Local and state officials provide update on COVID-19 response

KENNEWICK, Wash. – As Washington state has reached 5,000 COVID-19 deaths, officials said it’s important to not let our guard down against the virus.

“Together we will heal, we will recover, we will never forget those who we lost but we have to continue to remember the fight continues for COVID-19,” Dr. Umair Shah, the Secretary of Health in Washington said.

“Those are again stark reminders of the seriousness of this disease,” Dr. Amy Person with the Benton Franklin Health District said about one percent of our area’s population has died from the virus.

Health officials are hopeful for the future. They said data shows a downward trend in COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases.

In Washington, over 1.7 million residents have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

MORE: Are you eligible for the vaccine? KAPP KVEW can help you find a location

“We have to do everything we can to fight this pandemic,” Dr. Shah said.

“We have gotten to this point precisely through the actions that we’ve taken as individuals, so if we want to continue that progress forward, we do need to maintain our infection prevention measures,” Dr. Person added.

The health officer went on to explain about 12 percent of the two county’s populations have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. She said the biggest challenge they face is supply and demand; often when there is a huge demand, the mass vaccination site isn’t able to give out as many doses.

“Those are the kind of positive milestones we want to see as time moves forward,” she said.

With another approved vaccine on the way, hopefully, cases and hospitalizations will continue to decrease.

“The state of Washington is anticipating they will get a shipment of the Jansen vaccine, for this coming week but then likely will not see any until the end of March,” she said.

We’ll need all the vaccines we can get.

On Tuesday, Governor Inslee added educators and licensed childcare workers to Phase 1B-1 and on Thursday, another big announcement.

RELATED: Washington governor provides timeline for next phases of vaccination

“We expect that on March 22, a little less than three weeks from today, we will enter our second phase of 1B. Folks who work in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, public transit, firefighters, law enforcement,” Governor Inslee listed.

Phase 1B-2 will also include people over 16 years old who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at risk.

As more places open up, and students return to class, Dr. Person said we must be diligent about masking up and social distancing to prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19.

“That is really gonna be our focus to maintain those infection control practices so we don’t see that,” she said.

Dr. Shah said the state and UW Medicine, who handle COVID-19 tests, are working to identify variant cases of COVID-19. He said they’re using new sequencing technology to identify the B117 and B1351 variants. So far, there have been over 70 cases of the variants combined, in Washington.

Both officials remind anyone who has symptoms or came into contact with someone who’s COVID-19 positive to get tested and, when eligible, schedule a vaccine.