Two more people have died in Skagit County as a result of COVID-19 as July has already documented the largest number of cases in the county so far.
As of Monday, Skagit County recorded 20 deaths due to COVID-19. The county has also seen 78 hospitalized in area hospitals and confirmed 753 positive cases. Those cases include 234 reported so far in July. The previous high was 195 cases in April with significant drops below 100 for each of May and June.
The increases in July mean the county is moving farther from the possibility of moving into Phase 3 of the state’s Safe Start plan.
“At this point with what we’re seeing and the consistency of what we’re seeing, we are very far (from moving to Phase 3),” Skagit County Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson said Monday during a video conference with local leaders.
She and each of the Skagit County commissioners said better adherence to face mask and distancing requirements, hand washing recommendations, and limits on gatherings is needed to reverse the trend.
The requirements also come with new regulations from Gov. Jay Inslee who last week announced new restrictions on bars, gyms and gatherings that go into effect Thursday.
As of July 30, only people living in the same household can dine indoors together in restaurants. Dining with someone from a different household must take place outdoors.
In Phase 2 counties, such as Skagit County, fitness facilities and indoor pools must be capped at five occupants, not including staff, as of Thursday.
According to Mitch Everton, executive director of the Fidalgo Pool and Fitness Center, the reduction means that each of the three separate fitness areas in the facility (the pool, the gym and the upstairs workout room) will be capped at five patrons, for a total of 15 patrons in the facility at one time.
“It has further limited the resource we have in terms of what we can offer,” he said. The upstairs workout room, which hosts fitness classes, has been following the five-person limit since the center reopened at the end of June. The classes have been streamed for patrons to participate from home, a process that won’t change with the new guidance, he said.
Prior to these new restrictions, Everton estimated there would be potentially 12 people using the pool at one time. That number will now be reduced to five, and the center’s online reservation system will ensure the limit is not exceeded.
Use of the gym is still under discussion at the facility. It’s possible certain machines will be roped off to ensure users maintain 6 feet of space from one another, Everton said.
“We’re in the process of trying to address how exactly that’s going to work,” he said.
Among other restrictions, alcohol sales at both bars and restaurants must cease at 10 p.m. daily, and bars can longer offer indoor services or features like pool tables and video games.
State Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced expansion of the masking order to all common places, like elevators or apartment complex hallways. A previous order only applied in public places. That order went into effect last week.
Weddings and funerals will have new limits next month. As of Aug. 6, ceremonies are limited to 20% occupancy or 30 people, whichever is less. Receptions will not be allowed.
Inslee also extended a statewide moratorium on evictions to Oct. 15. It had been set to expire Aug. 1.
Skagit County Health Officer Howard Leibrand announced this week that he is extending his guidance on large scale events through the end of the year.
He recommends canceling all large events, including fairs, parades, festivals, overnight camps, fireworks displays and large group gatherings for the remainder of 2020.
Leibrand also said that the need for hospitalization has spanned across all age groups, including one 14-year-old who is suffering organ failure because of COVID-19, and an entire family, including several adults and a 5-year-old child, that is currently in care.
“It’s just really important to realize no matter what age you are, this disease can be fatal and can have pretty significant consequences, not just for your older relatives like we’ve been saying for months, but also for yourself,” Leibrand said. “This is not a trivial issue.”
Johnson said of the confirmed cases in Skagit County, the ages of those who have contracted the disease range from less than a year old to 100 years old.
Leibrand said at least one of those currently hospitalized and on a ventilator is in their 20s, and a second in their 30s — highlighting that the disease can turn dangerous at any age.