Coronavirus Skagit

Skagit County’s drive-thru COVID-19 test site will reopen Thursday under limited hours, after being closed for nearly a week because of poor air quality.

The site, located at Skagit Valley College, will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, according to a news release from the county. Hours will be the same on Friday, unless air quality improves.

Staff and volunteers will wear KN95 masks to protect themselves from smoke inhalation, the release states.

County spokesperson Laura Han said the decision to close the site Sept. 10 was a difficult one, but necessary to protect volunteers and staff.

However, access to COVID-19 testing is also a community need, especially in a period that follows after Labor Day, when people likely gathered in large groups, and potentially without exercising caution, she said.

“We’re still in the time frame where we’re likely experiencing spread related to Labor Day weekend, and it’s vital that we’re able to identify those cases to stop a potential major outbreak or uptick,” county Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson said in the release.

Jumps in the number of new cases occurred in the weeks after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

County Public Health Officer Howard Leibrand said while new cases have fallen in recent weeks, part of that is likely because of the test site closure.

As of Wednesday, 46 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in county residents this month, according to county data.

This is lower than the previous 15-day periods — about 90 new cases were recorded in the latter half of August, and about 150 in the first half.

Leibrand said because fewer county residents have been tested in the past week it’s likely the county is missing new cases.

While people with COVID-19 symptoms likely sought testing with some other provider, he said those who are asymptomatic likely didn’t.

“We’re missing ... potentially contagious people who have minimal symptoms or no symptoms,” he said.

And with cases of COVID-19 going undocumented, Public Health staff aren’t doing contact tracing to determine to whom the virus may have been passed.

Even as case numbers fall, Leibrand is urging the public to continue following public health guidelines — including wearing masks, limiting unnecessary travel, maintaining distance from others and avoiding gatherings of more than five people.

He said when the number of new cases fell in June, people became complacent, leading to a resurgence in July and August.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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