Benton-Franklin Health Officer rescinds local mask directive; state orders remain in effect

Tri-Cities

KENNEWICK, Wash. – Earlier today, Dr. Amy Person — The residing Health Officer for the Benton-Franklin Health District — rescinded the local ‘Masking in Public’ and “No Mask, No Service” at Businesses directives issued last summer. These masking directives were issued to address the widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the Tri-Cities and surrounding regions at the height of the pandemic.

Instead of enforcing local rules, Benton and Franklin Counties will follow state and federal guidance on masking. Under current guidance from Gov. Jay Inslee and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fully-vaccinated people are no longer required to wear masks in most settings. This is upheld by the Order of the Secretary of Health 20-03.2 issued by Dr. Umair Shah.

There are exceptions as to where fully-vaccinated people must wear masks. Those settings include healthcare settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, schools and public transportation.

RELATED: Yakima Health District rescinds masking order, will follow state’s lead

Dr. Person offered the following comments about the changing tides of the pandemic and expectations for the region:

“With the availability of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination, COVID-19 disease and transmission rates are improving in Benton and Franklin counties,” said Dr. Person. “It’s no longer necessary for our counties to have mask directives above and beyond the Order from the Secretary of Health. This doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, but that the vaccines are working. People should continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC and the Washington State Department of Health. We encourage everyone age 12 and over to get vaccinated.”

One glaring point is being highlighted by public health leaders from throughout the nation: Unvaccinated people are still required to wear masks while interacting with others. This is to prevent transmission in the community and to incentivize unvaccinated individuals to get their vaccine dose.

Local businesses have the right to set masking guidelines for customers and visitors. They also have the right to ask for proof of vaccination from employees and customers. Anyone who visits a business in Benton or Franklin counties that’s upholding mask requirements or safety guidelines is expected to respect the rules.

To read the Benton-Franklin Heath District’s directive in its entirety, click here.

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