On March 10, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier presented his 2021 State of the County address in front of a socially distanced group of community, business and government leaders at Puyallup’s Farm 12. He reflected on the impact of COVID-19 on Pierce County, the great work done to date and what recovery looks like going forward.
“COVID-19 robbed us of 500 Pierce County residents, and that number continues to grow,” he said. “It also robbed us of jobs and employment, put incredible stress on our families and denied our kids an education when they needed it most. It was a difficult year for all of us.”
The bright side is that people stepped up, including business, organizations and government leaders. That leadership, innovation and adaptability helped lay the foundation for the recovery ahead.
“Three words typify what we’re doing to take back control of our community and move us forward: restart, recover and reform,” Dammeier said.
- Restart – Vaccinations are job 1 in Pierce County. Getting kids back to school is also critical. The Tacoma-Pierce County Department of Health school-based testing pilots in the Eatonville, White River and Peninsula school districts laid the foundation to make that happen.
- Recover – Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic hinges on two critical components, Dammeier said:
- Getting people back to work and bringing more and better family wage jobs to Pierce County.
- Improving behavioral health services. Pierce County is working with its health care system partners to create better way to serve Medicaid populations. Work will continue to support law enforcement in dealing with people in mental health crisis and find new ways to give more people access to care.
- Reform – Improvements need to be made to better serve the citizens of Pierce County, including:
- Affordable housing. Rents in the county are going up, but wages aren’t keeping pace. Work continues to create more types of housing options as we move forward.
- Criminal justice reform. The last year highlighted that Pierce County’s criminal justice system is not the same for everyone in our community, Dammeier said. “We need to resolve that. Everyone in the community needs to believe our justice system is fair and there to protect them.” Body cams, dash cams and other measures will help make our communities and officers safer.
Dammeier noted the somber one-year anniversary of Pierce County’s first COVID-related death. A year later, three vaccines are available and more are on the way. Pierce County and its partners are doing their part to ensure citizens are vaccinated and healthy. “Our community is coming together to take care of our community,” he said. “That’s the Pierce County way.”
To hear Dammeier’s full State of the County address, visit the Pierce County website.