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Skagit County coronavirus cases surge due mainly to family gatherings

Extended family members are getting together for picnics and parties — spreading coronavirus across multiple generations.

SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash — It's not a trip to the grocery store that is infecting people in Skagit County with coronavirus right now as much as it is a trip to the park — surrounded by people they know and love.

"You could call it COVID fatigue, maybe," said Skagit County Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand. "Just the desire to not be alone."

Skagit County reported 234 positive COVID-19 cases in July. That's the most since the beginning of the pandemic.

Leibrand says while more people are wearing masks and all six deaths this month came from one long-term care facility, infections are up among all age groups.

"We've had cases in this county ranging from 1-year-old to 100-years-old."

A 14-year-old is currently suffering from organ failure connected to coronavirus.

A 5-year-old is infected along with his entire family.

Health officials believe extended family members are getting together for picnics and parties — spreading coronavirus because they're not taking all the necessary precautions.

"It's not in the forefront of their mind that they could be passing COVID," said Leibrand, a 31-year emergency room veteran. "They're outside, they're maintaining some separation, but that's where the disease is coming from."

If you must meet up with people Leibrand says you must wear a mask — even if they're family members and even if you're outside at a park. 

"You and I are 10 feet apart but that doesn't mean we're going to be 10 feet apart the whole time we're together. You have to have multiple layers of protection to prevent  transmission of the disease."

Skagit County's infection rate is 113 cases for every 100,000 people. That's second-highest in western Washington. Pierce County currently leads with 119 cases.

The state average is 138 cases per 100,000 people; 25 cases per 100,000 people is considered acceptable.

With an infection rate still more than four times what it should be, Leibrand believes we're in for a long ride.

"We're going to have an increase in the number of hospitalizations and deaths," he said. "It's just a matter of time."