Benton, Franklin counties will apply for Phase 2 reopening next week

Open Sign

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — The Benton-Franklin Health District Board of Health voted Thursday to submit an application to move forward to Phase 2 under Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start Plan.

The complete applications will be submitted by the counties early next week to the Washington State Department of Health, who has the final say on the process.

Jason Zaccaria, Benton-Franklin Health District administrator, said the health district expects to hear back from state health officials about their decision in about one week after the submissions. The counties will remain in Phase 1 until the application is approved.

Residents are advised to practice physical distancing and hand hygiene throughout all phases of reopening

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“The decision to recommend applying for Phase 2 was made after careful consideration of what would best support the overall health and well-being of the community,” said Dr. Amy Person, Health Officer. “Although case counts continue to increase, data shows that a significant portion of new cases are related to outbreaks in essential businesses and an increase in risk behaviors by individuals, suggesting that the expected rise in infection rates may not be as significantly affected by moving to Phase 2 compared to remaining in Phase 1.”

The health district said community recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic does not occur in a vacuum. It said efforts to mitigate and control the spread of the virus must also consider the consequences of those efforts on the economic, social, and emotional well-being of the community.

Financial hardship, social disconnectedness and despair have impacted the ability of individuals in the community to continue to take the necessary steps to reduce the spread of infection, the heath district said, adding that Phase 1 restrictions are preventing bi-county residents from accessing much-needed mental health resources, including support groups for substance abuse and depression.

The health district has been working closely with health care partners and community leaders to ensure there will be adequate public health capacity to manage the anticipated increase in cases.