As of last week, South Sound 911 had 15 employees test positive for COVID-19, for an outbreak which originated in late-July at our Law Enforcement Communications Center. While we have experienced COVID positive cases before, it has not been to this level. We understand Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department considers two positive cases an “outbreak” and posts business information to their website after 10 cases, which remains posted for a 28-day period.
As of today, approximately half of the affected employees are back to work, and others are expected to return by early next week.
This outbreak did not impact the delivery of emergency 911 service or the dispatch of responders. South Sound 911 employees take their role in public safety seriously, and their dedication to the community is apparent. Employee absences were backfilled through overtime and through the assistance of supervisors who worked the dispatch radio and answered calls.
Throughout the pandemic, South Sound 911 has swiftly adapted to new mandates and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the Health Department, and the governor’s orders. Our longstanding mitigation measures include:
- Mandated mask policy
- Frequent handwashing and sanitization of surfaces
- Use of UV light keyboard sanitizers
- Acrylic barriers between employees
- Coordinating vaccine opportunities
- Consulting with the Health Department
As of now, vaccination remains a choice for South Sound 911 employees, though we encourage vaccination and have assisted in making the vaccine available.
So far, 52% of our employees indicate they chose to receive the vaccine. On South Sound 911’s operations side, our most essential employees, our vaccination rate is only 44%. While we are disappointed with this rate, several more employees have chosen to be vaccinated due to this outbreak. Prior to this, the agency required employees to sign a self-attestation form. Employees are now required to provide proof of vaccination.
We are in the process of consolidating administrative, records, calltaking, and dispatch operations in one location at our new headquarters. The new facility has consoles and workspaces which are more socially distanced by design, and it was built with the latest HVAC systems including technology which helps clean the indoor air.
Our employees are our greatest resource; technology cannot replace our people, the ones who answer emergency calls and dispatch first responders. It is in our interest – and the interest of the community we serve – to keep that workforce healthy and ready to serve. We do not take this responsibility lightly.