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Pierce County ‘frustrated’ it didn’t get a pause before its Phase 2 rollback

Cars lined up at the Tacoma Dome COVID-19 vaccination site. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Dammeier/Twitter)

After Governor Inslee announced Tuesday that he is pausing any more phase rollbacks in Washington, at least for the next two weeks, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier sent out a tweet expressing his unhappiness and saying that “treating different counties differently is not science.”

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“Let’s be clear: Three weeks ago, I didn’t think Pierce County should be rolled back, and I don’t think Snohomish or King County should be rolled back yesterday,” Dammeier told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show. “I think we should be focusing on moving forward and getting beyond the state of emergency and getting back to some semblance of normal for our community.”

“The frustration was primarily that three weeks ago, when the numbers showed that we, by his rules, should have rolled back to Phase 2 and we asked for a pause, we were denied,” he continued. “So you can understand why when all of a sudden King County and others — their numbers are worse than ours were three weeks ago — that why it’s frustrating for Pierce County residents to see our community get rolled back, our businesses are suffering under Phase 2 restrictions, and to have King County and Snohomish County and others be given a pass or a pause.”

As of May 2, Pierce County’s case rates were at 374 per 100,000 residents, which is higher than the allowed metrics for Phase 2, but the county was able to remain in its current phase due to the pause.

“The point is the governor’s rules wouldn’t have rolled us back to Phase 1. We meet the requirements that he has set forward,” Dammeier said. “So it’s a concern with the application of the rules and the changing dynamic of the rules. Again, my focus is moving forward. That’s why in Pierce County we are all about making sure that everybody who possibly wants a vaccine has a chance to do it.”

He says he meets every Monday with business, community, and school leaders to find new ways to get vaccines out to the community and “remove every possible barrier” to getting vaccinated.

As Ursula Reutin points out, the state went from feeling like it was the Hunger Games to get a vaccine appointment to now people practically begging people to come in, but we’re still nowhere near high levels of immunity.

“I think the focus on getting people vaccinated is the correct focus,” Dammeier said. “That’s the way we’re going to move forward on this. So I absolutely agree with that and that is why we want to do everything we can. You are exactly right when you said we went from restriction, scarcity, not enough vaccine, not everyone is eligible, we flipped that script totally. So now we want to get to everybody wherever they are and remove any barrier to them being willing to get the vaccination. That’s key.”

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At this point, Dammeier says while he’d love to see his community reach 70% vaccinated, it’s still unknown if that’s an accurate or attainable threshold.

“We’re going to do everything we can to drive that number up as high as we can,” he said. “Part of my frustration in Pierce County is we’ve got a number of military in our community, Army and Air Force, and we’ve got a number of veterans in our community. Those that have gotten their vaccinations through the Department of Defense or through the Veterans Administration don’t show up in our state numbers.”

“So I know that the numbers that are showing by the state for Pierce County are artificially low because they don’t reflect those Department of Defense and veterans’ vaccinations,” he added. “If we’re going to have a true goal, it’s got to be in a way that we really know accurately who’s been vaccinated in our community right now and, frustratingly, in Pierce County, the federal government hasn’t shared that information.”

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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