Statewide COVID-19 Vaccine Verification for Large Events to Begin November 15

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October 15, 2021

Yesterday, Governor Inslee announced that, beginning on November 15, individuals 12 years and older who attend certain large events will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or a negative test result.

This new statewide Vaccination Verification Program will apply to indoor events of 1,000 or more attendees and outdoor events of 10,000 or more attendees. It will not apply to settings without defined entrances, such as shopping malls. Also exempt from the new requirement are museums, religious institutions, and events held on school property.

Event attendees will have several options for showing proof of vaccination, including the following:

  • CDC Vaccination Card given at the time of vaccination
  • Print out or screenshot of one’s vaccination records from MyIRMobile
  • Other immunization records provided by one’s medical provider
  • QR Code that can be downloaded through MyIRMobile

Unvaccinated attendees may instead show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of the event. Please check with the event vendor for specific testing requirements. 

This announcement follows King County’s recent decision to require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result to enter certain indoor and outdoor events and establishments beginning October 25.

Vaccination continues to be the safest, easiest—and most convenient—option for Washingtonians. Routine testing cannot ensure one’s safety. Vaccination is the best tool when it comes to preventing serious illness and death.

As a reminder, the Skagit County Fairgrounds is not an option for those seeking testing to attend an event. Testing at this site is limited to those who live, work, or go to school in Skagit, and people must either be currently symptomatic, or have been recently exposed to COVID-19.

“Planning is going to be key for people who are unvaccinated. To ensure that someone can get a test within 72 hours of their event, they’ll need to book a testing appointment in advance or plan to wait in line at a drop-in site.”

– Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

To find a vaccination provider near you, go to: https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/. For a list of Skagit County testing providers, visit the Public Health website: www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.


Skagit County Reports 10,000 COVID-19 Cases and 100 Deaths

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October 12, 2021

According to the WA Department of Health Data Dashboard, on Saturday, October 9, Skagit County surpassed a cumulative total of 10,000 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The day prior- October 8- Skagit County reported its 100th death due to the virus.

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director said, “This is an upsetting milestone for the County. These numbers represent people. Our residents—families, friends, and neighbors—have dealt with so much over these past 20 months, with loved ones getting sick and battling this awful virus. We want to encourage people to continue to do their part to curb the spread of COVID-19, to mask up, and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Skagit currently has a case rate of 666.2 per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days, and a hospitalization rate of 13.0 COVID-19 patients per 100,000 over the last 7 days. These rates are still extremely high—with Skagit County expecting to see a record case rate high of 670.0 in the next day or so. It appears, based on incomplete data on the Data Dashboard, that the county will start to see a decrease in new cases and hospitalizations over the coming days. However, it is too early to say whether this downward trend will continue, and for how long.

Skagit County is currently sitting at 66.9 percent fully vaccinated amongst residents 12 years and older. Of the entire population, the percentage of fully vaccinated is 57.4 percent. This means that 42.6 percent of Skagit County residents, including children under 12 years old, are still unprotected against COVID-19.

The recommendation continues to be the same: Get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccination is a critical tool for containing the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and greatly reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

As weather gets colder and people begin to move inside, it is important that Skagit County residents continue to use precaution when gathering with people from outside of their households. All the risk mitigation strategies that people have been using since the beginning of the pandemic continue to be the best course of action: mask up when in crowded indoor and outdoor locations, get tested when feeling sick or when notified of recent COVID-19 exposure, and stay at home when ill with COVID-like symptoms.

To find a list of COVID-19 testing and vaccination providers in Skagit County, go to: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call the WA COVID-19 Information Hotline: Dial 1-800-525-0127, then press #.


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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Each October, the Department of Labor hosts National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) to celebrate the many contributions of America’s workers with disabilities and educate businesses about disability employment issues.

This year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” a powerful tribute to the significant number of people with disabilities who worked—and continue to work—in frontline positions during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the height of the pandemic in Skagit County dozens of people with developmental disabilities worked at our local grocery stores, restaurants, healthcare facilities, agricultural settings, and more, to keep the essential services of our community moving smoothly.

*NEW* Inclusive Hirers Map

As part of this month’s campaign, the Skagit County Developmental Disabilities Program will be launching its new window cling campaign for businesses that have hired people with developmental disabilities and who participate in supported employment programs. This campaign highlights employers who have hired a diverse, inclusive workforce. Keep an eye out for these window clings as you’re supporting our local businesses!

A new interactive map is also now available online, which highlights inclusive employers across Skagit County. To find the new Inclusive Hirers Map, go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HumanServices/DD/pathway.htm.

“Recognizing local businesses who understand the importance of inclusivity in their hiring practices is so important,” said Brianna Steere, Skagit County Developmental Disabilities Program Coordinator. “We want to spread the important message that we—as a community—value all perspectives, including those of individuals with disabilities.”

The Skagit County Board of Commissioners are scheduled to consider a proclamation on Monday, October 18 that would officially recognize October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month in Skagit County. A presentation by the Skagit County Developmental Disabilities Program, and its partner providers, is planned for 10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

The public is welcome to join this virtual presentation using the login information below:  

https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87180001980?pwd=eEVGUGkxZ3NkQkhYSnhBMEo2RTQrdz09
Meeting ID: 871 8000 1980
Passcode: 143573

Are you a business owner or are you interested in learning more about NDEAM? Help spread the word about National Disability Employment Awareness Month by visiting: www.dol.gov/NDEAM.

For more information about the Skagit County Developmental Disabilities Program, contact Brianna Steere at (360) 416-1510 go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HumanServices/DD/pathway.htm.


Is it safe to Trick-or-Treat this Halloween?

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UPDATE: The CDC is currently in the process of updating its Holiday Guidance. We will update the information below if recommendations change for Halloween 2021.

It’s October, and you know what that means: HALLOWEEN! And since last year was a bit of a dud, it’s no wonder that people have some questions about this year’s trick-or-treating prospects.

This year is different in many ways from Halloween of 2020. Last October, we were still a few months away from any sort of COVID vaccine. This year, our vaccination rates are sitting at just over 72 percent for Skagitonians 12 years and older, and more people are choosing to get vaccinated each day.

Unfortunately, this October, our case and hospitalization rates are also higher than they’ve ever been throughout the pandemic. Though our vaccination rates are promising, we still have approximately 37 percent of our entire population unvaccinated, including kiddos under 11 who are not yet eligible. This means that we still have many Skagitonians who do not have protection against the virus and are at increased risk.

For this reason, it makes sense that people would have some reservations about going out on the 31st. So, is Halloween safe this year? Well … the answer is, like most things these days, not super straight forward.

To Trick-or-Treat, or not?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given the “okay” for children nationwide to trick-or-treat this Halloween—one year after it advised against the tradition last year due to coronavirus concerns. That said, there are a few caveats to consider.

Experts say it’s still best to take precautionary measures for Halloween given that most trick-or-treating children are younger than 11 years old and thus, still unvaccinated. If children do go trick-or-treating, it is recommended that they do so in small groups. Also, when possible, it is best to avoid scenarios where many people are concentrated in a central location.

The CDC has published a helpful guide for people planning to trick-or-treat this year. Some tips for safe trick-or-treating include:

For people passing out candy:

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • And of course, wear a mask!

For kids collecting candy:

  • Wear a mask!
    • PRO TIP: Make the mask a part of the costume! But remember, costume masks are not a substitute for a well-fitting cloth mask.
    • Remember: Kids younger than two years of old should never wear a mask to decrease the risk of suffocation.
  • Wash or sanitize hands frequently. Before settling down to devour treats, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Maintain distance by staying at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.

What about fall festivals and Halloween parties?

In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, like Skagit County, it is recommended that people two years and older wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings and while attending outdoor activities where close contact with others is expected. This would include your fall festivals, pumpkin patches, trunk-or-treating events, and the like.

If planning to go to a large event outdoors, please know that the statewide mask mandate requires that masks are worn at large outdoor events of 500 or more people. This includes all people five years and older, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.   

In general, folks are asked to avoid large Halloween parties this year, especially parties taking place indoors with people from multiple households. When getting together, gathering outdoors is much safer than gathering indoors.

For those who choose to gather indoors, please:

  • Wear a well-fitted face mask
  • Keep your distance (6 feet or more)
  • Ventilate the space by opening doors and windows

If gathering in an indoor public space this year, know that the statewide mandate requires that masks be worn by all people five and older, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

What’s the best thing to do to prepare for fall and winter festivities?

The principles of this pandemic really do continue to hold. Outdoor gatherings are better than indoor gatherings, ventilation is important, and masking remains crucial.

But above all else, the best thing you can do right now is to get vaccinated. This is the easiest thing that you can do to keep yourself, and your loved ones, safe this fall and winter. And while you’re at it, get your flu shot, too!

Getting vaccinated now will help make this Halloween better than last year’s and will ensure many spooky-fun Halloweens to come. Want to be fully vaccinated in time for the 31st? You still have time! Get your single-dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine by October 17th, and you’re covered!

Ready to get your shot? Go to https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/ or stop by the Skagit County Fairgrounds on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday between 3-7pm.

For more holiday gathering guidance, go to the CDC’s webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/index.html.


Public Health Expanding Hours of Operation at the Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site Beginning October 4th

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September 28, 2021

The Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site will be expanding its hours of operatioThe Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site will be expanding its hours of operation next week to better serve the community and reduce wait times. Beginning on Monday October 4, the new operating hours will be from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The site will no longer operate on Wednesdays.

“This change was necessary given current demand for testing here in Skagit County. We’ve heard from the community that more evening testing options are needed so we are pleased to be able to respond to these needs.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

Vaccination services continue to be offered to all people 12 years and older. People can access a first or second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or a single-dose of Johnson & Johnson, when supplies are available. Third doses of Pfizer and Moderna are also available to certain immunocompromised individuals. Please speak with your healthcare provider about whether an additional dose is appropriate for you.

Beginning September 29th, Pfizer booster doses will be available BY APPOINTMENT ONLY for eligible individuals who received Pfizer for their first and second dose. If you received your second dose of Pfizer in March 2021 or earlier, you may now be eligible for a booster dose if you meet the criteria below. Those eligible for a Pfizer booster dose include:

  • People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings.
  • People aged 18–64 years with underlying medical conditions.
  • People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting.

To make an appointment for a Pfizer booster, please use the PrepMod online appointment finder. Under “Search By Name of Location,” enter “Skagit County Public Health.” If there are no appointment dates listed, please check back in a few days. For assistance, call (360) 416-1500.

Snapshot from PrepMod

Please bring your Vaccination Card with you when coming for a second or third dose, or a Pfizer booster dose.
For more info about the CDC guidance: https://bit.ly/3i73NKL.

As a reminder, antigen testing is now limited to individuals who live, work, or go to school in Skagit County. Those coming for testing must be 5 years or older and must (a) be currently symptomatic or (b) have had recent exposure to COVID-19.

Those seeking testing or vaccination, and who meet the above criteria, are asked to come to the South Gate Entrance at 501 Taylor Street in Mount Vernon. Services are free; no appointment is required for testing, or vaccination 1st, 2nd, and 3rd doses. Appointments will be required for Pfizer booster doses beginning September 29th. 

Remember: The Skagit County Fairgrounds is not the only testing or vaccine location here in Skagit County, and folks should anticipate long wait times when coming to the site. Site capacity is limited, and vehicles will be turned away if/when the site reaches its daily capacity limits. A full list of testing and vaccine providers in Skagit County can be found on our website: www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.

Lastly, please do not arrive more than 30 minutes before the site opens to keep traffic off Cleveland Avenue. For more information about the Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site, please go to our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus or call (360) 416-1500.


Looking for Child Care in Skagit County? There’s Help Available!

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Anyone who’s ever had to pay for child care will tell you the same thing: child care is expensive! If you’ve ever struggled to pay for the cost of child care or needed to make compromises to make ends meet, you wouldn’t be alone. With the added challenges posed by the pandemic, many parents and caregivers are looking for help—even those who never needed assistance before.

But did you know that on May 7th of this year, the Governor signed the Fair Start for Kids Act—a historic legislation meant to strengthen Washington’s child care system by assisting families with young children and licensed child care programs? This new legislation is BIG for those who take care of our most precious residents. So, let’s talk about what this means for Washington state families.

For families, the Fair Start for Kids Act does the following:

State median income by household size.
  1. It increases the number of families who will qualify for financial assistance to pay for child care!
    Beginning October 1st, 2021, income eligibility will be raised, with new limits tied to the state median income instead of the federal poverty level. This means that a family of four can earn up to $5,139 per month (which is 60% of the state median income) and still qualify for help.
  2. It will reduce family child care copays to a maximum of $115 per month!
    Beginning October 1st, 2021 through the end of 2022, child care copays for families with state child care assistance will be reduced to a maximum of $115 per month. Some families may even pay less! And starting in 2023, these copays will be capped at 7% of one’s household income.

Did you know that there is even more help available to those who qualify?

Aside from the Fair Start for Kids Act, there are other opportunities for financial assistance here in Washington state. Washington Connection offers a fast and easy way for families and individuals to apply for a variety of services such as Food, Cash, Child Care, Long-Term Care, and Medicare Savings Programs.

To see if you qualify for child care assistance (or any other type of assistance listed above), go here.

So you’ve got finances figured out but you don’t know what child care services are available in your area?

Screenshot from Child Care Aware WA search function.

Once again—you’re not alone! If you’ve recently moved to a new town or you’re looking to put your kiddo in child care for the first time, there is help available.

Washington State has a centralized child care information and assistance service called Child Care Aware WA. Here, you can find a list of licensed child care providers in your area, with contact information, hours of operation, ages accepted, and quality ratings. You can also access information about financial assistance available to families in Washington, as well as guidance for how to select child care.

To search for a provider near you, click here.

Want to talk with someone about your options? Call the Family Center at 1-800-4461114. This free service is available Monday through Friday between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm.

Need before or after-school care for your school-age kiddo?

Skagit Kid Insider is a great resource available to you for local options! Here you can find a helpful list of before and after-school care programs here in Skagit County. The YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and more local organizations offer safe places for kids when they can’t be at home. Many of these providers are even located right at your child’s school or at a location nearby!


Finding safe, reliable—and affordable—child care can be an overwhelming process, even under normal circumstances. Thankfully, there are people and agencies available who want to help!

If, after calling the Family Center Helpline at 1-800-446-1114 and reviewing available options online, you still need more assistance, we’ve got you! Call or text 360-630-8352 or email helpmegrowskagit@gmail.com to speak with someone at HelpMeGrow Skagit. You can also fill out an online form here and you will be contacted by one of their staff promptly.


Septic Tips for National SepticSmart Week

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

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

SepticSmart Week Tips

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

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

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

Homeowner Septic Education Classes

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

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

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

Financial Assistance

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

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

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


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

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

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

Do They Need Your Help?

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

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

How Can You Help Them?

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

Contact a Lifeline Center

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

A few other resources include:

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

Use The Do’s and Don’ts

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

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

Use the 5 Action Steps

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

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

Practice Active Listening

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

Acknowledge the Speaker

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

Respond Verbally

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

Summarize What You Hear

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

Be Mindful of Body Language

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

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

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


For Our Health Care Workers, It’s Not Just About COVID-19

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Post contributed by Josh Pelonio, Skagit County EMS Director

Our healthcare system, including hospitals, emergency departments and emergency medical services (EMS) are there to take care of you during times of crisis, but we’re unable to do this critical work if we’re in crisis ourselves. With COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations continuing to be at historic highs, the healthcare system is taxed and we’re seeing impacts to quality, and availability of care, system wide.

Increased hospital patient volumes are creating region-wide challenges with bed availability. When emergency department or in-patient hospital beds aren’t available, hospitals in Skagit enter what’s called ‘diversion status,’ meaning that EMS personnel are asked to route patients arriving by ambulance to alternate hospitals, including neighboring counties. EMS personnel must then drive farther to get patients the care they need, or they must wait longer at local hospitals for emergency department beds to become available. Either way, hospital bed delay results in delayed patient care and can negatively impact patient outcome. It can also mean a delay in available personnel and equipment to respond to the next emergency in the community.

Statewide, we are seeing the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rates ever, with 17.7 patients per 100,000 residents between August 22 and August 28 (the most current complete data). This is higher than December 2020, when we saw between 8 and 10 patients per 100,000 residents averaged over a seven-day period.

We also seeing about one-third of all ICU beds in the State being occupied by COVID-19 patients, which is again higher than December 2020 when we saw about one-fifth of beds occupied. Locally, our total ICU occupancy is at 88 percent, meaning that we’re nearly at capacity.

All this to say, the healthcare system is overwhelmed and healthcare staff, including first responders are exhausted. Skagit—we need your help to protect the capacity of our healthcare system.  

This situation doesn’t just impact COVID-19 patients. It impacts car crash victims, heart attack patients, people in mental health crisis, those struggling to control their diabetes, gunshot victims and the child who broke his arm climbing a tree. It impacts everyone. When our healthcare services are in crisis, every single individual in our community is at greater risk of poor health outcomes from any acute injury or illness. This is not a good situation to be in.

Fortunately, there are two simple things that you can do to help:

1. Reduce your risk. Not just from COVID-19, but from all injuries and illnesses. Take caution and use appropriate healthcare services like your primary care doctor or urgent care for minor illness and injury and only use 911 for emergencies.

If looking for COVID-19 testing, please do not go to your local emergency department ! Find a testing provider near you by going to: www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.

2. Get vaccinated against COVID-19. And if you have been vaccinated, talk to others  in your life about getting vaccinated as well. Getting the vaccine is a safe, effective, and totally free tool that you have available to you. CDC data shows that over 99.99% of people who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 did not die or even require hospitalization and the highest hospitalization rates remain in areas with low vaccination rates. By getting vaccinated, you help stabilize our healthcare system, and directly help improve health outcomes for those in crisis.

Skagit Public Health offers free COVID-19 vaccination for those 12 years of age or older at the Fairgrounds site from 5 p.m. –  8 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also find other providers in our community at www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine.

Get vaccinated, or help someone get vaccinated, today.


New Operational Changes for the Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site

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September 10, 2021

Beginning on Monday, September 13, the Skagit County Fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site will be changing its operations, limiting testing and vaccination services to individuals who live, work, or go to school in Skagit County. This change is due to high demand and supply chain issues with testing supplies.

Also beginning on September 13, testing will be limited to individuals 5 and older who are actively exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or who have had a known COVID-19 exposure. Limiting to these two groups will allow us to ensure access to testing for disease mitigation purposes.

As a reminder, the Skagit County Fairgrounds location provides antigen testing and should not be used for pre-travel. If seeking a test before traveling, please seek out a testing provider that uses PCR testing. A full list of providers can be found on our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.

Testing should not be used as a way to guarantee safety. Testing is a point-in-time measure of whether someone has COVID-19 and should not be used to justify decisions that are risky if you are unvaccinated, like travel or gathering in large groups. The best way to be safe is by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask when in crowded settings.

The Skagit County Fairgrounds Site will be closed today (Friday, September 10) due to a scheduling conflict, and will reopen on Monday, September 13 at 5:00 p.m. Those seeking testing or vaccination, and who meet the new operational criteria, are asked to come to the South Gate Entrance at 501 Taylor Street in Mount Vernon. Services are free; no appointment or insurance is required.

For more information about the Skagit County fairgrounds Testing and Vaccination Site, please go to our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus or call (360) 416-1500.