Communicable Disease

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Communicable Disease

Director: Jennifer Johnson



COVID-19 FAQ's, Myths and Rumors: Answered

Updated 5/19/20

Wait - why are the case counts going up so fast?

A combination of factors are at play. Many of our current new cases are close contacts of existing cases. The case numbers for the past two weeks - prior to April 19 - are not the result of an increase in the number of people getting tested.

Case numbers are fluctuating - that’s proof that we still have community transmission in Skagit County. This is why social distancing remains critical. The more people leave home, and the more lax they are about masks and physical distance, the more likely they are to be exposed to the virus.

In the future, as we conduct more tests, we may see more positive cases. That’s just math. If 10 out of every 100 tests are positive, then (in theory) 100 out of every 1,000 tests could be positive. (It doesn’t necessarily mean the RATE of positive tests is increasing, it just means we’re able to test more people.)

 
There are large groups of people not practicing social distancing.  Who do I report this to?

You can call 360-416-1892, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily. They will pass the information to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

A nonessential business is still open. Who do I report this to?

First, determine if the business is considered nonessential. Visit the Governor’s What’s Open and Closed page to see a list of business types. A supplemental memorandum provides more information about general construction. If you believe a nonessential business is in operation, you can fill out an online form to report the violation or call 360-416-1892, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

Do I need a pass or letter to prove that I can travel/leave my home?


You DO NOT need a letter or pass to prove you are an essential worker, or that you are making an essential trip. Find more information on the Governor’s Coronavirus page: coronavirus.wa.gov The Washington State Patrol has also addressed this issue on its Facebook Page.

 

My employer is still making me come to work, even though I am not essential. Who do I report this to?

First, determine if the business is considered essential or nonessential. Visit the Governor’s What’s Open and Closed page to see a list of business types. A supplemental memorandum provides more information about general construction. If you believe a nonessential business is in operation, you can to report the violation <link to https://app.smartsheet.com/b/form/09349a1c56844b539fea1c2cabd16d56> or call 360-416-1892 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.


How do I report business that are still serving/offering sit-down food?


If you believe a nonessential business is in operation, you can to report the violation  or call 360-416-1892 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

 

I heard hospitals and healthcare workers need masks

At this time, healthcare facilities are NOT requesting the public to make masks. They are requesting that if anyone locally has a supply of approved medical masks, to donate these to local medical facilities for use by front line personnel. If you have certified PPE, please go to https://coronavirus.wa.gov/how-you-can-help.

The White House reported on March 23, 2020, that FEMA is distributing 8 million N95 respirator masks and 13.3 million surgical masks across the country, focusing on the areas with the greatest need.  FEMA reportedly has shipped 36 pallets of personal protective equipment to the State of Washington.

Are homemade masks effective?

In line with new Centers for Disease Control guidelines, Skagit County Public Health is now recommending that all people wear fabric masks in public. Skagit County Public Health Officer Dr. Leibrand is recommending that face masks/coverings be worn in public and for any group gathering, including workplaces. All protective measures should be used for any group gathering. Wearing a mask is considered an additional layer of protection.

This recommendation is not a substitute for existing guidance to maintain 6-feet of physical distance from others and frequent hand hygiene with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer.  Wearing cloth face coverings will not prevent the spread of COVID-19 without these other protective measures.

In healthcare settings, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect healthcare professionals is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face. More information is available on the CDC website.

 

Is it true that the Washington National Guard and/or U.S. Military are enforcing the stay at home order?

No. The National Guard is on hand to provide support for non-law enforcement activities and support and logistics but has not been activated for any enforcement activity.

*The WA National Guard will be in the area soon to help with area food banks. They are NOT here for law enforcement, they are here to help our community.  They will help with packaging and delivery of meals to our communities; and some of them might even be our neighbors. Expect to see them through the end of the month.

Are the State’s borders with Canada shutting down? What about Oregon and Idaho?

In light of the COVID-19 health crisis, the United States has reached agreements with both Canada and Mexico to limit travel across their respective borders to “essential travel” beginning March 20, 2020. Non-essential travel is described as travel for tourism, including but not limited to sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events. The travel restrictions apply to land ports of entry, passenger rail, and ferry travel. They do not apply to air, freight rail, or sea travel.

The Governor’s Office has stated that the closure of Washington’s borders with Oregon and Idaho is not necessary at this time. In addition, there is no national lockdown.

 

Can my pets get COVID-19 from me?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the United States. CDC is aware of a small number of pets, including dogs and cats, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Only a few of the animals reported to be positive showed signs of illness. Talk to your veterinarian if your pet gets sick or if you have any concerns about your pet’s health.

We are still learning about this virus, but we know that it is zoonotic and it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.

The latest CDC information is here.

Additional information from the American Veterinary Medical Association about pets and COVID-19.

Until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection.

  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.

 

The President says we should go back to work. But the state says we need to stay home. What information do I listen to?

On Sunday, March 29 President Donald J. Trump extended the federal Social Distancing Guidelines through April 30, 2020, encouraging everyone to follow the directives of your local health departments, stay home and to shutter non-essential businesses through that date. The most updated information is available from your local and regional health departments, or the Centers for Disease Control

Where can I find the most updated, accurate information on the COVID-19 Outbreak?

We strongly encourage residents to follow the following sites for up to date information on the COVID-19 pandemic:

Is it safe to donate blood during the COVID-19 outbreak?

YES! If you are healthy, please donate. Blood supplies are critically low because of concerns over COVID-19. If you are ill, stay home. If you are healthy, you may donate blood. You cannot catch COVID-19 from donating blood. Find more information about blood donation locations online at https://www.bloodworksnw.org/

Where can I get an at-home test for COVID-19?

There are currently NO approved at-home tests for COVID-19. HOWEVER, as part of an approved medical study, at home-test kits are being distributed to volunteers in Seattle and King County to help researchers understand the spread of the virus. Data from this study will not be available for several months. You can read more about the study on the Public Health Insider blog: https://publichealthinsider.com/2020/03/23/introducing-scan-the-greater-seattle-coronavirus-assessment-network/

I heard Skagit County area hospitals and clinics are not testing people. Is this true?


This is FALSE. Skagit County area hospitals and clinics are testing according to CDC and Washington State Department of Health guidelines. Department of Health guidance to healthcare providers directs them to focus testing on people with COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. While anyone can ask a provider to be tested for COVID-19, testing is provided at the provider’s discretion. Skagit Regional Health and other clinics are not testing patients with no symptoms at this time; COVID-19 testing is being reserved for patients exhibiting symptoms.


Where can I get an at-home test for COVID-19?


The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized an at-home sample collection kit that can then be sent to specified laboratories for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Specifically, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Everlywell, Inc. for the Everlywell COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit. Everlywell’s kit is authorized to be used by individuals at home who have been screened using an online questionnaire that is reviewed by a health care provider. This allows an individual to self-collect a nasal sample at home using Everlywell’s authorized kit. (FDA, 5/16/20)

There is an approved medical study using at home-test kits  in Seattle and King County to help researchers understand the spread of the virus. Data from this study will not be available for several months. You can read more about the study on the Public Health Insider blog.

 

If I've recovered from COVID-19, I'm immune from the virus, right?

False. While there are some viruses you only get once, like the chickenpox, we do not currently have data to show that recovering from COVID-19 will provide immunity to the virus in the future.


If you can’t be immune to COVID-19, why is antibody testing such a big deal?

Public Health Officials have been talking in recent weeks about expanding antibody or serology testing because it is a great epidemiological tool to help us understand the spread of COVID-19, and the impact is had on the community. Antibody testing does not help us prove herd immunity, and it is not part of the decision making process for lifting the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order’s restrictions.

If I’ve recovered from COVID-19, I’m immune from the virus, right?


False. While there are some viruses you only get once, like the chickenpox, research does not currently support the idea that those who have recovered from COVID-19 are immune to the virus.

If you can’t be immune to COVID-19, why is antibody testing such a big deal?


Public Health Officials have been talking in recent weeks about expanding antibody or serology testing because it is a great epidemiological tool to help us understand the spread of COVID-19, and the impact is had on the community. Antibody testing does not help us prove herd immunity, and it is not part of the decision making process for lifting the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order’s restrictions.

It's not safe to go to the hospital for medical care or to see my doctor.

Do not delay seeking health care. Our local hospitals and clinics have taken measures to separate people and maintain cleaning practices. It is safe to see your regular doctor in person if needed, and many are doing telehealth if possible. If you are having any COVID-type symptoms (fever, coughing, shortness of breath) please go to a respiratory clinic or call your doctor so they can explain any processes they have in place when you get there.

It is important that other health concerns are still taken care of – the healthier you can be, the less likely you are to get sick.

I shouldn’t go to my primary care doctor or seek emergent medical care during COVID-19 because of risk of transmission.

False. Governor Inslee’s stay home, stay healthy order considers “engaging in activities essential for the health and safety of family, household members and pets, including things such as seeking medical or behavioral health or emergency services and obtaining medical supplies or medication” essential. You should still seek out medical care for any illness or medical issue that arises.

Skagit County’s hospitals are working hard to limit the possibility of transmission at their facilities. Including:

  • Skagit Regional Health and Island Hospital have set up acute respiratory clinics specifically to care for patients with COVID-19 symptoms. This allows for possible COVID-19 patients to be separated from other, non-COVID-19 patients. For more information, visit Skagit Regional Health or Island Hospitals’ websites.
  • Separating patients in the emergency department and hospital so that non-COVID patients are separated from COVID-19 patients. This also helps limit the number of staff interacting with COVID-19 patients and allows hospitals to prevent potential spread.
  • Putting masks on patients entering emergency departments or the respiratory clinics to prevent transmission.
  • Conducting temperature screenings for all patients, visitors, and caregivers at hospitals and clinics using non-contact thermometers.
  • Limiting visitation to patients. This allows staff to focus attention and limited personal protective equipment resources on patients. Exact limitations vary by hospital, so please check Skagit Regional HealthPeaceHealth United General and Island Hospitals’ websites for additional information.
  • Promoting telehealth appointments to keep patients connected with their doctors during this time.

 

I heard testing and treatment for COVID-19 is free. Is this true?

The Washington State Department of Health and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) are making sure residents don’t face financial barriers to COVID-19 testing when they need it. Insurance Commissioner Kreidler issued an emergency order to state-regulated health plans on March 5 to:

  • Cover testing (including any lab fees) and the related visit for COVID-19 without copays or deductibles.
  • Suspend any prior authorization requirement for treatment or testing of COVID-19.
  • Allow enrollees to be treated by another provider within a reasonable distance at no additional cost if there are not enough in-network providers.

The copay and deductible waiver also applies to all high-deductible health plans with qualifying health savings accounts (HSAs), according to guidance from the Internal Revenue Service. This emergency order is in effect from March 5 through May 4, 2020.

Washington residents may still be charged for tests or services for other conditions that may occur during the visit. For example, if a resident is tested for other respiratory illnesses as well as COVID-19, they may pay a fee for the other tests. Going to the emergency room for COVID-19 testing may also result in a fee for the visit. Patients receiving treatment at any Skagit Regional Health facility, including the Acute Respiratory Clinics, will incur appropriate medical charges for their visit.

What if I don’t have insurance?

In response to the growing concern about COVID-19, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange on March 10 announced a limited-time special enrollment period for qualified people who are currently without insurance. The special enrollment period continues through April 8. Those who are looking to enroll in health insurance should call the customer support center for the Health Benefit Exchange between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. That number is 1- 855-923-4633.

Will you publicly identify individuals with the virus and where they contracted it?

No. Federal law prohibits health care providers from providing the identities of anyone who tests positive for the virus.

Coronaviruses like COVID-19 spread primarily among close contacts. They are spread through respiratory droplets when people cough or sneeze, or by touching a surface where the virus has been and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. This is different from an airborne virus like measles, where it would be more appropriate to release locations of general exposure.

I am seeing that overall numbers of hospitalizations have gone down. Is the pandemic over?

Definitely not. Some areas may be experiencing a decrease in the number of hospitalizations. However, the overall number of cases is increasing rapidly. Please be aware, as more testing has become available, we will see an increase in the number of reported cases.

Can Skagit County do a stay in place order?

The Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order is now in effect through midnight May 31, 2020, unless extended. This order governs all residents in the state of Washington, including Skagit County residents. More information about the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order and what is considered an essential worker or service is available here:
 https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/stay-home-stay-healthy-address-transcript

On Friday, May 1, Governor Inslee announced his Safe Start plan; a phased reopening of Washington’s economy. As we move through the phases of the plan, more businesses or activities may be able to open. To learn more about Safe Start, visit: https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee-signs-new-covid-19-order-phased-re-opening-washingtons-economy

I heard grocery stores are going to close soon. Does this mean I need to stockpile as many groceries and supplies as I can?


NO! Grocery stores and the food supplies were deemed essential services under the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” Order. Supplies will continue to be readily available at your local grocery store if you buy only what your family needs. Many families may be financially unable to buy a supply of food and water for weeks in advance. Freight flows are not disrupted, but stores need time to restock. Here’s a great article from the Department of Health about responsible purchasing during this time of uncertainty: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Newsroom/Articles/ID/1118/Leave-some-for-your-neighbors-Dont-buy-more-than-you-need

I heard that the government is sending $1,000 checks. When is that happening and how do I sign up?

The distribution of economic impact payments will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. However, some seniors and others who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the stimulus payment. Please do not call the IRS about this. Visit the IRS website for more information at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus.



Only people older than 60 and those with existing health issues are at risk of getting COVID-19. I’m healthy so I should be fine, right?

It is an unfortunate rumor that only people over 60 years of age are at risk of getting this disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), those at higher risk include older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions. However, symptoms can range from mild to severe with and may have different complications for each individual. The CDC has a list of COVID-19 symptoms you may experience. Please continue to follow the official information from the CDC.

Can I get COVID-19 from take-out food or packaging? Do I need to clean/wipe/sanitize packages that are delivered or things/produce that I bring home from the grocery store before putting them in my pantry or refrigerator?


Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.

I read that I should wash my produce with soap and water. Is this true?

Do not wash your produce with soap.  Produce can absorb soap residues. Consuming soap can cause nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal distress. It could send you to the hospital, placing undue stress on the healthcare system.  Rinse produce under cold running water, using a scrub brush if needed, before eating. Always wash your hands after handling food of any kind.

 

Hospitals are now possible targets for terrorists.

Homeland Security is continually monitoring for potential terrorist targets. They do not see any specific threats towards hospitals at this time. Please follow the protocols in place if you need medical assistance.


Is the Covid19 virus man-made, released on purpose?


No. Genetic studies have proven that the virus is not a mishmash of known viruses. It has components that are previously unknown.

If you take ibuprofen it will exacerbate a case of COVID-19 and lead to a case of pneumonia and death.

There’s no widely accepted data about ibuprofen and worsening COVI-19 symptoms. Physicians widely believe that acetaminophen is better at reducing fever, if that is the primary goal; because there are potential side effects with both drugs, consult your doctor for the best course of action for you.

Is Skagit County under curfew?


Not at this time.


If you take ibuprofen it will exacerbate a case of COVID-19 and lead to a case of pneumonia and death.

There’s no widely accepted data about ibuprofen and worsening COVI-19 symptoms. Physicians widely believe that acetaminophen is better at reducing fever, if that is the primary goal; because there are potential side effects with both drugs, consult your doctor for the best course of action for you.

 

Can a CPAP/APAP machine be used as a ventilator?


No. CPAP and APAP machines are designed to unblock the airway (sleep apnea).  Ventilators do the breathing for the patient. 

 

Have doctors been told that they will get more money if they say that a person died of COVID-19?

No. Health care providers follow guidance from CDC and the Department of Health on how to certify the cause of death for their patients. This helps us make sure we have accurate information about the current causes of death. That guidance is posted on our website. https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/NovelCoronavirusOutbreak2020COVID19/HealthcareProviders

Is FEMA stealing gloves and masks that were supposed to go to the states?

No. FEMA is trying to help distribute gloves and masks within the US to local and state governments and hospitals. There are people and businesses who are hoarding gloves and masks or price gouging. The Department of Justice has a task force that has seized gloves and masks from people and businesses who were hoarding them or price gouging.

Is 5G cell phone technology linked to the cause of coronavirus?

Definitely not. 5G technology does not cause COVID-19 or have anything at all to do with it. A worldwide online conspiracy theory has attempted to link 5G cell phone technology to being one of the causes of the coronavirus.

 

Additional resources to refute COVID rumors:

 The state Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission recently provided more information on new scams related to the economic impact payments. AG Ferguson warns scammers will try to take advantage of news of stimulus checks from the federal government to get personal and financial information. For more information please read AG Ferguson’s statement. Federal Trade Commission website to report scams related to COVID-19.