The rate of new cases of COVID-19 has continued to fall in Skagit County, even after Labor Day weekend when an increase was expected.
According to the most recent data available on the state's COVID-19 risk assessment dashboard, Skagit County recorded 34.1 cases per 100,000 residents over the 14-day period between Aug. 29 and Sept. 11.
Preliminary data — not yet confirmed by the state Department of Health — shows new cases continuing to fall, and the county may be below 25 cases per 100,000 residents, a goal outlined in Gov. Jay Inslee's Safe Start plan.
County spokesperson Laura Han said the county had seen a spike in COVID-19 cases about 10 days after both Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, leading Public Health staff to brace for an increase.
"We definitely expected cases to go up, not down," she said in an email.
Han said she took this as an encouraging sign that public health guidelines — masking, social distancing and keeping gatherings small — are working, and were practiced during the holiday weekend.
"Decreasing transmission is due to Skagitonians doing their part and following those protocols," she said. "Public Health is very thankful for everyone doing their part and encourages them to keep up the good work."
While it is possible that a closure of the county's COVID-19 drive-thru test site from Sept. 10-16 because of wildfire smoke could be impacting the data, county Health Officer Howard Leibrand said he doesn't believe this is the case.
Leibrand said he reviewed the data Wednesday morning, and it doesn't appear that testing fell significantly while the site was closed.
"It looks like our partners were able to pick up the slack," he said.
Public Health is still having issues with people not communicating with contact tracers, he said. Contact tracers are responsible for reaching out to those who have tested positive, and determining where they were exposed and who else they could have infected.
Leibrand said county staff can't properly do their job without this information, and it isn't used in any other way than tracking the virus.
With Halloween approaching, Leibrand released a statement Tuesday discouraging trick-or-treating.
"In light of the continued community spread of COVID-19, I am recommending that no in-person trick-or-treating take place this year,” he said in the statement.
The act of going door to door creates too great a risk of spreading the virus, he said.