What must happen before COVID will not be a serious concern anymore

Tri-Cities health officer explains in latest update
Covid 19 Local 10 7 21

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Not a rebuke but a pat on the back this week from the Benton-Franklin Health District to the Tri-Cities community. More people are getting vaccinated and taking steps to tamp down coronavirus spread, leading to fewer COVID-19 cases.

In her weekly update, Dr. Amy Person, health officer for Benton and Franklin Counties, said case rates in the two counties fell – again – over the most recent 14-day period: Benton County is at 737 cases per 100,000 residents and Franklin County has 935 cases per 100,000 residents.

“This is the first time since August that both counties have been below 1,000 cases per 100,000 over a 14-day period,” said Dr. Person.

She said it’s not due to chance or the natural history of COVID-19 that cases are declining but rather the actions of the community: more vaccinations, masking, staying home when sick and other mitigation strategies.

Whether we maintain this progress will depend on whether we maintain this behavior, Dr. Person said. When people become complacent or forget or relax on what we’ve been told to do for the past year and a half, we will see an increase in disease activity.

“Benefits of vaccination continue to outweigh risks associated with disease,” she said, despite the vaccine-related death of a woman in King County.

“We were, of course, saddened to hear the report from King County of a woman who died as a result of a rare blood clot associated with Johnson & Johnson vaccines. That’s why all vaccines continue to be monitored closely for any adverse effects as well as being monitored closely for their benefits.”

“In Benton and Franklin counties, there have been no deaths associated with vaccination,” Dr. Person said.

More notes from the briefing:

  • CBC West testing site in Pasco:
    • 9,600+ tests over 14 days
    • Positivity rate decreased to 16%, down 4%
  • Walk-up testing site n Richland:
    • 2,000+ tests in most recent 14-day period
  • Seeing improvement at hospitals
    • 1% lower admissions than previous week
  • Ages 5-39 case rates are above-average
  • Ages 5-14 have the highest rates of all
    • Good news: BFHD is seeing a decline in disease activity in school-age children
  • Vaccination rates are up about 1% again over last week
  • We’ll see more cases and outbreaks in long-term care centers and at businesses if workers are not vaccinated
  • Flu shots and vaccine boosters can be given at the same time or close together and don’t need to be spaced out

RELATED: It’s flu vaccine time, even if you’ve had your COVID shots. Here’s what you should know.

RELATED: CDC advisers recommend booster doses of Covid-19 vaccine for certain adults only

Regarding a recent advisory for pregnant and recently pregnant women or those thinking about becoming pregnant, the health officer says it’s important for them to protect themselves and their children through vaccination.

RELATED: WA hospitals seeing more pregnant COVID patients

Dr. Person hopes that people will keep up the good work as we head into the winter months and holiday season:

“As long as we continue to look out for one another, to take those actions to reduce the likelihood that we are getting infected by COVID-19 or that we’re spreading COVID-19, we can anticipate that we will see continued decline in cases and, more importantly, continued decline in hospitalizations and deaths.”

“We are still at very high disease activity levels, particularly compared to where we’ve been throughout this pandemic, and so we do need to be cautious as we are approaching those winter months and we know there are additional respiratory viruses that can affect our health. We know that as people gather indoors more often and as we approach holidays, there is a risk we will see an increase in cases.”

“Our improvement is not a time to stop what works but a time to continue and to be vigilant so that we when we reach that point where COVID is not a serious concern in our community.”