The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that a red-tailed hawk collected from Skagit County on May 11, 2022, has tested positive for HPAI H5N1, a strain of avian influenza or “Bird Flu.” At this time, we can assume that Avian Influenza is actively circulating in Skagit County, similar to much of Washington State.
Avian influenza viruses, such as the H5N1 strain, are extremely contagious among certain domesticated bird species, and can sicken and kill chickens, pheasants, and turkeys, among other domestic fowl. The virus is often spread to domestic birds through interactions with wild birds.
DOH and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) are asking the public to avoid contact with wild birds, especially sick or dead wild birds or their young. State officials are asking people to report any sick or dead wild or domestic birds using the following resources:
Report sick/dead domestic birds to Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Avian Health Program by calling 1-800-606-3056.
While avian influenza infections among people are rare, human infections can happen when the virus gets into an individual’s eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled. People may be at greater risk of bird flu virus infection during close or lengthy unprotected contact (not wearing respiratory protection or eye protection) with infected birds or contaminated surfaces.
Please note that chicken, eggs and other poultry and poultry products are safe to eat when properly handled and cooked.
If an individual develops flu-like symptoms within 10 days of contact with an ill or dead wild bird, they should contact their healthcare provider, as well as Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.
As you may recall, on January 15, 2022, a tsunami warning was placed for parts of the U.S. West Coast and Alaska after a volcano eruption occurred near the Tonga Islands. Waves were projected to be 1-to-3 feet along the western coastline extending from California to Alaska.
Thankfully, this event did not result in any major damage along the Washington coastline. It was a good reminder, however, that we should always be prepared for future tsunami events considering our location here in Skagit County.
Are you and your family prepared for a tsunami? Join us in recognizing Tsunami Preparedness Week this week! Register at Tsunamizone.org for resources and get some tips on how to be safe in the event of a tsunami.
What is the Cascadia subduction zone? Why should you care?
The Cascadia Subduction Zone runs for 7 hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, this zone expands along Oregon and Washington, wrapping around Vancouver, Canada.
An article (“New tsunami modeling shows more flooding likely for Skagit County”) from the Skagit Valley Herald in 2021 did a great job at summarizing the risks posed by our location. The article informs us that the most recent modeling of a potential Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake alongside the West Coast would result in greater flooding, and a greater risk for a local tsunami event than formerly predicted.
What you should do to prepare before, during, and after a tsunami?
The above goes to show the importance of tsunami preparedness. There is so much that individuals and families can do to prepare for, and anticipate, these types of events. Here are a few simple steps that you can take to ensure that you’re ready if—or when—a tsunami occurs.
Step 1: Get a Kit
Remember, this will be your emergency bag and will be the only thing you’ll have, so make sure to prepare to meet the needs of yourself and/or your household. To find a guide for kit building, visit Ready.gov.
Step 2: Make a Plan
Make a communication and evacuation plan with your friends and family. Remember to have a plan for your pets as well! Have a couple of designated meeting areas for you and your family in case you become separated. Make your plan by visiting Ready.gov!
Step 3: Be informed
Learn what you need to know to keep you and your family safe. Also, monitor the news and share your newly acquired knowledge with family and friends. Basic knowledge of first aid and CPR can also go a very long way!
In Skagit County, a great way to stay informed is by signing up for CodeRed alerts. Register here to receive emergency alerts and notifications in your area through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System.
If you feel an earthquake: DROP, COVER, and HOLD on to anything you can that is sturdy to protect yourself.
When you have noticed that the earthquake has stopped, get together with your household members, and go over your emergency evacuation plan to safely get out.
Contact a Coast Guard emergency frequency station or any local radio station for any emergency information and listen for an official tsunami warning. If directed to do so, evacuate at once.
Make sure to take your emergency go-bag and your pets with you! If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for them to stay either.
Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. The further up and farthest away from the water the safer you and your loved ones will be during the disaster.
Avoid any downed power lines, buildings, bridges, or heavy objects during your evacuation.
Finally, wait until officials say it is safe before attempting to go home. There can be a series of waves within hours.
Reach out to family and friends to let them know you are safe and to check in.
If you become injured or sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, do not hesitate and call 9-1-1.
If evacuated, only return if authorities have said it is safe to do so.
Document any property damage. Take picture and keep an inventory for your insurance company. You can also contact Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management at (360) 416-1850 for assistance.
This afternoon, Governor Inslee announced that the statewide indoor mask mandate will be lifted on Monday, March 21, 2022. This mandate, which includes indoor locations such as restaurants, grocery stores, malls, and public-facing offices, has been in effect since August 23, 2021. Beginning on March 21, the mandate will also be lifted for K-12 schools and childcare locations throughout the state.
As a reminder, the statewide outdoor mask mandate is scheduled to end tomorrow, Friday, February 18. The state will stop requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry to large events beginning on Tuesday, March 1.
K-12 schools will still be required to report COVID cases and work with local Public Health Departments to monitor disease activity. Routine testing, isolation, and quarantine protocols will also remain in place per the CDC’s guidance. Current “requirements” regarding distance, ventilation, and sanitation in schools will be downgraded to “recommendations”, with new guidance expected from the state by March 7.
The lifting of the indoor mask mandate will not include certain indoor settings considered to be at high-risk for disease spread. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, healthcare settings, long-term care facilities, and correctional facilities. Additionally, the federal mask mandate is still in effect and requires masking on all forms of public transportation, including buses, trains, and airplanes, and in transportation hubs.
Following the lifting of the mandate, Washingtonians can continue to wear a mask if they so choose. This goes for businesses, as well, who will retain the right to choose stricter masking requirements if desired.
There may be certain settings where wearing a mask makes sense, like when caring for someone who is high-risk, if you are sick, if you’re in a location where social distancing isn’t possible, or if you are not fully vaccinated. Those who are at greater risk because of factors such as their age or underlying health condition are encouraged to continue to take extra precautions.
For additional information on Governor Inslee’s announcement, please visit wwww.governor.wa.gov or call the State COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127. For general questions related to COVID-19, you may contact Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.
Today, the Washington State Department of Health launched an online ordering portal for free COVID-19 test kits in partnership with the Say Yes COVID Test Program. Beginning today, Washington state residents will be able to visit www.sayyescovidhometest.org to order rapid-antigen COVID tests online and will receive those tests delivered at no cost. People can order up to 5 free tests per household.
Note: Supplies are limited at this time and demand is quite high. If you have trouble ordering, please contact the state hotline at 1-800-525-0127 (press #).
A federal online ordering portal also launched earlier this week. Every home in the U.S. is now eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests by going to www.covidtests.gov. The tests are completely free, and orders will usually ship within 7-12 days through USPS.
Antigen test kits are available for purchase, as well, through participating pharmacies like Walgreens and Rite Aid. Check with your local pharmacy frequently, and in person, for availability.
Testing supplies continue to be limited due to extremely high demand. As our federal, state, and local governments continue to work to increase testing resources, we encourage Skagitonians to utilize the options listed above to gain access to testing.
Kits de prueba gratuitos de COVID-19 en el hogar ahora disponibles en línea
Hoy, el Departamento de Salud del Estado de Washington lanzó un portal de pedidos en línea para kits de prueba covid-19 gratuitos en asociación con el programa de pruebas Say Yes COVID. A partir de hoy, los residentes del estado de Washington podrán visitar https://sayyescovidhometest.org/casa.html para solicitar pruebas rápidas de ANTÍGENO COVID online y recibirán esas pruebas entregadas sin costo alguno. Las personas pueden pedir hasta 5 pruebas gratuitas por hogar.
Nota: Los suministros son limitados en este momento y la demanda es bastante alta. Si tiene problemas para realizar pedidos, comuníquese con la línea directa del estado al 1-800-525-0127.
Un portal federal de pedidos en línea también se lanzó a principios de esta semana. Cada hogar en los Estados Unidos ahora es elegible para ordenar 4 pruebas gratuitas deCOVID-19 en el hogar yendo a https://www.covidtests.gov/es/. Las pruebas son completamente gratuitas, y los usuarios generalmente se enviarán en 7-12 días a través de USPS.
Tambiénhay disponibles kits de prueba de ntigen para su compra, a través de farmacias participantes como Walgreens y Rite Aid. Consulte con s u farmacia local para conocer la disponibilidad.
Si elige comprar kits a través de una farmacia, tenga en cuenta quenuestra compañía de seguros de salud puede reembolsarle hasta 8 pruebas en el hogar por mes para cada persona en el plan. Para obtener más información, llame a su proveedor.
Los suministros de prueba continúan siendo limitados debido a la demanda extremadamente alta. A medida que nuestros gobiernos federal, estatal y local continúan trabajando para aumentar los recursos de prueba, alentamos a los habitantes de Skagiton a utilizar las opciones enumeradas anteriormente para obtener acceso a las pruebas.
[UPDATE: Significant changes were made to the Data Dashboard on January 21, 2022. Read the full press release for more information.]
As of January 3rd, 2022, Skagit County Public Health is no longer updating ongoing COVID-19 case, hospitalization, death, and demographic data on its website. Instead, Skagitonians are asked to refer to the statewide COVID-19 Data Dashboard for all COVID-19 related data.
We understand that it can be uncomfortable navigating a new website, especially when you’ve gotten used to using a different one. As we transition away from updating COVID-19 data on the Public Health website, please know that we’re here to help! Below you will find a video with directions on how to navigate the Dashboard. This video can also be found on our website at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.
If you need further assistance using the Dashboard, please call the state COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127. You can also contact Skagit County Public Health directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello, my name is Danica Sessions and I’m with Skagit County Public Health. In this video, I will be providing some directions on how to navigate the Washington state COVID-19 Data Dashboard, seen here on my screen.
This dashboard is updated Monday through Friday by the Washington State Department of Health and includes a variety of COVID-related data sets and helpful reports. This is the best tool to use to stay up-to-date about current state and county-level case, hospitalization, and death rates. It is also a helpful tool to see current our current vaccination status here in Skagit County—and throughout the state.
Once here, scroll down slightly to find the dashboard.
The first thing you’ll see is our state’s current status. In order to narrow it down to Skagit County, find the “select county” box along the left of the dashboard and scroll down to Skagit County. Click the box to select.
So once you’ve clicked on Skagit County, you’ll see our current status. This includes total confirmed cases, as well as total hospitalizations and deaths to date. You’ll also notice a few other helpful data points.
To see how we compare to other counties, you can go to the tabular view here. To get back to maps, click on the Map View button.
You’ll note that in the upper-right hand corner, a different date will appear instead of today’s date. This is because all of this data must be verified by the state before it is published. Typically, data will lag by 2 to 3 days. You’ll also notice that the state no longer updates data on the weekends.
To find our vaccination status, click on Vaccinations when you’re still in the “Current Status” tab. Please note that sometimes when you move throughout the dashboard, the county will unselect. To ensure that you’re looking at Skagit County data, make sure that the box is checked.
Here you can see total doses administered in our county to date. By clicking here, you can see our percentages of partially and fully vaccinated populations. You can also see who is getting vaccinated by clicking here. Data is broken out by sex, age, and race/ethnicity.
If you’re looking to see historic case counts or you’d like to know how many new cases we’re seeing each day, go to “Cumulative Counts” here. Click Skagit County. You can navigate by hovering on the blue line. To see our current status, go to the far right. You’ll see our total cases to date, as well as how many new cases were reported since yesterday.
As you can see, we’re seeing some of our largest daily increases right now compared to any other time during the pandemic.
You can see similar data for hospitalizations and deaths by toggling between these tabs here.
If you’re looking for case, hospitalization, and death rates (essentially trends over time), click on “Epidemiologic Curves,” then click “rates.” You can see 7 day or 14 day averages. The waves of the pandemic are very obvious here. This is also a good place to go to see whether we will be trending upward or downward. Please note that the grey dots are an estimation based on prilimary data, and numbers can change.
Find hospitalization and death rates by toggling between the two buttons here.
There are a few more helpful functions including demographics, COVID-like illness hospitalizations, and healthcare system readiness (which shows statewide ICU occupancy). Play around with these different functions to gather more information.
Lastly, I wanted to highlight some really awesome reports that are available on the dashboard webpage. Scroll down to Reports. Some that I have found very useful are the COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths by Vaccination Status Report, the Sequencing and Variants report, and the Breakthrough Surveillance Report.
Most reports are updated weekly or bi-monthly so it is helpful to check back for the most recent information.
We understand that it can be uncomfortable navigating a new website, especially when you’ve gotten used to using a different one. As we transition away from updating COVID-19 data on the Public Health website, please know that we’re here to help.
If you need further assistance with the Dashboard, please call the state COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127. You can also contact Skagit County Public Health directly at email@example.com.
Secure medicine return has been a major area of focus for Skagit County Public Health for several years now. You may have seen return boxes popping up here and there over the past 2-3 years at police departments, pharmacies, and county buildings. You might have also taken part in one of our local take back events, hosted by law enforcement and prevention coalitions, which take place every April and October.
What you may not know though is that Washington State only just recently adopted a statewide Secure Medicine Return Program, which officially launched on November 21! If you have questions about the program, and about how to dispose of your unused or expired medication, please read on…
What is the Secure Medication Program?
Safe Medication Return is a unified, statewide program that gives Washington residents free, convenient, and environmentally responsible options to dispose of unwanted medication. Drug manufacturers fund the program at no cost to taxpayers.
Safe Medication Return is operated by MED-Project, which is the approved program operator. The Washington State Department of Health oversees the establishment of the program, monitors on-going operations, manages enforcement when compliance issues arise, and evaluates program effectiveness.
Why is secure medication disposal important?
Properly disposing unused and expired medication is a great way to protect your family and your community. Research has shown that unused, unwanted, and/or expired medicines in your home pose an increased risk for drug misuse/abuse. Local data has shown that the home medicine cabinet is one of the most common places for people to go when looking for drugs to get high.
Accidental poisoning is also of major concern. Many young children get poisoned by taking medicine not intended for them. If medication is left out or stored improperly, the likelihood of little hands getting hold of these medications is quite high.
Lastly, disposing of medications improperly is bad for the environment. When medicines are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash, it pollutes our water and soil.
How does it work?
There are two main ways to return your unused medication. Both options are FREE.
You do not need to provide an ID, talk with anyone, or complete paperwork.
What medicines are accepted by MED-Project?
Medicines in any form including solids, liquids or patches, inhalers and prefilled products containing a sharp and auto-injectors (such as Epi Pens). This can include:
Prescription and over the counter medicines
Brand name and generic medicines
What medicines are NOT accepted?
Vitamins or supplements
Herbal-based remedies and homeopathic drugs, products or remedies
Cosmetics, shampoos, sunscreen, toothpaste, lip balm, antiperspirants or other personal care products
Pet pesticide products contained in pet collars, powders, shampoos or other forms
Medical sharps (needles, syringes) and empty auto injectables (such as used Epi Pens)
Medicines generated by businesses
For more information, visit the WA Department of Health’s Secure Medication webpage here. You can also contact Skagit County Public Health either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (360) 416-1500.
Thank you for taking this extra step to ensure the safety of your friends and neighbors!
For over 40 years, the American Cancer Society has hosted the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November. This is an opportunity for people who smoke to commit to healthy, smoke-free lives. According to recent data, about 34 million American adults still smoke cigarettes. It remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. Smoking causes an estimated 480,000 deaths each year, representing about 1 in every 5 deaths.
While the rates of cigarette smoking have declined over the past several decades (from 42% of the population in 1965 to 14% in 2019), the gains have been inconsistent. Some groups smoke more heavily or at higher rates and suffer disproportionately from smoking-related cancer and other diseases. These populations tend to be those who experience inequities in multiple areas of their lives, including those at lower socioeconomic levels, those without college degrees, American Indians/Alaska natives, African American/Black communities, LGBTQ+ communities, those in the military, and those with behavioral health conditions.
Addiction to nicotine in cigarettes is one of the strongest and most deadly addictions out there. Thankfully, no matter your age or how long you’ve been smoking, quitting can improve your health both immediately and over time. People who use tobacco products are strongly advised to use proven cessation methods to quit, such as prescription medications and counseling. Also, research shows that people who smoke are most successful in their efforts to stop smoking when they have support, including getting advice from a doctor or pharmacist.
And if you’ve heard that switching to vaping can help in your cessation journey, know this: vaping, or use of e-cigarettes, is not a proven way to quit tobacco. In fact, e-cigarettes with nicotine are tobacco products, so if you vape nicotine, you are still using tobacco. Most people who try to quit smoking by vaping are not able to completely switch, which—according to the U.S. Surgeon General—is the only way to achieve the health benefits of quitting smoking.
Giving up smoking is a journey. It can be hard, but you can increase your chances of success with a good plan and support. Getting help through counseling and medications doubles or even triples your chances of quitting successfully. Thankfully, there are many resources available to Washingtonians when it comes to tobacco cessation. Here are some helpful resources to get you started on your cessation journey:
Quitline: Washingtonians age 13+ can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to speak confidentially with a Quit Coach in English, Spanish, or receive support in more than 200 other languages.
This is Quitting (TIQ), from Truth Initiative: This is an innovative text-to-quit vaping program for young people ages 13-24. TIQ helps motivate, inspire, and support young people throughout the quitting process. When young people join TIQ, they will receive proven tips and strategies to quit and stay off e-cigarettes and vapor products from other young people just like themselves who tried to quit. To enroll, teens and young adults can text VAPEFREEWA to 88709.
2Morrow Health: This is a smartphone app that helps participants learn new ways to deal with unhelpful thoughts, urges, and cravings caused by nicotine. Participants receive notifications and can track their progress along the way in order to move toward their goal of quitting. The app is available in English and Spanish. Depending on your age and the tobacco product you are trying to quit, you can register for either of the smartphone apps below:
Smoking & Tobacco: A program for people who want to quit smoking and/or other tobacco use. A special program for pregnant women is included in this version.
Vaping (age 13+): A program for teens and young adults who want to quit vaping. Older adults who want to quit vaping, but who do not smoke, can also use this program.
It can take several tries to quit for good, but the more times you try to quit, the more likely you are to succeed on your next try. So, remember: Never quit quitting.
Yesterday, Governor Inslee announced that, beginning on November 15, individuals 12 years and older who attend certain large events will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or a negative test result.
This new statewide Vaccination Verification Program will apply to indoor events of 1,000 or more attendees and outdoor events of 10,000 or more attendees. It will not apply to settings without defined entrances, such as shopping malls. Also exempt from the new requirement are museums, religious institutions, and events held on school property.
Event attendees will have several options for showing proof of vaccination, including the following:
CDC Vaccination Card given at the time of vaccination
Print out or screenshot of one’s vaccination records from MyIRMobile
Other immunization records provided by one’s medical provider
Unvaccinated attendees may instead show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of the event.Please check with the event vendor for specific testing requirements.
This announcement follows King County’s recent decision to require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result to enter certain indoor and outdoor events and establishments beginning October 25.
Vaccination continues to be the safest, easiest—and most convenient—option for Washingtonians. Routine testing cannot ensure one’s safety. Vaccination is the best tool when it comes to preventing serious illness and death.
As a reminder, the Skagit County Fairgrounds is not an option for those seeking testing to attend an event. Testing at this site is limited to those who live, work, or go to school in Skagit, and people must either be currently symptomatic, or have been recently exposed to COVID-19.
“Planning is going to be key for people who are unvaccinated. To ensure that someone can get a test within 72 hours of their event, they’ll need to book a testing appointment in advance or plan to wait in line at a drop-in site.”
– Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director
Today, Governor Inslee announced that the existing statewide mask mandate will be expanded to once again include vaccinated individuals in indoor settings effective Monday, August 23. The mask mandate will apply to most all indoor public places across the state, including restaurants, grocery stores, malls, and public-facing offices, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.
This expansion comes after hospitals throughout Washington State are seeing record-breaking numbers of new COVID patients, and as cases continue to surge in every county. At present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has marked all 35 counties in Washington as areas of High Community Transition. Disease prevalence is approaching levels last seen in the winter 2020 surge. In Skagit County, 436 new COVID cases have been reported since last Wednesday alone.
“Local cases are increasing at an alarming rate,” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director. “We know that people are worried about what they’re seeing in the news and we are hoping that the community will see this announcement as a positive step in getting things back to a manageable place. Current rates are not sustainable—not for our hospitalsor for our families. We ask that people please mask up to keep their loved ones safe.”
There will be limited exceptions when face coverings won’t be required, such as office spaces not easily accessible to the public where individuals are vaccinated, and when working alone indoors or in a vehicle with no public face-to-face interaction. Small, private indoor gatherings where all attendees are vaccinated are also exempt. Further, while not required, the Department of Health strongly recommends individuals also wear masks in crowded outdoor settings, such as outdoor concerts, fairs and farmers markets.
Educator vaccine requirement
The Governor also announced today that K -12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities will have until October 18 to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment. The requirement includes public, private and charter schools, and comes as schools across the state prepare to return for the 2021–2022 school year amid rapidly increasing case and hospitalization numbers. This does not impact students, regardless of age.
Vaccines will also be a requirement for employees in Washington’s higher education institutions, as well as for most childcare and early learning providers who serve children from multiple households.
Education staff, faculty and contractors are also required to be fully vaccinated by October 18, consistent with the state worker vaccination requirement timeline.
The following is a statement from Dr. Howard Leibrand, Skagit’s Health Officer.
Earlier today, several of my colleagues issued a joint statement recommending masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. It is the goal of this recommendation to protect high-risk individuals and those who are not able to be vaccinated, including children under twelve years old.
It is clear that masks protect individuals from COVID-19. It is never a bad idea to wear a mask in an indoor situation, particularly as we see the delta variant becoming more prominent in our communities.
With that said, I want to assure my community that vaccination is—and will continue to be—the absolute best tool we have to stop the spread of COVID-19. Local data shows that from March 1, 2021 to July 13, 2021 96% of all COVID cases were in unvaccinated individuals. This perfectly highlights the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.
It is true that the delta variant is particularly concerning. It is much more transmissible than the variants that have been circulating in our county prior to July. Delta variant may cause more serious illness. If you are unvaccinated and not using precautions like masking and social distancing, you are at very high risk of becoming infected with delta variant and getting seriously ill in the coming days and weeks. Therefore, if you are unvaccinated, I highly recommend that you wear a mask in all crowded situations and continue to encourage your loved ones to do the same.
COVID-19 is likely going to be with us for a long time. Like many reportable diseases, there is no clear end to this health concern. I am encouraging everyone to use every tool available in their toolbelt to protect themselves. Masks will always be a great option, but getting vaccinated is most important.
In summation, the strongest recommendation that I can make as a health professional is this:
Get vaccinated today.
Dr. Leibrand has served as Skagit’s Health Officer since 1989. For more information on Skagit’s COVID-19 response, including upcoming vaccine clinics, visit www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine.