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Why are cases trending upwards? And how bad is COVID-19 in our community?

Today, we reported the largest one-day total of COVID-19 cases in Pierce County—81. Our last record high was 77 cases on April 1.  

We have reported 673 cases in the last 14 days. Our 14-day case rate per 100,000 as of yesterday is 74.6. Our average cases per day over the last 14 days as of yesterday is 48.1. 

We continue to look at what may have contributed to this large number. Here’s what we see so far: 

  • Cases are spread across Pierce County. We see clusters of cases throughout the area, including East Pierce County. 
  • About one-third of the cases are among 20-29 year olds. 
    • The Institute for Disease Modeling reported this week that Pierce County’s COVID-19 cases from the last two weeks of June were disproportionately among young adults in their 20s.
    • 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 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 also may be seeing an increase in cases because of a delay in processing COVID-19 tests over the Fourth of July holiday weekend when several labs were closed.
  • We also know Washington Disease Reporting System (WDRS) is down for maintenance for most of today. It’s possible WDRS sent a backlog of reports to us before going offline for maintenance. We have asked Department of Health to look into this and tell us if other counties are seeing all-time high numbers today. We will let you know what we find out.
  • We know the increase is not because of new long-term care facility 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 almost doubled from around 2% to around 4%. 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.

Working together to get back on track.

As Director of Health Anthony L-T Chen wrote in his blog June 30 blog, Pressing pause on expanded Phase 2 in Pierce County, “we have all enjoyed the relaxed restrictions of Phase 2—perhaps a bit too much.”

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 recreation setting, 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.

What workplaces can do.

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 and other Safe Start guidelines. 

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. 

What you can do.

Now is the time to improve our numbers. We need everyone to do their part.

If you are not doing it already, wear a face covering. You can also:

  • 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