About half of Tri-Cities residents masking at grocery stores, surveys show


TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Surveys conducted by the Benton-Franklin Health District show that 53% of residents in the Tri-Cities area are wearing a face covering at the grocery store.

Health district staff and volunteers spent 30 hours observing patrons leaving 15 grocery stores from June 20 to June 25 and found that 53%. Over 5,000 people were counted in seven cities, including Benton City, Connell, Kennewick, Pasco, Prosser, Richland and West Richland in the baseline survey.

Richland stores had the highest compliance at 58.51%; Benton City had the lowest rate of compliance at 26.09%.

Washington State Department of Health officials have said they want to see more people in Benton and Franklin Counties wearing face coverings as they consider the counties’ application to move to Phase 2 of reopening businesses and allowing small gatherings.

Dr. Amy Person, Health Officer for Benton and Franklin Counties, issued a mask directive that took effect on June 8. Gov. Jay Inslee ordered everyone in Washington state to wear face coverings in public starting Friday, June 26.

“Masks prevent droplets from infected people from transmitting to those nearby,” said Dr. Person. “People with COVID-19 are contagious for two days before they develop symptoms and a large percentage are asymptomatic, meaning they are still contagious but never feel sick. Counties across the state where mask wearing is more accepted have lower rates of illness.”

Observers count people leaving stores who appear to be age 12 and over. Anyone with a mask visible is presumed to be in compliance, even if it’s not covering their nose and mouth. The health district will continue to conduct the surveys for the next several weeks.

The cities ranked as follows:

1. Richland (58.1%)

2. Prosser (57.78%)

3. West Richland (55.18%)

4. Kennewick (52.54%)

5. Pasco (50.65%)

6. Connell (33.67%)

7. Benton City (26.07%)