PUYALLUP, WA — Despite a lot of speculation that the omicron COVID-19 wave in winter — the latest, greatest wave of COVID-19 infections — would be the final wave of the pandemic, it is starting to look like a new wave is on the horizon.
And for Pierce County, it may actually already be here.
Rising case counts and COVID-19 hospitalization rates on Thursday pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to move Pierce County into its “medium” COVID-19 Community Level. As of the Department of Health’s latest update, Pierce County is now seeing over 200 cases per every 100,000 residents.
“We haven’t seen our case rate this high since early February, when we were coming down from the Omicron wave,” wrote the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s. “By mid-March our 7-day case rate dropped to almost 30 per 100,000. Since then, we’ve seen a steady increase.”
Pierce County is not alone in seeing higher case counts. The statewide case count has quadrupled over the last two months, and other large counties like Snohomish County and King County have also recently been bumped into the medium bracket.
So what does that mean for Pierce County residents?
On a policy level: pretty much nothing. The CDC is not going to enforce any new lockdowns or mandates, Pierce County leaders haven’t teased any new restrictions, and Gov. Jay Inslee recently reaffirmed that there were no plans in the works to reimpose the statewide mask mandate or other COVID-19 protocol.
However, the move does have local health experts urging everyone to use their best judgment and proceed cautiously.
“We are nowhere near our peak levels during the Omicron wave over the winter, but we are more than halfway to our Delta case rate peak in August,” Wilson said.
“Medium” COVID-19 community level may not seem like a panic-button worthy moment, and it is significantly lower than the “high” community risk level, but keep in mind that the CDC in February revamped its risk assessment program, raising the threshold before communities were considered high or medium risk dramatically.
In other words, “medium” is the old “high,” and health leaders are asking everyone to act judiciously.
“Consider wearing a mask in public,” Wilson said. “If you are at high risk for severe illness, you should talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask or take other action.”
At medium risk level, the CDC urges residents to get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms, and urges extra caution for the immunocompromised or for anyone who is at high risk for COVID-19.
For everyone else, the same old COVID-19 advice applies: