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Declining case rates and rising vaccination rates show vaccines work

In March, COVID-19 vaccine supplies increased and more people started getting vaccinated. On April 15—Vax Day—Washington eliminated COVID-19 vaccine tiers and phases and everyone 16 or older became eligible. Two weeks later, Pierce County’s 14-day case rate began to fall. It has declined ever since. That’s one sign vaccines work.

How about another one? Hospitalization rates are headed in the same direction.

Significantly fewer people are getting sick and hospitalized with COVID-19.

Case rates tell the story.

The 14-day case rate offers the most reliable look at COVID-19 disease burden on Pierce County.

Last week , our 14-day case rate dropped to 140.3 cases per 100,000 for May 20-June 2. You’d have to go all the way back to October to find a date when case rates were this low. At the time, we were in the early stage of a third wave of cases. That wave peaked in late December at 528.8 cases per 100,000, the highest rate reached in Pierce County. A fourth wave of cases peak in early April at 415.

We’ve dropped 74% since December, and 66% since April.

Hospitalization rates tell the same story. Last week, they fell to 5.1  per 100,000. Though they tend to move slightly behind case rate ups and downs, hospitalization rates have dropped from their early January peak of 14 per 100,000 and another peak of 12.8 in April.

Recently, we reported an increased number of daily cases as a result of a state backlog. Most of these cases dated back months. Because the state counts cases at the date of testing, these did not impact our 14-day case rate. The same will hold true if we see backlog cases in the future.

What changed?

As of last week, 59.1% of Pierce County residents 16 or older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Many of those vaccinations occurred after eligibility was opened on April 15. This came shortly after we saw an increase in the supply of vaccines, more availability from providers and community vaccine events, and more people getting vaccinated. We also continually increased outreach efforts to communities that were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 epidemic.

More people eligible. More vaccines available. More people get vaccinated. COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations and deaths start to drop. Vaccines are playing a major role in these hopeful statistics.

At the same time, we’re learning that most of those getting sick, hospitalized, or dying from COVID-19 now are unvaccinated.

We still have a ways to go.

We all want to see the continuing downward trends of COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations and deaths. This requires continuing the upward trend of vaccinations, and maintaining safe practices until we reach community immunity. We’re getting closer to the goal of 70% vaccinated in Pierce County, but we’re not there yet.

Unfortunately, we’re not seeing the same case rate decreases across Pierce County. We’re seeing the county’s highest case rates in areas of low vaccination percentages. These areas include Parkland, Graham, Orting, South Prairie, Carbonado and some rural areas of south and east Pierce County. The vaccines are safe and the vaccine monitoring system is working. The extremely small number of breakthrough cases prove the vaccines are effective. And it’s never been easier to get vaccinated.

Vaccines are helping us get back to the things we enjoy. Vaccinated people are taking off their masks. Families and friends are getting together. Restaurants and businesses are seeing more customers.

If you haven’t done so yet, you can find your vaccine at tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture.

You can walk-up or drive-thru at clinics around Pierce County. If you work during the day, some offer evening and weekend hours.

If you need help finding vaccine, sign up online for our COVID-19 Vaccine Help List. Or just call us at (253) 649-1412, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week!

We can help anyone 12 years or older find:

  • Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • First and second doses.
  • Appointments at healthcare facilities, pharmacies and vaccine events.
  • Walk-up and drive-thru events.
  • Help with transportation to appointments and events.
  • Mobility assistance and language support at appointments and events.
  • In-home vaccine if you can’t easily leave home.

Learn more at tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture.