COVID-19 cases are surging across Skagit County, and area hospitals are asking people to avoid emergency rooms unless except in very serious situations.

Skagit County had 1,882 new cases in 11 days but no new deaths from Jan. 2-10.

At Island Hospital in Anacortes, the emergency department, the walk-in clinic and the testing tent are being inundated with patients, spokesperson Laura Moroney said.

The case spike follows the arrival in the U.S. of the omicron variant.

“This is extremely contagious variant, but most people are able to recover at home,” Moroney said.

Hospitals across Washington are seeing limited bed availability and high volumes, and that is happening here, too.

“Beds are getting harder and harder to find in our region,” she said.

Island Hospital’s emergency department is seeing record numbers of people. On Monday, 60 people came in for treatment. A high-volume day in normal times would mean about 45 patients, Moroney said.

Anyone with mild COVID-19 symptoms should stay home and save the hospital space for patients with serious emergencies, she said.

That also counts people who think they may have COVID-19 but can’t find a test, she said. Anyone with cold-like symptoms should isolate, following procedures as if they are COVID-19 positive.

People with major questions about their health should reach out to their health provider, according to Island Hospital staff. There is a high volume of patients at the hospital now, and calls are overwhelming the hospital’s call center.

People should seek help if they have trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in their chests, new confusion, the inability to wake up or stay awake or pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds.

Island Hospital saw 11 new COVID-19 hospitalizations between Jan. 3 and Jan. 10, Moroney said.

Skagit numbers

Skagit County’s case rate was 1,462 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days. Its hospitalization rate is 20.7 people per 100,000 hospitalized over the past seven days, according to the state Department of Health.

From Jan. 2 to Jan. 10, the Department of Health reported no new COVID-19 deaths and 35 new hospitalizations.

Skagit County has had 156 total COVID-19 deaths and 852 hospitalizations throughout the pandemic as of Jan. 10.

Skagit County discontinued posting daily COVID-19 data on its website Jan. 3 and is instead referring county residents to the state website.

The Skagit County testing center at the Skagit County Fairgrounds had to close its doors early this week so that it could treat the overwhelming number of people who had already arrived in search of a test, according to a Facebook post.

In addition to isolating themselves from people and pets, those who test positive should inform close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and report their positive COVID test to the state Department of Health through the COVID-19 Hotline: 1-800-525-0127.

Sick people should also practice safety measures: Wear a mask around others, wash hands frequently, disinfect high-touch surfaces and limit sharing of personal items.

The CDC advises five days of isolation followed by five days of strict mask-wearing following a positive test.

Surge impact

“The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a post on the CDC website.

Businesses are already feeling the impact with staff outages due to illness. And as cases are spiking, school districts across the country are talking again about virtual learning.

In Anacortes, that’s not in the plans, though leaders are keeping an eye on things, Superintendent Justin Irish said.

The Human Resources Department has done a great job recruiting staff members so the district has been able to function even as some staff have gone into quarantine, he said.

As of right now, staffing is not an issue, Irish said.

The district hired a COVID coordinator to help things run smoothly, including frequent testing for student athletes, he said.

However, in Mount Vernon, staff are preparing for the likelihood of a return to online learning.

Mount Vernon Superintendent Ismael Vivanco said he expects more staffing shortages and warned that changes could occur on short notice for individual schools. He said some classrooms have already had to go remote for periods this year, though he hasn’t had to do that yet for an entire school.

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