Masks at FCN
Needed Medical Care
Masks at Family Care Network
Beginning Monday, April 3, 2023, FCN will update their mask policy in accordance with the Washington State Department of Health revised masking guidelines for healthcare facilities.
While we still recommend masking for patients and staff for increased protection from communicable diseases, masking in FCN facilities is optional. Any staff member or patient can continue to wear a mask based on personal preference. Additionally, patients at increased risk of exposure and/or personal comfort may request that their care team wear a mask during their visit.
There are situations where masking is necessary to reduce the spread of disease. Patients may be asked to wear a mask if they have:
- Cold, flu, or COVID symptoms
- COVID exposure (for 10 days after exposure)
- Confirmed COVID diagnosis (for 10 days after onset)
In these cases, patients should keep their mask on at all times, including while waiting in an exam room. Do not remove or lower your mask unless instructed to do so by your provider.
If needed, acutely ill patients may be brought through an alternate entrance to reduce the risk of exposure in the waiting room. Depending on the reason for the visit, care can sometimes be provided while the patient remains in their car.
Getting needed medical care
Don’t put off medical care — your health is too important!
As a patient of Family Care Network, you can access care via telemedicine or in our clinics. On-demand telemedicine for urgent care is also available. If you need to be seen in the office, we have strong protective measures in place to keep our patients safe.
Seeking care for flu-like or respiratory symptoms:
- Most viruses can be adequately cared for from home with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications.
- If you have questions about your symptoms or if your symptoms worsen, please call ahead for an appointment at your regular primary care clinic. All FCN providers offer visits via telemedicine, a secure and convenient option for virtual healthcare. Telemedicine
- After regular clinic hours, call your primary care office to speak with the on-call provider PRIOR to seeking care at an urgent care center or emergency department. We are often able to assess symptoms and provide guidance over the phone. After-hours Contact Information
- If you arrive at one of our primary care or urgent care clinics with respiratory or flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, fatigue, etc), please do NOT immediately enter the waiting room. Instead, please wait in your car and call the clinic to let staff know you have arrived.
- While in your car, you may be screened by our triage staff to gather more medical information on your condition.
- If you are asked to come into the main clinic waiting room, you may be asked to wear a mask. Select patients may be evaluated in their cars or escorted through an alternate clinic entrance.
- Testing for flu and/or COVID-19 will be based on protocols provided by local health agencies.
If you have symptoms, were exposed, and/or test positive for COVID-19, follow recommendations from the CDC:
COVID-19 Testing Informtion for FCN Patients
A visit is required for an FCN provider to place an order for COVID-19 testing, in person or via telemedicine. Testing is typically performed at an FCN location. Patients with an order can also schedule a COVID-19 test at NW Laboratory in Bellingham. Your provider will contact you with the results, which typically takes 2-3 days.
If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, please call ahead to describe your symptoms BEFORE seeking care in an office, urgent care, or emergency department. Keep yourself separated from other household members as much as possible.
If you do not have symptoms but need a test due to a known or possible exposure, COVID-19 testing is available in Whatcom and Skagit County without an order from a healthcare provider. Learn more here:
Family Care Network strongly recommends getting a COVID-19 vaccine to reduce the risk of disease from this virus. All available vaccines offer excellent protection from serious illness or hospitalization from COVID, including active variants.
FCN does not administer COVID-19 vaccine or booster shots for children or adults.
Please use the Department of Health Vaccine Locator to find a vaccine provider near you. Multiple pharmacies, health departments and healthcare organizations offer COVID-19 vaccine throughout the community.
For more information:
- Vaccines for COVID-19 >> (CDC website)
COVID-19 vaccine for kids
The CDC has authorized use of COVID vaccine for children age 6 months and older. Some children may experience minor side effects such as pain, swelling or redness at the injection site. Other side effects may include fatigue or headache, but they should go away within a few days. Serious side effects are rare.
The CDC provides detailed information on their website: COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens >>
If you have specific questions regarding vaccinations for your child, please schedule an appointment with your child’s primary care provider, either in person or via telemedicine.
Local options for COVID vaccine for children:
COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy
Getting vaccinated is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your baby against COVID. Pregnant women who become infected with COVID have increased risk for pregnancy and personal health complications. COVID vaccines are safe and effective and strongly recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, the CDC, and Family Care Network.
Please review the links below and let your doctor know if you have any questions.
- ACOG/SMFM COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendation >>
- CDC: COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy >>
- Handout: COVID Vaccination in Pregnancy and Lactation >>
Booster vaccine doses
The CDC has approved COVID booster doses, with schedules dependent on age, type of vaccine, and other health considerations.
The CDC is the best resource for current booster dose guidelines, which are periodically updated:
Current CDC recommendations allow for mixing different brands of vaccine for the booster dose. Eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. For example, if you initially received Moderna vaccine, it would be acceptable to get a booster dose of Moderna, Pfizer or J&J vaccine.
FCN does not offer booster doses, but they are widely available through local pharmacies or health departments. Use the Vaccine Locator to find a location near you.
Refer to your vaccination card for the type and date of COVID-19 vaccine received. You can also get personal vaccination records through the Washington State Immunization Information System (WAIIS) at wa.myir.net.
Third/booster dose for immunocompromised individuals
The CDC recommends a different vaccine series for moderately to severely immunocompromised people, which includes people who have:
- Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
The schedule for booster doses for people in this group vary based on type of vaccine, age, etc. Check the CDC website for current booster schedules.
Please schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your individual medical condition(s), to determine if additional vaccine is right for you.
What to Expect After Vaccination
Side effects from a COVID vaccine generally occur within two days and last about a day. Not all people experience side effects; those that have been reported include:
- Injection site reactions: pain, tenderness and swelling of the lymph nodes in the same arm of the injection, swelling (hardness), and localized rash/redness
- General side effects: fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea and vomiting, and fever
There is a remote chance that a COVID vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction. For this reason, patients are asked to remain at the location where they receive their vaccine for 15 minutes for monitoring. We recommend that patients with a history of severe reaction to vaccines schedule an appointment at a clinic location (not our drive-through) to support additional monitoring.
Complete vaccine information is available on the CDC website.
To help track side effects, the CDC offers v-safe, a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Participation in v-safe is optional. To register, go to vsafe.cdc.gov.
General vaccine info:
Please check the CDC website for up-to-date vaccine information regarding safety, benefits, the different vaccines being considered, and how the CDC is making recommendations for vaccination.
COVID-19 Antibody Testing
An antibody test detects coronavirus antibodies in individuals who have been exposed to the virus. It is unknown what a positive antibody test means for COVID-19. For some viruses, a person with a positive antibody test would be considered “immune” to re-infection, however we do not know if this is true for COVID-19. Antibody testing provides valuable data for medical research and our understanding of the virus, however it should not be used to change our approach to the pandemic.
Antibody lab testing at FCN:
- FCN providers are able to order a COVID-19 IgG antibody test for their patients when deemed appropriate.
If you are interested in this test, please follow these recommendations:
- Contact your regular primary care provider to discuss the test and its limitations. Your provider may need to schedule a telephone consult or telemedicine visit with you.
- Contact your insurance company to ask if the test is covered under your specific benefit plan. The cost of the test will likely include both a draw fee and a processing fee.
COVID-19 is a new strain of a respiratory coronavirus. It has symptoms similar to the flu or other upper respiratory illness: fever, cough, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, runny nose, etc.
To reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, all eligible individuals are strongly encouraged to get vaccincated. This applies particularly to people at higher risk of severe illness: people over 60 years of age; people with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease or diabetes; people with weakened immune systems; and pregnant women. Follow state and federal guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID (wear a mask, keep your distance, and limit interactions with people outside your household, especially in public places).
People without symptoms can be infected with the virus, which means they can unknowingly spread it to others. Check with state and county health departments for restrictions on businesses, schools, and public gatherings.
FCN’s “5 COVID-19 Questions” FAQ Videos
Episode 10 >> (December 21)
Episode 9 >> (November 23)
Episode 8 >> (September 8)
Episode 7 >> (June 12)
Episode 6 >> (April 30)
Episode 5 >> (April 17)
Episode 4 >> (April 10)
Episode 3 >> (April 3)
Episode 2 >> (March 27)
Episode 1 >> (March 25)