Eyes of Hope

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Rosemary Alpert, contributing writer. 

Over the past ten months, we have been wearing our masks, washing our hands more than we ever thought we would, strategically getting our groceries, keeping our distance and so much more. A collective community effort to keep ourselves, families and friends healthy.  

Since June, I’ve been looking into thousands of community members’ eyes through car windows while registering them to get tested for COVID-19. First, at Skagit Valley College and now Skagit County Fairgrounds (south entrance, F Barn). Each person has a story for why they are getting tested. Eyes filled with worry, fear, anxiety and deep concern, not only for themselves but for their families too.  

So many eyes. 

Last Thursday, Skagit County Public Health and its community partners worked tirelessly to get our first 1a-eligible COVID-19 vaccine clinic started. The County is working directly with 1a-eligible employers to identify individuals to be vaccinated. Eligible community members were invited and scheduled for a specific time last Thursday and Friday, to receive their first vaccination for the COVID-19 virus.  

From registration to vaccination; a moment in time that I will remember for all of my days. 

I’ve been asked to greet each person immediately after they receive their vaccine: instructing them to sit for 15 minutes post-vaccine, to be observed and make sure that they do not have any reactions. After I shared with a friend and coworker from Skagit Valley Family YMCA about how powerful it is to be a part of this historical time for our County, she said, “You’ve come full circle, starting off being the first person people see when getting tested for the virus, to being the first person they see once they receive the vaccine.” 

Full circle—filled with deep listening, loving-kindness and compassion. 

What profoundly struck me last week, quite unexpectedly, was everyone’s eyes. Each pair of eyes, filled with a sense of relief and gratitude; some glistening with tears, and most of all, eyes filled with HOPE. 

Just as each person has a reason for why they get tested, the relief and appreciation for receiving the vaccine are also deeply meaningful. Some of the responses I heard were: 

“I can’t wait to see my granddaughter.”  

“I have no words. Just so grateful.”  

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  

“This gives me so much hope.” 

#OurShotSkagit. Photo taken by Julie de Losada of Rosemary Alpert receiving her first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Looking into eyes of our community, filled with hope and movement forward. Slow and steady progress.

For a first-hand account, as a frontline worker, I was invited to receive the vaccine. Last Friday afternoon, I received my first shot. After working months, looking into the eyes of our community, I was filled with emotions and gratitude, feeling the light of hope. 

My first thought was my two adult children, who I haven’t been able to see in over a year. My eyes glistened with tears of relief. The only reaction I felt was a sore arm, and the next day, a little tired. I also woke up at 3:38 a.m. the next morning and could feel the vaccine working. It was a wonderful feeling! I visualized the vaccine as golden-healing liquid responding and strengthening my being, heart and eyes full of hope. 

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, please check out Skagit County Public Health’s website at www.skagitounty.net/COVIDvaccine. You can also read our press release with WA DOH’s latest guidance here: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/Home/press/010721.htm.


Steps 1 Through 6 at the New Test Site

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By this point, you’ve probably heard that the Skagit County COVID-19 Testing Site has moved from Skagit Valley College to the Skagit County Fairgrounds. While moves like this one always result in some growing pains, we are happy to report that the transition is going quite smoothly!

As a Public Health staff and a part-time testing site worker, I have really appreciated being a part of the test site’s evolution. Since April, we have served over 33,760 individuals! We have also worked through extremely hot days, frigidly cold days, and everything in between. Our amazing volunteers and staff have shown so much dedication to this work, and have—honestly—become like a second family.

I wanted to share with you a quick insight into what to expect when you come to our new location, because sometimes new things can seem a bit intimidating. So here is what to expect, step-by-step:

Step One: Planning

Sometimes waits can be long (a few hours) and sometimes they can be quite short (only 15-30 minutes). We will try our best to communicate current wait times on our Twitter and Facebook pages, so always give those a check before leaving the house. Typically wait times are the longest first thing in the morning. Vehicles can begin lining up an hour before opening—and there is no street parking/waiting allowed.  

Before you leave, make sure that you have all your documents! Check your wallet or purse before walking out the door. Do you have your ID and insurance card?

There has been confusion in the past about the cost of testing. We will test all insured and un-insured individuals who live or work in Skagit County, but that doesn’t mean that the test is free and that you don’t need your information!

For those who are un-insured, there is a federal grant that covers the cost of your test. This grant is limited, and meant only for those who do not have insurance.

For those with insurance, please expect to provide this information! Check with your insurance provider before you get tested to make sure that they will cover the cost of your test. Skagit County Public Health does not do the billing—this is done by the lab. In order to test you, we will require your insurance information. If you do not have your card, please come with either a picture of it, or the insurance ID number and group number. We may also need your social security number, if you have specific coverage.

Parent or legal guardian consent is required for all minors, ages 4 to17. We do not test children under age 4; in this case please consult with your pediatrician.

Step Two: Enter

The entrance to the site is through the South Gate, located at 501 Taylor Street, Mount Vernon 98273. There, you will be greeted by one of our amazing volunteers who will ask you some questions (Do you live or work in Skagit County?), and will direct you to a lane. They can also tell you about how long your expected wait may be. Once you enter the fairgrounds and are assigned a holding lane, there is no exit until just prior to entering the testing zone.

For the safety of our volunteers and staff, please be sure to wear your mask, and only lower your window about 2 inches when answering questions.

Step Three: Waiting

We are using a ferry system at the location, which helps to avoid vehicles from congregating on the nearby street. Up to 84 vehicles can be held in our 12 lanes, and another 63 in the entrance lane and building. Vehicles will be moved forward with their lane, and each lane will move one at a time. About every 15 minutes, we can empty a lane. If you are the last car in lane 12, expect a three hour wait. The only exit from this point forward, is just prior to entering the testing zone.

When you get to your lane please turn off your vehicle and put on the parking break (this is to avoid any bumper-car type blunders!). Bring a coat! It can get chilly and just like the Washington State ferry system, the holding lanes are a no idling zone!

Also, make sure not to drain your vehicle’s battery while you sit in line. While we have staff who can help with a jump-start, it can certainly slow down the process and cause you unnecessary stress. I have personally done this, and it isn’t fun!

If you are waiting and you need to use the restroom, please note that there is a port-a-potty for public use in the waiting area.

Use this time to get your documents ready!

Step Four: Registration

A site worker will indicate when it is time for your lane to move forward. Please drive slowly! Especially when it is raining and visibility is bad, we want to make sure that everyone is safe. Just like before, when you enter the building, turn off your vehicle and put on your parking break. Please lower your window (when instructed) just a few inches, and wear your mask.

Vehicles will enter the testing building one at a time, and drivers will be directed to one of two lanes. Within each lane, there are multiple workers doing registration. Please be patient as they work to collect your information—it is imperative that they put down the correct information in order for you to receive your results, and to have your test billed correctly.

Step Five: Testing

Testing is done in the same building as registration. Once you pull up to a testing bay, you will be greeted by a nurse who will provide you with instruction. You will be expected to administer your own test—a nasal swab that will go in both nostrils (four large circles), and then you will place the swab in a tube through the vehicle window. Parents, we will instruct you on how to swab the noses of your small children.

Our nurses are amazing; so patient, and kind. It isn’t unusual for someone to say that they are a bit nervous—don’t worry! Our nurses will walk you through the process.

Step Six: Results

Typically, results can be expected within 72 hours (or three days). If it is a positive result, you will receive a phone call from a Public Health staff. In the past, we have experienced some delays from the lab. Check our website for any updates.

Attention: Wait times for results can sometimes take longer than 72 hours. Please check our website for updates. You can also check with site workers at the front gate for current result times.

If it is a negative, you will receive a test message that says, “Negative.” If you will need proof of your results, please let your registering site worker know, or you can call Public Health (360-416-1500) once you receive your results.

We are so happy to be in our new location, and excited to continue serving Skagit County! Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time, as we settle in.


Have You Heard About WA Notify?

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Information provided by WA DOH.

On Monday, Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced the launch of WA Notify, a simple, anonymous exposure notification tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

What is WA Notify?

Washington Exposure Notifications (also known as WA Notify) is a new tool that works through smartphones, without sharing any personal information, to alert users if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. It is completely private, and doesn’t know or track who you are or where you go.

How does it work?

When you enable WA Notify, your phone exchanges random, anonymous codes with the phones of people you are near who have also enabled WA Notify. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to exchange these random codes without revealing any information about you. If another WA Notify user you’ve been near in the last two weeks later tests positive for COVID-19 and adds their verification code to the app, you’ll get an anonymous notification that you’ve had a possible exposure. This lets you get the care you need quickly and helps prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to the people around you.

How will it help?

Studies have found that the more people who use exposure notification, the greater the benefit. Models based on three counties in Washington state show that even a small number of people there using WA Notify would reduce infections and deaths. Just like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small, WA Notify is another tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

How do I sign up for notifications?

WA Notify is free and can be enabled in iPhone settings or downloaded as an app from the Google Play Store for Android phones. Users can opt out at any time.

Is it safe to use?

WA Notify uses privacy-preserving technology jointly developed by Google and Apple and works without collecting or revealing any location or personal data. WA Notify is based on Google Apple Exposure Notification technology, which was designed to safeguard user privacy. The system never collects or shares any location data or personal information with Google, Apple, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), or other users. Participation is entirely voluntary. Users can opt in or out at any time.

Once I am signed up, what do I do next?

Additional action is only needed if:
1. You test positive for COVID-19, or
2. You receive a notification that you may have been exposed.

If you test positive, and public health reaches out to you, they will ask if you are using WA Notify. If you are, they will generate a verification code and help you enter it into WA Notify. The code is not tied to your personal information. Public health has no way to know who will be notified by the app about exposure when you enter your code. The notification will not include any information about you. The more people who share their codes, the better we can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If WA Notify detects you may have been exposed, a notification on your phone will direct you to a website with information about what you should do next. This includes how and where to get tested, information about keeping yourself and those close to you safe, and resources to answer your questions. It’s important to read and follow the directions on the website carefully. The notification will not include information about who may have exposed you or where. It’s completely anonymous.

Why did Washington choose this solution?

Washington formed a state oversight group, including security and civil liberties experts and members of several communities, to review the Apple/Google solution. The group recommended adoption based on the platform’s proven reliability, robust data protection and use by other states.

Visit WANotify.org to learn more.

View a video that describes how WA Notify works:


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.


What’s worse than a pandemic?! A pandemic during flu season!

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It’s the end of August-the weather is cooling down, the kids are headed back to (virtual) school and pumpkin spice is available once again. Flu season is also just around the corner and this year it’s more important than ever that everyone get a flu vaccine as soon as possible—ideally by the end of October.

Why is it important to get a flu vaccine?

There are lots of great reasons to get a flu vaccine: namely, that it prevents you from getting the seasonal flu, an uncomfortable and potentially deadly illness. Some facts:

  • During the 2016-2017 flu season, vaccinations prevented an estimated 5.3 million illnesses, 2.6 million medical visits and 85,000 flu-associated hospitalizations.
  • Vaccination for people with chronic health conditions can help lessen the severity of the illness and prevent hospitalization or other negative health outcomes.
  • Vaccinating pregnant persons has been shown to not only protect the individual from the flu, but to protect the baby from flu infection for several months after birth before the baby can be vaccinated themselves at age 6 months.  

Additionally, COVID-19 (a respiratory illness with some symptoms in common with the flu) is still very present in our communities. Vaccination can prevent confusion on illnesses and reduce strain on already overburdened healthcare systems. Getting vaccinated for the flu will help keep testing, hospital beds and medical care available for COVID-19 patients who will need it the most.

I got one last year, do I need to get one again?

Yes. The seasonal flu virus mutates quickly. The virus is constantly changing, so flu vaccines are specially manufactured each year to best match/protect you from the current common viral strains of flu. Further, protection from a flu vaccine declines over time so yearly vaccination is needed for protection.

Can I get the flu from a vaccine?

No. Flu shots are made using either a dead version of the flu virus (called inactivated vaccines) or without virus at all (recombinant vaccines). Some minor side effects are relatively common like soreness, redness and/or swelling at the injection site, low grade fever and some muscle aches. You can talk to your medical provider or pharmacist about side effects and what to expect or watch out for in yourself and any kids you’re taking to get vaccinated.

Are flu vaccines safe?

Yes. Flu vaccines have an excellent safety record. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years and extensive research supports the safety of seasonal flu vaccines. More information on the safety of flu vaccines is available at: www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/vaccinesafety.htm.

Where can I get vaccinated?

Vaccination will be available through your primary care provider, health clinics and many pharmacies. You can also search for vaccines through Vaccinefinder.org.   

When will COVID-19 vaccines be available?

We honestly don’t know. Testing is still being conducted to ensure the effectiveness and safety of a variety of potential COVID-19 vaccines. Public Health is working now in planning efforts with our vaccine partners so we will be ready when COVID-19 vaccines become available in Washington State.  Be aware that the initial vaccine supplies will be limited and so will be targeted for the people at highest risk.  As soon as we have more information, we’ll let you know.


I’m traveling and I might be sick … what do I do?

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COVID-19 spreads quickly between individuals when in close contact with each other, like when on airplanes, trains or in cars. Sitting in close contact with anyone you don’t live with for a prolonged period of time puts you at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Further, when driving long distances, you increase the likelihood that you’ll come into contact with more people than you normally would (stopping at gas stations or rest areas when driving, getting food, etc…).

This is why Public Health strongly discourages people from traveling outside of their immediate geographic area right now. We’ve said it repeatedly: Now is not the time to go see Grandma in Arizona or travel to your cousin’s wedding in Missouri. In fact, we wouldn’t even encourage you to get lunch with a friend in Seattle right now.

However, our case investigation data is showing that people are still traveling, and unfortunately, some are getting sick. Some of this travel is essential, like for work or to care for an ill family member. But all travel puts the traveler, the communities they visit, and their home community and family at risk. So, we feel compelled to explain what one should do if they’re far from home and start to get that cough and fever (or any other COVID-19 symptom) we all dread right now.

First, and most importantly: DO NOT TRY TO GET HOME.

If you’ve got symptoms, you need to hunker down wherever you are and do your best not to expose anyone else to the illness. Do not go to the store, do not let housekeeping clean your hotel room, and do not get back on an airplane. When you’re symptomatic, especially in the first days, it’s likely you’re highly contagious. You have a personal responsibility to not be in close contact with other people and not put them at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Related to this, anyone in your travel party (or any other close contacts you’ve had) shouldn’t travel or continue to be around other people either. The average person is contagious two days before symptoms present, so anyone you’ve been in close contact with (sharing a car, hotel room, sitting next to each other on airplane, etc.) has likely already contracted COVID-19 by the time your symptoms start to present. They also have a responsibility to not put anyone at risk and quarantine themselves so that COVID-19 doesn’t further spread to others

Second: Seek testing and, if you need it, medical care.

Wherever you are at, some kind of medical care should be available. If you have active symptoms, get tested as soon as possible. If you are the travel companion of a person with symptoms, wait 6-8 days after your companion’s symptoms started, and then seek testing.

Third: Cooperate with contact tracers.

It’s likely that if you’ve been traveling, you’ve come into contact with others who may now also be infected. Sharing that information with contact tracers is vital to prevent a cluster from growing. The information you share is confidential.  

Fourth: If your test comes back positive, you will need to isolate.

You will need to isolate for at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms (or test date, if you are asymptomatic). It is absolutely vital that you or anyone you have been traveling in close contact with do not get on an airplane, or any other sort of public transportation, during this time.

As you can see, traveling does not just increase your risk of getting sick, it also increases your risk of being stuck away from home while you are sick. This could mean out-of-network medical bills, prolonged hotel stays, and a need to change travel plans, which could be costly. This is not to mention being far from your support networks and trusted medical care. If you are choosing to travel right now, you need to have a plan in place to ensure you can quarantine or isolate wherever you are headed if the need arises.

If you are stuck somewhere and are unable to safely stay where you are, Public Health recommends renting a car and driving home. It will be important that you stop as little as possible, wear a mask whenever you have to get out of a car and try to sanitize anything you touch as you go. Every time you get out of the car, you risk exposing others to the virus—the customers and workers at the gas station or restaurant, housekeeping at the hotel, etc. Again, it’s important to remember that even if you’re the only one in your travel party exhibiting symptoms, it’s likely that your whole travel party is already infected and also contagious. Everyone needs to take the same level of precautions.

COVID-19 has taken a lot of things away from us, travel being one of them. Please, act responsibly so we can take care of each other and get back to normal as soon as possible.


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.


Updates from Skagit’s COVID-19 Test Site

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The COVID-19 drive-through testing site has been in operation since April 2020, and it is time to share some new updates!

Since the site opened at Skagit Valley College, we have performed almost 15,000 COVID-19 tests with the help of 143 volunteers who have put in over 60,000 hours of time. Skagit County is the ONLY county in Washington State who has been able to continuously offer drive-through testing. We are so proud of the work we’ve been able to do so far, and we’re so thankful for our community partners and Skagit Valley College for helping to make this possible.

Skagit County mayors visit the testing site on July 22, 2020 to thank volunteers and learn about the site’s successes.

As we’ve continued to operate the test site, we’ve made some adjustments to help us serve the community better.

Since its inception, we’ve:

  • Expanded our testing criteria to allow anyone who feels they need to be tested to be tested. This has helped us with contact tracing and slowing the spread of COVID-19.
  • Removed the requirement that people have an appointment to get tested, making the test site more accessible.
  • Expanded from two lanes of registration to four.
  • Lowered the testing age for minors from seven to five.

We have also found some things that are continually problematic for visitors since we first blogged about the new site in April, so we’re here to offer some advice and clarification. People visiting the testing site should remember:

  • Skagit County doesn’t pay for any lab bills. Northwest Lab handles our 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. (Don’t worry- we also find this annoying. The Skagit County Commissioners sent letters to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and the Federal Delegation asking that they fix this problem.
  • It is not necessary for people to get repeatedly tested if there is not a new known exposure or symptoms. Recently, we have been seeing people come through weekly, without cause. This is not necessary. If you are following all necessary precautions, and have tested negative previously, there is no reason to get repeatedly tested- it is unnecessary and is a strain on limited resources.
  • The hot weather is proving difficult for many. Unless someone has a known exposure, symptoms or some other time constraint, we highly recommend that an individual wait for cooler days.
  • On wait times- we are consistently seeing our longest wait times on Mondays. Wait times on Mondays’ have been three hours or longer. Unless you have a pressing time constraint, please try to come on another day during the week to spread out the workload.
Wait times on Mondays are consistently higher than the rest of the week. If you can, come on a different day.

As long as there is community need, we will operate a testing site.

We are so thankful for all our community partners, and the great residents of Skagit County for making the testing site such a success!


Drive-Thru Testing

Drive-thru COVID-19 Testing

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Skagit Comes Together  

We know COVID-19 testing is critical in determining how widespread the virus is in the Skagit community. Test results provide the data and information necessary for the wider contact tracing that will strengthen our control of COVID-19 spread. Additionally, this data will help guide us on how to keep ourselves safe when Governor Inslee modifies the Stay Home Stay Heathy order. Thankfully, several Skagit agencies, professionals and an amazing host of volunteers are coming together to provide drive-through testing directly to many Skagitonians.


Can I get tested?

  • Testing is prioritized and currently available only for individuals with:
    • mild symptoms, or
    • a doctor’s recommendation, or
    • with or without symptoms, first responders or healthcare workers.

What if I have more than mild symptoms?

Adults with serious symptoms such as fever higher than 100 degrees, cough, and/or shortness of breath should consult with their health care provider or seek care through one of the respiratory clinics in Skagit County.

When is the testing open and where is it?

Drive-through COVID-19 testing is now open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the east parking lot of Skagit Valley College.

Is there anything I need to do before I go to the testing site?

Review the website before arriving at the testing site. Prior to arriving at the testing site, we encourage you to review the detailed instructions at the Skagit County Website. Please check out the photos and Frequently Asked Questions. Note that you will administer the test yourself.   You will be given a swab to swirl in your nose while you remain in your car.  Nurses will provide instruction. The test should be quick and you shouldn’t experience any discomfort. 

Make sure you meet the requirements – The drive-through site currently serves only: People who have mild COVID-19 symptoms such as such a cough and/or fever, or people whose doctor has recommended them for testing, or any healthcare workers or first responders regardless of symptoms.

Register before coming to the test site. Register by completing a simple registration form online.

Make sure you bring your ID and insurance card to the Testing Site. Bring an ID and a health insurance card for everyone being tested in your vehicle.  If you do not have insurance, the Washington State Public Health Lab will cover the testing cost for uninsured individuals who meet one of the CDC criteria.

Please arrive on time for your appointment.

What do I do when I get there?

Follow Instructions When You Arrive. Staff and volunteers will give you instructions at each tent — Keep your car windows up until directed otherwise.

Will I be tested for antibodies?

No. We are not currently testing for antibodies.

When will I get my results?

Results should be available within 24 to 72 hours.


How is this all made possible?

Drive-through testing is just the latest in a series of local efforts developed to combat COVID-19. Our community is once again rallying in an effort to protect the well-being of all Skagitonians! Testing has been made possible through the leadership, coordination, on-site staffing and support of Skagit County Unified Command, Skagit County Public Health, Skagit Valley College and dozens of volunteers.

Volunteers are a crucial component of drive-through testing.

They have been incredibly generous with their time and effort.  This team includes retired surgeons, physician assistants, EMTs, school nurses and other medical professionals.  The Snohomish County Medical Reserve Corps is a regional program which is actively recruiting volunteers to help in the Skagit COVID-19 response. They particularly need people who can communicate in more than one language.  If you are interested in volunteering, click here: https://snohd.org/221/Medical-Reserve-Corps