By Briana Alzola

Cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Skagit County, and Island Hospital CEO Charles Hall said he doesn’t expect the numbers to drop anytime soon.

“I do see the virus being here a year from now, if not 18 months from now,” he said. “We need to learn to live with it, even as we battle it.”

Vaccines are coming, but even if introduced, there is no guarantee they will be 100% effective or that everyone will get one, Hall said. Therefore, people should continue social distancing and wearing masks around others, he said.

As of Monday, Skagit County had seen 890 cases of COVID-19, 95 people have been hospitalized and 22 people have died.

As far as testing, the hospital respiratory clinic is busier than ever. Island Hospital staff have tested 3,649 people for COVID-19. Fifty tests came back positive, Hall said. Those people have come from all over, with many not being from Anacortes but from other neighboring towns. Two of the positive cases were visitors from Texas early in the year, Hall said.

According to a breakdown of cases by ZIP code, between 30 and 39 people from Anacortes have tested positive for the virus.

“We continue to find new testing methods and expand testing,” Hall said.

The hospital tests those who come to the clinic, as well as anyone who will have a procedure done at the hospital. Those tests are administered 72 hours before the procedure, Hall said.

It also has some tests, 

Cepheid and BioFire, which offer results in about an hour. Those are limited in supply and generally reserved for emergencies such as ER patients who need surgery, he said.

The hospital is working on getting a new type of test, which will bring back results in about 15 minutes and will test for influenza as well as COVID-19.

Other than making people sick, the COVID-19 virus could have an impact on how the hospital provides services, Hall said. The Anacortes School District announced recently that it will begin the school year completely online.

Some hospital employees with children may need to stay home and may need to stop working to do so, Hall said.

Workforce changes could also affect availability of hospital services, he said.

“Time is going to tell,” he said.

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