TACOMA, WASH.—The COVID-19 pandemic and the legacy of racism are ongoing public health concerns. On June 17, the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health took bold action to address both issues. Board members passed two resolutions unanimously at a special meeting: one declares racism a public health crisis; the other encourages the use of face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Our Board has taken another leadership role to promote good health outcomes while COVID-19 transmission remains widespread in our communities,” said Director of Health Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH. “Board members also recognized racism is interwoven into the social, economic, and environmental factors that make us healthy and affect some in our communities, especially Black/African Americans, more than others,” he said.
Protect yourself and others with face coverings.
Pierce County is in Phase 2 of Washington’s Safe Start Recovery Plan. With the relaxation of restrictions comes an increased risk of disease transmission. The consistent and regular use of face coverings in public places will prevent disease spread, stop others from becoming ill, and help our county recover faster. The resolution calls for:
- Residents to wear face coverings or masks in outdoor or indoor public areas, especially when they cannot maintain a physical distance of six feet from others.
- The Health Department to plan, secure funding, and implement a public education and social marketing campaign to promote the use of face coverings.
- Board members to use their influence and communication channels to encourage all residents of Pierce County to wear face coverings as described.
A commitment to dismantle racism.
Well-documented disparities in outcomes led the Board to declare racism a public health crisis. Recent killings of Manuel Ellis, George Floyd, and others have prompted leaders to re-examine policies and practices that increase disparities linked solely to race. Many leaders recognize we need to make changes, and we need to make them quickly. The Department will, in part:
- Assess internal policies and procedures to address and reform structures and processes that contribute to race-based decisions and actions.
- Partner with the community to co-create solutions.
- Promote policy and system-level changes within Pierce County to move beyond equity only and undo racist structures.
The anti-racism work will come from existing funds and does not receive CARES Act funding.