May 21, 2020
Stay Home, Stay Healthy Updates from Skagit County
Public Health reported no new laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 today. Daily updates and total case counts are available at http://www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus. Case counts will continue to be updated at 4 p.m.
FAQ: What is contact tracing and what does it mean for me?
You’ve probably been hearing a lot about contact tracing and its importance in the fight against COVID-19. In fact, Public Health has been contact tracing for COVID-19 since the first case was identified on March 10. Skagit’s Public Health Department also recently published this blog post to help explain what contact tracing is. There are a lot of misconceptions in the community about contact tracing, and we’d like to address a few.
First though, some basics. Contact tracing starts when a person tests positive for COVID-19. Skagit County is then notified that a new positive case has been identified, and Public Health staff contacts that person to offer guidance on how to safely isolate and check in on any medical needs. Public Health staff also conducts a thorough interview about who the person came into close contact with during the period where they would’ve been contagious. For COVID-19, that’s two days before symptoms present and anywhere they went once they became symptomatic. If someone never developed symptoms (they were asymptomatic) but tests positive, they are still contagious to others. Public Health tracks 2 days back from when an asymptomatic person got tested through to the time the person is interviewed. Public Health then tries to contact each person who was a close contact of the positive case to let them know that they may have been infected, collect similar information and offer guidance on what to do next. That’s it, that’s case investigation and contact tracing.
Some commonly asked questions:
Why does Public Health need to know where I went and who I spoke to?
Public Health needs this information in order to track, and get ahead of, possible COVID-19 transmissions. COVID-19 is highly contagious before symptoms present, so it’s important that we notify close contacts as soon as possible and encourage them to isolate or quarantine. Quarantining potentially infected people before they become contagious can keep them from passing COVID-19 to others and spreading the illness further.
Is Public Health going to arrest me or force me into quarantine?
No. Public Health officials and law enforcement do have the legal ability to forcibly isolate someone who constitutes a public health risk but we’ve never needed to and would only do so if a person was intentionally trying to infect others. Contact tracers will reach out to you and recommend you quarantine or isolate at home, and walk through resources to make that possible. For example, there are benefits cases and contacts can tap into to ensure they are economically stable and housing Public Health can provide if it is not safe or possible for you to stay at home.
What are all these isolation/quarantine facilities for then?
These facilities are for people who don’t have a place to safely isolate or quarantine at home. For example, if someone cannot safely isolate or quarantine away from their families in their own home, they may think it would be better to stay outside of their home until the recommended period has passed. Alternatively, if someone doesn’t have a home, this also gives them a safe place to recover away from others.
COVID-19 may be new, but disease investigation and contact tracing aren’t. Skagit Public Health, and Public Health departments throughout the state have longstanding protocols in place on how to contact trace, ensure your personal information is handled with the utmost respect and confidentiality, and assist people dealing with highly infectious illnesses. Other than COVID-19, Public Health contact traces over 90 different notifiable diseases to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in our communities. Responding to a contact tracer is completely voluntary, but we strongly encourage you take the time to speak with them. It’s what’s best for the health of you and your community.
- Skagit County testing site will be closed Monday, May 25 in observance of Memorial Day. The site will reopen on Tuesday, May 26 at 9 a.m.
- Skagit County is looking for volunteers to help at the drive-through testing site. Volunteers would be directing traffic, helping register people or helping testing. Shifts are available Monday through Friday either all day, 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If you have questions or are interested in volunteering, contact Tina Bobbitt with the Department of Emergency Management at 360-416-1853.
- The Skagit Public Health Department has posted several new Conversations COVID-19 videos this week. They cover topics including the Governor’s Safe Start plan and contact tracing. You can view all the Conversations COVID-19 videos and more on our website.
- There are many things to consider as we start to return to normal. Read Skagit Health Connection’s new post: Separation Anxiety: Start now to prepare your dog for your return to work and sign up at skagitcounty.blog to have new posts sent straight to your email.