Skagit County has not controlled the spread of COVID-19 sufficiently enough to be eligible to advance to Phase 3 of the governor’s Safe Start plan.
“It is not safe to move to Phase 3 at this time,” Director of Public Health Jennifer Johnson said Friday during an online meeting of the county Board of Health.
Using the most recent verified data, Skagit County has over the past 14 days had 27.1 new cases for every 100,000 residents. To be eligible to move to Phase 3, the county must have no more than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents, Johnson said.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan requires counties spend at least three weeks in each phase. Friday was the first day the county would have been eligible to apply.
The county meets other requirements laid out in the Safe Start plan including testing, hospital capacity and contact tracing.
Howard Leibrand, the county’s health officer, said because of this uptick in transmission, he believes the county will have to stay in Phase 2 at least two more weeks.
“We’re on the cusp of a big problem again if we can’t turn this around,” he said.
Leibrand said he knows from contact tracing that large gatherings are happening in the county, and are causing more infections. He said the county has also documented several instances of people bringing the virus from elsewhere.
He reminded those attending Friday’s meeting that only one gathering of five or fewer people outside of one’s household is recommended per week, and that non-essential travel is to be limited.
Skagit County isn’t alone in this resurgence, Johnson said. Neighboring Whatcom and Snohomish counties are also experiencing spikes, and did not apply for Phase 3 on Friday — the first day they would have been eligible.
She urged the public to keep wearing masks and to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
“To get to Phase 3, we need the community’s help,” Johnson said. “Please lead by example. We have a lot to do and we need your help to get us there.”
One way people can help, she said, is to sign up to volunteer at the county’s drive-thru testing site at Skagit Valley College. Those interested can call Public Health at 360-416-1500.