In case we haven’t met yet, I’m the new director of the Office of Disaster Recovery and I’m honored to draw on my background as an Army general, business leader and physician to help the County recover from the impact of the pandemic.
I could almost hear the collective sighs of relief and shouts of joy last Friday as Pierce County received the State’s approval to move into Phase 2 of the COVID-19 phased reopening. Our residents were understandably tired of being confined and restricted and felt that they were being “set free.”
But that “freedom” comes with some conditions and responsibilities. The responsible actions of Pierce County residents during Phase 1 led to dramatic reductions in the number of COVID-19 cases – in large part due to reduced person-to-person contact deriving from the Governor’s “Stay Home Stay Safe” order, but also because when we did go out we were practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and taking other precautions.
As businesses reopen and personal interaction increases, it becomes even more important for us to maintain, and even increase, our attention to face masking and social distancing. That is not only because it is a condition set down by the State, but more importantly because it’s the smart thing to do. Remember, you can be infected with the virus and you can spread it to others before you have any symptoms; thus, wearing a mask when around others is not primarily to protect you from others, it is to protect others from you. Let’s continue to be careful and responsible and contain the spread of this virus so that we can continue to recover from this pandemic. This is not a public health or economic recovery – it is a public health and economic recovery.
Many across our County continue to work hard to effectively respond to the challenges of COVID-19 and to prepare us to begin recovery. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Department of Emergency Management and others across the County are working collaboratively to expand the capacity for case investigation and contact tracing. It is critical we are prepared if we do see significant increases in the disease, to increase testing capability and to develop data systems to track, understand, respond, and prevent outbreaks.
Last week, the Economic Development Department, working collaboratively with the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, Search and Rescue, and others distributed hundreds of thousands of face masks and digital thermometers to local businesses, faith organizations, and non-profits for both their employees and their customers/clients. Personal protective equipment (PPE) was distributed at nine locations throughout the county and demonstrated a great use of federal CARES funding to support our community.
Likewise, the Human Services Department has partnered with many organizations to get funding and support out to our residents for rental assistance, PPE and testing for those experiencing homelessness, services for children, and behavioral health support.
These are but a few examples of how public-private collaboration is making us stronger and better prepared to deal with – and recover from – this pandemic.
We are all eager to enter Phase 3 and it will take our continued hard work, smart choices and strong partnerships to get us there.
Thank you – and keep up the good work!
Dr. Ken Farmer
Director, Office of Disaster Recovery