March 10, 2020
Declaration of Emergency and Health Officer Recommendations
Today, in a proactive step to facilitate coordination with state and local partners, the Skagit County Board of Commissioners declared a public health emergency on COVID-19. This will allow Skagit County to take the immediate steps necessary to prepare and respond appropriately to this State outbreak.
Additionally, at a meeting of the Skagit County Board of Health, Skagit County Health Officer, Dr. Howard Leibrand, issued recommendations in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the number of people infected. These recommendations were made in consultation with the State Department of Health and align with similar recommendations from neighboring jurisdictions.
Dr. Leibrand has recommended – but is not requiring – the following:
- People at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible. People at higher risk include people over 60 years of age; people with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease or diabetes; people with weakened immune systems; and pregnant women.
- Employers should maximize telecommuting options for as many employees as possible; urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits; consider staggering start and end times to reduce large numbers of people congregating at the same time.
- The community should postpone non-essential events and gatherings of ten or more people.
The Health Officer is not recommending school closures, but individual districts may make the decision to close schools as the situation evolves. Skagit County Public Health will continue to be available for organizational consultation on these important and difficult decisions.
“We understand this guidance has significant implications for our community. Every individual and institution will need to weigh this guidance carefully as they consider their personal and organizational plans,” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director.
This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we will be continually re-evaluating the time frame for these recommendations. At this time, we do not have an end date for these recommendations.
Skagit County is asking that the public do their part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- Stay home when sick and limit close contact with others in your household who are not sick.
- Call ahead and do not go to the emergency room unless seriously ill. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor by phone first.
- Even if you are not ill, avoid visiting hospitals, long term care facilities or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you do need to visit one of these facilities, limit your time there, and keep 6 feet away from patients.
- Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including hand washing with soap and warm water; coughing into tissue or elbow; avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are 60 and older or have underlying health conditions that put you at higher risk for severe illness.
Stay informed about changing conditions online at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus and at www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus. You can stream the Skagit Board of County Commissioners and Board of Health meeting online.