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Pressing pause on expanded Phase 2 in Pierce County.

The data tell us now is not a good time to loosen restrictions.

Like many of you, I have been troubled as our COVID-19 case counts trended upward.

As recently as two weeks ago, I was cautiously optimistic. Case numbers were manageable, and our data team began working on an application for Phase 3 of Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

Last week, I tempered my optimism and announced we would instead apply for a modified version of Phase 2.

This week, we have seen no sign of improvement. Since mid-June, our average cases have been on a worrisome straight-line increase:

  • Our total cases over 14 days has grown from 16 to 44 per 100,000 residents.
  • Today, we reported 47 new cases and two new deaths. We are averaging 28 new cases per day.
  • Our percentage of positive tests is increasing and much higher than it should be. We are at 3.6% while our target should be less than 2%. This means the increases are from more disease and not just more testing.

Pausing our Phase 2 expansion.

I am no longer in a hopeful place. Because the health  of our community is my top priority, I am withdrawing my recommendation for Pierce County to apply for an expanded Phase 2.

I talked with several of our Board members, including our Board of Health Chair and Vice Chair and they agree this is the right call for our situation right now. We are all hopeful everyone will come together to take steps to drive down our increase in cases.

COVID-19 is widespread in the community and no specific outbreak is driving our case numbers. We are seeing an increase in young people testing positive. And each day, we are investigating small outbreaks at several businesses. As people get out and congregate, they spread infections.

COVID19_Phase 2.5 PAUSED_Blog

What’s next for Pierce County?

We all worked hard together to flatten the curve. We have lost ground and cannot afford to lose more.

We will continue carefully reviewing the data, and you can follow along on our dashboards. At our Board of Health meeting tomorrow, I will recommend to our Board that we not consider loosening restrictions or moving forward in the phases until we see stable or declining case counts.

Working together to get back on track.

We have all enjoyed the relaxed restrictions of Phase 2—perhaps a bit too much.

COVID-19 affects every geographic area of our community, all age groups and all ethnic groups. Traffic and cellphone mobility are up. This tells us people are going out and about, getting exposed and exposing others. It might be at work, at a social gathering, during recreation setting, in a business, or at a demonstration. COVID-19 can spread anytime and anywhere people gather, even if the infected person does not feel sick.


We must stop the spread of COVID-19 so we can recover economically. Local businesses and organizations can do their part to follow safety guidelines and public health recommendations.

That means monitoring employee health, requiring employees and customers to wear face coverings, and implementing physical distancing and other Safe Start guidelines. We need businesses to have their safety plans in place and make sure they have a COVID-19 safety lead identified in case we need to work with that person in the event a business has a positive case. We can work with you to make sure people get tested, self-isolate if needed, and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.

What you can do.

Now is the time to improve our numbers. We need everyone to do their part.

If you are not doing it already, wear a face covering. You can also:

  • Stay close to home.
  • Limit your interactions to a small circle of friends and family.
  • Keep gatherings small.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you have participated in any large gatherings.
  • Wash your hands, cover your cough, and keep up your best hygiene and sanitation.

What does all of this mean for July 4th?

Pierce County is still in Phase 2. Gatherings are limited to five or fewer people outside your household. While we will have to skip the big Fourth of July celebrations this year, we encourage people to come up with creative ways to connect socially. Check out some ideas for summer fun on our blog.

Remember: We all have a role in keeping Pierce County healthy.

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