COMMENTARY: Please remain vigilant and wear a mask.

COMMENTARY: Please remain vigilant and wear a mask.

Until recently, news around the COVID-19 pandemic was getting better. The state opened vaccine eligibility to more people. Case counts were dropping. Businesses and schools were opening. It was the perfect antidote to the “COVID fatigue” we’ve all been feeling.

Despite warnings to remain vigilant against the virus, signs of slipping are starting to show. Rising case rates and the move of Pierce County back to Phase 2 of the state’s Roadmap to Recovery guidelines cast a shadow on the good news.

We’re also seeing a trend that concerns us: People, many of them younger, infected with COVID at gatherings or other situations where safe guidelines aren’t followed.

Recent examples show what happens when we let down our guard against COVID-19. We are working with several churches in Pierce County that are experiencing outbreaks. These outbreaks have led to an estimated 70 known cases and contacts, including secondary infections that occur when infected people continue to work, gather, or socialize with others.

Some other secondary effects of these outbreaks: A daycare center had to shut down. A high school is being monitored for more cases. More family members getting exposed and catching COVID-19. Exposures at youth events and gatherings. Risk of exposure at various schools. A hospitalization of a COVID-19 case.

It’s a vivid reminder we still have a way to go before the pandemic is over. All of us must play a part in getting there.

Many of us belong to a church. We have groups of friends. We love family get-togethers. We join social groups. We like to travel and attend events. Our kids play sports. They want to hang out with their friends. But when an infected person continues to interact with people—even if the person isn’t showing symptoms—he or she can spread COVID. And when we gather with others without following COVID guidelines, it multiplies the chances that disease will spread. The more interaction with others outside of your home, the more likely you are to expose yourself and possibly expose others.

While it may be a personal sacrifice to follow guidelines like wearing a mask or maintaining six feet of distance between others, these small acts of kindness add up to keeping people safe during COVID times. And if you think you may have been exposed to COVID, it’s important to get tested and self-isolate if you are positive.

Your choice to make a personal sacrifice may save others from missing work, getting very sick, ending up in the hospital—or even death. These small acts of kindness add up to showing love for our neighbors—even people we may not know. We all need to keep ourselves and our community safe.

When outbreaks happen, whether at a business, a school, a church, a restaurant, a sports team, or among any group, our contact tracers rely on the cooperation of these organizations. We rely on this collaboration to find out who may be infected so we can help people take steps to prevent further spread of COVID-19. If they reach out to you, please respond and provide as much information as you can. Our goal is to halt the spread of COVID-19, and the more information we have, the more effective we can be.

We need people in our Pierce County faith communities to show love and leadership. It’s important that we all show love for our neighbors, which may mean making some personal sacrifices in following COVID-19 guidance—even when we gather to worship. Wear a face covering. Maintain six feet of physical distance. Follow guidelines for maximum capacity at any gathering. If possible, gather outdoors instead of indoors.

We also need organizations to partner with us when they have outbreaks. This cooperation helps to prevent the spread of disease. Coordinating our efforts is one of the most powerful ways to prevent any further spread.

The vaccine is bringing us closer to getting back to normal and resuming our old activities. And it’s very tempting to start edging our way back. We can work with churches and other organizations to offer vaccine events to their communities. Churches interested in this option should contact our call center. We can even help make arrangements for members who may be homebound. Call 253-649-1412, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. seven days a week to request this service.

We have so many reasons to be hopeful right now. The sooner more people are vaccinated, the sooner we’ll reach community immunity. While the Centers for Disease Control has opened up guidelines for those who have been vaccinated to travel and be close to others who have been vaccinated, we must remain aware that COVID can still spread. It’s about finding the right mix. Please make sure you:

  • Keep gatherings small.
  • Practice physical distancing.
  • Wear a multi-layer mask that fits snugly over your mouth and nose.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Get a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Get vaccinated when it’s your turn.


Kim Steele-Peter, who wrote this article, helps lead Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s COVID-19 case and contact investigations and investigations of outbreaks at facilities. This article originally appeared in the department’s “Your Reliable Source” online blog.