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

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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.  

 


Gratitude: 2020 Reflections from Testing Site Staff & Volunteers

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Guest post by Rosemary Alpert, Skagit Valley Family YMCA

For many, the first step in their COVID-19 experience is driving to the testing site, now located at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. You are greeted by a staff member or volunteer, asked a few questions, then directed to the queue, like waiting for a ferry. Upon entering the barn, with your car window cracked, you are greeting by another staff member or volunteer to register you for the test. After, a nurse greets you with important information and directions for taking the test. The journey has begun, with hopes to receive a text in a few days with the singular word, “Negative.”  

As this unprecedented and challenging year comes to a welcome close, I never would have imagined my job as Volunteer and Community Engagement Coordinator for Skagit Valley Family YMCA would evolve into one of the most important experiences of my life: registering community members to get tested for COVID-19. 

Early on during the pandemic, Skagit County Public Health collaborated with the Y to support two full-time employees from the Y to work at the testing site. Over these past nine months, community collaborations have been created. A team of dedicated staff and volunteers have been working on the frontlines tirelessly through summer heat, high winds, bitter cold, sideways rain and ongoing challenges, day after day. These are the faces you see through your car windows: community members wholeheartedly supporting Skagit County.  

In early June, I started splitting my time between the Y and the COVID-19 testing site, registering community members at Skagit Valley College. Then, mid-September, I became full time at the testing site, putting my job at the Y on hold for the time. So many stories, reasons why people come through to get tested, are heartful and sometimes heartbreaking. Eyes to eyes, deeply listening, with respect and compassion. Dedicated coworkers and impeccable leadership keep our team fluid and flexible each day. They’re a privilege to work alongside.  

Last week, this group photograph was taken of our COVID-19 Testing Site team of staff and volunteers. In addition to registration, I was asked to contribute to the Skagit Health Connection weekly blog. This first blog is dedicated to the incredible group of testing site workers. I asked a few to share their thoughts about working at the testing site, what are they grateful for, an experience, or possibly an unexpected gift because of this time. Here are a few of the responses… 

Skagit testing site
Photograph taken inside the Skagit County COVID-19 Testing Site facility at the Skagit County Fairgrounds.

“I am grateful for getting the opportunity to work at the site and help our community get through this pandemic. And meeting all the amazing people who I work with.” 

“I’m grateful for being part of such an amazing team and being able to give back to our community. It’s honestly a rewarding job. You definitely learn how to communicate with so many different people. And being able to provide service for all, even those with a language barrier.” 

“I am grateful to be working at the site because seeing the relief on the faces of the people that go to get tested once they have been helped honestly lights up my day. Being able to provide the reassurance to the people. And unexpected gift I have got from working at the testing site is the ability to interact more with the people in my community and the opportunity I have been given to help better the community.” 

“Working here reminds me that people are kind. Folks wait an hour or more, often in bad weather, sometimes with kids and dogs in the car. All this stuff is scary and frustrating; but people are unfailingly kind, mostly patient, and always ready to share a (masked) smile. This is my best medicine for these times. (And staff and volunteers are wonderful!)” 

“I think I’m most amazed by the 200 volunteers who provided an estimated 12,000 hours of their time. In the rain, snow, smoke, wind and blistering heat, they are there!” 

“Each car is an opportunity to connect with our community, offering a little comfort, reassurance and hope. We keep our community moving forward during these challenging times. I’m grateful for the tiny moments of connection, whether it be the little girl who noticed the twinkling lights or the great-grandma wanting to visit her 16th great-grandchild. I didn’t expect to become a part of an elite team of community rock stars! Grateful for the opportunity to share a little light and serve our community.” 

As we wrap up 2020, let’s keep moving forward, find the moments of gratitude. Be vigilant, wear your masks, wash your hands, practice social distancing, keep your connections safe, and know you are not alone.

Please remember: If you or someone you know needs any support with the mental and emotional challenges of these days, PLEASE reach out! It’s OK to ask for help. The Disaster Distress Helpline 24/7 crisis counseling and support is always available. Call 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66749. Skagit County also has a new website—SkagitHelps—that can assist people in getting connected to local and state resources.


Updates from the COVID-19 Test Site

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November 17, 2020

Beginning on Wednesday, November 18th, the Skagit County COVID-19 drive-through testing site will be moving to the Skagit County Fair Grounds. The Fair Grounds are located at 501 Taylor Street, Mount Vernon, WA 98273. Please enter through the South Gate Entrance.

New Hours of Operation

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Thursday: 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Testing services will still be available to anyone who lives or works in Skagit County, and who is 5 years of age and older.

New testing site map at the Skagit County Fair Grounds

Please note: The current COVID Testing site located at the Skagit Valley College will be closed Monday, November 16th and Tuesday, November 17th to facilitate the relocation. If you are symptomatic and need testing, please contact your local hospital or Primary Care Provider for information on where to seek testing during this transition time.

This is a very exciting move for Skagit County and its partnering agencies! The facilities at the Fair Grounds will allow for more protection against winter weather for site staff, volunteers, and guests. The relocation will also help with the County’s plans for sustainability, as well as our mission to protect the health and wellbeing of our residents.

Flu Clinic Rescheduled

Due to dangerous winds, the Flu Clinic that had been scheduled for November 14th-15th had to be postponed. The new dates for the Flu Clinic are Saturday, November 21st and Sunday, November 22nd, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Skagit County Fair Grounds (South Gate Entrance).

This free flu clinic is being provided for uninsured Skagit County adults. Please note that free flu vaccines are available for children at your local pharmacy or through your child’s doctor.  

For more information about the testing site or flu clinic, please visit www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/Home or call Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Flu Vaccine for Uninsured Adults Available

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November 10, 2020

Today, Skagit County Unified Command announced that Skagit Public Health will use the drive through testing site to provide seasonal flu vaccine for uninsured adults on Saturday, November 14 and Sunday, November 15 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

“Flu vaccines are a good idea every year, but its more important than ever that all adults who are able get vaccinated. COVID-19 and the flu have several similar symptoms, so those with the flu could easily overwhelm limited COVID-19 testing resources, hospital beds and other parts of our medical system. Additionally, if someone were to contract both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, they’d be at much higher risk for lower health outcomes. This is an important service we’re happy to provide.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

This service is for adult flu vaccine only; children’s vaccinations will not be provided. Vaccine will be available for those 19 years of age or older, who do not have medical insurance. COVID-19 testing or services will not be provided on those days, per the usual testing schedule. Vaccine doses for uninsured adults have been provided by the Washington State Department of Health.

“We’re really fortunate to have a site already set up that makes distribution of these extra vaccines possible. The Board fully supports Unified Command and Public Health in their efforts.”

Ron Wesen, Chair of the Skagit County Board of Commissioners

The testing site is located at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon (2405 East College Way, Mount Vernon, WA 98273). The site will be open to provide flu vaccinations for uninsured adults from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 14 and Sunday, November 15. COVID-19 testing will not be available those days. Vaccines for children will also not be available, but uninsured children can get a free or low cost vaccination at their local pharmacy or through their primary care provider.

If you have questions, or need additional information, call Public Health at 360-416-1500.

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PARA PUBLICACIÓN INMEDIATA: El Condado de Skagit ofrecerá la vacuna contra la gripe para adultos sin seguro en el lugar de pruebas el 14 y 15 de noviembre.

Hoy, el Comando Unificado del Condado de Skagit anunció que Salud Pública utilizará el sitio de pruebas para proporcionar la vacuna contra la influenza estacional para adultos sin seguro el sábado 14 de noviembre y el domingo 15 de noviembre de 9:00 a.m. a 3:00 p.m.

Este servicio es para vacuna contra la gripe sólo para adultos; no se proporcionarán vacunas para niños. La vacuna estará disponible para aquellos de 19 años de edad o más, que no tengan seguro médico. Las pruebas o los servicios de COVID-19 no se proporcionarán en esos días, según el programa de pruebas usual. El Departamento de Salud del Estado de Washington ha proporcionado las dosis de vacuna para adultos sin seguro.

“Las vacunas contra la influenza son siempre una buena idea todos los años, pero es más importante que nunca que todos los adultos que puedan que se vacunen,” dijo la Directora de Salud Pública Jennifer Johnson, “El COVID-19 y la gripe tienen varios síntomas similares, así que las personas con gripe podrían fácilmente sobrepasar los recursos limitados de pruebas de COVID-19, las camas de hospital y otras partes de nuestro sistema médico. Más aun, si alguien contrajera COVID-19 y la gripe al mismo tiempo, correría un riesgo mucho mayor de sufrir resultados de salud más bajos. Este es un servicio importante que nos complace proporcionar”.

“Realmente somos afortunados de tener un sitio ya establecido que hace posible la distribución de estas vacunas adicionales”, dijo el Presidente de la Junta de Comisionados del Condado de Skagit, Ron Wesen. “La Junta apoya plenamente al Comando Unificado y la Salud Pública en sus esfuerzos”.

El sitio de pruebas se encuentra en Skagit Valley College en Mount Vernon (2405 Oriental College Way, Mount Vernon, WA 98273). El sitio estará abierto para proporcionar vacunas contra la influenza para adultos sin seguro de 9:00 a.m. a 3:00 p.m. el sábado 14 y domingo 15 de noviembre. Las pruebas de COVID-19 no estarán disponibles esos días. Las vacunas para niños tampoco estarán disponibles, pero los niños sin seguro pueden recibir una vacuna gratis o de bajo costo en su farmacia local o a través de su proveedor de atención primaria.

Si tiene preguntas o necesita información adicional, llamar a Salud Pública al 360-416-1500.


Changes to Operating Hours at the COVID-19 Test Site

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October 9, 2020

If you’ve driven past the Skagit County COVID-19 Testing Site recently at Skagit Valley College on a Tuesday or Thursday, you may have noticed something different. That is because, beginning on September 21st, the hours of operation were adjusted. The adjustment was made in order to better accommodate working people.

“It has been difficult to balance resources, staff time and community needs at the testing site,” said Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson. “We’re glad to be in a place where these adjusted hours are possible. It will help fill an important community need.”

The new operating hours are:
Monday, Wednesday and Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Tuesday and Thursday: 11:00 a.m. –
7:00 p.m.

The drive through testing site is located at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, and has been in continuous operation since April 21, 2020. The testing site is open to those who live, work, or study in Skagit County, or out-of-state visitors of Skagit residents. There is no appointment necessary! The testing site is the longest continuously running drive-through testing site operated by a county in Washington State and has the capacity to test up to 600 people per day.

“Working people have a high need for testing,” said County Commissioner Ron Wesen, Chair of the County Board of Commissioners. “Our front line workers and employers want a testing option that will be accessible after the typical workday. We’re grateful that our Public Health team can offer this service.”

The adjustment to the testing site hours will be permanent, as long as the testing site is in operation. For up-to-date information on Skagit County’s COVID-19 response, including additional information on the testing site, visit www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus. For daily wait time information, follow Skagit County on Twitter at @SkagitGov.

If you need additional questions or need further information, call Skagit County Public Health at 360-416-1500.

Note: We have had some recent issues with individuals receiving bills in the mail for their tests. Please know that Skagit County doesn’t pay for any lab bills; Northwest Lab handles billing. While State and Federal officials have required that COVID-19 testing and treatment be free for all “medically necessary” treatment, it is possible that your insurance company will not cover a self-referred test. The individual is responsible for the bill, and for checking their coverage with their insurance company.


SKAGIT COUNTY TO PRIORITIZE TEST SITE FOR SKAGIT RESIDENTS AND WORKERS

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August 21, 2020: COVID-19 Updates from Skagit County

Yesterday, Skagit County announced that beginning on August 31, 2020, it will limit use of its drive through testing site to those who live in or work in Skagit County. This was a difficult decision, but COVID-19 is more likely to be with us for months than weeks, and long-term sustainability of the testing site for Skagit County residents, workers and employees has to be the top priority.

In a press release yesterday, Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson spoke about the decision: “We want to be good neighbors, but we’re in a place where our current testing level isn’t sustainable. In order to protect this vital service for Skagit County residents, we have to ask that those who do not live or work here seek testing elsewhere.”

Understandably, the decision to restrict testing has created some questions about data and availability of testing.

If Skagit was testing residents from other counties, does this mean that those positive cases are counted in our case count total?

No. It doesn’t matter where a person is tested; the positive test result only counts for the county where the person lives. We do show total positive results and people tested at the drive through site on our separate testing website, but only those positive cases who live in Skagit count towards our total and the Governor’s risk assessment metrics.

How will Skagit County ensure that only residents and workers are using the testing site?

Starting on August 31, 2020, we will be setting up an additional screening tent at the test site. Workers will ask patrons questions about where they live or work. More information on how this will affect the flow of the testing site can be found at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.

We also regularly tweet live updates on wait times and weather conditions at the test site. You can follow those at @SkagitGov on Twitter, or by taking a look at the Twitter feed embedded on the main page of our website.

How many people was Skagit County testing from other counties?

Around half of those utilizing the testing site over the last three months were Skagit County residents. The second largest group came from Whatcom County, at roughly 22 percent. We do not currently ask questions about employment, so it is entirely possible that many of those individuals work in Skagit County. Anecdotally, however, our testing site workers have noticed that a large portion of non-Skagit residents are seeking testing for travel purposes.

What does it cost to operate the testing site?

It varies slightly week to week, but it costs roughly $60,000 per week for Skagit to operate the drive through testing site. This amount does not account for the large number of unpaid volunteer hours and the hidden costs of Public Health staff time required for follow-up on positive cases. Skagit County has been using its allocated Coronavirus Aide, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars, provided by the federal government, to cover some of the costs. CARES funding is only available through October 31, 2020.

I’ve heard utilization of the testing site has decreased in recent weeks. Why limit use now?

We have seen a slight decline in testing site utilization over the past few weeks. We do not expect this to continue. With another major holiday coming—we’ve seen spikes in cases and utilization about 10 days after every major holiday since March—flu season right around the corner, and some school districts returning to hybrid or in-person instruction, we have to plan for the inevitable increase in need at the testing site and make sure our operation is sustainable.

Where can people who don’t reside in or work in Skagit get tested?

Individuals can always contact their primary care provider about testing. If you don’t have a primary care provider or need additional information, individuals can contact their home county health department or district:

What should I do if I have more questions?

Our Health Department is always happy to answer any questions you have.
You can email them at eh@co.skagit.wa.us or call 360-416-1500.

You can also follow Public Health on Facebook for up to date information, take a look at our blog Skagit Health Connection or check out our Communications Coordinator Laura Han’s updates on Nextdoor.