KENNEWICK, WA - Benton Franklin Health District can more accurately track local COVID-19 cases numbers than the state. That's what Dr. Amy Person said at a press briefing. She said stable numbers allowed her to make the recommendation to get students and teachers back in the classrooms for hybrid-learning. 

She said as of mid-September, Benton County is remaining very stable. Franklin County, however, has plateaued as far as case numbers go. The health district will be watching that data closely. However, she says at this point it is safe.

It's not just case numbers playing in to the decision, either. It is school protocols and resources for safety, community disease transmission data and the ability to quickly contact trace. 

As far as counties being stuck in their respective phases, Dr. Person said Washington health leaders are reworking the phased reopening models. 

"The state has been evaluating that process. I do believe that is why they are on pause and a re-work is planned but we have no additional details on that at this time," said Dr. Person.

Now, the smoke: Dr. Person also said she expects improvements in case numbers following the week of wildfire smoke hanging around. She said that's because more people have stayed home or when they are out they are often wearing N95 masks to protect themselves from smoke particulates. She said the mask has the added benefit of protection from COVID-19.

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