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Record daily COVID-19 cases are a wake-up call about personal responsibility. We all have a role to slow the spread of disease and help our economy recover.

Today, we reported the largest one-day total of COVID-19 cases in Pierce County—89. Our last record high was 81 cases on July 11.

In April, we believed we had this virus under control enough to reopen elements of business in Pierce County. We have reported 850 cases in the last 14 days, which includes two new highs for daily case counts. Our 14-day case rate per 100,000 as of yesterday is 94.2. Our average cases per day over the last 14 days as of yesterday is 60.7.

The same factors we reported four days ago (Why are cases trending upwards? And how bad is COVID-19 in our community?) contribute to this large number:

  • Cases are spread across Pierce County. We see clusters of cases throughout the area.
  • 22% of the cases are among 20-29 year olds. This age group comprises roughly 14% of the county population. This is our fastest growing age bracket for new cases. 
    • This is a concerning trend. The Institute for Disease Modeling reported July 9 that Pierce County’s COVID-19 cases from the last two weeks of June were disproportionately among young adults in their 20s.
    • In that report, Pierce County had the highest percent of COVID-19 cases among people 20-29 compared to other Washington state counties.
  • We may be seeing an increase of cases or secondary transmissions resulting from social gatherings over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
  • It could also be an increase because of ongoing gatherings of all types since entering Phase 2.
  • We are also seeing growth in the number of businesses experiencing small numbers of cases; the number of businesses experiencing cases is growing by about 5 to 10 per day.
  • We have also seen a couple of new long-term care facilities with one or two cases, but we are not seeing any major outbreaks.

Laboratories across Pierce County and the state are working quickly to process COVID-19 tests. The number of tests conducted is increasing every week. But the increase is not enough to account for the increase in cases. Since the end of May to the end of June, our percent positive has doubled from around 2% to around 5%. Our target is less than 2%. For the latest data, go to our Safe Start dashboard.

The good news is we are not yet seeing a large increase in deaths or hospitalizations. We won’t know for a few more weeks whether this good news will hold. This disease takes a while to recover from. Some don’t. See our data dashboard for our estimated number of recovered COVID-19 cases.

It’s not about them. It’s about you.

People are curious about which businesses are seeing cases and where outbreaks are occurring. We learn where people were when they were sick about a week after they were in those places. Then we call the close contacts of the sick person to let them know they may need to isolate or get tested. We contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 through our contact tracing efforts. So if you’re concerned about being exposed to COVID-19, answer your phone if we call you.

A better question to ask is: “What can I do to make sure I don’t spread COVID-19 to others?”

We continue to see that 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 recreational settings, 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 all experience a desire to spend time with our friends. But keep it small—fewer than five people—give people space and wear your face mask. We have seen clusters of dozens of people infected from one house party. Asymptomatic spread and the incubation period of this virus mean you can spread it easily before you know you have it.

Mask up to stay opened up.

We can all wear face coverings, limit gatherings, and maintain physical distance from others to drive down case numbers in our communities. 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.

It’s important to follow Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start guidelines and monitor employee health, require employees and customers to wear face coverings, and implement physical distancing.

In our public health role, we rely on businesses to have 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.

Business leaders have a responsibility to ensure their place of business has a COVID-19 safety plan in place and they follow all Safe Start guidelines. In addition, they should urge their employees to take steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 when they are not at work. Employees’ actions outside of work directly correlate to possible disease spread at work. This affects their employer, their colleagues, and the Pierce County economy.

It’s up to you.

All of us are responsible to limit the spread of COVID-19. You don’t want to be the reason someone gets sick, can’t go to work, a business has to close temporarily—or to pass on illness to someone whose elder could get very sick or even die.

We need everyone to do their part:

  • Stay close to home.
  • Wear a mask when you leave home. No shirt, no shoes, no mask? No service.
  • Limit your interactions to a small circle of friends and family.
  • Keep gatherings small, and outside if possible where fresh air circulates and more physical distancing space is available. Stay 6 feet apart from others.
  • Keep gatherings small, get tested for COVID-19 if you are experiencing symptoms.
  • 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.

Remember: Gatherings are the action. What kind makes little difference.

The increase in cases among younger people are highlighting the importance of limiting gatherings of any kind to five or fewer people outside your household. Check out some ideas for summer fun on our blog.

We will continue carefully reviewing the data, and you can follow along on our dashboards. Learn more at tpchd.org/coronavirus.