We have focused our briefings each week on the updates and changes effecting the Anacortes Community. This week we have Dr. Leibrand here with us to answer to some of your Public Health questions.
Good afternoon, thank you for joining me for a special edition of my COVID-19 Community briefing. We have focused our briefings each week on the updates and changes effecting the Anacortes Community. This week we have Dr. Leibrand here with us to answer to some of your Public Health questions. He will give answers to your questions based on the best available science and on his many years of medical experience.
It is great to be here with you week after week to keep you informed and up to date on the latest information. I can hardly believe that September is here, and that Fall is right around the corner. In July, Governor Inslee indefinitely extended his pause of the Safe Start plan to reopen the economy. The virus continues to control the situation and only through our commitment to public health guidance and our hard work will we be able to eventually move into phase 3.
It is especially important to reinforce the important of following public health guidelines now. Next Monday is Labor Day, which often means a long weekend and includes people traveling, or visiting family, and friends. For Skagit County, which remains in phase 2, only essential travel and limited non-essential travel for phase 2 activities are permitted. In addition, only gatherings of up to 5 people are permitted. So, whatever activities you participate in this coming weekend should comply with this guidance.
We need to think about how we can avoid the spike in cases we have seen like after the 4th of July weekend. Our personal actions impact not only the health and wellbeing of our community but also our small businesses, retail, and restaurants. If we comply with public health guidance that will help move us to phase 3 more quickly. By not complying we are limiting our small businesses access to customers and limiting their ability to provide goods and services. We are headed in the right direction; in August we saw 237 COVID-19 cases in Skagit County compared to 264 in July. We all play a part in moving our community to phase 3, no one person can do it, we must do it together. Let’s keep it up.
Service Changes for Labor Day
As I mentioned, this coming Monday is Labor Day and so the City of Anacortes will have no garbage service on Monday, both Monday and Tuesday customers will have pick up on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. Our Anacortes Public Library will also be closed for curbside service on Labor Day but there are still many virtual storytimes and learning options available online. The Library is hard at work planning for new content for you and your family to enjoy this Fall!
Parks and Recreation
Mount Erie Road will be closed to motorized vehicles on Labor Day, Monday September 7. Please remember that when you are in any Anacortes Park or the Anacortes Community Forest Lands you should practice strict physical distancing and wear a mask whenever you are within 6 ft of someone and not engaged in physical exercise. If you see an increased number of visitors, we recommend that you come back at another time when it is less busy. Please be respectful of others so we can all enjoy this upcoming weekend safely.
Additionally, the Anacortes Parks and Recreation department in partnership with Thrive Community Fitness is offering a safe and socially distanced fitness opportunity. Connect with yourself, your community, and nature in this class designed to leave you feeling welcomed, supported, and with just the right amount of physical challenge. This is a great opportunity, visit the City’s Parks and Recreation Department webpage for more information, classes start Wednesday, September 9.
Safe Start Plan Phase 2 Updates
The City is closely monitoring changes to the Governor’s Safe Start plan. New Phase 2 and 3 Agritourism COVID-19 Requirements were released on August 28. These changes allow: Animal viewing, hay and wagon rides, children’s play equipment, private firepit and bonfires.
Agritourism businesses are also permitted to operate, provided they meet the new requirements. Some of the new activities include, but are not limited to Christmas tree farms, u-pick berry farms, corn mazes and pumpkin patches. Each business will adopt a written procedure for operations that complies with all employee safety and health requirements. As we look towards Fall and the Holiday season it is comforting to know that we will be able to safely enjoy some of these activities.
By the Numbers
Island Hospital continues to be supporting our community through this public health crisis and has tested a total of 4,600 people with a total of 53 positive cases, 10 positive hospitalized cases, and fortunately there have been no deaths in Anacortes. The positive cases in Anacortes represent 5.2% of the overall cases in Skagit County and 11% of the hospitalized cases.
Phase 3 Metrics
The metrics set by the state will eventually determine when we are able to move to phase 3. Once the Governor removes his pause of the Safe Start plan, we will need to meet all 5 of the following metrics:
- We currently have 72.8 new cases per 100,000 residents. A county must have fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 consecutive days to meet this metric.
- A county must have greater than 50 individuals tested per each new case during the prior week to meet this metric, we are awaiting updated information from the State Department of Health on this metric.
- We have 2.3% of individuals testing positive. We must be less than 2% to meet this metric.
- The percentage of beds occupied in a county must me less than 80%. We are currently at 76.3%
- Lastly, the percentage of those beds occupied by COVID-19 cases must be less than 10%. We are currently at 3.3%.
We are currently meeting 2 out of 5 of the metrics.
The Skagit County Public Health District reports 1,022 cases, 22 fatalities, and 93 total hospitalizations. If you are not able to wear a mask the Skagit County Public Health Department recommends that you stay home as much as possible. Community transmission is happening, and masks remain one of our greatest tools in slowing the spread.
Numbers continue to climb globally as the United States and countries around the world continue to struggle with how to beat COVID-19. There are over 25.8 million cases worldwide. In the United States there are over 6 million cases and 183,050 deaths. Our continued commitment to beating this virus will save lives.
Beginning this Monday on August 31, the Skagit Valley College testing site is limited to those who live in or work in Skagit County. The testing facility at Skagit Valley College will continue to be open Monday - Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 pm through at least December of this year. There have been 23,668 tests with 556 people testing positive so far. If you believe you have been exposed, please get yourself tested.
Questions and Answers
Thank you to all those who have submitted questions, and who have been active in helping fight COVID-19 in our community My favorites part of the community briefings has always been the questions you submit. This week I have Dr. Howard Leibrand here with me to answer your Public Health questions.
Dr. Leibrand is a native Washingtonian from Pierce County and his wife Marilyn is from right here in Anacortes. He attended WSU and then Medical School at George Washington University in Washington D.C.
We have seen and heard from Dr. Leibrand a lot lately. He has been working hard to spread the facts regarding COVID-19. He has been working in the role of Public Health Office since 1989 and has substantial experience. He has worked as an Emergency Room Physician from 1992 to 2018, he was the Skagit County Jail Physician for over 20 years, and he has over a decade of experience with addiction medicine. He is going to provide responses to your questions based on his extensive medical and public health background.
We received excellent questions from the public relating to Public Health and COVID-19 and I look forward to hearing Dr. Leibrand’s answers. I am going to start off by reading our first question:
Question 1: Is it going to be safe to reopen all our schools, and businesses without restrictions before we have vaccine? Why isn't the Governor’s Safe Start reopening plan based on when we have a vaccine?
Question 2: Why is it okay to see 5 people outside your household per week if infection rates are going up?
Question 3: Where COVID-19 is getting transmitted in Skagit County? Are the numbers we're seeing coming from small, clustered outbreaks (retirement communities, church choirs, etc.) or transmission at workplaces? Is it because they are not wearing masks?
Question 4: Why doesn't the County release information on where specifically cases are being reported, like what restaurant, apartment complex, etc? So that people can avoid going there and being exposed.
Question 5: Is contact tracing effective? How does it help slow the spread?
Question 6: I keep hearing we might have a vaccine soon, how soon? Where will I be able to get one?
Question 7: What is anti-body testing? Why would I need to get it?
We had some great questions, and I am wondering if you have anything else to share with us. Are their questions that you think are important to ask but that you do not hear a lot? Is there any additional information you think would be helpful for people to know?
Mayor Gere’s Conclusion
Thank you all for being with us today. Please have a fun and safe weekend. I will see you for my next briefing on September 16th. Next Wednesday we will post a COVID-19 Briefing Memo on the City’s Website and on Social Media with any updates that happen over the next week.