Say Yes! COVID Test Program Offers Free, Rapid, Self-Administered Tests to Skagit County Residents to Reduce COVID-19 Spread

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Updated 12/29/21: Due to overwhelming demand, there are no longer free test kits available through the Say Yes COVID Test program.

December 20, 2021

The Say Yes! COVID Test At-Home Testing Challenge provides households with access to free, rapid COVID-19 test kits that they can self-administer and is now available in Skagit County. Say Yes! COVID Test encourages residents to use the tests to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep the community healthy. Beginning today, Skagit County residents can order testing kits online for free home delivery. This service will be available while supplies last. There is a 4 kit (8 total tests) maximum per household.

“Children, adolescents, and adults who are not yet fully vaccinated or at high risk need more accessible tools to inform their choices. Free, rapid, self-administered testing will give community members one more way to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Anyone can just swab the front of their nose and perform this test in the privacy of their home and have results within 10 minutes.” 

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

The Say Yes! COVID Test initiative is a cooperative effort from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), community partners, test manufacturer Quidel, and healthcare technology company CareEvolution. State and local health departments help connect the initiative to local community members. Researchers at NIH-supported academic health centers will work with CDC and NIH to use publicly available data to determine if the local testing efforts slowed the spread of COVID-19.

Rapid, self-administered testing has potential to disrupt the spread of COVID-19 that occurs when people are infected, but don’t yet have symptoms. Testing on a routine basis offers the best chance of identifying COVID-19 infection and isolating early. The COVID-19 tests are authorized for use by the FDA, provided free of charge, and the entire testing process can be managed privately at home. Tests require a quick swab inside each nostril, and results can be read in just 10 minutes. A free, private, and easy-to-use mobile application is available to help individuals in every step of test taking. The maker of the tests, Quidel, is the same company that made the first rapid flu tests used by doctors’ offices in the United States. 

Individuals who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine or who have the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19, such as people working or going to school outside the home, are ideal candidates for participation, but anyone over the age of 2 is welcome to participate. The testing challenge lasts for at least a month, or until all tests are used. Test users who choose to use the companion digital assistant to record and share their test results and complete a survey can earn up to $35 in gift cards.

Skagit County residents can visit the website SayYesCovidHomeTest.org to order test kits for doorstep delivery.

If you have questions about the Say Yes! COVID Test project, use the links above, or call Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Skagit County Health Officer Releases Statement on Omicron Variant Reports in Skagit County

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December 16, 2021

Today, Skagit County’s Health Officer, Dr. Howard Leibrand, issued the following statement:

This afternoon, we received confirmation from the Washington State Department of Health that the Omicron variant has been identified in three Skagit County residents. Omicron is circulating in our community, and we expect that infections from this new variant will continue to increase over the next several weeks.

It can be unsettling to hear news of a new variant, particularly as we approach the holidays. There are still things that we do not know. Early reports have suggested that the Omicron variant may re-infect people who have since recovered from COVID-19 at greater rates than with other variants. There is also some concern about whether vaccines and antibody treatments will work effectively against Omicron, but the CDC expects that current vaccines will remain effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.

What we do know is that we have the necessary tools to slow the transmission rate of omicron in our community: the layered protection of vaccination, boosters, masking, and testing.

We know what works to prevent the spread of viruses that cause COVID-19, including: wearing high-quality and well-fitting face masks or respirators; improving indoor air quality through ventilation; avoiding crowded indoor spaces and physical distancing; and getting tested and staying home when sick or exposed. These precautions, layered with vaccination and getting a booster dose when eligible, are the best and most important things we can do to protect against COVID-19 and the spread of Omicron.

New variants are unfortunate, but expected, especially when there are still large percentages of our population who are unvaccinated. This variant may pose new, or different challenges that will require a quick response by Public Health and our healthcare partners. But compared to the early days of the pandemic, we know much more about COVID-19 now, and we’re better prepared to respond.  

Until we know more, every person should take steps to reduce their risk for contracting or spreading COVID-19. Remember: your choices can have positive or negative consequences. When making decisions about travel or gathering this holiday, please use all necessary precautions to keep yourself, your loved ones, and your community safe.  

I wish you all a happy—and safe—holiday season!


Safer Ways to Celebrate Holidays

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Getting together with friends and extended family during the holiday season is a tradition for many folks. Though we have seen COVID-19 cases spike after nearly every holiday since the beginning of the pandemic, this doesn’t necessarily mean that people can’t—or shouldn’t—get together. There are several ways to enjoy holiday traditions, protect the health of your loved ones, and keep COVID-19 from spreading. Read on for 5 tips as you plan for the holidays this December…

#1: If you are not yet vaccinated, now is the time to do so.

With delta still spreading, and the emergence of the new omicron variant, the recommendation is still to get vaccinated as soon as possible. At this time, this includes anyone 5 years and older. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, as well as those who are not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children.

If you’re eligible for a vaccine booster, it’s a good idea to get it before the holidays. To find a vaccine provider near you, go to Vaccine Finder or call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127, then press #.

#2: Wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth if you are in indoor public settings.

This includes everyone five years and older, regardless of vaccination status. In Washington State, the statewide mask mandate requires that people wear their mask when in indoor public spaces, including malls, grocery stores, and chain outlets. It also applies to certain outdoor settings, including large events. Remember: Do NOT put a mask on children younger than 2 years old.

#3: Gather with safety in mind.

If you are gathering with a group of people from multiple households and potentially from different parts of the country, you should consider additional precautions (e.g., avoiding crowded indoor spaces before travel, taking a test) in advance of gathering to further reduce risk.

This is especially true if some people are not vaccinated, including young children. If gathering with folks who are not vaccinated, the safest thing to do is for everyone to mask up, and to keep gatherings outside when possible. Proper ventilation and avoiding crowded spaces will be key in these types of scenarios.

People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated and have received an additional dose. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask.

#4: Know when to stay home.

If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering. Period. Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19. For a list of testing providers in Skagit County, go to our website here.

#5: Travel safely.

If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family. The CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow the CDC’s domestic travel or international travel recommendations for unvaccinated people. If you will be traveling in a group or family with unvaccinated people, choose safer travel options.

Also, everyone—even people who are fully vaccinated—must wear a mask on public transportation and follow international travel recommendations.


The 5 tips above are nothing new, but they are tried and true. By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends. Happy holidays, everyone!


Public Health Reminder: Masking Still Critical this Holiday Season

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December 1, 2021

The holidays are upon us. As Skagitonians are out and about preparing for holiday festivities, please remember: masking is still critical—and required—in all indoor public spaces AND certain outdoor settings. This includes all local businesses, chain outlets, and grocery stores.

The statewide mask mandate requires that all people five years of age and older must wear a mask in public indoor settings and at large, outdoor events with 500 or more attendees, including sporting events, fairs, parades, and concerts, regardless of vaccination status.

There are some exceptions to the mask requirement, including children under five years of age, and people with a medical or mental health condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask. Children between 2 and 4 years of age can, and are encouraged, to wear a mask under close adult supervision. Children under 2 should not wear masks.

Face masks remain an important tool in preventing transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Though Skagit County is just over 60 percent fully vaccinated, there are still many folks, including young children, who are not protected.

Science has shown that masking works. COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets when infected people—many of whom do not exhibit COVID-19 symptoms—cough, sneeze, or talk. Evidence shows that wearing a mask reduces an infected person’s chance of spreading the infection to others.

Furthermore, it is imperative that people wear their mask properly. To be effective, a mask must cover the nose, mouth, and chin, and must fit snuggly against one’s face. For tips on getting the best fit, visit the CDC’s mask guidance webpage here.

Wearing a mask when out in the community is an easy way to show your neighbors and favorite businesses that you care this holiday season. Please help our local businesses operate smoothly this season by following all state and local rules and guidance.

Another great way to ensure that things run smoothly for the holidays is by taking precautions at home. If unvaccinated, please remember that masking is still recommended when gathering with non-household members, especially when indoors. COVID-19 can easily spread in these types of environments, causing folks to miss out on school, work, and fun, festive holiday events.

Have a wonderful holiday season, Skagit! Be well!


Why are Skagit County’s COVID-19 case rates so different?

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If you’ve been wondering why Skagit County’s case rates are so high and aren’t declining like some other counties in the state, you’re not alone! We’ve gotten many questions recently about why Skagit seems to be so different compared to our neighboring counties. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple—there are several factors at play. Here are some things to consider:

1. Skagit County’s population is different! We are more rural and agricultural than our neighbors to the north and south. Many of our residents do not work from home, meaning that folks are out in the community more. We also have many large households here in Skagit, which allows for more household transmissions.

2. Our vaccination rates are still behind our neighbors—especially King county. Populations with a higher percentage of fully vaccinated residents will see lower case rates. Until we have a higher vaccination percentage, COVID-19 will continue to spread.

3.  Many of our residents are still not taking proper precautions. Masking and limiting gatherings can help to keep disease transmission lower. We are currently seeing the results of Halloween weekend, with a greater number of new cases over the past week or so.

Thankfully, it isn’t all bad. There are some good things at play too when considering our case numbers.

1. Skagit County residents continue to take testing seriously! Folks are great at getting tested when not feeling well or when potentially exposed to the virus. We know this by looking at our positivity rates at the Fairgrounds testing site. Since we reopened in August, we’re averaging about 11-12% percent positivity—this means that slightly more than 1 in every 10 people who come to the fairgrounds on a given day are testing positive.

2. Expanding on this—Skagit County has low-barrier testing options that many of our neighboring counties do not! This means that more people can access a test when they need it.

3. Public Health, when conducting case investigation, recommends that positive cases have other members in their households tested. Since we know that COVID-19 can spread easily within one’s home, there is a good likelihood that other members of the home will also test positive.

4. Our partners—schools, employers, long-term care facilities—are really great at doing what they need to do, including following testing guidance from Public Health and the Washington Department of Health.

Lastly, it is important to note that while our case rates are high right now for us, Skagit never saw the incredible spikes in cases that many of our comparable counties saw earlier this year. Yes, our numbers are high, but our trends have always been much smoother than counties in Eastern Washington, for example.


Case and hospitalization data can be found anytime on our website or on the State Data Dashboard


The Flu Vaccine: It’s not too late to get yours!

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Flu activity was kept low last season because of vaccination, social distancing, masking, school closures and limited travel. Now that many pandemic restrictions have been lifted, the flu has a much higher chance of spreading.

The timing of flu is difficult to predict and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season. So, while we haven’t seen much flu activity yet, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t prepare. Experts have warned that reduced population immunity due to lack of flu virus activity since March 2020 could result in an early, and possibly severe flu season. 

Thankfully, there is something that we can all do to prevent illness and hospitalizations caused by flu. We can get vaccinated!

What is the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and seasonal flu (most often just called “flu”) is caused by infection with one of many influenza viruses that spread annually among people.

In general, COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. Compared with people who have flu infections, people who have COVID-19 can take longer to show symptoms and be contagious for longer. This FAQ page compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.

So, do I need to get the flu vaccine this year?

Yes! Getting a flu vaccine is an essential part of protecting yours, and your family’s health every year. Yearly flu vaccination is recommended for everyone aged six months and older. It is also important to note that certain people are at greater risk, including:

  • Young kids (especially kids under five years).
  • People 65 years and older.
  • People of any age with certain health conditions like asthma and lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease, neurological conditions, kidney or liver disorders, cancer, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia.
  • Pregnant women.
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
  • Health care professionals.
  • Household contacts and caregivers of kids, especially those in contact with babies under six months of age who are too young to get seasonal flu vaccine.
  • Household contacts and caregivers of people in any of the above groups.

Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?

Flu vaccines are not designed to protect against COVID-19. Flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death in addition to other important benefits.

Likewise, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19, but those vaccines are not designed to protect against flu. Visit the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions page for information about COVID-19 vaccinations.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine at the same time?

Yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same time!

Even though both vaccines can be given at the same visit, people should follow the recommended schedule for either vaccine: If you haven’t gotten your currently recommended doses of COVID-19 vaccine, get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can, and ideally, get a flu vaccine by the end of October. To find a COVID-19 vaccine provider, go here.

While limited data exist on giving COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines, including flu vaccines, experience with giving other vaccines together has shown the way our bodies develop protection and possible side effects are generally similar whether vaccines are given alone or with other vaccines. If you have concerns about getting both vaccines at the same time, you should speak with a health care provider.

If I get sick with the flu, am I at greater risk of contracting COVID-19?

Because COVID-19 is still a relatively new illness, there is little information about how flu illness might affect a person’s risk of getting COVID-19. We do know that people can be infected with flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time.

Getting a flu vaccine is the best protection against flu and its potentially serious complications, and getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19.

When is the best time to get your influenza vaccine?

September and October are generally good times to be vaccinated. Ideally, everyone should be vaccinated by the end of October.

Adults, especially those older than 65, should not get vaccinated early (in July or August) because protection in this group may decrease over time. Children can get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available—even if this is in July or August. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have questions about the flu shot.

While flu activity may be low right now, it could begin increasing at any time. Remember, after you are vaccinated, your body takes about two weeks to develop antibodies that protect against the flu.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

If you don’t have a health care professional you regularly see, you can find flu vaccines at many places, including your local pharmacy!

Looking for a vaccine for your child? Talk to their pediatrician or call the Help Me Grow Washington Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

How much does a flu shot cost?

In Washington, all children under age 19 get flu vaccines and other recommended vaccines at no cost. That said, a provider may charge an administration fee to give the vaccine. You can ask them to waive this fee if you cannot afford it.

Uninsured and over 18 years old? The WA Department of Health is collaborating with Safeway Inc. and Albertsons Companies LLC to offer free flu vaccines across the state. Check here for a list of participating locations.  

Note: Most insurance plans, including Medicare part B, cover the cost of flu vaccine for adults.

I got the flu shot. What else can I do to prevent getting sick?

The flu vaccine keeps many people from getting the flu, however some people who get the flu vaccine may still get sick. If you do get the flu, the vaccine will help reduce the severity of your illness. It will also lower your chance of needing to go to the hospital.

Increase your protection by covering your coughs and sneezes, washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and staying home when you’re sick. Cloth face coverings or masks can also help prevent the spread of the flu—just like with COVID-19!

If you do feel sick with flu, it’s important to know when to stay home and when to get emergency medical care. When in doubt, check with your doctor.


Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2021-2022.htm#what-virus  
https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Flu


Skagit County Health Officer Releases Statement on High Case Rates & Guidance for the Holidays

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October 25, 2021

Today, Skagit County’s Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand issued the following statement:

Our COVID-19 case rates are increasing once again. The WA DOH data dashboard shows our 14-day rate still hovering in the range of 600 per 100,000 population. At present, Skagit is at 552.7 per 100k over the last 14 days, with a hospitalization rate of 12.3 COVID patients per 100k over the last seven days.

Though cases may be declining in other parts of our state, we are not seeing a sustained decrease in cases here in Skagit. To put it mildly, this is not what Public Health—or our exhausted healthcare workers—have been hoping for.

Reported daily case counts are still extremely high. Local data shows that we have had an average of 59 new test positive cases per day reported to Public Health over the past 14 days, from October 8 through October 21. 

It’s very simple: to recover from this most recent wave and prevent needless deaths, people need to get vaccinated as soon as possible. And with Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters now available, we are encouraging each and every person to get their booster when eligible to do so.

Unfortunately, we know that there are folks in our community who are still reluctant to get vaccinated. Though our county’s population is 58.2 percent fully vaccinated now, this means that there is still nearly 40 percent of our residents, including children 11 and younger who aren’t yet eligible, who do not have protection against the virus.

Getting vaccinated not only protects you individually, but it slows spread and protects other vulnerable individuals. For our children’s sake—we are pleading with people to get vaccinated today.

Skagitonians need to continue to be stringent about masking up and limiting social gatherings, especially with the holidays coming up. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have clearly seen spikes in cases after holidays. We cannot afford a spike right now with how high our case and hospitalization rates are at this time.

If you are already vaccinated, please continue to use discretion. If gathering with family or friends who are unvaccinated, use extra precaution—or do not gather at all. Avoid gathering indoors and in poorly ventilated areas. Wear a mask when gathering with folks who are considered higher risk.

If unvaccinated, gathering with others this holiday season is extremely risky. Please know that you are taking a very poor gamble, and putting yours, and your loved ones, health and safety on the line. From state data, we know that unvaccinated 12-64 year-olds are 5-6 times more likely to get COVID-19 compared to those who are fully vaccinated, and 19 times more likely to end up in the hospital with serious health complications. The facts are clear.

Lastly, no one experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms should be attending any group events, going to in-person work, or in-person school. People with symptoms need to stay home until they can get tested and recover from symptoms. If we do not practice these measures, COVID-19 will continue to spread at alarming rates in our community—causing needless long-term illness, death, and disruption to all our daily lives.

We can still have a wonderful holiday season, and we can always turn around our case trends. Please do everything that you can to help your community in this fight.


Dr. Leibrand has served as Skagit’s Health Officer since 1989.


Gathering safely this Holiday Season

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Although Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and other celebrations are sure to look a little different again this year, things aren’t looking nearly as ominous as they were in 2020! On Friday, October 15th, the CDC updated its guidance for safe Holiday Celebrations. This year’s holiday guidance ensures that with a few precautions, you’ll still be able to gather with family.

So, what is considered safe, and what could be a bit risky this winter? Here’s how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe this holiday season, based on recommendations from the CDC.

Most importantly…Get vaccinated!

Because many generations tend to gather to celebrate holidays, the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible.

At this time, there is still a percentage of our population that is unvaccinated, including children 11 and younger who aren’t yet eligible. By getting vaccinated, you are doing your part to keep these family members and friends safe.

If you haven’t yet gotten your vaccine, there is still time before Thanksgiving! To be fully vaccinated by Thursday, November 25th, you’ll need to get your first dose of Pfizer by Thursday, October 18th. Want to go the single-dose route? Get your Jonson & Johnson vaccine by November 11th.

To find a vaccine near you, go to https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/.

Outdoors is best. If indoors, wear a mask.

Outdoor gatherings are still safer than indoor gatherings since COVID-19 spreads more easily indoors than outdoors. Studies have also shown that people are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 when they are closer than 6 feet apart from others for longer periods of time.

If possible, plan to host holiday gatherings outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces (think a garage with the door open, a back patio, or nearby park). If gathering indoors, plan for people 5 and older to wear well-fitting masks, especially if folks are not fully vaccinated. For kiddos 2-4 years old, a mask is also recommended at this time considering our high transmission rates.

Note: In Washington, masks are required to be worn by all people five and older, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor public spaces, and in outdoor settings with 500 or more people. Beginning on November 15th, masks will also be required at certain indoor and outdoor large, ticketed events.

If traveling, plan ahead and take precautions.

If you are considering traveling for the holidays this year, visit the CDC’s Travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family.

Some things to note:

Plan to test for COVID-19 before you leave. And remember that testing appointments may be in high demand this holiday season, so if you need proof of a negative test, plan accordingly.

To find a testing location near you, go to www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.

Postpone if sick, and when in doubt…get tested!

If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, don’t host or attend a gathering until your symptoms have cleared. It is better to postpone than to potential spread the virus to those you love. If, in the days prior to your gathering, you develop symptoms of COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, get tested!

So, what if you’ve attended a party or gathering and are now sick with symptoms?

If you are unvaccinated

  • Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.
  • Watch for fever (100.4°F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If possible, stay away from others, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

If you are fully vaccinated

  • Get tested 3-5 days after the exposure, even if you don’t have any symptoms.
  • Wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following the exposure or until your test result is negative.

The holidays are definitely doable this year, we just need to take a little extra precaution. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, gather outdoors if possible, and stay home if sick. It’s as easy as (pumpkin) pie!


What You Need to Know About Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment

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UPDATE: As of September 21, 2021, local supply of Monoclonal antibodies is extremely low, and is expected to remain so for two or more weeks. If you are seeking treatment, you will need to go through your health care provider for a referral. Please do not call local treatment providers or go to the emergency department for monoclonal antibody treatment.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others against COVID-19. We know that people who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to get COVID-19, and that the vaccines continue to prove effective in keeping people from getting seriously sick or dying if they catch the virus.

We also know that COVID-19—and especially the delta variant—are still circulating widely in our community. Local case and hospitalization rates are at the highest that they’ve ever been, with unvaccinated people representing the vast majority of these cases. Breakthrough cases (when someone who is fully vaccinated and contracts COVID-19) are also a reality, and in rare circumstances, fully vaccinated folks are still becoming critically ill with the virus.

Thankfully, for certain high risk individuals who do get COVID-19—regardless of vaccination status—there is some good news available.

What are monoclonal antibodies?

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that help jumpstart your immune system so you can fight off a COVID-19 infection. They can be given by a shot or an IV infusion. Studies show that the treatments successfully fight the virus and prevent serious illness.

Is Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment safe?

To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorization for several monoclonal antibody treatments. The FDA currently recommends the REGEN-COV™ and Sotrovimab monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

Just like with any medication, the safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continues to be evaluated by the FDA for treatment of COVID-19.

Potential side effects of REGEN-COV™ and Sotrovimab include allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, as well as infusion-related reactions, including pain, bruising of the skin, soreness, swelling, and possible infection at the injection site.

Who should get this treatment and when?

Monoclonal antibody therapies can treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and children 12 and older (must weigh at least 88 lbs.), who are at high risk for developing severe illness. Some fully vaccinated people may even qualify for antibody treatment if they are in a high-risk category.

Regardless of vaccination status, timing is important. Monoclonal antibodies must be given within 10 days of getting symptoms to work best. Once someone is hospitalized or needs oxygen therapy due to COVID-19, they are no longer eligible to receive monoclonal antibody treatments. Check with your doctor right away to decide if this treatment is right for you.

If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your healthcare professional if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Do I still need to get vaccinated if this treatment is available?

Monoclonal antibody therapies are not authorized for pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19. These therapies do not replace vaccination against COVID-19. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent against contracting COVID-19 and is recommended by the CDC for everyone 12 years and older.   

How are vaccines and monoclonal therapies different?

A vaccine helps stimulate and prepare your immune system to respond if or when you are exposed to COVID-19. Two weeks following your final dose, your immune system is prepped and ready to create antibodies, even before they are needed.

Monoclonal antibodies boost the immune system after you are already sick with COVID-19. The treatment speeds up your immune response to prevent a person’s symptoms from getting worse. Monoclonal antibodies act as guided missiles that target the virus, but protection doesn’t stick around. While monoclonal antibodies are effective for a short period, COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to still offer significant protection months down the road.

While Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment is a great option for people who are already sick with the virus and at an increased risk for complications, vaccination is the easiest and most effective option for keeping people safe.

Is this treatment free?

The federal government provides some monoclonal antibody treatments for free. Depending on insurance coverage, some may need to pay an administration fee. This is to cover the costs of giving the treatment, not for the antibodies. As always, check with your insurance provider to learn more about treatment costs for your specific plan, first. For people with Medicare and Medicaid, the cost of administering the treatment should be covered.

Where can I get Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment?

Monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy is available in Washington state with a provider’s recommendation for certain high risk individuals. People can be at high risk because of many reasons including their age, having an underlying medical condition, and other things. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Age ≥ 65 years
  • Obesity or being overweight based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clinical growth charts
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Immunosuppressive disease or immunosuppressive treatment
  • Heart or circulatory conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, and possibly high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Chronic lung diseases including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate to severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy
  • Having a medical device (for example, tracheostomy, gastrostomy, or positive pressure ventilation [not related to COVID-19])

If you think you might qualify for this treatment, please speak to your healthcare provider first and get a referral before contacting these sites to arrange an appointment. There is limited capacity at certain sites, and it is preferred that individuals contact these facilities over the phone to arrange an appointment time, in order to limit exposure for staff and other patients.

To find a Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment location near you, go to: https://bit.ly/3hVhagX.


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!