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.


Meet the Population health Trust, Part Three

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The Skagit County Population Health Trust (or “Trust”) is gearing up to publish its new Community Health Assessment; a document which provides a framework for what the County and its partners will focus on over the next several years. Trust members have been busily collecting data and community input over the spring and summer in order to identify the top health concerns of our residents.

This Assessment, called the CHA, would not be possible without a diverse group of experts coming together with a shared mission and vision. One of its members, Anneliese Vance-Sherman, has shared her thoughts about the importance of the Trust below.

What health topic are you most committed to improving for Skagitonians?

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Ph.D.

My top priority on the Population Health Trust is improving economic health for Skagit County residents. While economic health is not necessarily what comes to mind first for most people, it is a social determinant of health. Economic stability makes it possible for individuals and families to access stable housing, healthy food, routine health checkups and be able to withstand unexpected stresses.

Economic health takes many forms, and shows up in an interconnected web of priorities. I am specifically committed to working with workforce and education partners to help build a financially stable, skilled, and resilient local workforce. I also work closely with economic development and business to attract, build and retain businesses that support jobs in the community. I am also committed to improving access to affordable housing, supporting mental and behavioral health, and ensuring that all families are able to access the resources they need to raise healthy children and pave a pathway for future success.

Which agency or organization do you represent on the Trust?

I represent the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD). ESD’s mission statement reads “We provide communities with inclusive workforce solutions that promote economic resilience and prosperity.” Economic health and financial security are fundamentally connected to community health. Indeed, steady employment and reliable wages make it possible for individuals and families to access resources that contribute to their well-being and that of the community.

What have you/your agency been up to during COVID?

The Employment Security Department has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 employment crisis since day one, in a number of different capacities.

  • The Unemployment Insurance division has assisted an unprecedented number of Washingtonians seeking unemployment benefits. ESD brought in staff from other parts of the agency and even the national guard to process a tsunami of claims as quickly and effectively as possible, while simultaneously working to identify and block fraudulent applications.
  • The constellation of organizations and service providers that make up the WorkSource system reimagined service delivery during the pandemic. Staff assisted job seekers through online meetings and appointments. Many ESD staff in WorkSource also assisted the Unemployment Insurance division during the peak of the pandemic.
  • ESD launched the Paid Family and Medical Leave program during the pandemic.
  • The division I work for (Labor Market and Economic Analysis) collects, analyzes and publishes labor market information. The quickly-evolving situation brought on by the pandemic required us to think about data differently. Our team focused a great deal of attention to unemployment insurance data both because there was heightened demand for it given the nature of the crisis and because with a weekly cadence for reporting, unemployment insurance data helped us to keep closer tabs on the changing economy. 

I have spent the pandemic innovating with my ESD colleagues over zoom meetings and communicating frequently with partner agencies in the economic and workforce development arenas and the media. My desk has been my kitchen table, and my in-person co-workers included two young scholars attending school remotely, my spouse who was also working from home, two dogs, and two cats.

I also volunteered at the Skagit County COVID-19 testing center; first at the Skagit Valley College campus, then at the fairgrounds. It was humbling to see how many people were proactively getting tested, and rewarding to work alongside so many dedicated community-minded neighbors.

Why do you think the Population Health Trust is important?

If you tug on a single thread in a woven piece of cloth, the cloth will pucker and pull. Tugging on the single thread may even tear and destroy the integrity of the cloth. If you are only aware of or focused on the single thread, it is difficult to anticipate how a single action could impact the whole.

The Population Health Trust relies on deep multi-sector engagement of community leaders and stakeholders with a mission to explore and promote community health in Skagit County. The diverse composition of the Trust makes this possible. Our multi-sector team includes representatives from hospitals and health care providers, community organizations, education, state and local government, law enforcement, and more. Together, we explore issues that impact community health, and proactively work toward creative and sustainable strategies that will improve the well-being of communities throughout Skagit County.

Rather than each pulling on our own thread, we can collectively take a step back, understand the strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and connections within and between our communities, and explore optimal solutions through active and creative dialog that centers and prioritizes a broad understanding of health for Skagit County.


Want more information about the Population Health Trust? Go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/PHTAC.


We’re Open Again: COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination to Begin at Skagit County Fairgrounds on August 30th

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August 25, 2021

[updated August 27, 2021]

Beginning Monday, August 30th, Skagit County will once again be operating a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. Both testing and vaccination will be available to the public free of cost, Monday through Friday from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Note: The Fairgrounds testing and vaccine site will be closed on Monday, September 6th for the Labor Day holiday, and Friday, September 10th due to an event that was pre-scheduled to take place on site.

The decision to reopen the Fairgrounds location was made due to the recent spike in cases in Skagit County, and the accompanying increase in demand for testing services. The latest COVID-19 modeling and surveillance situation report from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) shows current COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions at their highest levels to-date. The high case numbers are likely to continue in the coming month due to the delta variant, putting increased strain on our hospitals and medical staff.

Vaccination is—and will continue to be—the best tool for preventing COVID-19. The County also aims to be proactive in response to this week’s news regarding Pfizer’s full FDA approval for those 16 years and older, as well as the Governor’s recent vaccination requirements for employees of certain sectors. Public Health’s goal is to continue to make vaccines easily accessible for all eligible individuals, particularly as families gear up for the new 2021/2022 school year.

“We understand that this decision to reopen the Fairgrounds site may seem like we are moving backwards to some, but this decision is a sign of our county’s strength and endurance. We are fortunate to be able to respond to rising cases and increasing demand for testing and vaccination by reopening the site. It shows that we can act quickly and effectively when action is needed.”

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

All Public Health testing and vaccine services (except for a select few outreach locations) will now move officially to the Fairgrounds beginning on August 30th. Mobile vaccine clinics this fall will be prioritized based on location, need, and risk, and most people needing low barrier vaccination will be directed to the Fairgrounds clinic or another Skagit provider. 

Those seeking testing or vaccination are asked to come to the South Gate Entrance of the Fairgrounds, located at 501 Taylor St, Mt Vernon, WA 98273. Both testing and vaccination will be operating as a drive-through clinic, though accommodations will be available to those who arrive on foot or who require assistance.

For Testing

Public Health will be using self-swab antigen testing at this location, with results available within 15 minutes. The site can serve anyone 5 years and older for testing. No insurance or appointment will be required. Please note that antigen testing is not intended for pre-travel. Those seeking testing for travel should find a location offering PCR testing.

A full list of testing providers can be found at: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations

For Vaccination

All three currently authorized vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, will be available at the Fairground Vaccination site. Anyone 12 years and older can utilize this site to access a first or second dose of vaccine; no appointment required.

For certain immunocompromised individuals, Public Health will also make third doses of either Pfizer or Moderna available. Please speak with your doctor before seeking a third dose of vaccine. Third doses will not be available for the general public until a determination is made by the FDA, CDC, and Washington Department of Health. For anyone seeking a second or third dose, please bring your Vaccination Card with you when you come to the site.

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.


Taking the Guesswork out of Getting Tested

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Skagit County Public Health has been receiving a lot of calls in recent days from people asking about local COVID-19 testing options. In the past week alone, about 30% of all our incoming calls have been about testing.

Most callers are asking about access and want to know where they can go locally to get tested. In response, we have made sure that our testing options webpage is up-to-date and matches the Washington Department of Health’s list as well.

For a list of local testing options, go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirusTESTsites.htm.

For a full list of regional testing locations, go to: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations

Many callers are also wondering about the differences between testing locations and the types of tests that they offer. While some locations offer both PCR and Antigen testing, many times a location will provide one or the other. With the recent opening of the Canadian border to fully vaccinated Americans, it is not surprising that so many people are wondering about which type of COVID test they should get.

So, here are some answers that may be helpful as you choose between testing options:

When should I get tested?

If you have had close contact exposure to a COVID-19 case or if you are concerned that you may have been exposed and are not experiencing symptoms, it is recommended that you wait 3 to 5 days after that initial exposure to get a diagnostic test. This wait time is due to the incubation period of the virus, the amount of the virus in your body, and the characteristics of diagnostic tests.

Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should get tested as soon as possible. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What types of tests are available?

There are essentially two broad categories of testing:

  1. Antigen test (frequently referred to as a rapid test). This test detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus. It can be done in at a pharmacy, clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital. Turnaround time for results is usually very quick, and in some cases, results can be reported within 15 minutes.
  1. PCR test (may be referred to as a viral or molecular test). PCR testing is considered the “gold standard” in SARS-CoV-2 detection. This test actually detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even those who have no symptoms. The test can also be done at a pharmacy, clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital. Turnaround time for results can be longer (generally in the 2-3 day range) since PCR samples are tested in a lab.

What kind of test should I get?

It is always best to talk with your health care provider about which test is best for you.

If you have symptoms, get the quick antigen test if it is available. If it is positive, you can start isolating right away to protect those around you from the spread of the virus. If the antigen test is negative, you should get retested using a PCR test and be sure to isolate yourself until you receive the result.

For most people who do not have symptoms but want to be tested because they may have been exposed or are traveling soon, the PCR test is the better choice. It can find small amounts of the virus that might be seen before symptoms start.

How accurate are these tests?

PCR tests work by detecting genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 cannot be confused with the genetic material from other viruses, so this kind of test is highly specific. This means it rarely gives a false positive. If you are tested and the test comes back positive, you can be very sure that you are infected with this virus. Antigen tests are also very specific and rarely give a false positive.

Unfortunately, neither test is equally sensitive. If the specimen collection is not done perfectly, or if you are in an early stage of infection or already partially recovered, a sample might not contain enough viral material to come back positive. This is why timing is key for getting a positive test result. If you have been potentially exposed to COVID-19 but are not sick, it is best to get tested at least 5 days after the last potential exposure.

Because false negative results on diagnostic tests can happen, a negative result should not give you a sense of false security. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, it is safest to assume you are infected and self-quarantine.

What test do I need to travel?

While the most universally accepted COVID-19 test is a molecular PCR test, some destinations may accept antigen tests as well. It is best to check with your destination, airline (etc.) when planning your trip.

If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel domestically or internationally, you will be required to get tested 1-3 days before your trip. Those who are fully vaccinated do not require testing before domestic travel, however most international destinations will still require pre-travel testing.

For those traveling, the best local PCR testing option is:

I’m looking for a low barrier testing option in Skagit County. Where should I go?

Skagit County Public Health is now offering free antigen testing at our Wednesday evening vaccine clinics at the Skagit County Administrative Building (700 S 2nd Street Mount Vernon, WA 98273) from 6-9pm.

We accept anyone 5 years and older; no appointment or insurance required. Test results are available in 15 minutes.

Note: This is NOT intended as a pre-travel test.

Can I use an At-Home Test Kit?

If you need to be tested for COVID-19 and can’t get tested by a healthcare provider or another testing location, you can consider using either a self-collection kit or a self-test that can be performed at home or anywhere else. Sometimes a self-test is also called a “home test” or an “at-home test.”

The following At-Home Tests are recommended by the Washington Department of Health (DOH):

When using an At-Home Test, please keep the following in mind:

  • All instructions for performing the test must be followed.
  • Self-tests can be used by anyone who is symptomatic regardless of their vaccination status.
  • Unvaccinated persons with no COVID-19 symptoms can also use self-tests, especially if they were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • If an individual tests positive, they should isolate and inform any close contacts.

Those who test positive are asked to call the WA State COVID-19 Hotline at 1-800-525-0127 as soon as possible. The hotline is open from 6 AM to 10 PM Monday, and 6 AM to 6 PM Tuesday – Friday (and observed state holidays). Language assistance is available.

What is an Antibody test?

An antibody test looks for the body’s response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It is a blood test that is good at determining if you had the disease, but not good for determining if you have the disease. As such, antibody tests should not be used to diagnose the virus.

While there is evidence that antibodies may provide protection from infection, that has not yet been proven and therefore results of an antibody test should not be used to determine immunity.

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For more information about testing and for frequently asked questions, go to the WA DOH COVID-19 Testing webpage: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19.


Skagitonians Urged to Get Vaccinated; Wear Masks in Light of Increasing COVID-19 Cases

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August 5, 2021

Skagit County Public Health is extremely concerned about the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations being seen locally and across the state due to the spread of the delta variant. This concern is felt at the state level, as well, with the Washington State Department of Health releasing a statement on Tuesday, urging Washingtonians to get vaccinated immediately and wear masks in indoor spaces to combat the variant’s spread.

In the last 7 days alone, Skagit County has reported 90 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10 new COVID-19 hospitalizations. State-wide hospital occupancy is at the highest levels seen to date in 2021 due to increased COVID-19 transmission and patient demand.

The highly contagious delta variant, which is a more transmissible strain of the virus, is now the dominant strain in Washington making up roughly 76% of sequenced cases. While no vaccines are 100% effective, it is proven COVID-19 vaccines provide strong protection against variants, prevent severe illness and hospitalization, and lower your risk of death. 

More than 94% of all cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in Washingtonians 12 years of age and older can be attributed to people who have not been fully vaccinated. In Skagit County, between February 1 and July 30, 2021, 95.3% of all PCR-confirmed COVID-19 cases were in unvaccinated individuals. During this same period, 100% of deaths due to COVID-19 were in unvaccinated individuals.

We are pleading with Skagitonians to get vaccinated now” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director.Getting vaccinated will give our community a chance to breathe again. It will keep our hospitals operating the way they need to be during cold and flu season. It will ensure the safety of our children as they go back to school in the fall. If there was ever a time to get vaccinated, it is absolutely right now.

These vaccines are a medical marvel, and I would confidently recommend to every family member, friend and patient I have to take advantage and get vaccinated. The vaccines are saving lives,” said Dr. Howard Leibrand, Skagit’s Health Officer. “I am also recommending that everyone return to masking in indoor public spaces. This is in light of emerging information about the delta variant and will help protect yourself, kids under 12, immunocompromised people and others who may be unvaccinated. We need to keep this disease under relative control to prevent deaths and hospital overwhelm.”

Getting vaccinated is a very personal choice, and also an extremely important one. If someone has questions or concerns about the vaccine, it is recommended that they speak with their doctor or visit the WA DOH Frequently Asked Questions page for fact-based information. To find a list of vaccine providers near you, go to: https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/ or call Public Health at (360) 416-1500.

Lastly, with case numbers on the rise and delta circulating in Skagit County, Public Health wants to remind everyone that getting tested is still essential in our fight against the spread of COVID-19.

Whether you have been vaccinated or not, if you’ve been around someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms.

For information about when you should get tested (for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals) and for current testing locations, read our blog post: https://bit.ly/3Aa2v8f. For a list of testing providers, go to: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.


COVID-19 Testing: It’s Still Essential

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We are now at slightly over 65% of all eligible residents in Skagit County having received at least one vaccine dose. It is exciting to think of how far we’ve come in our vaccination journey since December of 2020. Even still, we have a long way to go before COVID-19 is no longer of concern. With the rapid spread of the Delta variant throughout Washington State and rising case counts and hospitalization rates this past month, we know that we are not yet in the clear.

In the latter half of July, Skagit County Public Health was seeing daily new case counts repeatedly in the tens and twenties; a high not seen since our last wave in April of 2021.This increase is likely due to multiple factors, including increased spread of the more contagious Delta variant, increased social gatherings and summer-time travel, and businesses reopening—all happening with fewer people wearing masks.

Skagit County COVID-19 case trends from the WA DOH dashboard. https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard

While the conversation has been primarily focused on vaccination of late, it is important to remember that getting tested for COVID-19 is a tool that we can, and should, use if/when exposed to COVID-19 or when traveling. So, let’s revisit the matter of testing…

Testing is essential.

Anyone with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested as early as possible regardless of vaccination status. With allergy season waning and flu season ramping up, it is no doubt that you’ll feel a tickle or two, or develop a cough at some point this fall. When you know you’ve been exposed; when you feel a little under the weather: Take precaution. GET TESTED!

Not sure if your sniffles warrant a COVID test or not? Use the Coronavirus Self-Checker here.

If you have been exposed to COVID-19.

Whether you have been vaccinated or not, if you’ve been around someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms.

You should continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days following an exposure, and if you develop symptoms, isolate immediately and consider re-testing. If your test is positive, you should isolate for 10 days.

For unvaccinated folks, it is important to note that quarantine guidelines have not changed. If you are unvaccinated and are exposed, along with getting tested, you will need to quarantine for 14 days—even if you do not have symptoms.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, get tested for COVID-19 at a testing location. For a full list of locations, go to: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Note: If you are in quarantine or isolation and you find yourself in need of assistance with getting supplies or food, call Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Testing and Travel

Some restrictions around travel have lifted recently, but it is important to remember that precautions must still be taken. After all, travel increases the chance of contracting and spreading COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend that folks limit travel if unvaccinated, and that all people, regardless of vaccination status, use extra precaution if they do travel.

Here are some important things to keep in mind when making travel plans within the United States:

  • Refrain from travel if not fully vaccinated. The CDC recommends that those who are not fully vaccinated delay their travel. If you must travel, follow safer travel options including a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. If you are traveling with children who cannot get vaccinated at this time, follow recommendations for unvaccinated people and choose safer travel options. 
  • Testing before travel. People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States. Unvaccinated individuals must plan to get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before their trip.
  • Check travel guidance before you go. While most states no longer require a test, travel restrictions vary by state based on vaccination status and are subject to change at any time. Check state and local guidance before you make concrete plans.
  • Wear a mask during travel. Masks are required indoors in travel hubs and on public transportation regardless of vaccination status. Follow all state and local recommendations and requirements for mask wearing and social distancing.
  • After-travel requirements for fully vaccinated. It is not required to get tested before or after you travel if you are fully vaccinated, but you should still follow all other travel recommendations, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, and get tested if you develop symptoms. During travel, if you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms, and wear a mask in indoor public settings until your test result is negative.
  • After-travel requirement for unvaccinated. Those who are unvaccinated must get a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. They should also isolate and monitor for symptoms for a full 14 days and seek repeat testing if symptoms develop. See CDC guidance for unvaccinated travelers.

For international travel:

Those who are traveling internationally should check requirements of their destination country as they may require a test prior to arrival even for vaccinated people. See CDC guidance and testing requirements for international travel.

Where to get tested.

Many doctor’s offices are offering COVID-19 testing to their patients. Contact your healthcare provider first to see if they offer COVID-19 testing. If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest tightness, consider going to an emergency department nearby.

For a list of testing locations in your area, go to: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/TestingforCOVID19/TestingLocations.  

At-home tests are also now available for purchase. Check out the following links for at-home testing options:

What to bring with you when getting tested.

  • A photo ID with your date of birth. Testing is available regardless of your citizenship/immigration status.
  • Your insurance card if you have insurance. If you have private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid you must provide this information and the lab will bill them. You will not be charged for the test. You do not need to have insurance or a doctor’s note to schedule a test.
  • A well-fitted mask. As healthcare facilities, masks are required at all indoor and outdoor testing locations regardless of vaccination status.

How and when to get results.

  • Most results typically come by email, text, or through the provider’s chosen online portal. Check with your testing provider about how results will be sent.
  • Results are usually available within 48 hours, though it may take up to 72 hours.

If you test positive.

If you test positive, expect a call from Public Health. Our staff is still actively following up on all confirmed cases and will need to ask you some questions. If you receive the call, it is imperative that you pick up and help us with our contract tracing. Thank you!


Meet the Population Health Trust, Part two

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Now that Washington State has reopened and our vaccination numbers continue to climb, we will begin to see many changes here in Skagit County. For our businesses, schools, and community organizations, these changes are both exciting and (maybe) a bit overwhelming.

The Skagit Valley Family YMCA experienced the great highs and great lows of the pandemic. Its staff answered the call to action when COVID-19 drive-through testing was in dire need, and again when mass vaccinations began in Skagit County at the Fairgrounds. The YMCA itself closed, then opened partially; ebbing and flowing with the changing tides of the pandemic. Staff had to adapt, modify, and innovate on a dime in order to continue serving local individuals and families. Now that the economy is reopen, staff will once again need to evaluate what this change means for their organization.

To continue introducing Population Health Trust members, we thought that now would be a perfect time to highlight the CEO of the Skagit Valley YMCA, Dean Snider. Dean has been a member of the Trust since January of 2020, right before the pandemic hit. We asked him some questions about COVID, the Trust, and the joint mission of these two entities: Building a better and healthier community. Here is what Dean had to say.

Which agency or organization do you represent on the Trust?

I represent the Skagit Valley Family YMCA. Our Y has served the people of Skagit since 1911 with ‘Building Community’ as our Cause. We support vulnerable youth populations at Oasis and provide water safety education and swimming proficiency for countless youth. In addition, we support families with subsidized licensed and educational childcare throughout the county, and our Hoag Road and Bakerview facilities support healthy living across many programs.

What health topic are you most committed to improving for Skagitonians? 

I think the most important role of the Y is to protect and preserve health for the most vulnerable of our community’s populations. We engage Skagitonians from the earliest years of life to seniors. One of the greatest observed needs in our community, as we emerge from the pandemic, is for services supporting mental health. 

The Skagit Y is exploring how we might be able to step into this gap and offer these much-needed services. With the Oasis Teen Shelter as our launching pad, we hope to build a Y clinical mental health service that is additive to our current Skagit offerings and will begin by serving vulnerable youth. We are currently reaching out to key stakeholders in the community to seek guidance and more fully understand the need as we move forward with our preparations. We welcome all thoughts and feedback.

What have you/your agency been up to during COVID?

The pandemic hit our Y hard. The forced closureof our Hoag Road and Bakerview facilities resulted in about 75% loss in our membership; an understandable savings for families experiencing uncertain financial times. We are welcoming members back now as the restrictions have been lifted, and we are growing back our staff. We have, however, a long way to go toward recovery.

Dean Snider, CEO, Skagit Valley Family YMCA

During the pandemic and in partnership with Community Action, we used the Hoag facility to provide showers for homeless adults and, together with the Burlington Edison School District, provide school-age childcare for essential and emergency workers early in the pandemic.

Last fall, our school-age programs partnered with MVSD, B-ESD, and ASD to provide all-day classrooms and care and assistance in the virtual learning environment. We were able to add our sports program staff to provide much-needed physical activity for students early in 2021. I am proud of our childcare team, who endured this difficult year with courage and grace as they served families under these difficult circumstances. I am also proud that we were able to partner with Children of the Valley to support two additional classrooms housed at their site in Mount Vernon. Additionally, our Early Learning Centers remained open, focusing on essential workers altering class sizes, safety, and cleaning protocols to keep children and families safe.

At Oasis, we continued to serve vulnerable youth throughout the pandemic, which was only made possible through community and individual contributions to support our emergency shelter, outreach, and drop-in center. We continue to seek financial assisdtance as we protect these young people.

Why is the Population Health Trust important?

The impact of the collective is far greater than any single entity can accomplish on its own. The Trust is this collective in Skagit with entities and organizations committed togerther to build a better and healthier community. 

The Trust is essential, and we at the Y are honored to participate together with our Trust colleagues to impact our community. The mission of the Skagit Y is to create positive community change through relationships by empowering the mind, body, and spirit of ALL. Partnering with the Trust is in perfect alignment with this mission.

For more information about the Skagit Valley Family YMCA, visit their website or call (360) 336-9622.


Seasonal Allergies or COVID-19?

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There’s nothing better after a long winter than the first few glimpses of spring. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom, and some days it takes everything in me to remain seated inside at my desk. But for those with allergies, springtime isn’t always that welcome, and blooming flowers don’t call to them like they do for me.

This is our second spring during COVID-19, and while we’ve learned a lot, there are still questions. Is my sinus headache a sign of seasonal allergies or could it possibly be COVID? Is my toddler’s runny nose cause for concern or just your run-of-the-mill springtime sniffles?

If you’re feeling a bit under the weather and are asking yourself these questions, here are a few more to contemplate:

What are your symptoms?

The CDC has a helpful diagram (to the right) that shows the differences and similarities between COVID-19 and allergy symptoms. While there are many symptoms that the two share, there are some symptoms that are very obviously one or the other.

Sneezing, by itself, is uncommon with COVID-19. If someone does have COVID-19, and they are experiencing sneezing, there are typically other symptoms involved. There are also some COVID-19 symptoms that would never be caused by allergies. These include fever, severe fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.

Have you had allergies in the past?

If you regularly deal with springtime allergies, and you’re starting to feel the typical symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes), allergies may be the issue. These aren’t the most common symptoms associated with COVID-19, although sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes can sometimes occur.

When in doubt, get tested. Especially if your allergies feel different than usual, if your symptoms progress or you begin to get sicker, or if you’ve had a potential exposure to COVID-19.

How severe are your symptoms?

In general, seasonal allergy symptoms remain relatively consistent but may get worse when pollen counts are high. If you notice that your symptoms are getting progressively worse, or if you develop different symptoms, you’re probably not dealing with allergies.

Do allergy medications help? 

If you take allergy medication and it seems to relieve your symptoms, you probably don’t have COVID-19. Even still, it is important to continue to monitor your symptoms.

Could you have been exposed to COVID-19?

If there is a chance that you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 recently and you begin to experience symptoms, it is important to get tested right away. While uncommon, someone can develop mild allergy-like symptoms first before the illness progresses. COVID-19 symptoms generally appear two to 14 days after exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

You are concerned that you may have COVID-19. Where can you get tested?

If you think you may have COVID-19, or if you decide to be extra cautious, visit here for a list of testing locations near you. If you have a health care provider, you may also be able to call them for an appointment. 

Your symptoms are getting worse. When should you seek help?

Look for emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If you or a loved one are showing any of the signs below, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

How can you prevent allergies?

The easiest way to prevent seasonal allergies is to avoid your known “triggers.” For example, if you are allergic to pollen, stay inside with your windows and doors closed during particularly pollen-heavy days.

Interestingly enough, wearing your trusted face mask (you know…the one that slows the spread of COVID-19) might also provide a bit of protection against seasonal allergies. And be sure to wash your mask in between wears since a used mask might carry pollen particles!


Reflections: A Year Of COVID-19

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Dr. Howard Leibrand, Skagit County Health Officer 

Today is the first of several heavy anniversaries for Skagit County. On March 10, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Skagit County. On March 13, Governor Inslee closed schools in order to protect students, staff and the community at large from COVID-19 spread. On March 17, Skagit County first became aware of the Chorale outbreak, which would lead to the loss of 2 Skagitonians- some of the first known casualties from COVID-19 in Washington State. On March 23, the first ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy order’ began.

Since then, we’ve learned a lot. The science has come a long way- we now know how effective masks are at preventing spread of COVID-19; we know that surface transmission is pretty unlikely (so wiping down groceries isn’t really necessary), and we have three vaccines that are highly effective against the wild coronavirus.  All of this is a testament to human innovation and resiliency. 

We’ve also worked incredibly hard. Skagit Public Health, Department of Emergency Management and Unified Command have put in long, hard hours and accomplished so much. Skagit operated the longest continuously running COVID-19 mass testing site and has opened one of the largest mass vaccination clinics in the region. This clinic has administered over 6,000 doses of vaccine so far and has the capacity to do up to 940 total doses per day.

Residents and friends of Skagit County have also made huge efforts. Beyond everyone taking precautions to keep the community safe, individuals have donated thousands of masks, volunteered over 14,000 hours at the test site, vaccine clinic and staffing the hotline, and given $700,000 dollars to the Skagit Community Foundation’s COVID-19 fund which helped families in need through this difficult year. I am continuously in awe of my colleagues and the community that I serve. 

Unfortunately, the work is not yet over. While I look forward to further reopening of Skagit businesses and activities, now is not the time to let up on our basic precautionary measures. The B117 variant was confirmed in Skagit County two weeks ago, and it is likely that this more contagious version of the virus is circulating at large in the Community. Because it spreads more quickly and easily, if we don’t continue to observe precautions we risk a large fourth wave of illness. We also risk the B117 or the wild virus potentially mutating further and lessening vaccine efficacy; something that we have seen early evidence of in places like Brazil (P1) and South Africa (B1351). I encourage the community to double down their precautionary efforts. Wear masks- two if you can- at all times in public or during private social gatherings. Stay six feet apart from anyone you don’t live with, continue to practice good hand hygiene and please, stay home if you feel ill. 

I promise you, spring is coming. We will further reopen, and learn to live with COVID-19. You will see loved ones in unmasked social gatherings again. Vaccines will protect us. But we cannot get there without everyone’s help. Over the last year, I’ve said this many times but it bears repeating: wear a mask, wash your hands, and stay safe, stay healthy. 


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.