Skagit County is experiencing a trend of fewer new COVID-19 cases, moving it closer to the next phase of the state’s reopening plan.
With 87 new cases from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, the county reported fewer than 100 new cases in a week for the first time since the end of October, according to county data.
County Health Officer Howard Leibrand said this improvement likely means the county is well on its way to advancing in the state’s plan to reopen certain businesses.
“I suspect we’re probably getting pretty close to Phase 2,” he said.
As of Monday, the county has recorded 3,981 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 242 severe enough to require hospitalization and 53 deaths.
Leibrand said the effects of early vaccinations and the growing number of those who’ve gotten COVID-19 — and so have natural immunity — are likely contributing to the falling number of cases.
Being further away from holiday surges also likely plays a part, as people are staying home and avoiding gatherings, he said.
However, increased reopening of Skagit County depends on the success of its neighbors as well. The county is grouped with Whatcom, San Juan and Island counties in Gov. Jay Inslee’s Healthy Washington plan, and as a group they must show declining cases and hospitalizations to advance.
Whatcom County, and specifically areas in the north part of the county, had seen significant growth through January but cases are now falling there as well, according to state data.
On Friday, the state will evaluate data and announce if regions can advance to the next phase.
But while Phase 2 would allow for more indoor and group activities, a more dangerous strain of COVID-19 is on the rise in the United States.
While the U.K. variant, which is more easily transmitted, has not been found in the county, Leibrand said the public should assume it is here and should practice extra caution with masking and social distancing.
Two cases of this variant have been found in central Snohomish County.
Leibrand said once the county moves to Phase 2, staying there will depend on the diligence of the public.
If case rates, hospitalizations or other COVID metrics spike again, the region will move back to Phase 1 of Inslee’s plan.
“I don’t think anything we want to do in small groups ... has to be inherently unsafe,” he said. “We can make (the variant) less contagious by just being diligent.”
While this advice is certainly more of the same when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19, Leibrand said it’s clear based on recent case numbers that “more of the same has been working.”