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When storms become tsunamis: Delta requires more and stronger protection against COVID-19.

Imagine you’re walking in the pouring rain.

Good news: You grabbed an umbrella! You might catch a few drops of water, but you’re almost completely dry.

But, a strong wind blows in. Your jacket is getting wet, and you still have a long walk ahead. What now?

For the last year and a half, COVID-19 was that storm. Last winter, vaccines gave us an umbrella. But now, the wind is whipping in with the Delta variant. You’re not going to get soaked, but you’re more likely to get wet and you need some extra protection.

Our data shows we’re experiencing the longest and strongest case increase we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic. Cases and hospitalizations are rising in Pierce County and across the country, driven by the highly contagious variant.

What we know right now is the vast majority of cases in Washington from Feb. 1, 2021-July 31, 2021 happened to unvaccinated people. During that time, people who weren’t fully vaccinated made up:

  • 95.5% of confirmed cases.
  • 95.4% of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • 94.4% of COVID-19 deaths.

We expect those numbers to change as the Delta variant becomes more prevalent and more people get vaccinated. Vaccines are extremely effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

Vaccination is still the best protection.

How do we stay dry now?

If you’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for long, you know we’re famous for not using umbrellas. But you should make sure you and the people you care about take advantage of vaccines.

They offer by far the best protection against COVID-19. Just like an umbrella doesn’t keep you 100% dry, the vaccine is not 100% effective. That’s because they offer protection, not total immunity.

In the case of COVID-19, they offer a LOT of protection.

The Delta variant is related to some reduction in vaccine effectiveness, especially if people are only partially vaccinated. Evidence shows the vaccine is still very effective against severe disease and death if you’re fully vaccinated.

Breakthrough cases, where fully vaccinated people contract COVID-19, are more common with Delta. Since it spreads much faster, we are seeing more breakthrough cases. They’re still rare.

We saw cases drop dramatically between April and early July. But as the variant brings more cases, the number of breakthrough cases, hospitalizations, and deaths among the vaccinated goes up, too.

A changing storm requires new safeguards. In the same way you might add a raincoat when the wind kicks up, you’re now seeing new steps to add protection in light of the Delta variant.

Efforts to increase to protection.

That’s why you’re seeing more work to protect your family. Gov. Inslee announced a series of vaccine requirements for healthcare, school and state workers. The 3 major healthcare systems in Pierce County mandated vaccines for their staff.

Our Director of Health, Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, recently joined other local Directors of Health in issuing a mask recommendation and followed up with directive for Pierce County. And we’ve made some changes to protect our staff and customers. Our staff is now required to get vaccinated and to wear masks in most situations at work.

And on Aug. 18, Gov. Inslee announced an indoor mask mandate. Beginning Monday, Aug. 23, everyone—regardless of vaccination status—is required to wear masks in indoor settings.

You should take extra steps to protect yourself. While we all breathed a sigh of relief when case rates and hospitalizations dropped so dramatically and the state reopened, things have changed. Once again, we should go back to the basics to stop the spread:

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