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COVID-19 containment fight shifts as younger people bring COVID-19 to our community’s elders.

We announced Pierce County’s first case of COVID-19 on March 6. Five months later, Pierce County has more than 5,900 cases and 132 people have died from COVID-19.

Early on, we knew this disease transmitted easily between people. Places where people congregate became focal points in stopping its spread.

In April, we began publicizing concentrated transmissions at congregate care homes. Long-term care facilities and others became our focal points. About 52% of our positive cases then were in people ages 50 or older, a group that makes up 36% of the county’s population.

Many of our oldest adults live in congregate care and are at high risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19. Residents’ age and health status put them at greater risk for severe COVID-19 complications and potential death.

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Recently, a little less than half of our cases (40.1%) were people ages 20-39. That age group is only 27% of the county population. These younger adults accounted for much of Pierce County’s COVID-19 disease increase in July.

While we’re beginning to see the decline of cases among this age group, we know we still need to focus on getting young adults to pay attention to our warnings. This group is less likely to “stay home to stay healthy.”

20 to 30 somethings: We’re talking to you.

The actions of this active group have a direct effect on the next disease trend. People in the 40-59 age group are now experiencing higher rates of COVID-19. People in the 70-79 age group may see the worst of it coming soon, as this group is starting to have higher COVID-19 rates and is likely to have the most severe health outcomes.

Yes, younger folks, you may get COVID-19 and not get symptoms. But if you don’t stay put while you should be isolating, you really will give COVID-19 to your parents, your aunts and uncles and your grandparents. Or someone else’s elders. And they won’t necessarily fare as well as healthier, younger you.

We get it. It’s summertime in the Northwest, and you’re tired of hearing about COVID-19 and what you should do. You want to go and do and be and see. Or maybe you’re tempted to still show up at work when you have a sniffle or a cough. Don’t. Your cough or sniffle could spread COVID-19 to a customer, a patient, or a colleague. We added a chart at the bottom of our case count page to show the types of businesses where outbreaks of COVID-19 have occurred.

It’s hard to believe something you can’t see. But the COVID-19 cases—and deaths—are real. And they continue to increase in number. One of the most recent deaths—a 19-year-old with no known underlying health conditions—should be a sad wakeup call to all of us that COVID-19 can go badly—even for young and healthy people.

Protect you and those around you.

COVID-19 is widespread in our community. People risk exposure to the virus whenever they come into contact with others. As distance decreases and time of contact increases, the risk of exposure increases. That’s why we have emphasized physical distancing to limit the spread of the disease.

Keep gatherings small. Five or fewer people who don’t live in your household is the sweet spot. As the size of the group increases, so does the potential for COVID-19 to spread. You don’t want to find out a friend of a friend of a friend had COVID-19, and now many people have to miss work, get a test, and quarantine for days.

We have a long way to go before we fully understand this disease. Meanwhile, you can take simple steps to protect not only you but also your family and neighbors:

  • Wear a mask when you leave home. No shirt, no shoes, no mask? No service.
  • Limit your interactions to a small circle of friends and family.
  • Stay close to home.
  • Keep gatherings small and outside if possible.
  • Fresh air and more physical distancing space can keep you safe.
  • Stay 6 feet apart from others.
  • Wash your hands, cover your cough, and keep up your best hygiene and sanitation.
  • Get tested if:
    • You think you were exposed.
    • You are a member of a heavily impacted community.
    • You are experiencing symptoms.

Families are concerned about their loved ones. We will continue to prioritize our work to get you the best information we can to help keep you, your loved ones, and all of Pierce County safe.

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