By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
I like, but don’t love, roller coasters. I ride them mostly with my son, Colin, who loves them. The roller coaster rides that I hate are where you can’t see what is coming and have no ability to anticipate and prepare.
Well, that is exactly what the coronavirus feels like to me. We have ups and downs – corresponding to both the epidemiological curve and some other key measures – but not knowing what lies ahead is very challenging. We all yearn for some sense of certainty.
I assume you’ve seen the concerning rise in new positive cases – with a new record set yesterday. It is very important that we get this to plateau and stabilize – and then start coming down.
I am frequently asked, “We are testing more widely, so isn’t that why we are seeing more positive tests?” Yes, we are testing more widely and that is a very good thing. We need to get a better picture of what the virus is doing in our community. We need more data points to understand the virus. We want to identify those who are sick so they can get treatment. And negative tests bring peace of mind to those who are concerned about whether they have the disease.
Just yesterday, our Department of Emergency Management’s Mobile Testing Team had both their trailers out at the Blue Lot at the Fairgrounds and tested 835 people!
Great teamwork by DEM, the TPCHD, the City of Puyallup, and the Fair! The tests are free and available to anyone who wants one. You can find the schedule for future testing sites here. So, yes, some of the increased number of new positive cases is attributable to more testing – but not all of it.
I also want to acknowledge the TPCHD group doing contact investigations. Even with the increase in testing they are doing a good job in keeping up with the volume of cases they are managing.
We are definitely seeing increased spread of the virus in our community and in nearly all areas of the County. You likely have heard that many of these new cases are from a younger demographic and that is true (Check out what MultiCare’s head epidemiologist has to say in this article from The News Tribune.)
That’s why we are urging everyone to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands, and stay out of crowds – even if you’re young enough to be my son or daughter! Please encourage your family members and friends to follow these precautions. We all want to get to Phase 3 but to do so we need everyone to cooperate.
But we also have some good indicators too.
For now, at least, our hospitals are more than able to handle the number of people who are battling COVID-19 and need care. This is a very important measure. We need to make sure any one who gets very sick can have access to local care. This is a “lagging indicator,” meaning that people with the virus don’t normally need hospitalization for up to two weeks after they get sick. So while, it is currently good news, we need to hope it stays that way.
And, while we mourn the lives lost to this horrid disease, I take some solace that our numbers aren’t worse. So far, the deaths from the infection have not followed the increase in our new positive cases. Like hospitalizations, this is a lagging indicator, by as much as several weeks. So hopefully, it stays very low.
Unless we can turn things around fairly quickly, we won’t move to Phase 3 until sometime in August, at the earliest. So, you can expect to continue teleworking for the foreseeable future.
Before I close, I want to thank our partners in the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department for their commitment and dedication to the health of our residents. Many thanks, also, to our Facilities Management team for providing us with safe, clean places to work. And, I appreciate the work the Communications team has done to keep our residents engaged through new platforms like Zoom, and by effectively using social media and videos to keep folks informed.
Lastly, my thanks to all of you for your resilience, flexibility and persistence these past few months. I don’t think any of us thought we’d be in this situation for this long. We’ve all had to adjust our work environments, and some of you have had huge challenges balancing your family’s needs with your professional lives. Our residents have been so well served during this tumultuous time – thanks to you!
Enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend – even if just from the safety of your own backyard!
First published on the Pierce County website.