'Grip on Phase 2 is slipping' as Pierce County sees surge of new COVID-19 cases

Pierce County officials said their “grip on Phase 2 is slipping,” as 35 new COVID-19 cases were announced, Thursday. This adds up to 312 confirmed reports in the last 14 days. Now health officials said they fear the county may have to take a step back on reopening the economy and recreation if the uptick continues.

“This is worrisome,” said Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, executive director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “COVID-19 doesn’t care who you are.”

Under the Safe Start Washington plan, counties can move to the next phase if there are less than 25 reported cases per 100,000 people during a 14-day period. Dr. Chen said the county is seeing 35 cases.

“We’re seeing them in more young people. We’re seeing small outbreaks at businesses. So, what it’s saying to us is people are getting out, they’re moving around,” said Dr. Chen. “They’re tired and they just go out. And the weather has been nice. It’s summer, people want to be out, they miss seeing their friends. I think what they forgot is we’re not Phase 4 and people need to remember that.”

Dr. Chen said a big part of the uptick in cases is not enough people are covering their face.

“Some people are doing it, others are forgetting to do it. We really need people to pay attention and tighten up,” said Dr. Chen. “It’s something we have to do together. I do a little bit, you do a little bit, it all adds up and helps us move forward. But if we all slack off or we’re just tired of it, we don’t want to do it then we’re seeing that we’re slipping on this.”

Masks are required to attend the Tacoma Farmer’s Market. However, some people still are not follow the rule.

“What is it going to hurt you to wash your hands a bit more or put a mask on? If it’s protecting others, if it’s protecting yourself, it’s not going to hurt anyone, so just do it just in case,” said LaNita Walters, a farmer’s market patron. “I really hope things get back to normal soon. But if this is our new normal then let’s make the most of it.”

Most vendors have hand sanitizer available for customers to use. Country Financial offered free bottles of hand sanitizer to help promote heathy habits.

“It’s important for all of us to do our part in making sure we’re practicing safe distancing and that we’re taking care of our precautions—things that we can control to be safe,” said Kimberly Aker, an insurance agent for Country Financial. “It’s a fear of ours to have to go backwards. We want to make sure we can continue to open up and move forward for our daycares, for our jobs to be able to function.”

Dr. Chen said the county is not ready to submit a application for Phase 3 because the case numbers are growing.