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Our equity-led response to COVID-19 works—especially when we all work together.

Community engagement is about talking and listening. One of our goals is to help everyone in Pierce County get vaccinated. In the past year, we’ve administered more than 1.2 million doses of vaccine in Pierce County.

But we still have work to do. Data shows Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color are much harder hit with higher rates of infection, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) followed 9 diverse communities across the U.S. to see how they address health equity issues.

The foundation chose Tacoma from its list of 29 Sentinel Communities established in 2016 as a community to examine. A new report has great things to say about our response.

RWJF found Tacoma’s Equity Index, developed before the pandemic, helped guide pandemic-related decisions. The report also credited our Community Engagement team’s work for fostering social connections and cross-sector collaborations.

The report shows steps we’ve taken since the pandemic began are working, even in the face of rising case counts.

COVID is personal.

We’ve all had a long relationship with COVID-19. We all want to end the pandemic. We need to continue to care for our neighbors and those around us.

Last month COVID-19 went through my multigenerational household. Fortunately, all of us who could be vaccinated in our house of 9 were. Still, figuring out isolation and quarantine schedules, testing options and hospital stays was stressful and challenging. Not to mention the phone calls with school nurses, teachers and contact tracers. Even for someone who knows the system.

As a mother, I feel the weight and expectation of caregiving, which has intensified in a pandemic. But I see many reasons to feel hopeful.

Omicron is more contagious than other variants. But so far it is proving to be less severe. Vaccination, including a booster shot, helps to protect us from serious illness, winding up in the hospital—and death.

A community’s work.

Leading our CE team—one formed out of a need to repair, build and maintain strong relationships with Pierce County communities and ensure equity in our response—gives me unique perspective. I see the power of partnerships and connections to overcome difficult situations and improve equity in how we recover.

I see neighbors helping neighbors. I see people disagreeing with one another and yet still being kind. I know it’s possible to be committed to values and still open to change. I know even leaders can be overwhelmed with the toll of the pandemic and still show up to do their best.

Perhaps most important, I know the simple act of talking and listening is a powerful tool. Especially when we listen to those who are often not heard.

It’s why our public health strategy focuses on the negative social, environmental and economic conditions that leave some communities less protected from the virus. It’s why you find CE outreach workers at neighborhood councils, food pantries, businesses and celebrations.

We also have a long list of community partners that grows every month. Together, we help people get vaccinated and tackle underlying conditions that leave people less protected from COVID-19. Conditions like lack of safe and accessible housing, unequitable access to healthcare and living wage jobs.

CE shows me every day what happens when we put down our desire for certainty and focus on what matters most: joy, health, respect and finding big and small ways to help.

Let us all work together for more of that in 2022.

Find your dose

Find your COVID-19 vaccine today at If you need a ride to an appointment or can’t easily leave your home, we can help! Call us at (253) 649-1412, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.

And you can do even more to help stop the spread.

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