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Quiet public health work roars to life during COVID-19 pandemic

Most of the time, you probably don’t think much about our work. While you go about your life, public health professionals work in the background to keep your family healthy. That includes people like:

  • Nurses who coordinate your child’s immunization
  • Food inspectors who make sure your lunch was prepared safely
  • Environmental health specialists who work with landfills to ensure your air and water are clean.

This is National Public Health Week, which gives us an opportunity to tell you about our work. But we also use this time to let you know we’ll be ready to help when something big happens. 

Right now, something big is happening. And we’re here, working around the clock to protect you.

Many members of our staff work throughout the year to prepare for events like the COVID-19 pandemic. We plan and train regularly for crises like this. All that quiet work roared to life well before novel coronavirus reached Pierce County. 

An aerial view of staff at the Pierce County Emergency Operations Center holding signs that say "We are public health" 

We activated a team Jan. 24, and now we’re leading an emergency response partnership with agencies across the county using Incident Command System. We are working with cities, towns, county government, fire, police, schools, emergency managers, healthcare providers and more to respond to the pandemic.

This group moves mountains. In the month since we began working in unified command, we:

  • Set up and conducted drive-through testing for nearly 1,000 people at the Tacoma Dome.
  • Established a temporary care center for people who can’t quarantine or isolate in a safe place.
  • Contacted hundreds of people diagnosed with COVID-19 and their close contacts so they can take proper precautions. 
  • Sent our nurses to long-term care facilities to ensure strong infection control guidance, availability of testing, and other measures to identify cases and minimize spread of disease and protect these vulnerable populations
  • Collected, analyzed and released daily counts of people diagnosed with COVID-19 and those who died of related causes.
  • Created an online toolbox with dozens of ways local agencies, businesses and organizations can reach their audiences through videos, infographics, signs, presentations, social media posts and blogs.

Accurate information is vital right now, and we are your source of timely and reliable information. Health Department Communications staff and subject matter experts work closely with our partner agencies to answer your questions during this uncertain time. 

We’ve provided new ways to work with our media partners to help share information while observing social distancing. On Monday we held a virtual news conference to announce two deaths in long-term care facilities. We shared video and recorded interviews on the Temporary Care Center. And an incredible number of Pierce County residents are coming directly to us for answers:

  • Our call centers have answered more than 2,500 calls so far. They also respond to the questions you email.
  • You’ve received our messages more than 4 million times through our digital platforms. You viewed our website more than 2 million times in March, double our traffic for all of 2019.
  • Subscriptions to our Your Reliable Source blog are up 7,000%, more than 13,000 total subscribers.

We use your questions to add to our list of Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs), which number almost 90. We add to it almost every day and update answers as guidance changes.

Thank you for noticing our team’s hard work. Your kind words have helped us through some long and stressful weeks. Everyone needs a positive message right now, so we’ll share a few. The first is from Board of Health chair Catherine Ushka. The rest are from members of the public:

  • “[The website] is probably one of the best of the nation in terms of the clarity and the layout of the information.”
  • “(The drive-through testing site) was fluid and professional. THANK YOU to everyone involved.”
  • “Thank you guys for allowing me to quarantine and await results. You truly provided a safe place to be where I felt happy to help everyone and be a part of this. Thank you for making this possible.”
  • “Way to go and thank you to everyone working this testing site. It’s a very smooth, fast and, above all, thorough experience. All volunteers are helpful and kind and doing a phenomenal job.”
  • “I want to compliment TPCHD and Dr. Chen on the support you have been providing schools. I have the opportunity to hear multiple County, State, Federal and BIE (Bureau of Indian Education) agencies on this topic. TPCHD is providing the information in the clearest, calmest and easiest to share manner with our students, staff, families and community.”
  • “Thank you for your professional coverage. We can make our own good decisions when we have straightforward information.”
  • “TPCHD has the best COVID data presentation of any health department I have seen.”
  • “I just want to reach out and THANK YOU for the outstanding job all of you are doing! Here is a virtual hug to all of you. Stay strong…you are good people and you are needed.”

Make sure you know how to find the information we’ve provided, and how to receive regular updates in the future: