BFHD officials seeing a “significant increase” of COVID-19 cases in Tri-Cities

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Officials with the Benton Franklin Health District (BFHD) said they are seeing a “significant increase” in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Tri-Cities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both Benton and Franklin counties are labeled as “high.”

In Benton County, there are about 207 cases per 100,000 and in Franklin County, that number is slightly higher at about 251 per 100,000.

Dr. Amy Person, a health officer for BFHD, said she believes that spike is due to BA.5 — the newest Omicron variant.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned from COVID throughout this pandemic is that a lot can change in a few weeks’ time,” Dr. Person said. “Even with the increased number of cases being reported, we are not seeing as significant of an increase in our hospitalizations.”

That’s a good thing, as Dr. Person said the health district’s goal “is to make sure that our hospitals and our healthcare system don’t get overwhelmed.”

Despite the rise in numbers, health officials said they are not planning on reinstating community-wide mandates.

Leaders are using local wastewater management facilities to track COVID-19 statistics as there is a decrease in people getting tested at sites, Dr. Person added.

“What we’re able to do with this is actually test the levels of the virus that causes COVID-19 that are in the wastewater,” Dr. Person said. “It’s not dependent on people deciding to go test. This is just sampling that is done.”

In the next coming weeks, Dr. Person said it’s imperative that people know the options they have to protect themselves, especially as school is set to start.

“We do want to make sure that we can keep this community moving forward in terms of making sure that kids can still get [an] education and our businesses can still be running but doing it in a way where people can stay healthy,” Dr. Person said.

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