Current State of COVID-19 in Pierce County

With the first day of online school already behind us and the threat of 80 minute zoom calls ever more present, now is a better time than ever to revisit the possibility of returning to school.

Nearly a month ago, Pierce County health director Anthony Chen required all schools to start remotely in the fall. At the time, COVID rates were on the rise and case counts were over 130 per 100,000. As of today however, case counts continue to drop and the current rate of  COVID in Pierce County is well under 60. When discussing plans to reopening schools safely, the Pierce County Health Department set a number of 75 cases per 100,000 that we would need to dip under in order to consider starting schools again.

And, on Sept. 4, Dr. Chen released a statement authorizing the return of younger students who are at “a critical stage in their development” and do not move between different classes. This came with a mandate of waiting a minimum of 3 weeks or 21 days between decisions of advancing opening to allow for incubation and trends to present themselves.

The release of the letter marked Pierce County’s entrance into the moderate phase of the Department of Health’s decision tree (see chart below). The guidelines recommend the expansion of younger students in person learning but also recommends a hybrid model for middle and high school students.

Without the 6 day lag on the data, Pierce County has been below 75 cases per 100,000 since late August. With COVID rates trending down in Pierce County and the need to wait 21 days to make a decision, now is a better time than ever for the Bellarmine Administration to make the decisive action to begin reopening for the 2020-2021 school year. A decision could be made as early as Sept. 21.