Frustration in Pierce County over Phase 2 COVID restrictions remaining in place

People in Pierce County are confused as to why they face more restrictions than counties with similar COVID case numbers.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced all counties will remain where they are in the re-opening phase process.

RELATED: Inslee pauses COVID reopening plan; all counties to remain in their current phases

This is great news for areas like King and Snohomish counties, whose COVID case numbers over the last few weeks had both counties headed back to Phase 2. Inslee's announcement means they will both remain in Phase 3. 

But Pierce County has been in Phase 2 for more than three weeks. It's the only county in the Puget Sound region that has increased restrictions, and business owners don't understand why. 

"That doesn’t seem quite right," says Russ Heaton.

Heaton is the owner of Doyle’s Public House in Tacoma.

He says sales have been OK during the last few months, but nowhere near what they used to be. Heaton says every time there is a new advisory announced, it hurts his business.

"It’s scary, and I’m thankful that someone always does walk in the front door," he says.

Heaton says all he is looking for from the state is consistency on how restrictions are imposed. Officials say this is a common statement in the city and county.

"When the rules seem to be changing week to week, and different rules being applied based on the county line, despite things looking the same across the county line, people aren’t sure what to think. So, there is a lot of frustration," says David Schroedel, Vice President of the Tacoma Pierce County Chamber.

RELATED: Restaurant in Seattle's University District closed for violating COVID-19 restrictions

He says they reached out to the governor’s office weeks ago in an attempt to pause the phased re-opening process to avoid moving backward.

Schroedel says he’s happy the governor has made the change to pause phase movement, helping many other businesses throughout the state. He just wishes Tacoma and Pierce County were also included in this decision before they had to move backward.

"When we’re looking around and seeing other counties have the same metrics as us, and yet we’re teed up for a different set of regulations, it just doesn’t make sense to us," says Schroedel.

Mike Faulk, a spokesperson for the governor, said Pierce County’s COVID numbers are much higher than other counties.

"The frustration is understandable, but it is misplaced. The pandemic is what drives these tough decisions; it is not at the whims of the governor," Faulk said. 

"The only change announced today is that nothing in the phases will change for at least two weeks. This was not a favor nor was it a punishment to anyone. We have two weeks as a state to keep following the guidance that’s on the books, get as many people as vaccinated as possible, and see if we can turn this COVID activity plateau into a downward trend. We have a chance to cut the fourth wave short and move forward in this pandemic, and it takes everyone working together to succeed."

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