By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
I’m glad we are finally at the point where everyone who wants a vaccine can get one – and hopefully the Pfizer vaccine will be approved for middle schoolers next week! Between the Tacoma Dome mass vaccination site to smaller pop ups at schools, businesses, and community centers, we will have shots for every arm in the County.
It seems like overnight, I went from waiting for my turn to be vaccinated and pushing for more vaccines for our community, to trying to find folks willing to roll up their sleeves and make it as easy as possible for them to get their shot. (By the way, I got my second dose last Saturday at White River High School. Nurse Shelley Kelly ended up giving me both of my shots – 4 weeks apart!)
We are now focusing on reaching everyone in the County with encouragement, accurate information responding to their questions and concerns, and convenient access to a jab. That includes folks in marginalized or disadvantaged communities – people of color, those who speak a language other than English, those with vision or hearing impairments, those who don’t trust government, and others.
I’m proud of and thankful for our Department of Emergency Management (DEM) Team. Ivan Tudela is indicative of their overall attitude and commitment. I have seen Ivan at many vaccinations sites over the last months. We all know you can tell when someone is smiling, even if they are wearing a mask. That goes double for Ivan! His smile is so big, I think it actually sticks out of both sides of his mask! He and his team do an amazing job ensuring everyone is welcome and included in our effort to get people vaccinated. Ivan was raised by bi-lingual parents himself and understands the hardships of not feeling as if they “belong.”
You can hear Ivan in his own words, here:
When I listen to Ivan, I realize the work we are doing to get everyone in our community vaccinated, regardless of background, language or disability, is both providing protection from COVID-19 AND building community!
You can learn more about Ivan in our DEI report. I’m especially glad to highlight Ivan’s work during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
The work being done by Ivan and his team is critically important as we work to get jabs in arms as quickly as possible.
That sense of urgency is driving a gathering I host every Monday morning. Called the Vaccination Task Force, about 40 of our area’s business, community and education leaders come together to brainstorm, exchange ideas and discuss barriers to folks getting the vaccine. We keep these calls short and action-oriented so that we use people’s time efficiently.
The task force members are very busy, so we asked for a six-week commitment to 30-minute calls once a week. And, I’m pleased to see what we’ve been able to do after just two meetings. One idea that came out of the Vaccination Task Force is the new Rainiers game promotion. You may have heard that the Rainiers created a “vaccinated” section of the park and will be offering vaccines at select games. The Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce hosted a Cinco de Mayo vaccination event with Johnson & Johnson. Absher Construction had a vaccination team come out to a job site! These leaders are coming together to help their communities get protected.
That’s what all of this is about. Jabs in arms. As quickly as possible. We know that getting as many people vaccinated as possible is our ticket out of the pandemic world.
It’s become clear to the experts that herd immunity – around 80% threshold of people vaccinated – is likely not possible so we’re going to have to learn to live in a more “normalized” COVID world. In other words, we must ensure the most vulnerable in our community are protected and the rest of us will have to live with some level of COVID for the foreseeable future. We simply can’t continue in our current “emergency mode” much longer. At this point, I expect the transition to “post-pandemic” life will occur by Independence Day in July – seems appropriate!
I can’t urge you strongly enough to get vaccinated. And if you, a family member, friend or neighbor is hesitant, I encourage you to seek out good, factual information and make the decision that is right for you and your personal circumstances. The Health Department has a great FAQ section to check out. We also want to make sure you know where the upcoming vaccination events are so you can be a resource for your community! Check out FindYourCovidShot.com.
I shared a similar message with members of the UFCW union of grocery workers when I met with them this week. As you may have heard or read, the Council narrowly passed an ordinance to provide some grocery workers in unincorporated Pierce County a $4 an hour hazard pay increase.
I’ve been very clear that I believe the legislation, while well intentioned, inequitably singled out one group of essential employees for special treatment – and actually only a subgroup within their group. Furthermore, I was very concerned about the prospect of the County intruding into a private sector collective bargaining relationship. I ultimately vetoed the ordinance.
Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely grateful for the sacrifices and risks grocery workers have endured to make sure our stores’ shelves are stocked, and people can have healthy food choices. I’ve also appreciated the many other heroes on the front lines during the pandemic – our first responders, healthcare workers, teachers, and many more. In fact, this week happens to be Nurse Appreciation Week and Teachers Appreciation Week!
I was moved to hear the powerful testimony of many speakers at Tuesday’s Council meeting and I was upset to hear how some shoppers have mistreated grocery workers over the last year. Having said that, the surest protection from COVID is through vaccination – both for them and their shoppers. And, thanks to the work of DEM, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and store pharmacies, free vaccines are readily and easily available to all grocery store employees – and everyone in our County.
I will close with a request: please check on your friends, family members, and neighbors to see how they’re doing and whether they have questions or concerns about getting the vaccine. Please point them to solid sources of information and maybe offer to drive them to a clinic. Some folks just need some encouragement or reassurance.
I want us to be able to break free from the grip of the pandemic and get back to “near normal” as soon as possible.
First published on the Pierce County website.