Coronavirus Skagit

Skagit County announced Thursday an immediate return to requiring masks be worn in county facilities, regardless of vaccination status, for those 5 and older.

The mask requirement applies to county staff and visitors to county offices and in the indoor areas at the Skagit County Fair on Aug. 11-14.

“We are preparing signage right now, but it wasn’t a huge adaptation that had to happen,” Skagit County Fair Manager Aric Gaither said following the announcement. “It’s just required indoors and ... for the average fairgoer that’s a quick 10-, 15-minute trip through the barn.”

“There’s a lot of outdoor areas. We have such big, open space and open air at the fair,” he said.

The Skagit County Board of Commissioners said in a memo to staff that the return to wearing masks indoors is in response to recommendations from public health professionals across federal, state and local jurisdictions.

That includes recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state Department of Health and Skagit County Health Officer Howard Leibrand.

County officials said a recent increase in COVID-19 cases has made the return of masks necessary.

“Daily case counts are continuing to increase in our county, causing more illness,” the county memo states. “It is also appearing that the Delta variant is causing more severe illness, particularly amongst younger, unvaccinated individuals.”

Skagit County noted 23 new cases Thursday morning, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 5,582. Of those cases, Skagit County has seen 384 hospitalizations and 79 deaths.

Thursday’s tally marks the third time in recent weeks that a single day saw higher case counts than the weekly totals seen from mid-June to mid-July.

Without access to vaccines, the numbers would be higher, according to county data. Over the past six months, February through July, 95.3% of local COVID-19 cases have occurred in unvaccinated residents — and all 21 COVID-19 deaths during that time were among the unvaccinated.

As of this week, 60% of Skagit County residents ages 12 and older have been vaccinated, according to state Department of Health data.

The county encourages vaccination for the remaining 40% of the population that is eligible and is requiring masks in county facilities as an added layer of protection.

“We are confident that with this universal masking requirement, paired with the widely available vaccine, employees will be safe and will be able to continue to do their jobs effectively, providing in-person services to the public,” the memo states.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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