May 26, 2020
Stay Home, Stay Healthy updates from Skagit County
Public Health reported one new laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 today. Daily updates and total case counts are available at http://www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus. Case counts are updated at 4 p.m.
Skagit County to request Phase 2 Variance
On Friday, May 22, the Skagit County Board of Health sent a letter to Governor Inslee asking that he consider a Phase 2 variance for Skagit County. Skagit County’s Unified Command, all eight Skagit County Mayors and First Responders sent letters in support of the Board of Health’s request. You can read all the letters here:
Phase 2 would allow additional non-essential activities such as in-store retail, gathering with five or fewer people from outside your household, and the reopening of dine-in restaurants and taverns with 50 percent or less capacity, but During Phase 2 it will still be important to practice good physical distancing and hygiene. Everyone will still have to stay six feet apart from anyone they come into contact with, wear a mask, wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their face or mask with unclean hands. Please, even as we begin to discuss lifting of some restrictions, continue to use these practices.
Background: On May 19, Governor Inslee announced eligibility requirements for counties with populations of 75,000 to apply for variance under the Safe Start plan and move to Phase 2 ahead of the rest of the State. A key requirement to apply is that a County must have fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14 day period. For Skagit County this means no more than 13 new cases over 14 days.
Skagit hasn’t hit this metric yet. So why are we confident that we could safely move to Phase 2? The Skagit Public Health Department, Skagit Public Health Officer and Unified Command leadership all agree: this metric doesn’t tell the whole story. We are asking Governor Inslee to better account for how COVID-19 spreads and Public Health readiness in his eligibility requirements.
First, Public Health readiness: what does that mean? Governor Inslee has repeatedly emphasized the importance of contact tracing and isolation/quarantine facilities in the ability to safely move to Phase 2 of the Safe Start plan. Skagit has had a robust contact tracing and disease investigation team since the beginning of the pandemic and has been able to provide contact tracing services for every single confirmed case of COVID-19 since March 10, 2020. Skagit has not needed outside help to provide these services and still has additional capacity to cover increased workload if a surge occurs.
Further, Skagit County has several isolation and quarantine facilities set up to provide a safe space for those who may be unable to isolate or quarantine safely at home. These facilities are not near capacity and Skagit Public Health is confident we have enough space to provide services should a surge occur.
Finally, Skagit County’s testing site has been one of the first in the region to be able to test asymptomatic persons. Currently, the testing site is testing around 200 people per day. Combined with our contact tracing capability, the testing site allows us to help people quarantine before they become contagious. This is vital to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Second, the eligibility metric doesn’t account for how COVID-19 spreads. Unfortunately, COVID-19 spreads very quickly and easily among people living in the same home or working in close quarters. People are infectious for 2 days prior to showing any symptoms, and our investigations show that people typically get tested about 4 days after their symptoms start, making it very likely that other members of their household have already been infected prior to them being tested for COVID-19. This makes it very hard to prevent other people in a household from becoming sick. We support using evidence of broad community transmission for decisions on movement between phases, but not including cases related to close familial contacts, work place contacts or other clusters.
Skagit County is ready to move to Phase 2 of Governor Inslee’s Safe Start plan. Remember, in order to keep our community transmission rates low and continue our progress, everyone needs to continue practicing good physical distancing and hygiene. When in public, wear a mask and stay six feet apart from anyone you come into contact with. Wash your hands frequently and do not touch your face or mask with unclean hands. We’re all in this together, and it’s important we each do our part to move forward.
Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture announced details for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides direct assistance to farmers. You can learn more about the program and apply at farmers.gov/cfap
- Today, Governor Inslee enacted emergency rules that will allow Labor and Industries to cite businesses for being open or for operating in a way that is purposely defying the phase-in approach of the Safe Start Plan and, as a result, putting their employees at risk. You can learn more on L&I’s website.
- Skagit Health Connections continues to provide weekly content on COVID-19 and the issues that matter to you. Check out their post COVID-19 and the Flu Don’t Compare and sign up at skagitcounty.blog to get posts straight to your email.