The Hill

Pierce County Prepares To Reopen Businesses As Plans For Phase 2 Move Forward

Most counties are struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic with some reporting new cases and even deaths. With some economies trying to slowly reopen, this will be one in phases. Right now, surviving the first phase and backing it up is seen as the immediate challenge. But as far as Pierce County is concerned, the region may be on the verge of moving to Phase 2 of Governor Jay Inslee's Safe Start plan for businesses to reopen.

The Pierce County Council met Monday in a special meeting to discuss plans of moving towards Phase 2 of reopening business and restarting Washington's economy. They unanimously voted to approve the county's application, the final step on their end to possibly move to the next phase. The application will now be sent to the state's Secretary of Health by County Executive Bruce Dammeier

. The application will then be placed under review. It should be noted that this can be approved or denied.

Other than the unanimous vote passed, other matters need to be addressed. This includes proving that the county has a low case count, provide aggressive testing and contact tracing. As far as the case count, Pierce County has shown an average of 11 cases per 100,000 people in the last 14 days. Per guidelines, a county would need to have fewer than 25 per 100,000 residents to be considered.

Despite the decline in numbers, the county still needs to continue providing testing. This is a key need with businesses reopening, meaning more people are expected to be out and may get exposed to the virus. Finally, there is also contact tracing that would help identify people who may have contracted the strain. Pierce County has 60 staff and volunteers who will be in charge of contact tracing and investigating 30 COVID-19 cases daily.

"Our objectives are to begin to restore our society and local economy while we protect the health of all county residents," Director of Health Anthony L-T Chen said. "Even as we prepare to move into Phase 2, we need to continue to be cautious and follow state and local public health guidance to prevent a rapid surge of cases in Pierce County."

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It remains to be seen if Pierce County can move on to Phase 2 of Gov. Inslee's Safe Start plan. Assuming they do, Chen cautioned that locals must not get complacent. Health officials urge the public to continue practicing the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This includes frequently washing hands, wearing a face mask at all times and observing social distancing. Aside from that, they still discourage people from going out unless necessary.

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