Crisp air and pumpkin spice lattes may signal fall to many, but it also means more time indoors due to fewer daylight hours, cooler temperatures and the start of flu season.

So it’s more important than ever to keep ourselves healthy and safe, not only from COVID-19, but from other illnesses too. The best way to do this is through a combination of actions:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Wear a mask in public settings
  • Social distance
  • Get tested when you’re ill
  • Take extra precautions if you’re high risk

Island Hospital CEO Charles Hall, MSN, MBA and Chief Medical Officer, Jason Hogge, MD, held a community briefing in early September to update our region on the current state of COVID-19. Both Hall and Hogge urged all who are eligible—currently those 12 and older—to get vaccinated. To watch the briefing, visit:

In August 2021, Island Hospital saw its first deaths (six total to date) since March 2020 with a 758% rise in new cases since June of this year. The hospital saw triple the amount of patients in July and August than previous monthly averages since the start of the pandemic. Hospitals throughout Washington State are dangerously close to altering the standards of care that states like Idaho are currently facing.

“We are struggling to meet the demands of our patients. Our emergency rooms are full, we have long wait times, and our transfer times to other hospitals are even longer,” Hall said. “Our staff have been at this for 18 months.”

Vaccination is Key
In the Washington State Department of Health COVID report dated August 25, 2021, increasing vaccination rates is the most important tool we have to ultimately decrease the number of COVID-19 cases that lead to hospitalization and death.

Nearly 93% of new cases from February 1 through August 16, 2021 were unvaccinated. While there have been some breakthrough cases (a vaccinated person testing positive), vaccines continue to reduce a person’s risk of contracting COVID-19 and continue to be highly effective in preventing hospitalization. In addition, breakthrough infections appear to be infectious for a much shorter time period.

“Vaccinations save lives. They prevent illness, hospitalizations and deaths,” Hall said. “It’s not the only solution, but it’s key in preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

San Juan County leads the State with the highest vaccination rate, at 79% of people 12 and older that are fully vaccinated. Skagit County has fully vaccinated 72,297 people or 64.6% of eligible residents, and Island County has 73,601 or 60.1% of residents 12 and older vaccinated. (Data is as of September 19, 2021.)

Vaccination and Testing Resources
Free vaccinations and COVID-19 testing locations are readily available throughout the State. Skagit County Public Health offers a listing of local testing locations and free vaccinations at the Skagit County Fairgrounds.

Test Directly provides a search by zip code for convenient testing locations.

For COVID-19 testing information at Island Hospital’s main campus in Anacortes, visit For testing information at Island Primary Care – Orcas, visit

Third doses are now available to immunocompromised and at-risk groups. More details are expected to be released about booster doses for other populations in the coming weeks. To read more about COVID-19 booster shots, visit the Centers for Disease Control website. As always, patients are encouraged to talk with their physician if they have specific questions about their medical conditions and risks of the vaccine.

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Published on September 27, 2021