May 4, 2022 Update from the Combatting Covid-19 Together Task Force
As many of you know, the pandemic has calmed down considerably in the last several months after an aggressive wave this last winter. That being said, cases have recently started to tick back up on a state and county level. This increase has also been reflected in the positive Covid cases we have seen on campus in recent weeks.
Here is an update:
- At TCC, we have seen an increase from very low single digit case reporting (in a 14-day period) to more than 25 cases in our most recent two-week reporting period. This has resulted in a mix of students and employees being sick and having to isolate at home. This is temporarily disruptive for those involved, but swift contact tracing and guidance is keeping the problem to a minimum thus far. Please refer to our TCC flowchart that outlines our protocols.
- This reflects what has been seen broadly for the rest of the state. After weeks of declining rates through March, the average positive test rate has started to increase in Washington. That rate of increase has yet to level off and as a consequence, COVID-19 case numbers have increased.
- Our recent numbers from Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) show a 32 percent higher rate than the previous 14-day period tracker. Hospitalizations are also up 40 percent than the previous period.
- Nearby counties like Thurston and Snohomish have seen a larger uptick in cases and King County recently moved back into medium COVID-19 community case levels, after tripling their case count from a few weeks ago. All of this indicates Pierce County may see a rise in cases for a short time.
What this means
- It is important to note that at this time, King County officials are not issuing new guidance, restrictions, or recommendations. This signals that this uptick in cases is something to keep an eye on, but also something we need to learn to react to and live with. Pierce County currently retains its low community case level status for the time being. This is being monitored very closely.
- The reason for the uptick in cases is due to the subvariant of the Omicron strain- BA.2. Through genetic testing, BA.2 has shown to be 30-50 percent more contagious than the original Omicron strain. Despite being virulent in its spread, it is not more harmful than Omicron, which already was less lethal than the strains before it. This is the case with the majority of COVID variants. They spread, mutate and become more transmittable, but wane in overall intensity, especially for the vaccinated and boosted.
- The combination of vaccines, boosters, and immunity from recent infection should shield us from another pandemic wave, leaving us with a brief surge in cases, before the numbers drop off again. This may be especially true as Omicron struck the U.S. during peak winter months, and currently, we are welcoming summer and spending more time outdoors.
What you can do
- Get vaccinated and boosted. TCC will be holding two vaccination clinics on campus. The dates for those events are May 10th and 31st. The clinics will see people from 10am-2pm in the Student Senate room, Building 11. No registration is required. If you are eligible to get your second booster shot (50 years old or more and/or immunocompromised), we encourage you to do so.
- Have tests ready to go and take the tests in the safety of your home. You can order (up to four per month) at-home rapid tests for free from the WA DOH at: https://sayyescovidhometest.org/
- Tests are available at Gig Harbor as well.
Resources as we learn to live with a pandemic
- For students: There is free and confidential counseling services available to you through TCC’s Counseling Department. To book a session designed to help individuals navigate personal, professional and academic obstacles, click here. Students can also learn more about wellness and mental health resources here, or by emailing the counseling team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
- For employees: TCC offers a free, confidential Employee Assistance Program. You can reach this support at 877-313-4455. This service also offers webinars, handouts, and other additional resources at: https://des.wa.gov/services/hr-finance/washington-state-employee-assistance-program-eap/covid-19-resources
- Contact tracing and other Covid-19 questions: Visit the TCC Covid-19 webpage or reach out to Brandon Kilgore, the TCC Covid-19 Coordinator, at email@example.com. To follow our contact tracing protocols, please refer to our flowchart (pdf) and contact Brandon, who serves as our contact tracer.
These are trying times, as we learn to live with a pandemic, and adjust in different ways. In the meantime, we will continue to follow TPHCHD and other public health protocols. If these agencies require us to change existing protocols, the Combatting COVID Together Task Force is prepared and is thinking ahead to minimize any campus disturbance COVID may have on upcoming events, or our overall functionality. Furthermore, we work very closely with local and state health authorities to ensure our decisions and protocols are from the result of the best data-driven science available to us.
Take care out there, and keep safe and healthy.
TCC is Safety Focused
TCC works hard to ensure we are helping to keep our students, faculty and staff are safe. We follow all required guidance on operating the TCC campus and employ these basic tactics in fighting COVID-19 transmission:
- requiring college employees to be fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption
- requiring college students to self-attest their vaccination or exemption status
- strongly encouraging the use of masks
- washing hands
- cleaning and disinfecting
- Air filtration system has been upgraded to MERV-13
To read more, visit our Safe Start Plan.
If we have suspended operations, you will be notified through our TCC Alerts (Omnilert) system that sends out calls, emails and text messages. Now is a great time to sign up for Omnilert or check and make sure your notification settings are correct. We also post messages on Facebook and Twitter, update the website, alert the news media, update the hotline and send out emails. Please be aware of these communication channels.
Stigma Related to COVID-19
Misinformation about coronavirus can create fear and hostility that hurts people and makes it harder to keep everyone healthy. We’re stronger as a community when we stand together against discrimination. Discrimination based on ethnicity or ancestry will make the situation worse. Having Chinese ancestry – or any other ancestry – does not make a person more vulnerable to this illness. Coronavirus doesn't recognize race, nationality nor ethnicity. Please help stop fear and discrimination by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19. You can read more about this here and help fight stigma.
TCC COVID-19 Mini-CourseSelf-enrolled course: https://tacomacc.instructure.com/enroll/T7E4FK
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