Currently there are 707 cases in Skagit County, 17 deaths, and 70 hospitalized. That is an increase of 80 cases in one week. The County is seeing an increase in cases due to the 4th of July holiday and summer travelers.
Good afternoon and welcome to the July 22 Briefing on COVID-19. Skagit County remains in phase 2 and we as a community need to recommit to our recovery efforts. It is time to band together and use the most effective scientific intervention known to stop the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a mask. Face masks are emerging as one of the most powerful weapons to fight this virus. There continues to be growing evidence that facial coverings help prevent transmission, even if someone who is infected with COVID-19 is in close contact with others.
- View Mayor Gere's video COVID-19 Briefing for July 22, 2020
It can be difficult to remain committed to physical distancing and getting used to wearing a mask whenever we leave the house. Our long-established habits and routines have had to change dramatically, but they need to, in order to save lives.
Currently there are 707 cases in Skagit County, 17 deaths, and 70 hospitalized. That is an increase of 80 cases in one week. The County is seeing an increase in cases due to the 4th of July holiday and those summer travelers who are traveling to and from the county and state, attending large gatherings, and coming into close contact with friends or extended family.
We are all dealing with the compounding difficulties of the emotional, economic, and physical strain of COVID-19 and the many uncertainties that surround us. Please wear a mask to be part of the recovery, right now we are vacillating between recovery and reacting to surges in cases. We will not make strides back to normalcy without long term commitment to wearing mask, physical distancing and good hygiene practices. We can all be united against this virus by embracing these powerful tools.
Changes to the Safe Start Plan
The Governor with the Secretary of Health announced changes to the Safe Start plan that place new limits on social gatherings and a ban on live entertainment across the state. These changes for both phase 2 and phase 3 counties went into effect Monday. All gatherings at every phase must have physical distancing and all attendees must wear masks.
Under the new Safe Start phase limits, the number of individuals allowed in social gatherings during Phase 3 will be reduced from 50 people to 10 people. Counties in Phase 2 may continue to have social gatherings of up to five people.
These restrictions apply only to social gatherings such as book clubs, barbecues, picnics, birthday parties, and house parties, baby showers, social clubs, garage and estate sales, and gatherings on beaches and in parks. All live entertainment, indoor or outdoor, statewide is not allowed. This includes drive-in concerts, comedy clubs and music in restaurants. Funerals, weddings and religious activities are exempt from these restrictions.
Cases Continue to Rise Statewide
The unfortunate truth is that we are seeing cases rise in our community and around the state. We must not let our guard down. We have dialed up our economy and participated in more activities and we have started down an unsustainable path. This virus is continuing to spread.
Evidence suggests that COVID-19 is easily and commonly spread through face-to-face interactions, such as gatherings in the home, at social gatherings and at work. We have to change our habits and the way we interact in order to save live. If cases continue to rise many counties face the possibility of dialing back on activities that are allowed.
Phase 3 Metrics
To move to phase 3 a county must have the following:
- A county must have fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 consecutive days. We currently have 90.6 new cases per 100,000 residents.
- A county must have greater than 50 individuals tested per each new case during the prior week. We currently have 24.2 tests per each new case.
- The percentage of individuals testing positive must be less than 2%. We are currently at 4.1 %.
- The percentage of beds occupied in a county must me less than 80%. We are currently at 76.7%
- Lastly, the percentage of those beds occupied by COVID-19 cases must be less than 10%. We are currently at 4.2%.
We are still currently meeting 2 of the 5 metrics. All counties remained paused in their current phase until at least July 28th per the Governor’s order.
Why Masks are Important
Many experts are saying that the pandemic could be brought under control if everyone started wearing a mask right now. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal shows researchers simulating the effectiveness of a mask when someone coughs.
The study found that droplets expelled from the double-layered cotton mask traveled forward about 2.5 inches on average, and that most of the leakage escaped from gaps between the nose and face. Loosely fitting facial coverings, including a folded cotton handkerchief with ear loops had droplets that traveled 1.25 feet and a bandanna had droplets traveling 3.5 feet. An off-the-shelf cone-shaped mask had droplets travel about 8 inches on average.
They found that, of the masks they studied, a stitched, double-layered cotton mask was most effective in preventing droplets from being emitted forward.
Droplets from an uncovered cough traveled around 8 feet on average, and a maximum of about 12 feet. This is why COVID-19 is so concerning. People who do not wear a facemask are spreading the disease, and they may not even have symptoms yet. Many survivors of this virus suffer lasting impacts and organ damage. This is not something that you want to risk when something as simple as wearing a mask is an available tool.
The CDC used a Missouri hair salon, where two stylists directly served 139 clients in May before testing positive for Covid-19 as an example of the effectiveness of wearing masks. The stylists both wore either a double-layered cotton or surgical mask, and nearly all of the 139 clients who received services reported that they wore a mask.
No COVID-19 symptoms were identified in the 139 clients and of the 67 tested, all were negative. It is projected that if 95% of the U.S. population began wearing masks, the expected death toll would drop by more than 40,000 cases. There continued to be research that suggested the risk of infection to the wearer of a mask is decreased by 65 percent. This means that if I am with someone, and we are both wearing a mask the likelihood of spreading COVID-19 between either of diminishes significantly.
Anacortes Municipal Court Reopening
The Anacortes Municipal Court will have its first hearings scheduled for tomorrow July 23, 2020 and next Thursday on July 30, 2020, with hearings beginning at 8:30 a.m. to be done in 15 minute sessions.
There will be many requirements of all individuals for COVID-19 protection. This includes limiting individuals in the court room to parties of the case only, a face mask requirements, and defendants remaining outside the building until their specific hearing time. The staff at the Municipal Court have been working hard to put detailed safety protocols into place.
The side of the building that houses the Anacortes Police Department will remain closed to the public through phase 2.
Local Fiscal Impact
Our Finance Department continues to evaluate information as it comes in week by week, and month by month the Finance Director evaluates and briefs the City Council on the impact of COVID-19 on the City’s budget. The City took decisive action early on. Because of that, along with conservative budgeting, means that even though sales tax revenues is down over 20% we are looking at less than a 10% impact in the budget due to the decrease in sales tax revenue.
The City Council and I will be discussion how to best navigate the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19. We will have an in-depth discussion on 2021 budget priorities and whether a yearly budget may best suit the needs of the City. We will be discussing how to plan for the next year at our next council meeting, on July 27. We are focused on how to plan for the unknown, while maintaining focus on what is important to the community.
If you would like to participate in the discussion with the City Council and I please call into the City Council meeting at 360-293-1904 and our staff will patch you in live.
Anacortes Parks Department
The Parks Department is holding our Survivor Camp this week in Washington Park. This is a great opportunity for kids who have been stuck inside to enjoy and explore the outdoors in a safe physically distant way. The Parks Department is continuing to find ways to offer outdoor recreation opportunities to Youth in our community.
Anacortes Public Library
The Library has been busy with Summer Reading and that means prizes every week plus a special Harry Potter Birthday prize for one lucky reader next week. Any reader under 18 years old can submit a reading recommendation in photo, video, or written form online to enter to win the Harry Potter Prize Bag courtesy of Friends of the Library, Lil' Tugs, and The Business. Contest ends Friday July 31.
Adults can participate in summer reading too. Reserve books for curbside pickup Monday-Friday, and check the library website for information on how to place holds, get a library card, and more. The library is getting new books every day, and taking requests for reserves. Read online or in person with your library card, and remember if you need WIFI, the library parking lot has free WIFI for you to use.
Supporting Local Businesses
While Skagit County remains in Phase 2, businesses and workers are struggling. Business as we know it is drastically altered and this threatens the economic health of our neighbors and our community. We at the City recognize this and want to do whatever we can to help, whether that is through access to funds, or by creating ways to have expanded shopping opportunities in our downtown during phase 3
We are very focused on main-street businesses want to do our part to step up and support them. One way to do that is to spread this simple message. Wear a mask on your face to save your favorite place.
Right now it is all about safety. Safety for customers, and employees and economic safety for business owners. The question we are all wrestling with is, how do you make people safe for shopping and working in local shops? No one has the answer but our City businesses, and residents are working together to find an answer. It all starts with wearing a mask, so let’s mask up Anacortes!
Skagit County Commissioners awarded over $160,000 in grant funding to local businesses, and announced second small business grant round designed to help local businesses keep their doors open, retain jobs, and comply with COVID-19 prevention public health and safety measures.
Small businesses are the backbone of Skagit County’s local economy, and the loss of funds from reduced sales, show cancellations and decreased tourism has impacted small businesses significantly. Eligible business are those with up to 25 employees, as well as nonprofits focusing on basic needs. There is $750,000 in funding is available, and the maximum award amount is $25,000.
By the numbers
Island Hospital has tested a total of 2,897 people with a total of 46 positive cases, 8 positive hospitalized cases, and there have been no deaths. We have had an increase of 4 cases in just one week here in Anacortes. In the last month we have seen an increase of 12 cases.
This morning I visited the Skagit Valley College Testing site to acknowledge and thank the incredible work of the volunteers that have been testing over 500 people a day, 595 were tested on the 13th of this month setting a new record. This testing infrastructure is a pivotal part of stamping out COVID-19 in our County. It is run by volunteers from our community and I am grateful for their commitment and compassion.
There have been over 15,000 tests with 307 people testing positive so far. If you are worried you have been exposed to COVID-19, please quarantine and after 5-7 days, you can come and get tested Monday - Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 pm at Skagit Valley College.
Globally we have nearly 14.6 million cases and over 607,000 people have died worldwide from COVID-19. Across the country in the United States we have seen 3.8 million cases and there have been almost 150,000 who have lost their life.
In Washington State we currently have nearly 48,000 cases and 1,453 people have died. We expect to see these numbers continue to rise and here at home we need to make a commitment to defeating this virus and protect our community and the people we care about most.
Questions and Answers
- Is it a requirement for people to wear masks at the gym? If they gym is not enforcing this, what should I do?
People at the gym are required to wear a mask if they cannot maintain 6 feet of separation from non-household members in the gym. If the gym is not enforcing the mask order it is a business violations. The State has set up a form for Safe Start Violations that you can fill out. The State Department of Labor and industries will follow up with your complaint.
- When do I not have to wear a mask?
You do not need to wear a cloth face covering when you are in your own home or in your car, if you are only with people in your own household. You also do not need to wear a cloth face covering when you are exercising outdoors and you have plenty of space. It’s a good idea to keep one in your pocket, though, in case you come across other people you can’t stay six feet away from. And some people may have health conditions or circumstances that make wearing a cloth face covering difficult or dangerous.
- If someone near me isn’t wearing a mask, should I say something to them?
No. Someone may have a medical reason for not wearing a face covering. Whether those around you are wearing face coverings or not, focus on keeping 6 feet of distance between you and washing your hands often.
We have been meeting here for the 14 weeks and we have weathered a global pandemic, but today there is still a lot of disbelief. There is acceptance, there is new ways to live, work recreate, learn and socialize. There are important conversations we have never had before. There are vaccines being developed and worked on across the world by medical experts. There have been less premature babies born because moms have been able to stay home.
There is still a community we love, there are masks of every design and color covering our faces. We are adapting our businesses and creating new options for shoppers. The economy is dependent on these creative measures by businesses large and small. There is an entrepreneurial spirit that has always been part of our culture, to be able to launch something new, turn around a failing situation, and to adapt to changes in our society.
There has been problem solving and we are creating a new vision. This is important during this time that day to day we keep our vision and actions focused on the future horizon
Today, I read that Oxford University and British and Swedish Pharmaceutical companies reported that there is a COVID-19 vaccine that has shown in early human trials to be safe and stimulate the immune response. There is hope.
Today I also visit the Skagit County COVID-19 testing site at Skagit Valley College and observed volunteers as they safely and efficiently tested over 420 people. I asked them what the future was. They said they plan on testing through this year and then their hope was, to turn this site into a vaccination site as soon as a vaccine is ready. I was heartened by their vision – from testing, to vaccine. We will persevere. We are Skagit County, We are Anacortes.