Benton, Franklin counties have long way to go before Phase 2 reopening


TRI-CITIES, Wash. — The rate of infection of COVID-19 in Benton and Franklin counties is far too high for those counties to be considered for Phase 2 of Washington’s reopening plan at this time, health officials said in a news conference Thursday.

Rick Dawson, a senior manager at the Benton-Franklin Health District, said Benton County needs to have no more than 20 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day span to be considered for Phase 2. He said there have been 124 lab-confirmed cases in Benton County in the past 14 days.

Dawson said Franklin County needs to have no more than nine lab-confirmed cases within a 14-day span. It has seen 98 cases in the past 14 days.

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He said the Benton-Franklin Health District will be aiming to test upward of 500 people a day to better monitor the disease burden in the region.

The public is encouraged to wear face coverings wherever physical distancing is not possible. That includes people who are not worried about catching the virus, as their choice to wear a face covering may still protect other lives, Dawson said.

The Benton-Franklin Health District reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday — seven in Benton County and seven in Franklin County — and an 82nd related death.

As of Thursday afternoon, there are at least 1,574 cases in the region — 906 in Benton County and 668 in Franklin County — and 82 residents have died.

A total of 24 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2: Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Cowlitz, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Kittitas, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Pacific, Pend Orielle, San Juan, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla and Whitman.