The importance of HPV Vaccination

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Did you know HPV is a common virus that can cause certain cancers later in life? According to CDC, more than 42 million American are currently infected with HPV types that cause disease and about 13 million Americans, including teens, become infected each year.  

What is HPV?  

HPV, also known as Human Papillomavirus, is a common virus that can cause cancers later in life. It is one of the most common sexual transmitted infections (STIs). HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by sexual contact with someone who has the virus, even if they do not have signs or symptoms.  

Who should get vaccinated? 

Children ages 11-12 years should get two doses of HPV vaccine, given 6 to 12 months apart, but HPV vaccines can be given as early as age 9 years. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about getting the HPV vaccine to prevent HPV infections. The vaccine is available for all people—male or female.  

It is recommended that everyone through age 26 should get the HPV vaccine. Adults between ages 27 and 45 years old who were not already vaccinated might still be able to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their medical provider about their risks for new HPV infections. The HPV vaccine for adults provides less benefit because most people in this age range have already been exposed to HPV at some point.  

Why is vaccination important?  

You can protect your child from certain cancers later in life with the HPV vaccine. The earlier the better! It can protect your child long before they ever have contact with the virus. 

HPV infections can cause certain cancers in both men and women. Some of those are cervix, vagina and vulva cancer in women and penis cancer in men. Both men and women can also get anus and back-of-the-throat cancer. Cancer usually takes years, even decades, to be detected after a person is infected with HPV.  

Are HPV vaccines safe and effective? 

The HPV vaccine can prevent over 90% of cancers caused by this virus and work best when given at age 11-12 years, before contact with the HPV virus.  

HPV vaccination is safe! More than 135 million doses of HPV vaccines have been distributed throughout the states since they were licensed. Also, 15 years of monitoring have shown that HPV vaccines are very safe and effective in protecting against the HPV types targeted by the vaccine. For more information about HPV vaccination please visit, HPV Vaccine Safety | CDC.  

For more resources please visit: 

https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/index.html

HPV Resources, Education, and References | CDC 

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine Information (immunize.org) 


Building Safety Month: Evacuation Planning!

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Were you and your family woken up by the earthquake that happened on May 1, 2022 here in Mount Vernon? Some described feeling a shake and hearing a loud explosion-like noise.  

If you felt the earthquake, what was the first thought that came to mind? Did you know what you and your family would do in case an evacuation was needed?  

This May, join Public Health and the International Code Council in commemorating Building Safety Month. This year, Building Safety Month is focusing on safety for all building codes in action. Help us educate and spread awareness about how to properly evacuate a building or home in case of an emergency.  

Preparing an effective evacuation plan is important. The worst mistake that you can make is waiting until the last minute to get prepared. Here are some helpful preparedness tips for you and your family on how to evacuate a building, including your home, in case of an emergency.  

At your home: 

  • Arrange your evacuation plan ahead of time. For tips on creating a plan, go to: Five Steps to preparing an effective evacuation plan | III.   
  • Sit down with your household and discuss clear exit points located in your home.  
  • Come up with a meeting point outside of your home in case you must evacuate.   
  • Remove any objects or furniture that are blocking exit ways. 
  • Make clear pathways to all exits. 
  • Make sure family members know how to unlock and open windows and doors. 
  • Have a plan for evacuating your pets, as well!  

In a building:  

  • Learn about your emergency exit routes and know where a building map is located. Talk with your employer about their approved evacuation/safety plan.  
  • If working in the building, safely stop your work. 
  • Leave the building through the nearest door with an exit. 
  • Wait for instructions from emergency responders.  

Why is it important? 

Being prepared and planning ahead can save lives during an emergency. Not only that, but it can also prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or scared. After all, having a plan will give you the confidence you need in order to activate during an emergency situation.  

Support Building Safety Month  

  • Educate Your Community  
  • Visit buildingsafetymonth.org to find the online campaign toolkit, safety tip sheets and kids’ corner materials.  
  • Issue a Proclamation  
  • Ask your city official to sign a proclamation.  
  • Promote  
  • Hand out Building Safety Month materials to your community, family, and friends. For print copies of brochures, pencils and more, you can visit the Code Council store

For more resources please visit: 

Evacuation | Ready.gov 

Five Steps to preparing an effective evacuation plan | III 

Building Evacuation Procedures (ucsd.edu) 

BUILDING SAFETY MONTH -May 2022 – National Today 

2022 Building Safety Month – ICC (iccsafe.org) 

Magnitude 3.6 earthquake shakes Mount Vernon | king5.com 


Skagit Shellfish Harvesting: A Seasonal Reminder from Skagit County Public Health

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With the return of spring and daytime low tides, you might be venturing out to harvest shellfish from one of Skagit County’s many beaches. With the help of a diligent group of volunteer harvesters, Skagit County Public Health monitors samples of clams, oysters, and mussels for biotoxins, including the toxin that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). Skagit County Public Health works with the Washington State Department of Health to issue beach closures when toxin levels become elevated.

PSP is a serious illness caused by eating shellfish containing elevated levels of a naturally occurring microscopic organism. What begins as a tingling sensation in the lips and tongue can progress to a life-threatening paralysis of the respiratory system.

Before harvesting shellfish always check the current beach closures posted on the Shellfish Safety Map or the Marine Biotoxin Bulletin or by calling the Marine Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632.

Samish Bay Seasonal Vibrio Advisory

The Department of Health has updated the Shellfish Safety Map to reflect the seasonal Vibrio Bacteria Advisory for recreational shellfish harvesting in Samish Bay from May 1- September 30, 2022. Vibrio is a bacteria naturally found in marine coastal waters, normally present in low numbers. When the weather warms up, these bacteria multiply rapidly so shellfish are more likely to be contaminated in the summer.

As a bacterium, vibrio can be removed from shellfish by using “Check, Chill, Cook”. Check the status of the waterbody, chill your harvested shellfish immediately, and cook shellfish to 145° F for 15 seconds.

Tips for Safe Shellfish Consumption

There are a variety of other bacterial and viral illnesses caused by consuming contaminated shellfish. Proper cooking of shellfish before eating is always advised. Eat only well-cooked shellfish, especially in summer months. Do not consider shellfish to be fully cooked when the shells just open — they need to cook longer to reach 145° F. For more information: How to handle store and cook shellfish

Safe Harvesting

  • Just before you leave, check for closures and advisories due to vibrio, biotoxins, and pollution at our Shellfish Safety Map, by contacting your local health department, or by calling our biotoxin hotline at 1-800-562-5632.
  • Harvest shellfish as soon as possible with the receding tide.
  • Don’t harvest shellfish that have been exposed to the sun for more than one hour.
  • Keep shellfish on ice immediately after harvesting.
  • Thoroughly cook shellfish- the internal temperature must reach 145 °F for 15 seconds. Thorough cooking destroys vibrio bacteria. Cooking does not destroy biotoxins.
  • If you need a refresher, here is a guide on shellfish identification.
  • More shellfish safety tips.

For questions about shellfish at beaches in Skagit County, please email Samantha Russell at srussell@co.skagit.wa.us or call 360-416-1500.


Moving Beyond the Statewide Mask Mandate

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On February 17th, Governor Inslee announced that the statewide indoor mask mandate will be lifted on March 21st, 2022. This mandate, which includes indoor locations such as restaurants, grocery stores, malls, and public-facing offices, has been in effect in some capacity since June 24, 2020. Beginning on March 21st, the mandate will also be lifted for K-12 schools and childcare locations throughout the state.

For many people, this is going to feel like a big change. After all, we’ve been required to wear a face covering for nearly two years now. If you have questions or concerns about this shift in direction—if you are feeling big emotions like frustration, anger, fear, or apprehension—please know that all these responses are valid.

Current Disease Summary

We are still experiencing a level of disease activity across the state that is considered high by the CDC, with case, hospitalization, and death rates still well above what we would have considered “acceptable” prior to the Omicron surge. So, you may ask, why end the mask mandate now?

The governor’s decision is based on science and our current statewide data. While rates are still high, we have been seeing a decrease in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations for several weeks now and, as a result, our hospitals are better able to care for patient loads. The date was selected based on our hospitalization trends and where the state predicts we will be in the next several weeks. It has been determined that by March 21st, Washington state will be at a safe level of disease activity, which will allow our hospitals to operate at a sustainable level.

We have also seen similar trends around the globe where Omicron surged before us. Many experts are predicting that the pandemic may be on the way to becoming endemic, meaning most cases will be less severe, and the disease’s impact on society will be more predictable and (in theory) less disruptive.

By the end of March, statewide COVID-19 hospital admissions are projected to fall to levels that no longer overwhelm hospital systems.

Another big factor? More than 73 percent of Washingtonians are now at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 and over 2 million boosters have been administered. The large number of people who were infected during the Omicron surge will also likely result in some additional community immunity, at least for the short term. However, because we don’t know yet how long this immunity lasts or have a way to test for it in individuals, vaccination is recommended for everyone, even those who have been previously infected.

Change Will Be A Gradual Process

It is important to remember that change will be gradual. The governor began the process last Friday by lifting the outdoor mask mandate, which included large outdoor gathering and events with more than 500 attendees. Now, folks are free to attend outdoor concerts, street fairs, and farmers markets sans mask—something that many of us wouldn’t have considered doing back in the thick of 2020 or 2021.

The lifting of the indoor mask mandate on March 21st will also not include certain indoor settings considered to be high-risk for disease spread, like healthcare settings, long-term care, and correctional facilities.

Also still in effect is the federal mask mandate that requires masking on all forms of public transportation, including buses, trains, and airplanes, and in transportation hubs. This mandate is still in place, though the White House is reviewing data and may announce changes in the near future.

And though the mandate will be lifted for K-12 schools on March 21st, schools will still be required to report COVID cases and outbreaks and work with local public health departments to monitor disease activity. Routine testing, isolation, and quarantine protocols will also remain in place per the CDC’s guidance.

Feel Empowered to Mask Up

For those who are weary about taking off their mask, please know that Washingtonians can make their own decisions about when it may be appropriate to wear a mask, even after the mask mandate ends. This goes for businesses, as well, which still retain the right to choose stricter requirements.

Those who want or need to wear a mask in public can continue to do so. If you are at greater risk because of factors such as your age or underlying health conditions, you are encouraged to continue to take more precautions. There also may be certain settings where wearing a mask makes sense, like when caring for someone who is high-risk, if you are sick, if you’re in a location where social distancing isn’t possible, or if you are not fully vaccinated.

And if you are choosing to wear a mask in certain settings, you may wonder what mask you should wear. The answer is simple: Wear the mask that you will use consistently—and correctly.


For additional information on Governor Inslee’s announcement, please read the full press release or call the State COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127. For local questions related to COVID-19, you may contact Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Statewide Indoor Mask Mandate Lifting on March 21

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February 17, 2022

This afternoon, Governor Inslee announced that the statewide indoor mask mandate will be lifted on Monday, March 21, 2022. This mandate, which includes indoor locations such as restaurants, grocery stores, malls, and public-facing offices, has been in effect since August 23, 2021. Beginning on March 21, the mandate will also be lifted for K-12 schools and childcare locations throughout the state.

As a reminder, the statewide outdoor mask mandate is scheduled to end tomorrow, Friday, February 18. The state will stop requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry to large events beginning on Tuesday, March 1.

K-12 schools will still be required to report COVID cases and work with local Public Health Departments to monitor disease activity. Routine testing, isolation, and quarantine protocols will also remain in place per the CDC’s guidance. Current “requirements” regarding distance, ventilation, and sanitation in schools will be downgraded to “recommendations”, with new guidance expected from the state by March 7.

The lifting of the indoor mask mandate will not include certain indoor settings considered to be at high-risk for disease spread. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, healthcare settings, long-term care facilities, and correctional facilities. Additionally, the federal mask mandate is still in effect and requires masking on all forms of public transportation, including buses, trains, and airplanes, and in transportation hubs.

Following the lifting of the mandate, Washingtonians can continue to wear a mask if they so choose. This goes for businesses, as well, who will retain the right to choose stricter masking requirements if desired.

There may be certain settings where wearing a mask makes sense, like when caring for someone who is high-risk, if you are sick, if you’re in a location where social distancing isn’t possible, or if you are not fully vaccinated. Those who are at greater risk because of factors such as their age or underlying health condition are encouraged to continue to take extra precautions.

For additional information on Governor Inslee’s announcement, please visit wwww.governor.wa.gov or call the State COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127. For general questions related to COVID-19, you may contact Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Tsunami Preparedness: Before, During, After

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A tsunami advisory was lifted this past Sunday for parts of the U.S. West Coast and Alaska after a volcano erupted in the Pacific on Saturday. The initial advisory went into effect on Saturday morning, with waves projected to be 1-to-3 feet along the coastline spanning from California to Alaska. Emergency alerts went to residents in King and Snohomish counties, as well as many other locations across Puget Sound.

While the Washington coastline thankfully saw minimal impacts from the tremors, we should use this experience as a reminder to be ready for future tsunami events. After all, being prepared is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your loved ones. You can take steps today to lessen the potential impacts of a tsunami event in the future.

Here are some things to consider before, during, and after a tsunami. For the full list, go to Ready.gov.

Prepare NOW

  • If you live near, or regularly visit a coastal area, learn about the risk of tsunami in the area. Some at-risk communities have maps with evacuation zones and routes. If you are a visitor, ask about community plans.

    In Skagit County, a great way to stay informed is by signing up for CodeRed alerts. Register here to receive emergency alerts and notifications in your area through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System. For more information, contact Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management at (360) 416-1850.
  • Learn the signs of a potential tsunami, such as an earthquake, a loud roar from the ocean, or unusual ocean behavior, such as a sudden rise or wall of water or sudden draining of water showing the ocean floor.
  • Know and practice community evacuation plans and map out your routes from home, work, and play. Pick shelters 100 feet or more above sea level, or at least one mile inland. Check with Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management for public shelter information or download the free Red Cross Emergency app for a list of open Red Cross shelters in your area.
  • Create a family emergency communication plan that has an out-of-state contact. Plan where to meet if you get separated. Consider putting together a basic Disaster Supply kit for your family. A checklist can be found here.
  • Help educate your family about the importance of being prepared for natural disasters. Visit Ready.gov/kids for helpful tips.
  • Consider earthquake insurance and a flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood or earthquake damage.

Survive DURING

  • If you are in a tsunami area and there is an earthquake, then first protect yourself from the earthquake. Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops. Crawl only if you can reach better cover, but do not go through an area with more debris. If possible, avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
  • When the shaking stops, if there are natural signs or official warnings of a tsunami, then move immediately to a safe place as high and as far inland as possible. Listen to the authorities, but do not wait for tsunami warnings and evacuation orders.
  • If you are outside of the tsunami hazard zone and receive a warning, then stay where you are unless officials tell you otherwise.
  • Leave immediately if you are told to do so. Evacuation routes are often marked by a wave with an arrow in the direction of higher ground.
  • If you are in the water, then grab onto something that floats, such as a raft, tree trunk, or door. Keep in mind that floodwaters may contain debris, chemicals, or waste that are harmful to your health.  
  • If you are in a boat, then face the direction of the waves and head out to sea. If you are in a harbor, then go inland.

Be Safe AFTER

  • Listen to local alerts and authorities for information on areas to avoid and shelter locations.
  • Avoid wading in floodwater, which can contain dangerous debris. Water may be deeper than it appears. Never drive through standing water.
  • Be aware of the risk of electrocution. Underground or downed power lines can electrically charge water. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water.
  • If you become injured or sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
  • Stay away from damaged buildings, roads, and bridges.
  • Document property damage with photographs. Conduct an inventory and contact your insurance company for assistance. You may also reach out to Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management at (360) 416-1850.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messages or social media to communicate with family and friends.
  • Take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the aftermath of a disaster. Follow CDC guidance for managing stress during a traumatic event. The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.

Skagit County Health Officer Releases Statement on Omicron Variant Reports in Skagit County

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December 16, 2021

Today, Skagit County’s Health Officer, Dr. Howard Leibrand, issued the following statement:

This afternoon, we received confirmation from the Washington State Department of Health that the Omicron variant has been identified in three Skagit County residents. Omicron is circulating in our community, and we expect that infections from this new variant will continue to increase over the next several weeks.

It can be unsettling to hear news of a new variant, particularly as we approach the holidays. There are still things that we do not know. Early reports have suggested that the Omicron variant may re-infect people who have since recovered from COVID-19 at greater rates than with other variants. There is also some concern about whether vaccines and antibody treatments will work effectively against Omicron, but the CDC expects that current vaccines will remain effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.

What we do know is that we have the necessary tools to slow the transmission rate of omicron in our community: the layered protection of vaccination, boosters, masking, and testing.

We know what works to prevent the spread of viruses that cause COVID-19, including: wearing high-quality and well-fitting face masks or respirators; improving indoor air quality through ventilation; avoiding crowded indoor spaces and physical distancing; and getting tested and staying home when sick or exposed. These precautions, layered with vaccination and getting a booster dose when eligible, are the best and most important things we can do to protect against COVID-19 and the spread of Omicron.

New variants are unfortunate, but expected, especially when there are still large percentages of our population who are unvaccinated. This variant may pose new, or different challenges that will require a quick response by Public Health and our healthcare partners. But compared to the early days of the pandemic, we know much more about COVID-19 now, and we’re better prepared to respond.  

Until we know more, every person should take steps to reduce their risk for contracting or spreading COVID-19. Remember: your choices can have positive or negative consequences. When making decisions about travel or gathering this holiday, please use all necessary precautions to keep yourself, your loved ones, and your community safe.  

I wish you all a happy—and safe—holiday season!


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

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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 #.


Safer Ways to Celebrate Holidays

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Getting together with friends and extended family during the holiday season is a tradition for many folks. Though we have seen COVID-19 cases spike after nearly every holiday since the beginning of the pandemic, this doesn’t necessarily mean that people can’t—or shouldn’t—get together. There are several ways to enjoy holiday traditions, protect the health of your loved ones, and keep COVID-19 from spreading. Read on for 5 tips as you plan for the holidays this December…

#1: If you are not yet vaccinated, now is the time to do so.

With delta still spreading, and the emergence of the new omicron variant, the recommendation is still to get vaccinated as soon as possible. At this time, this includes anyone 5 years and older. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, as well as those who are not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children.

If you’re eligible for a vaccine booster, it’s a good idea to get it before the holidays. To find a vaccine provider near you, go to Vaccine Finder or call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127, then press #.

#2: Wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth if you are in indoor public settings.

This includes everyone five years and older, regardless of vaccination status. In Washington State, the statewide mask mandate requires that people wear their mask when in indoor public spaces, including malls, grocery stores, and chain outlets. It also applies to certain outdoor settings, including large events. Remember: Do NOT put a mask on children younger than 2 years old.

#3: Gather with safety in mind.

If you are gathering with a group of people from multiple households and potentially from different parts of the country, you should consider additional precautions (e.g., avoiding crowded indoor spaces before travel, taking a test) in advance of gathering to further reduce risk.

This is especially true if some people are not vaccinated, including young children. If gathering with folks who are not vaccinated, the safest thing to do is for everyone to mask up, and to keep gatherings outside when possible. Proper ventilation and avoiding crowded spaces will be key in these types of scenarios.

People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated and have received an additional dose. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask.

#4: Know when to stay home.

If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering. Period. Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19. For a list of testing providers in Skagit County, go to our website here.

#5: Travel safely.

If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family. The CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow the CDC’s domestic travel or international travel recommendations for unvaccinated people. If you will be traveling in a group or family with unvaccinated people, choose safer travel options.

Also, everyone—even people who are fully vaccinated—must wear a mask on public transportation and follow international travel recommendations.


The 5 tips above are nothing new, but they are tried and true. By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends. Happy holidays, everyone!


Public Health Reminder: Masking Still Critical this Holiday Season

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December 1, 2021

The holidays are upon us. As Skagitonians are out and about preparing for holiday festivities, please remember: masking is still critical—and required—in all indoor public spaces AND certain outdoor settings. This includes all local businesses, chain outlets, and grocery stores.

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.

There are some exceptions to the mask requirement, including children under five years of age, and people with a medical or mental health condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask. Children between 2 and 4 years of age can, and are encouraged, to wear a mask under close adult supervision. Children under 2 should not wear masks.

Face masks remain an important tool in preventing transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Though Skagit County is just over 60 percent fully vaccinated, there are still many folks, including young children, who are not protected.

Science has shown that masking works. COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets when infected people—many of whom do not exhibit COVID-19 symptoms—cough, sneeze, or talk. Evidence shows that wearing a mask reduces an infected person’s chance of spreading the infection to others.

Furthermore, it is imperative that people wear their mask properly. To be effective, a mask must cover the nose, mouth, and chin, and must fit snuggly against one’s face. For tips on getting the best fit, visit the CDC’s mask guidance webpage here.

Wearing a mask when out in the community is an easy way to show your neighbors and favorite businesses that you care this holiday season. Please help our local businesses operate smoothly this season by following all state and local rules and guidance.

Another great way to ensure that things run smoothly for the holidays is by taking precautions at home. If unvaccinated, please remember that masking is still recommended when gathering with non-household members, especially when indoors. COVID-19 can easily spread in these types of environments, causing folks to miss out on school, work, and fun, festive holiday events.

Have a wonderful holiday season, Skagit! Be well!