Gov. Jay Inslee put the brakes Monday on an effort to dissolve the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
Inslee signed a proclamation that halts the termination of health departments during the COVID-19 pandemic – specifically citing Pierce County in his remarks.
“This proclamation puts a pause, in effect, on efforts to terminate a health district or a city-county health department, such as what is currently taking place in Pierce County,” he said at a news conference.
The governor cited emergency powers and said that any such dissolution would need to be mutual. It also requires the approval of the Washington Secretary of Health.
Members of the Pierce County Council proposed earlier this month to end the decades-long partnership between the county and the City of Tacoma.
That plan was met with immediate concern and requests to reconsider the proposal. Despite the outcry, the council voted to move forward with the dissolution and was scheduled to make a final vote on Tuesday.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department released a statement Monday afternoon, expressing thanks to those who have advocated for the agency “remaining an independent, neutral, public health department”:
We are glad the Governor intervened to ensure Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department can focus on bringing COVID-19 under control, for all Pierce County residents.
His action to place a pause on any change to the governance structure of a joint city-county health department or district means we can put all of our attention on saving lives, educating people about how to prevent COVID-19, and supporting Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. We will continue to stay focused on COVID-19 no matter what.
We are grateful to the many residents, community partners, health care providers, and elected officials who support our agency in remaining an independent, neutral, public health department.