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April 28, 2020

April 28: Stay Home, Stay Healthy Updates from Skagit County

Ongoing COVID-19 Transmission in Skagit County

Today, Public Health reported 12 new laboratory confirmed cases. Daily updates and total case counts are available at http://www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus. Case counts are updated at 4 p.m.

As a reminder, we now send these newsletters out on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Skagit County Opens a New Drive-Through Testing Site
Yesterday, the Skagit County Drive-Through testing site officially opened to the public in Mount Vernon. The site is located in the parking lot of Skagit Valley College, and is open to all adults who have mild COVID-19 symptoms, who have been referred by their doctor to get tested, or who work in healthcare or as a first responder. To learn more or make an appointment to be tested, visit our website.  

We are very excited that we have been able to drastically expand our testing capability through this site. We now have the ability to test up to 200 people each day which will help us immensely in the fight against COVID-19. However, we want to make it clear: this is not a silver bullet. While this is an important step forward, it’s not the sole solution. Testing is just one piece of the puzzle.

“I am immensely proud of the work our Public Health, Department of Emergency Management and Unified Command teams have put in to get this testing site running, and I am thankful for Skagit Valley College’s partnership. This is a promising development,” said Skagit County Board of Commissioners Chair Ron Wesen, “but I want to make it clear to the public: we have a long way to go before we’re back to normal.”

There is another positive: Skagit County Public Health already has a robust contact tracing regime. Contact tracing is looking at everyone a confirmed COVID-19 case came into close contact with while they were contagious. Contact tracing is critical to getting us back to normal as it allows us to isolate other potential positives before symptoms develop and slow the spread of COVID-19. Public Health has been contact tracing since day one, and with our robust contact tracing program, we are able to help control community transmission of the virus.

So what else needs to happen?
First, we do not have the capability to test asymptomatic people right now. This is because the national supply chain for testing supplies, and our local testing capacity, are still fairly limited. Our priority is to test those with symptoms, and our first responders. Until we can test asymptomatic people frequently, we will still see COVID-19 being spread by those without symptoms and those who haven’t been tested.

Second, until a vaccine or treatment is developed, social distancing will continue to be the best tool we have to stop the spread of COVID-19. While our expanded testing and contact tracing capability will improve our ability to limit community transmission, it will not eliminate transmission altogether. Those who test negative will still be asked to practice social distancing to continue preventing them from getting the illness, or passing it asymptomatically onto others if they contract the virus after they have been tested.

Third, our community is not insulated. Even if we tested all 130,000 Skagit County residents, and they all came back negative, we would need to be careful. Say you go and visit your aunt in another county or a person from out of town visits your business- that’s all it could take to reintroduce the virus into our communities. We’re not in this alone: until effective contact tracing and testing are available on a massive scale statewide, we will need to continue practicing some degree of social distancing. 
Our Public Health, Department of Emergency Management and Unified Command teams continue to work hard to build up our ability to prevent the spread of COVID-19. To support them, please continue to stay strong, stay home, stay healthy and if you start to feel sick- get yourself tested!
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