‘Still need to be cautious:’ BFHD warns of Omicron spread as WA hits record-breaking numbers

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Officials with the Benton Franklin Health District (BFHD) are warning the community to stay vigilant and safe as Omicron continues to spread throughout the state.

The Washington Department of Health (WADOH) reported over 6,000 cases on Christmas Eve — a record number of cases tallied in a single day.

The state’s previous single-day record number of cases was 5,526 cases on Dec. 7, 2020. Dec. 24 also marked the first time Washington state reported over 6,000 cases in a single day.

State health officials also confirmed 3,847 new cases and 17 deaths on Monday, bringing the state’s totals to 834,235 cases and 9,801 deaths.

Dr. Amy Person, a health officer with BFHD, said, “it’s important for people to continue to take steps to reduce their risk for getting infected or for passing the infection to others.”

This comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued new, shorter isolation guidances for asymptomatic infections.

Dr. Person said that while these changes can be confusing, it’s “the right thing to do” as guidelines should be adjusted to each variant.

“With Omicron, it does appear to be more transmissible earlier on so that people are getting infected faster and they are potentially clearing the infection faster,” Dr. Person said. “Which would mean that they wouldn’t necessarily need to be isolated or quarantine as long.”

Another reason for the change? Keeping labor afloat.

“We do need to continually balance being able to protect people from infectious diseases but also making sure that we have an adequate workforce,” Dr. Person said.

According to the CDC’s transmission map, Franklin and Kittitas Counties are marked as “substantial.” To bring that down, the district recommends masking up and getting vaccinated or boosted if you’re eligible.

“Having that additional level of protection available to everyone five and older means that we can approach this differently than we did at the beginning,” Dr. Person said.

But before you pop the champagne at a New Year’s Eve gathering, officials said you should take any and all precautions to help mitigate risk.

“With Omicron being much quicker to spread and much quicker to develop as an infection getting tested is going to be very important,” Dr. Person said.