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Pierce County is facing COVID-19 challenge with resilience, patience and grit

Tacoma has often been called “Grit City.”

It is not a bad nickname when you consider another word for grit is resilience. Resilience is the ability to keep going while facing a challenge and to bounce back. Certainly, the challenges facing us today call for that spirit of resilience and cooperation.

As Director of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, I can say Tacoma is very resilient. I have watched downtown transform from the grim 1990s to its current dynamic state.  Earlier this month I joined more than 500 fellow residents and the grassroots group “Litter Free 253” to clean up our city. 

But Tacoma is not the only place with grit. Pierce County has grit, too.

It has been more than a year since our county first saw cases of COVID-19. Back then, public health and elected officials were just beginning to figure out how to control the pandemic. Since then, Pierce County residents have put their grit into action.

We see grit in the courage of first responders and healthcare workers who save lives every day.

We see grit in the care and compassion of long-term living facility and adult family home workers who care for our family members.

We see grit in the dedication of transportation, delivery and grocery store workers who make sure our lives keep moving.

We see grit in the creativity of small businesses and restaurants who continue to find ways to make our lives better.

We see grit in the commitment of educators, students and parents who make learning a top priority in our region.

A community has grit when it faces problems together, when it finds solutions instead of blame.

When Pierce County moved back to Phase 2 in Governor Inslee’s Roadmap to Recovery, it was a disappointing setback for all of us, but I am certain Pierce County has the grit to get back to Phase 3 and beyond.

A plan for hope.

Here is the plan: We need vaccines in arms and masks on faces. We need to continue common sense measures like washing hands, keeping a safe distance, and caring about each other like we care about our own family. 

Spring is a time of hope. Warmer weather, 14 hours of sunlight, and blossoming trees and flowers signal good times ahead, but we must encourage everyone to get vaccinated.

We may not be able to gather in large groups, but we have many reasons to remain hopeful. 

COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out at a steady pace and many of our most vulnerable residents are protected. Every day more people in Pierce County get vaccinated, and that means, every day we get closer to putting the pandemic behind us. 

With our partners, we now have two small fixed vaccination clinics in the Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood and Lakewood. They will provide thousands of vaccine doses each week. By the first week of May, we will also have high-throughput mass vaccination sites in Puyallup and at the Tacoma Dome. They will vaccinate thousands of people a day. 

We will continue to hold vaccination clinics of different size in locations throughout the county in partnership with schools, businesses, and community groups. We provide telephone registration, transportation, evening and weekend hours, interpreters, and walk-up and bike-up options to remove barriers to access. We even have teams vaccinating people who are homebound.

Of course, significant amount of vaccinations are being provided by our many healthcare partners. Use the state’s Vaccine Locator tool to find nearby healthcare providers and pharmacies with vaccine.

Learn more about the different paths to vaccination. Also available in SpanishKoreanVietnameseTagalogRussianSimplified ChineseKhmerLaoSamoan and Thai.

Need help finding vaccine? Sign up for our COVID-19 Vaccine Help List.

Anyone 16 years or older can sign up online or by phone at (253) 649-1412, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week.

Grit and resilience increase wellbeing.

When we hear news like COVID-19 cases are increasing, it is easy to get discouraged and some may even experience depression. 

Acknowledging our stress and maintaining mental health is very important. Check in with friends, family and health care providers. 

Offer support to those who need it. Ask for support if you need it. 

Being resilient means asking for help when you need it. Do not hesitate to access mental health services.

Use strategies to cope with stress, burnout, and trauma: 

  • Take care of your body through movement and nutrition. 
  • Get enough rest and sleep. 
  • Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to reduce stress. 

Always seek help early.  

If you or a loved one is struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental challenges of the pandemic, contact WA Listens at  (833) 681-0211.

If you or a loved one need immediate mental health support, contact Pierce County Crisis line at (800) 576-7764.

Continue to do your part to fight this pandemic and deliver hope throughout Pierce County. 

Dr. Anthony Chen