effectively reduce the risk of transmission. These steps include wearing a mask, limiting interactions with others outside the home, staying at least six feet away from others, improving ventilation, practicing good hygiene and cleaning, and staying home when sick.

It may mean some challenges this winter, but we can all do our part to make it work.