COVID-19 Testing: It’s Still Essential

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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!


Disposing of Used Sharps in Skagit County

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Millions of people use needles, syringes, and other injection tools to self-administer healthcare treatments each year. People use sharps to manage a wide variety of conditions, including allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, psoriasis, and more.

If someone doesn’t have immediate access to an FDA-cleared container, it can be unclear how to dispose of used sharps. Disposal rules can vary by situation and location, which may lead to sharps being disposed of loosely—and improperly—in the trash.  Adding to possible confusion, disposal options are different for businesses and household-generated sharps waste.

For HOUSEHOLD-generated Sharps

An example of an FDA-cleared Sharps Container. For information about Sharps Disposal Containers, check out the FDA webpage.

The best way to dispose of sharps is by using a mail-order, FDA-cleared sharps container. When purchasing this type of container, people can mail back their full containers to the mail-order service that the container was purchased from.

It is important to note that FDA-cleared containers can be purchased from local and chain pharmacies; however, these containers may or may not come with instructions on how to mail them back. And unfortunately, FDA-cleared sharps containers cannot be disposed of with regular household garbage. If you have purchased an FDA-cleared sharps container and are unsure of how to dispose of it, ask your pharmacy or doctor’s office if they will accept your sharps container. You can also look for a disposal site by going to https://safeneedledisposal.org/.

If you cannot purchase an FDA-cleared mail-order sharps waste container in store or online, Skagitonians have another option for disposing of household generated sharps.

In Skagit County, people can dispose of household generated sharps—including used syringes, needles, and lancets—in a correctly labeled container in their household garbage. Follow the steps below to ensure that all used sharps are disposed of safely and properly.

Step 1: Store

Used sharps should be placed in an opaque, hard plastic or metal container with a screw-on or secured lid. An empty bleach or detergent bottle works well! Do not use glass or thin plastic.

Step 2: Seal

When ¾ full (don’t overfill!), screw the lid on tightly and seal around the lid with duct tape or plastic tape.

Step 3: Sticker

Label the container with a special Skagit County Public Health label “Warning: Syringes. Do NOT Recycle.” printed on bright orange or red colored paper. Tape the label securely to the container with clear plastic tape. Labels can be downloaded from the Environmental Health webpage here. You can also request labels from our office by calling (360) 416-1500.

Skagit County Public Health’s approved warning label.

Step 4: Dispose

Dispose of the container with your regular household trash. Do NOT recycle.

Gloves, soiled bandages, and other items should be places in securely fastened plastic bags and disposed of with your regular trash.

For BUSINESS-Generated Sharps

Business are not allowed to dispose of biohazardous sharps with regular solid waste. Businesses are required to dispose of their collected biohazardous sharps via a licensed biomedical waste handler. On-site pick up services and mail order services are available. Businesses can contact Stericycle or Waste Management – Health Care to schedule services.

What about disposing of my unwanted medications in my home?

If you have unwanted, unused, or expired medication, Skagit County residents can safely dispose of these items for free by taking them to secure drop boxes, ordering free mail-back envelopes and/or picking up mail-back envelopes from convenient mailer distribution locations throughout Skagit County.

To find updated information on drop box locations, request mailers, and find mailer distribution locations go to MED-Project.

For more information about Skagit County’s Secure Medicine Return program, visit our webpage at https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/Health/medicinereturn.htm.

For questions, please contact Skagit County Public Health by calling (360) 416-1500.


Shellfish Harvesting & Consumption: What You Know To Know

Reading Time: 2 minutes

With the upcoming warm weather and 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 routinely monitors samples of clams, oysters and mussels for the toxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP), and Diarrhetic Shellfish Poison (DSP). 

Consuming shellfish with elevated levels of these marine biotoxins can cause serious illness or death. What begins as a tingling sensation in the lips and tongue can progress to a life-threatening paralysis of the respiratory system. 

Skagit County Public Health works with the Washington State Department of Health to issue beach closures when toxin levels become elevated. Before harvesting shellfish, always check for current beach closures posted on the Shellfish Safety Map or the Marine Biotoxin Bulletin, or call 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, 2021. 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.

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 during summer months. Do not consider shellfish to be fully cooked when the shells first open; shellfish need to cook for longer and must reach 145° F to be safe to eat. Click the link for more information on 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 on the Shellfish Safety Map, by contacting Skagit County Public Health (360-416-1500), or by calling the 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 at least 15 seconds. Cooking shellfish thoroughly destroys vibrio bacteria; however, 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.


Summer Vaccine Pop-Ups

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, contributing author

It’s mid-June, summer is right around the corner. Time for sunshine and enjoying the beauty of our vibrant Skagit County, and the state of Washington. Are you ready? Have you started to make plans? First on the list, if you haven’t already, should be to get vaccinated! There are plenty of opportunities to receive your vaccine…you just have to decide to do it! 

As Skagit County Public Health’s COVID-19 vaccination site at the Skagit County Fairgrounds winds down, “Pop-Up” vaccination clinics have begun and are scheduled across Skagit County. The last day to receive a Pfizer or J&J vaccination at the fairgrounds will be Saturday, June 26, 2021. Anyone 12 or over can still receive a first or second dose Pfizer vaccine at the fairgrounds. If receiving a first dose Pfizer, you will be given information for options where to receive the second dose.  Johnson and Johnson vaccine is one dose and available for anyone 18 years and older. Remember you are considered fully vaccinated fourteen days post second dose Pfizer or one dose J&J. 

“Mount Baker Presbyterian Church, Pop-up Vaccination Clinic” 
©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert 2021 

Over the past few weeks, Skagit County Public Health has held “Pop-Up” vaccination clinics at a variety of locations across the county. To name a few: Skagit Speedway, Mount Baker Presbyterian Church in Concrete, Skagit Transit, Mount Vernon and Sedro Woolley Farmer’s Markets, Terramar Brewstillery in Edison, and the Marblemount Community Center.  There are even more to come as we transition away from our mass vaccination site to fully mobile this summer. Please see our schedule for listing of mobile clinics on our website.

Skagit County Public Health’s vaccination team will be coming to you. In addition to the “Pop-Up” clinics, we’ve started canvassing local businesses, reaching out to homebound community members, and even vaccinating crews’ onboard ships coming into the local ports. All this outreach is to ensure that we are reaching those who may not have had an opportunity to get their vaccination otherwise.

Last week while visiting local businesses, our mobile team was able to vaccinate community members who couldn’t get to the fairgrounds or had been “on the fence” about getting vaccinated. Each individual vaccinated was grateful that we had come to them. Many of these individuals were also also waiting for the one dose J&J vaccine, because of their busy work schedules.  

Here are some of the responses from our “Pop-Ups” and community canvassing: 

  • “With my work schedule, I was never able to get to the Fairgrounds.” 
  • “I was waiting for the J&J vaccine. One dose vaccine is perfect for me.” 
  • “So happy; I’ll be able to see my new granddaughter!” 
  • “Your timing is perfect. I’ve been hesitant about getting the vaccine. Now I’m ready.” 
  • “My mom is going to be so happy!”
  • “Thank you for coming to us.”
  • “This was so easy!”

If you have a business with employees needing to receive the vaccine or know of anyone that is homebound, please reach out to Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500. As we move into summer, Public Health is here for you. We know that the COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to ensure that people are protected from becoming seriously ill. We know that the vaccines will keep people out of the ICU. Working together, we can see the light at the end of this tunnel.

We look forward to seeing you out in the community!


Vaccine Next Steps & What You Need To Know

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You might have heard that this is the final week for first-dose services at the Skagit County Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic. But what does that mean? It makes sense that people may have questions about what the County’s plans are for COVID-19 vaccinations as we move away from our mass vaccination model this summer. Do you have questions? Please read below to get in-the-know about our next steps.

Is the Fairgrounds Vaccine Site closing completely after June 5?

No. Public Health will continue to operate at the Fairgrounds through June 26, however, we will be wrapping up our first-dose Pfizer services after Saturday, June 5. What this means is that after June 5, people who receive their first-dose Pfizer vaccine at the Fairgrounds will need to get their second dose from another location. Please know that our staff will work with these individuals to find a second dose—we are here to help! But if you want the convenience of getting your second dose at the same location, then the time is now to get your first at the Fairgrounds.

We will continue to provide second-dose Pfizer vaccinations at the Fairgrounds until we close permanently after June 26.

Will you turn me away if I come to the Fairgrounds for a first-dose after June 5?

No! Our staff will not turn away any eligible person (anyone 12+) who comes to the site for a vaccine after June 5. If you get your first-dose of Pfizer with us after June 5, we’ll make sure to get you connected with a second dose at a provider near you.

We will also have Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine available at the Fairgrounds after June 5, and this will be available to anyone 18 and older! This is a single-dose vaccine, so no second dose will be necessary! This is an awesome option for anyone looking for a quick and easy one-and-done vaccine! Getting a J&J shot in June will guarantee that you’re protected from COVID-19 all summer long! There’s no better way to start your summer than this!

Will vaccines still be available in Skagit County after the Fairgrounds closes on June 26?

Yes—absolutely! Skagit County has many vaccine providers, including neighborhood pharmacies, clinics, and major chain grocery stores (like Safeway and Haggen). You can find a list of all vaccine providers near you by going to https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/.

Skagit County Public Health will also continue to provide COVID vaccines, but we will be relying on a mobile outreach approach instead of our brick and mortar system at the Fairgrounds. This shift in our approach is a response to the changing needs of our community; we want to be accessible to all people, no matter where they live or work! For a list of our up-coming pop-up vaccine clinics, visit our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.

Our pop-up clinics are available to anyone 12+ (if providing Pfizer) or 18+ (if providing J&J). No need to register or schedule an appointment; just visit us at our pop-up tent and we’ll get you in and out in about 20 minutes! Check us out at community events all summer long!

How do I get more information about COVID vaccinations in Skagit County?

Skagit County Public Health will continue to operate our Vaccine Hotline on Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm. Just call (360) 416-1500 to speak with one of our staff!

And as always, go to our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine for more information.

Have an idea for a pop-up vaccine clinic? Contact Julie de Losada at julied@co.skagit.wa.us.


The Population Health Trust: Here For You

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Recently, Skagit County’s Board of Health convened to discuss the health and wellness of our community during these unprecedented times. During the two-hour virtual meeting, the Population Health Trust (Trust) provided detailed information about the current state of our collective health and outlined the services already at play that address areas of concern.

Toward the end of the meeting, the Trust put forth the following question: “What are our most pressing needs right now?

A list of concerns was provided to the Board of Health; a series of issues that were brought to the Trust’s attention over the past several months by community members just like you. Through interviews, surveys and panel discussions, the Trust was able to put together this list, and now, it is time for action.

But you may be wondering, “What is the Population Health Trust, anyway, and what does it do?” Here is some information about the Trust, who the group is comprised of, and what it has achieved thus far.

What is the Trust?

In 2015, the Skagit County Board of Health appointed their first advisory committee to guide Public Health and our community in working together for health improvement. This committee, known as the Population Health Trust Advisory Committee (Trust), is a group of community leaders with a shared commitment to improve the quality of life for all residents of Skagit County.

Who are its members?

Some of our current and past Trust members. New membership photos coming soon!

The Trust is staffed by Public Health but its membership is made up of a group of folks who represent many different sectors of the community. It is a coalition of community leaders who have the knowledge, expertise, and—in many cases—the authority to affect major change. Afterall, to make a big community-wide impact, policies and systems are a powerful place to start. For a list of some current and past Trust members, visit the webpage here.

What does the Trust do?

The Trust conducts a Community Needs Assessment every five years. This is an opportunity for community partners to get together, analyze data and trends, determine areas of strength and need for improvement, and formulate a plan of action. It is also an opportunity for community leaders to ask the public questions like: “What could we do to improve your quality of life here in Skagit County?

From there, the Trust can put forth a list of priorities: the areas that will be worked on over the next several years.

A perfect example of the Trust’s ability to listen to the needs of the community is the Needs Assessment process that took place back in 2015. When they asked the community what the most pressing concern was, the Trust heard a resounding plea for more action around the opioid crisis. The Opioid Workgroup Leadership Team was created to respond to this plea, resulting in a host of new partnerships and policy changes that directly impacted the lives of Skagitonians.

COVID-19 and the Trust

The Trust is now in the midst of a new assessment cycle, and the timing couldn’t be more opportune. Our community—like so many others—has felt the major effects of COVID-19. Our businesses, families, children, and schools have faced incredible, and life-changing, challenges since last spring, and help is greatly needed. The Trust has heard from the community that there is an urgent need for behavioral health supports, like mental health and substance use services, a more robust workforce to address behavioral health needs, and wrap-around services for youth and young adults. The Trust is listening and is ready, willing, and able to respond.

Where to find more information?

If you would like more information about how the Trust works or what is currently being done to address the pandemic in Skagit County, please visit: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/PHTAC or call Public Health at (360) 416-1500.

Also, keep your eyes open for Community Forums in the fall! Just like with the first assessment, the Trust will be seeking your feedback on the data, goals and strategies designed to help Skagit come out of the pandemic better and stronger than ever.  


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

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


COVID-19 Testing Site at the Skagit County Fairgrounds to close permanently after Saturday, March 13

Reading Time: < 1 minute

February 10, 2021

Today, Skagit County Public Health announced that the final day of testing at the Fairgrounds drive-through testing site will be Saturday, March 13, 2021. Further, on February 23rd, testing will be operating on reduced hours from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Skagit County Public Health will continue to utilize the Fairgrounds location for COVID-19 vaccinations only. Other testing providers are available in Skagit County.

Many doctor’s offices are now offering COVID-19 testing to their patients. Contact your healthcare provider first to see if they offer COVID-19 testing. Those seeking other testing options can also find a list of providers here: www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirusTESTsites.htm.

Public Health has tested over 43,000 individuals since the Testing Site first opened at Skagit Valley College in April 2020. In November of 2020, the Testing Site moved to the Skagit County Fairgrounds.

“It is time for Public Health to shift focus and resources to vaccine roll-out,” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director. There are many more testing options available to those in Skagit County compared to when we first opened, and this has allowed Public Health to move in this new direction. It is our goal at Public Health to be responsive to the current needs of our community and we are excited to be able to focus on our mass vaccination location at the Fairgrounds.”

When vaccine supply allows, the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at the Fairgrounds location operates by appointment only. Eligible individuals can make appointments online at https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/ when supply is available. Skagit County is currently vaccinating Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1 individuals. Visit www.findyourphasewa.org to determine if you’re eligible.

For more information, visit Public Health’s website: www.skagitcounty.net. For COVID-19 vaccine questions, please visit www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500.  

 


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

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Check your eligibility

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

3. Visit PrepMod for scheduling online

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

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

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

4. Choose a location and date

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

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

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

5. Personal Information

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

6. Health Insurance Information

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

7. Medical History

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

8. Provide Consent

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

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

9. Review, choose a time & submit

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

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

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

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

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

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


COVID-19 Vaccine Scams & What You Can Do About Them

Reading Time: 2 minutes

These are very exciting times as we begin to see vaccine administered across the country. It is also the perfect time for scammers to take advantage of individuals who may be feeling particularly vulnerable after months of COVID-19-related anxiety or fatigue.

Right before the holidays, a warning was sent out to the American public about several emerging fraud schemes related to COVID-19 vaccines. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have received complaints of scammers using the public’s interest in COVID-19 vaccines to obtain personally identifiable information and money through various schemes.

So how can you keep yourself and your loved ones safe from scammers? The FBI has provided a helpful list of things to look out for as you are navigating the vaccination process.

What should you look out for?

Any of the following could be an indicator of potential fraud:

  • Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee.
  • Requests to pay out of pocket to obtain the vaccine or to put your name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list.
  • Offers to undergo additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining a vaccine.
  • Marketers offering to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine, domestically or internationally, in exchange for payment of a deposit or fee.
  • Unsolicited emails, telephone calls or personal contact from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company or COVID-19 vaccine center and requesting personal and/or medical information to determine eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine.
  • Claims of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a vaccine that cannot be verified.
  • Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, emails, telephone calls, online or from unsolicited/unknown sources.
  • Individuals contacting you in person, by phone or by email to tell you that government officials require you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Where should you go for credible information?

If you have questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, Skagit County Public Health has two easy ways to get information.

  1. Visit our COVID-19 Vaccine webpage at: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine
  2. Call our new COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500. The hotline is available in English or Spanish, and operates Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

What else can you do?

  • Check the FDA’s website for current information about vaccine emergency use authorizations.
  • Consult your primary care physician before having any vaccination.
  • Don’t share your personal or health information with anyone other than known, trusted medical professionals.
  • Check your medical bills and insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs) for suspicious claims, and promptly report errors to your health insurance provider.
  • Follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other trusted medical professionals.

What should you do if you suspect a scam?

If you believe you have been the victim of a COVID-19 fraud, immediately report it to the FBI (ic3.govtips.fbi.gov, or 1-800-CALL-FBI) or HHS OIG (tips.hhs.gov or 1-800-HHS-TIPS).