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A blog by your local public health experts

Our grip on Phase 2 is slipping

Director of Health Dr. Anthony Chen
by Anthony Chen06/24/2020 4:52 p.m.
Updated: 06/25/2020

We know many of you watch our COVID-19 case count number closely every day. We have heard your questions:

  • When are we moving to Phase 3?
  • Are we still in Phase 2?
  • Will we have to move back to Phase 1?

These are all good questions.

Reason for concern.

When we applied for Phase 2 two-and-a-half weeks ago, our total cases over two weeks was 16 per 100,000 residents. As of today’s case count, that has increased to 31.5 per 100,000.

What happened?

We looked closely at the data to learn where the increase in cases is coming from. People may want to point to one group or another. Is it long-term care centers? How about protesters? Graduation parties? Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations? Young people running around without masks?

Well, Pierce County, it is all of us.

All.

Of.

Us.

COVID19_Phase 2 Still_Blog

We need to work together.

We have all enjoyed the relaxed restrictions of Phase 2—perhaps a bit too much.

COVID-19 continues to be widespread in Pierce County. It affects every geographic area of our community, all age groups and all ethnic groups. In the last few weeks, we have seen more cases among those 40 and under. We have seen cases among businesses. Traffic and cellphone mobility are up. This tells us people are going out and about, getting exposed and exposing others.

COVID-19 spreads when people come in contact with other people. Any close contact where droplets can spread, spreads COVID-19. That includes any gathering of two or more people: in a work setting, at a social gathering, in a recreation setting, in a business, or at a demonstration. COVID-19 can spread anytime and anywhere people gather. And, droplets can spread COVID-19 even if the infected person does not feel sick.

Not ready for Phase 3, and Phase 2 is in danger.

Right now, we are not in a position to apply for Phase 3. We expected some increase in disease when we entered Phase 2. We are worried it has increased and is not leveling off.  We strongly urge everyone to stay the course with precautions. The Governor has not ordered a county to move backwards, but we do not want to become the first.

The Governor’s Safe Start Plan includes the option for a county to apply for a modified version of a phase. We are exploring this option as part of our assessment of the county’s readiness to move to Phase 3. We will share more information with you soon as we firm up our plan.

What you can do.

In the meantime, we urge everyone to get a head start on improving our numbers: Wear a face covering. Yesterday, Governor Inslee ordered everyone to wear face coverings in public when you cannot reasonably stay 6 feet or more away from others.

The order takes effect Friday, but why wait? This does not mean you should wear face coverings at home or when alone in a private space like a car or office. But you should when you are out and about. Wearing really is caring.

You can also:

  • Stay close to home.
  • Interact with a small circle of friends and family.
  • Keep gatherings small. 
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you have participated in any large gatherings.
  • Wash your hands, cover your cough, and keep up your best hygiene and sanitation.

What does all of this mean for July 4?

Pierce County is in Phase 2 of the state’s Safe Start Recovery Plan. Gatherings are limited to five or fewer people outside your household. This restriction helps us continue to control the spread of COVID-19. While we’ll have to skip the big Fourth of July celebrations this year, we encourage people to come up with creative ways to connect socially. We list ideas in our blog post What are your summer plans?

Remember: We all have a role in keeping Pierce County healthy.

Read “When will Pierce County be ready for Phase 3?" for other important steps to take as we slowly reopen. Subscribe to this blog and check tpchd.org/coronavirus for the latest information on COVID-19 in Pierce County. 

  1. Updated: 06/25/2020
Director of Health Dr. Anthony Chen

by Anthony Chen

Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, is the Director of Health at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and chief health strategist for Pierce County.

 

We invite your comments but will delete those with profanity, personal attacks, derogatory statements, ads or promotional material. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department does not provide personal medical advice; please contact your health care provider.