August 21, 2020: COVID-19 Updates from Skagit County
Yesterday, Skagit County announced that beginning on August 31, 2020, it will limit use of its drive through testing site to those who live in or work in Skagit County. This was a difficult decision, but COVID-19 is more likely to be with us for months than weeks, and long-term sustainability of the testing site for Skagit County residents, workers and employees has to be the top priority.
In a press release yesterday, Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson spoke about the decision: “We want to be good neighbors, but we’re in a place where our current testing level isn’t sustainable. In order to protect this vital service for Skagit County residents, we have to ask that those who do not live or work here seek testing elsewhere.”
Understandably, the decision to restrict testing has created some questions about data and availability of testing.
If Skagit was testing residents from other counties, does this mean that those positive cases are counted in our case count total?
No. It doesn’t matter where a person is tested; the positive test result only counts for the county where the person lives. We do show total positive results and people tested at the drive through site on our separate testing website, but only those positive cases who live in Skagit count towards our total and the Governor’s risk assessment metrics.
How will Skagit County ensure that only residents and workers are using the testing site?
Starting on August 31, 2020, we will be setting up an additional screening tent at the test site. Workers will ask patrons questions about where they live or work. More information on how this will affect the flow of the testing site can be found at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.
We also regularly tweet live updates on wait times and weather conditions at the test site. You can follow those at @SkagitGov on Twitter, or by taking a look at the Twitter feed embedded on the main page of our website.
How many people was Skagit County testing from other counties?
Around half of those utilizing the testing site over the last three months were Skagit County residents. The second largest group came from Whatcom County, at roughly 22 percent. We do not currently ask questions about employment, so it is entirely possible that many of those individuals work in Skagit County. Anecdotally, however, our testing site workers have noticed that a large portion of non-Skagit residents are seeking testing for travel purposes.
What does it cost to operate the testing site?
It varies slightly week to week, but it costs roughly $60,000 per week for Skagit to operate the drive through testing site. This amount does not account for the large number of unpaid volunteer hours and the hidden costs of Public Health staff time required for follow-up on positive cases. Skagit County has been using its allocated Coronavirus Aide, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars, provided by the federal government, to cover some of the costs. CARES funding is only available through October 31, 2020.
I’ve heard utilization of the testing site has decreased in recent weeks. Why limit use now?
We have seen a slight decline in testing site utilization over the past few weeks. We do not expect this to continue. With another major holiday coming—we’ve seen spikes in cases and utilization about 10 days after every major holiday since March—flu season right around the corner, and some school districts returning to hybrid or in-person instruction, we have to plan for the inevitable increase in need at the testing site and make sure our operation is sustainable.
Where can people who don’t reside in or work in Skagit get tested?
Individuals can always contact their primary care provider about testing. If you don’t have a primary care provider or need additional information, individuals can contact their home county health department or district:
- Whatcom County Health Department: 360-778-6000 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Snohomish Health District: 425-339-5234 or email@example.com
- Island County Health Department: 360-678-2301or firstname.lastname@example.org
- San Juan County Health Department: 360-370-7500
- Seattle-King County Health Department: 206-477-3977 or email form available
What should I do if I have more questions?
Our Health Department is always happy to answer any questions you have.
You can email them at email@example.com or call 360-416-1500.
You can also follow Public Health on Facebook for up to date information, take a look at our blog Skagit Health Connection or check out our Communications Coordinator Laura Han’s updates on Nextdoor.