Goskagit

The Skagit County Board of Health canceled plans Thursday to consider civil penalties for violating county health orders, including those related to COVID-19, as the Public Health department shifts its focus to vaccinations.

Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson said at a meeting that her department’s priorities have changed significantly since the idea of civil penalties was proposed Dec. 22.

She said she is concerned that creating a financial penalty — proposed as a $50 fine for first-time violators — would anger the public and reduce compliance with such health precautions as masking, social distancing and limiting occupancy in businesses.

“Now is a time when Public Health needs to be building trust and support in our community,” Johnson said.

Further, she said she believes compliance with COVID-19 health recommendations is increasing, as the number of new cases is down from record highs in December.

All five members of the board agreed to no longer consider civil penalties.

These penalties would have been levied against those who violated orders from the county health officer.

Health Officer Howard Leibrand has not issued any such orders, only recommendations. Johnson said no county orders mandating masks are being considered, and it’s unknown whether they would be considered in the future.

Leibrand said the county can already take violators of any such orders to court, adding he felt that was sufficient.

A public hearing on the proposed civil penalties, scheduled for Wednesday, has been canceled.

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

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