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We’ve seen more COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Now we’re seeing more deaths.

It’s a tragic pattern we’ve seen before. A wave of COVID-19 cases builds. Within a couple weeks, hospitalizations increase. And soon after that, COVID-19 deaths rise. We’ve reached that point again.

In late June and early July, Pierce County saw the start of the longest and strongest COVID-19 case increase since the beginning of the pandemic. By mid-July, our hospitalizations started increasing sharply and rose above the previous peak by early August.

A combination of factors drove these spikes in cases and hospitalizations:

During that time, we reported very few COVID-19 deaths in Pierce County. But that began to change in August. In August, 63 people died from COVID-19.  While the number of deaths is heartbreaking, they’re not unexpected. As the number of cases increase, so do the worst outcomes.

Vaccinations increasing too.

Data shows we can avoid most deaths and the worst outcomes. While the Delta variant causes some breakthrough cases, vaccination remains very effective at preventing hospitalizations and death. MultiCare recently reported up to 98% of their COVID-19 patients were not vaccinated. Recent data from the CDC shows, after Delta became the most common variant, vaccinated people reduced their risk of hospitalization and death more than tenfold. Vaccinations and other safe practices like masking up help break the chain of COVID-19 transmission.

Through most of June and into July, the number of weekly vaccine doses given in Pierce County decreased. Since July 21, the number of doses increased every week. On Sept. 8, we reported 14,449 doses for the week, a 76% increase from July 21. People ages 12-17 are leading the way with a 1.6% jump in total vaccination percentage in one week.

We still have a long way to go. Our overall percentage of vaccination, currently 50.94%, remains lower than the state average. And our highest case rates in Pierce County are in areas with low vaccination rates.

Reversing the trends.

Last week, we started to see a slight decline in case rates and hospitalizations. We’re hopeful this trend will continue and more vaccinations along with recent state and local mask orders are having an impact. But the numbers are still far above the peaks from last winter. We’re reporting hundreds of new cases every day. Hospitals struggle to handle COVID-19 cases. And we’ve reported as many as 7 deaths each day.

Vaccines remain the best tool to help end these trends. FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for people ages 16 and older. The vaccine went through the same rigorous process the FDA uses to approve all medical products. Vaccines are safe and very effective. And because of the high transmissibility of the Delta variant,  remain important.

We must use all the  available tools to stop the spread:

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