A story from Pierce County Executive, Bruce Dammeier.
As a kid growing up in University Place, I loved going to the Puyallup Fair. Hobby Town, the Dairy Barn, the Pig Palace, scones, and exhibits – I loved all of it. I also liked the rides – at least most of them. Once, after visiting one too many food booths, I boarded the “Zipper” with my friends. If you are unfamiliar with this ride, it had three different rotation movements – all simultaneously! Not long after our ride started, I knew I was in trouble. I felt dizzy, disoriented, and queasy. I wanted to shout, “please stop the ride, I want to get off!” I didn’t panic, but closed my eyes, focused on breathing, and soon the ride came to an end – without me embarrassing myself!
As I watch the Delta variant bring another wave of infections into our community, the same thought raced through my mind: “please stop the ride, I want to get off.”
Unfortunately, I don’t see an end to the COVID “ride” anytime soon. As I have discussed previously, I anticipate it will be with us for some time into the future – and that we will need to learn to live with it in our lives, like other viruses.
The strategy that got me through the Zipper many years ago has some applicability here, as well. We should not panic or overreact – but think and act in the best interests of ourselves, our families, and our community.
Fortunately, as individuals, we can effectively “get off the ride.” I continue to be amazed at the effectiveness of the COVID vaccines. While we are hearing about “breakthrough” cases (those where people who were vaccinated contracted COVID – including a friend of mine!), some data shows the vaccination may be even more effective at fighting off the virus than originally believed. And it certainly has been incredibly effective at preventing the worst outcomes of hospitalizations and deaths. So, vaccinations are by far the best way to protect your health and that of your friends and family from the current “Delta variant wave” of cases which is predominantly affecting those who have not been vaccinated.
The news is full of efforts by countries, states, companies, and others to try and blunt the current wave – and potential future waves. Locally, healthcare providers are looking at requiring vaccinations for their workforce, some restaurants are reinstating masking, and Amazon is delaying its return to work date until 2022.
Closer to home, because of their high interaction with the public, our courts have modified their policies to address the rise in cases. In short, court staff, jurors and visitors must be masked in nearly all circumstances, including in courtrooms.
We are continuing to follow both public health and Labor & Industries requirements – and have maintained workplace modifications put in place to reduce COVID risk when dealing directly with the public. While I’m not mandating masks for all County buildings, at this point, I do strongly urge employees to mask up entering and exiting buildings where we have the general public visiting, particularly the CCB and the Annex. As well as in elevators in the CCB. These elevators are becoming more crowded with the public as our courts and our operations fully resume.
We are closely following the data and guidance coming out of the CDC, the state Department of Health, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, and state Labor & Industries, and may modify our practices and policies in the future. In addition, we are exploring ways to incent employees to get vaccinated.
In the meantime, I encourage you, your friends and family members to get the facts about the vaccines and protect yourselves from illness, or worse.
Finally, we’ve been blessed with beautiful weather this summer and I strongly encourage all of us to get outside and enjoy Pierce County at its finest – whether that is on the Sound, hiking Mount Rainier, or visiting your local park!
Before I close, I want to congratulate our Communications team for their recent awards from the Public Relations Society of America. Their work on the COVID outreach and flu vaccine campaigns garnered two accolades, including a prestigious Summit Award! Great job, team!