TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Coronavirus cases in the Tri-Cities region are “decreasing steadily,” Dr. Amy Person, health officer for Benton and Franklin counties, told reporters Thursday.
Person said the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 has dropped by about 50% since early July, and the number of hospitalizations has also dropped significantly, allowing hospitals to maintain adequate capacity.
If the community continues to wear face coverings in public, limit social gatherings and practice physical distancing and good hand hygiene, Person said students may be able to safely return to school for in-person instruction by this fall.
“It won’t be September 1, but if we can continue on this path, we will have our kids back in school,” Person said.
She suspects the biggest hurdle for keeping case counts low will be Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 4-7.
“We have seen that over the summer, starting from Mother’s Day through Fourth of July, that generally one to two weeks after our holidays, we do see an increase in our case counts,” Person said. “So this is going to really be the challenge for the community, is to not repeat that pattern.”
She said when disease transmission is at low to moderate levels, meaning below 75 cases per 100,000 county residents over 14 days, kids will be able to return to school for in-person learning. She said this data is based on observing infection activity in other countries.
Although virus deaths continue to be reported in Benton and Franklin counties, Person said the number of deaths is expected to drop in coming weeks as a result of the dropping case numbers.
The Washington State Department of Health said this week that case counts are dropping throughout eastern Washington.