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We are at another crossroads. We need to come together—again—to overcome COVID-19.

We have encountered many crossroads during this pandemic, and we are at another one now. Each new wave of COVID-19 cases brings a choice: Ignore and minimize what we are seeing. Or do what is right.  

Each time, we have responded to stem the wave. It is time to pull together again to overcome COVID-19 as a community. 

Now, we are in the longest and strongest sustained case rate increase since the beginning of the pandemic.

This week, Pierce County hit its highest case rate of COVID-19 cases, surpassing the previous high from January. Our 14-day case rate per 100,000 for Aug. 2-Aug. 15 was 556.0. Our hospitalization rate is on track to also break records in the next few days. From Aug. 6—12, 115 new patients were hospitalized for COVID-19.

It happened so fast. And outbreaks in the community are increasing in frequency and size.

A combination of factors drives this current surge:

  • The Delta variant, which now makes up more than 96% of sequenced cases in the state. Delta is as contagious as chicken pox.
  • Relaxing restrictions when the state reopened June 30.
  • The low level of vaccination in Pierce County.

Also troubling, we are seeing more children and teens in the most recent cases. In the last 2 weeks, 9% of cases were in children under 10 and 21% in people under 20—that is about 1 in 5. Since July 1, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital has seen an increase in emergency room and urgent care visits for COVID-19. And we are reporting more outbreaks at childcare centers. Delta seems to affect kids more than earlier variants.

We all want to put COVID-19 behind us.

We hoped the pandemic was letting up. In June, case rates had dropped to their lowest rates in months. Thousands of people were getting vaccinated, and on June 30, the state reopened.

Like you, we are ready to put COVID-19 behind us. But it is time to pull together—again—to overcome.

We need to do everything we can to stop the spread. Please do your part to protect yourself, your family, and your community.

A layered approach.

Vaccination is our best tool to protect against COVID-19. Since Feb. 1, more than 90% of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths statewide are among people unvaccinated. Pierce County’s numbers are consistent with state numbers.

If you have been waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine to receive full FDA approval, your wait is over. On Monday, Aug. 23, FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for people ages 16 and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine went through the same rigorous process the FDA uses to approve all medical products.

As cases rise, the number of breakthrough cases will also rise. While vaccinated people are far less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19, they can still spread the highly contagious Delta variant when they are infected.

We need to take a layered approach and use the same tools to lower case rates again. Think of slices of Swiss cheese. Each slice has a few holes in it, some bigger than others. When you stack slices, you reduce the number of gaps. Soon, you have a complete barrier.

The same is true of COVID-19 protection. Masks, physical distancing, washing your hands and even vaccines do not offer perfect protection.  But when you layer them together, you greatly improve your defense.

That is why I recently joined other local Directors of Health and issued a mask recommendation, followed with a directive for Pierce County.

On Aug. 18, Gov. Inslee announced an indoor mask mandate Everyone—regardless of vaccination status—is required to wear masks in indoor settings.

Once again, we must go back to the basics to stop the spread:

More of you have gotten vaccinated during the past 2 weeks, but more people still need to get it done. If you have not gotten vaccinated yet, please take this step now to protect your own health and those around you. Please do not wait until someone you know or love tells you they wish they would have gotten vaccinated. Find your dose at tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture.

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