70 attend via Zoom and phone to hear updates from county and local leaders.

At least 70 people attended a virtual COVID-19 Key Peninsula Town Hall meeting April 2 to hear from representatives from Pierce County, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, and the KP Fire Department. The meeting, initially suggested by County Councilman Derek Young, was organized and publicized by the Key Peninsula Partnership for a Healthy Community and moderated by Anne Nesbit, KP Fire Department prevention and public information officer.

Don Swensen, speaking in his role as KP Community Council president, said the council is interested in a healthy and connected Key Peninsula and thanked all the presenters.

“We need to hang together, watch out for each other, treat each other with patience and grace.”

TPCHD Director Dr. Anthony Chen reviewed the testing, infections and deaths to date as well as plans to improve testing capacity. He said the virus was already present throughout the county and that hospital capacity was currently adequate. The department is also in the process of identifying sites for temporary care centers for those with infections who could not safely self-isolate at home. There will be one each in eastern, central and western Pierce County. 

KP Fire Department Chief Dustin Morrow thanked the community for complying with state and county recommendations. The department is working to ensure its messaging is in sync with the county, and that it has an additional one or two aid units available at all times to handle calls. “We are developing layer upon layer of contingency plans,” he said, to assure they have the personal protective equipment they need.

Responding to a question about how the food banks are faring, Pierce County Director of Human Services Heather Moss said the county gave $250,000 to Nourish Pierce County. The National Guard has been called in to help with distribution. Young said, “The struggle is not just the increased need and decreased supply. Food banks have had to change the way they do business, needing to prepackage food rather than allow people to shop the aisles as they have in the past. For those who are financially secure the best way to support the food banks is with a cash donation.”

Moss said that the county has set up a rent relief program for low-income residents. Acknowledging the psychological strain from the pandemic, she also said that mobile crisis intervention teams and mobile outreach program and homeless outreach teams remain active.

“We haven’t experienced something like this for generations.”

Pierce County Director of Economic Development Betty Capestany addressed the financial impact of COVID-19. Noting that there are 5,100 small businesses in unincorporated Pierce County, she said that the county has set up a 12-month no-interest microloan program for businesses with fewer than 10 employees and a 25 percent revenue loss due to COVID-19. The program is designed to help as businesses apply for grants and loans from the Small Business Administration.

Dr. Bill Roes, who has had a primary care practice in Key Center for more than three decades, said he hoped to serve as an additional resource during this time. He plans to coordinate with the fire department to offer appropriate testing for the virus and provide urgent non-COVID-19 related care for people who are not his clinic patients. “I could help limit emergency room visits for things like urinary tract infections or sprained ankles,” he said. “I wouldn’t become someone’s medical home, probably, but could be their medical motel during this time.”

Young closed the meeting by saying, “I’d like to look at the broader picture. I think it’s important to understand the scale of what is about to happen. It’s not just the COVID emergency itself. We are going to have a lot of people get sick, and some unfortunately are not going to make it. But on top of that, the cure to this will be deeply traumatic to our economy. We will enter deep recession. It will take time to recover. We haven’t experienced something like this for generations. The mobilization of resources at a national level will be similar to what happened in World War II. We need to hang together, watch out for each other, give each other patience and grace. The county will face some challenges with decreased revenue and increased need. But I am confident we are going to get through this.”

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