Omicron subvariant a factor in Skagit County’s 111% jump in COVID case rate

COVID-19 cases are trending upward for a community in the North Sound. According to CDC guidelines, Skagit County is now in a "substantial" transmission level, up from a "moderate" level last week.

Skagit County’s COVID-19 case rate jumped 111% in the last week. The latest numbers were recorded April 30 at 134.6 cases in a seven-day period, up from 62.9 the week prior. 

Danica Sessions with Skagit County Public Health said the uptick is concerning, but right now, case numbers are still relatively low.

"At the height of omicron, we were seeing a seven-day rolling average of 260 cases per day. And right now we’re sitting at 26. So yes, 111% seems very, very big, but we’re looking at some small numbers," said Sessions. "That said, our hospitalization rate did go up by 50% this week, and we are actively tracking our hospitalization rates."

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New omicron subvariants—like BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5—are a factor in the increase seen not just in Skagit County. The Washington State Department of Health said it’s seeing an increase in positive cases statewide.

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"We’re talking about endemic, but we’re not talking about over. COVID is still very much present in the community, and we will likely see surges, waves for a while to come," said Sessions.

Health experts said vaccines offer the most effective protection against COVID-19, and help reduce a larger spike in cases. However, even with all the free vaccination clinics throughout Skagit County, less than 69% of eligible people are vaccinated.

"[We're] really urging folks to come out, get vaccinated; if you haven’t already, get boosted, and for some folks a second booster," said Sessions. "Continuing to have those hard conversations with people about the safety and efficacy of these vaccines and how important they are, even now."

Sessions said the health department is also seeing a resurgence is testing. 

Z.D. just got back from a trip out of state. He was first in line to get a COVID test at Cascade Mall in Burlington this week to protect his loved ones.

"I’m super close with the older people in my family, so I’m just making sure I’m staying safe, and I don’t bring nothing to them," said Z.D. "I’m definitely aware of what it could do to our community, to our people. I’m definitely trying to do what I can to stay safe."

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Skagit County Public Health is also giving away free at-home test kits for anyone who goes to the testing site at Cascade Mall.

Even though new variants keep popping up, DOH has its WaForWArd plan to continue COVID-19 response in the state. The plan includes helping local health jurisdictions with more data monitoring and more attempts to get vaccines into people’s arms.