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When will we enter Phase 3? Each step is more complex than the last

Earlier this month, we celebrated as Pierce County advanced to Phase 2 of Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

The move meant we all returned a bit closer to normal life. It also meant our hard work this year was paying off. Our case counts dropped, and our safety net began to take shape.

Now, many of you want to know when we will be ready to move to Phase 3. Movie theaters, libraries and museums could reopen, and restaurants and taverns could expand their operations.

It’s a good question! That’s why we’re hard at work learning the answer.

COVID19_Phase 3 When Can We Apply_Blog

Protecting your health is our mission.

Before the Phase 2 application, we had not met the metrics for total number of tests and percent of positives. For the Phase 3 application, we must give deeper explanations for any target we don’t meet or describe improvements we’ve made.

We’re looking at our overall rate of cases and other factors to determine when we will be ready to apply for Phase 3. We’ve increased our testing capacity and contact tracing staff, which are two other essential elements of Phase 3 readiness.

On the other hand, COVID-19 is still widespread in Pierce County. Over the past 14 days, we’ve reported 209 cases, and our 14-day case rate per 100,000 as of yesterday is 23.2. That’s bumping up uncomfortably close to the 25 per 100,000 population requirement. Our average cases per day before we moved to Phase 2 was 16, and only three weeks later is more than 23.

We’re watching all of this closely, but it’s still too soon to know for sure what’s causing those increases.

We do know we aren’t seeing large increases in long-term care facilities or congregate care facilities. In fact, we recently tested staff and guests at a large shelter for people living homeless, and all tests were negative.

In some instances, good news in one area explains what looks like bad news elsewhere. For instance, we are finding more cases now because more people are getting tested. We have more testing resources available community-wide and new testing guidelines. That helps us identify who has the disease so we can limit further spread. The percent of total tests that are positive has remained steady since our Phase 2 application and through last week. That’s a good thing!

Next week, we will begin our own local reporting of overall negative tests. This number will not include serology tests, which are not yet reliable. We will let you know when we launch our new Safe Start dashboard by Wednesday, June 24.

These metrics help us understand what we as a community need to do to best protect public health in this pandemic. We need to ensure we don’t see rapid growth in cases and that we can handle the number of cases we do experience. It takes all of us, working together, to protect the health of our community.

Working as one to reopen Pierce County.

We’ve been in this together for several months, and every person in Pierce County must continue to work hard. What we do now can influence where we are months from now. Small ripples in the summer could become a tsunami in the fall.

COVID-19 spreads when people come in contact with others. Any close contact where droplets could spread, even from an asymptomatic person, puts people at risk. This can occur in any setting where people are in contact with one another. That includes any gathering of two or more people: in a work setting, at a social gathering, in a recreation setting, in a business, or at a protest.

You can protect yourself, your family and friends, and our community and help us move closer to normal life if you:

  • Continue practicing good hygiene—wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you are sick, clean high-touch surfaces regularly.
  • Wear face coverings when you are in public and especially when you cannot easily keep physical distance from others. Make sure it covers your nose and mouth.
  • Continue to spend time with family and those you live with.
  • Choose five friends or non-household members you would also like to see regularly. When you play, eat out, visit, or otherwise socialize, try to limit your close contacts to this group.
  • Check in with family, friends, and coworkers by phone, social media, or video calls to make sure they are OK and to offer encouragement.
  • Worship with your community of faith in the modified, allowable ways.
  • Exercise, eat healthily, and take care of your health issues. Remember you still need to take medicines, get your children vaccinated, and otherwise keep up with health care.
  • Continue to stay home as much as possible and limit non-essential travel.
  • If you are over 65 years old, with medical conditions, or are immune compromised, you may need to continue to stay home. Everyone’s health is different: check with your health care provider.

We all want to continue moving closer to normal life. Keep up your good work throughout Pierce County, and we’ll keep working hard behind the scenes to protect your health.

For more information about COVID-19, visit