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What to expect if COVID-19 comes to Pierce County.

TACOMA, Wash. – We understand many people are concerned as cases of COVID-19 spread across our state. We share your concern and have activated a team to work closely with community and government partners to limit the spread in Pierce County.

We don’t yet have a confirmed case here, but that may change as our region sees more positive cases. Diseases don’t observe county boundaries, and it’s likely we will see positive cases from the close contacts of cases in neighboring counties.

Testing is underway

Your risk of COVID-19 infection is still low but has increased as the virus spreads in Western Washington.

We are working with the State Public Health Laboratories to test people in Pierce County who meet the CDC’s testing criteria. We will share if we have a positive case.

People who are at elevated risk of exposure include:

Healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients.
People who have had close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients.
Travelers who just got back from travel in countries with community spread.

Healthcare providers order the tests and we approve them, based on whether a case meets the criteria. People can’t ask for tests if they don’t meet the criteria. We don’t provide testing at the Health Department.

What you can expect

We follow a playbook for responding to and controlling emerging public health risks. We practice often and apply it to everything from measles to wildfire smoke. More than 45 of our staff have been applying that plan to COVID-19 since Jan. 24.

If our area experiences spread of COVID-19, our playbook includes plans for social distancing. That could mean:

Canceling public gatherings.
Keeping people home from work.
Closing schools.

We aren’t recommending those strategies now. If that changes, we will quickly tell the public, businesses and other government agencies.

What you can do

First, you should stay calm. Internationally, 80% percent of infections appear to be mild.

You do need to take specific actions now to help keep your family safe:

Wash your hands! Do so often. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Avoid touching your face. Especially with unwashed hands. Your eyes, nose, and mouth are open doors for germs.
Avoid people who are sick. Steer clear of illnesses if at all possible.
Cover your coughs and sneezes. Hold a tissue over your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Then throw that tissue away and, again, WASH YOUR HANDS!
Clean things. Disinfect objects and surfaces often.
Stay home if you’re sick. This isn’t the time to tough it out and leave your home if you’re not feeling well.
Call first. If you or a family member are sick and plan to seek care, call first. Our healthcare partners need to prepare for people who are showing symptoms—or direct you to the appropriate resource.
Stay informed. Follow and share trusted sources of accurate public health information. Our website is a great place to start: www.tpchd.org/coronavirus.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment to protect public health. We are one of roughly 244 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at tpchd.org.

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