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Pierce County Exec: Rollback to Phase 2 will cost jobs at a crucial time

A drive-thru vaccination clinic in Pierce County. (Tacoma-Pierce County Public Health, Facebook)

Governor Inslee announced that three counties in Washington state, including Pierce County, will have to roll back to Phase 2 at the end of this week. Was that decision made fairly, and what impact is it going to have? Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier joined the Gee and Ursula Show with his reaction.

“I think I am frustrated, I think the people of Pierce County are frustrated. Certainly, we all want to get beyond COVID. There’s no question about that. … I think the reason there’s frustration is that the vast majority of our residents who are over 65 — those that are most vulnerable to a really bad outcome — they’re vaccinated,” he said.

“We’ve got a situation where our hospitals are telling me — including as much as yesterday morning — that they’ve got ample capacity to care for anybody who gets sick, that they’re at about half the COVID cases that they had in December,” he added.

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Dammeier says part of the frustration as well is that Pierce is behind in vaccine distribution, and he worries the rollback will harm local businesses.

“And as we look at the vaccine distribution throughout the state of Washington, we have been highlighting the fact that we think Pierce County has been falling behind for over two months and we’re still falling behind, and further behind. By my estimation, we’re 55,000 vaccines behind the state average for a county by population,” he said.

“So I think the people of Pierce County have reason to be frustrated with being rolled back to the point where it’s going to harm some of our business,” Dammeier said. “It’s going to cost people their jobs when those things are really important right now.”

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As Ursula asked, the state came up with criteria to move into different phases, and Pierce County fell out of it. Does he think they should just get rid of those metrics altogether?

“Well, I think there needs to be some idea of just if we’re getting a significant outbreak. If the numbers in Pierce County were skyrocketing, like they were going up pretty quickly back in December — that was a legitimate concern,” he responded. “But we’re in a vastly different position than we were back in December. Our cases are climbing, they’re climbing modestly.”

“I think we should be dealing with that by continuing to mask, continuing to socially distance, follow all the precautions,” he said. “But we need to really up our vaccination game to get back where the state average is. We’ve been getting shorted and we’ve got to address that. … The frustration is by the previous hospitalization metrics, we pass with flying colors. By this changed one, we don’t pass, and nobody can really explain to me why we don’t, what’s causing it. So it’s hard to have an action there for us to take.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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