Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Many questions received by our local message center can be answered by reviewing the following FAQs
Click each question to learn more
What are the different COVID-19 Tests?
There are three types of tests available for COVID-19: polymerase chain reaction (PCR), antigen, and antibody (serology) testing. PCR and antigen tests detect whether a person is currently infected, and serology detects whether a person had an infection in the past.
What is the difference in the tests?
PCR tests look for pieces of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the nose, throat, or other areas in the respiratory tract to determine if the person has an active infection. In most cases, a nasal or throat swab is taken by a healthcare provider and tested. Sometimes the test can be run while you wait, and sometimes the swab needs to be sent to a lab for testing. A positive PCR test means that the person being tested has an active COVID-19 infection.
Antigen tests look for pieces of proteins that make up the SARS-CoV-2 virus to determine if the person has an active infection. In most cases, a nasal or throat swab is taken by a healthcare provider and tested. Sometimes the test can be run while you wait, and sometimes the swab needs to be sent to a lab for testing. A positive antigen test means that the person being tested has an active COVID-19 infection.
Serology/Antibodies looks for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in the blood to determine if there was a past infection. In most cases, a blood sample is taken and sent to a lab for testing. A positive antibody test means that the person being tested was infected with COVID-19 in the past and that their immune system developed antibodies to try to fight it off.
Will my insurance cover COVID-19 testing or is there a co-pay?
Yes. Most health insurance plans will cover testing and treatment for medically-necessary services related to COVID-19. Commissioner Kreidler has ordered all health plans his office regulates to waive copays and deductibles for people requiring testing (doh.wa.gov) for COVID-19. If you are concerned about whether or not you should be tested, read the guidance from the Department of Health and call your providers first. Copays and deductibles will still apply if you need treatment.
Who should get a test?
Anyone who is experiencing even mild COVID-like symptoms should isolate themselves away from others and call their healthcare provider. Getting tested as soon as possible is important to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Anyone, regardless of age or health status, with these symptoms should call their provider to be evaluated for a test:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fever or chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- New loss of taste or smell
It is important to isolate yourself as soon as you develop symptoms, even before you are tested, because if you have COVID-19, you are already contagious.
If you have been in close contact for a combined total of 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period with someone who has COVID-19, it’s important to get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms. It’s best to get tested 5-7 days after that exposure and no earlier than 48 hours, unless you develop symptoms. It typically takes 5-7 days after exposure for the test to report more accurate test results. If you develop symptoms, get tested as soon as possible. Learn more on this “What to do” factsheet.
Seek medical care immediately if someone has emergency warning signs of COVID-19
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
This list is not all possible symptoms. If you are unsure, contact your healthcare provider to evaluate your symptoms and determine if you need a test.
We urge anyone who feels they should be tested to get a test.
Where do I go to get tested locally?
If you are concerned you need to get tested, contact your medical provider to determine whether or not you meet the testing criteria. They will direct you on next steps. Please visit our testing site page for locations.
Their are community testing site at the HAPO center and at CBC-West off Argent. Please visit our testing page for additional information.
BFHD will not be doing testing as we are not a medical clinic. Do not go to the hospital for testing.
Are there any drive-thru testing locations near me?
Yes, Please visit our testing site page for information. There are sites in Pasco at HAPO center and Tri Cities Community Heath.
My test was negative. Am I safe to travel or see friends or family?
Not necessarily. If you had been exposed to COVID-19 without knowing, a negative test could mean that, on the day of your test, the virus had not replicated inside your body enough to produce a positive result. It does not mean you are clear of COVID-19 after a possible exposure. Only a negative test following a 14-day quarantine would guarantee you are free of COVID-19.
What is an antibody or antibody testing?
An antibody is something that is used by our immune systems to kill bacteria or viruses. Our bodies make antibodies when we have either had a disease, or when we are given a vaccine. Measuring whether a person has antibodies for a specific disease can be used to determine if that person may be immune to that disease.
Is there antibody testing for COVID-19?
Antibody tests are currently being developed for COVID-19, and can be a great surveillance tool, but they do have limitations. It cannot be used to diagnose someone who is currently ill with COVID. Because of the cross reactivity with ordinary Coronavirus, it is difficult to tell if a positive test is due to COVID or 6 other strains. These tests indicate presence or absence of antibodies but not whether the antibodies are protective. Having a positive test does not mean that you are protected from getting COVID again. More time and research are needed to understand how to use antibody testing results. Regardless of antibody test results, we urge everyone to continue to use hand hygiene and social distancing to protect themselves from exposure to COVID.
What is cycle threshold and why does it matter?
Some people want to know the cycle threshold of our confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The most common test for COVID-19 is a PCR test. The PCR machine puts a person’s nasal swab sample through a series of cycles in search of COVID-19 genetic material, known as RNA. Each cycle amplifies any present RNA. The CT value equals the total number of cycles required to find RNA, and each positive test has its own CT value. If no RNA is found within 37 to 40 cycles, the test is negative.
So, a low CT value equals more COVID-19 genetic material. A high CT value means less.
Labs currently do not report CT values of positive test. A positive is a positive. But we get questions and comments from residents who want more information about CT value, to shed light on how contagious a person might be or who might be more at risk for serious health issues.
The same sample can give different CT values on different machines. And different swabs from one person can give different results. It is not a standardized measure and not an absolute. While many see promise in gaining more information from them, members of the College of American Pathologists have urged caution in interpreting CT values.
Locally, labs don’t report cycle threshold values to us, so we do not have this data to report. We report the total number of new confirmed cases, and many other metrics to help people understand the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
Rumors and Reporting Concerns
Not that many people die from only COVID-19. Why does BFHD report so many deaths?
The CDC released a new report regarding 180,000 deaths in the US attributed to COVID-19.
The report said that 94% of individuals dying from the disease had preexisting condition. This means that when they went to the hospital their medical history indicated more conditions. Things like diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity.
It also said 6% of individuals had no preexisting conditions. This minority was apparently healthy or at least there was no indication of other issues or diseases.
Yes, some people are saying less than 10,000 people died from COVID-19, in fact 100% of the over 500,000 American deaths are people who died from COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-COV-2.
If someone gets hit be a car and dies, they are listed as a traffic fatality whether or not they were obese or had diabetes. While there are some conditions that may make it more likely for them to die from that accident (osteoporosis or hemophilia), the accident is still what killed them. Without the crash they would still be living. Same thing with this virus. These people got “hit by” SARS-COV-2 and they died from COVID-19. If they didn’t get the virus they would still be living.
How do I report a business that is not complying with Safe Start/Road to Recovery Plan?
If you think a business in not complying with Safe Start guidance you can submit a report here.
Safe Start related questions can be submitted as an inquiry here.
Complaints about employees not wearing masks should be called in to 1-800-423-7233 or you can use this link to file a written safety/health complaint.
I have a question about how business and workers comply with safe start initiatives.
I heard someone got a test result without taking a COVID-19 test.
This rumor is widespread. The process at our drive up community testing is designed so there is no delay between the collection of personal information and test process.
Doesn’t more testing raise the case count totals?
The idea that more testing results in more cases is a myth. Adequate testing simply allows for early identification of cases, which leads to quick isolation to ensure the disease is not passed beyond close contacts. Close contacts can then successfully quarantine to stop the spread. Increased testing directly correlates to a reduction in disease activity. Testing does not create disease – it allows for containment of disease.
I heard that you shouldn’t take ibuprofen for fevers because it can worsen your COVID-19 infection. Is that true?
We have heard people have been told to not use ibuprofen for fever because of a potential hypothetical effect. There is no actual evidence that ibuprofen worsens COVID-19. While the WHO initially recommended using acetaminophen instead of ibuprofen to help with fever and aches related to COVID-19, they have since updated that recommendation to say that either acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used.
This concern came about due to a theoretical risk based on the fact that ACE2 activation could lead to easier infection with COVID-19 and ibuprofen is one of the medicines that can increase ACE2, particularly when paired with conditions that require ACE inhibitors and ARBs like Hypertension.
I hear you can get sick from COVID-19 more than once. Is that true?
It is unknown at this time if natural infection leads to permanent immunity for anyone. Many individuals have gotten COVID-19 more than once and there are reports the disease is less severe the second time. Because it is a novel virus, studies are still determining how long natural immunity lasts. The CDC has reported an average of 90 days of immunity from natural infection and more studies are still underway.
Can I get this from my pets?
We are still learning about this virus, but we know it is primarily spreading from person-to-person and it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. Please visit CDC for guidance regarding pets.
I heard that COVID-19 is not as bad as the flu.
In Benton and Franklin Counties, deaths from lab-confirmed COVID-19 have far outpaced seasonal deaths from lab-confirmed Influenza. COVID-19 is also more contagious with outbreaks easily occurring in settings where proper distancing and masking is not in effect. The wide-spread and deadly outcomes of our nation’s long-term care facilities showed how quickly and deadly this virus can be when mitigation measures are not in effect in especially vulnerable populations.
Shouldn’t we just open up and let people get exposed so we have herd immunity?
Herd or community immunity is a protective factor for many diseases. Widespread immunity for a number of once devastating illnesses has been achieved through vaccination, but people also can build immunity through exposure to an illness.
Getting infected and then being immune might sound good at first. But there are a few major problems with it.
- We don’t yet know how long immunity to COVID may last and it is estimated to average around 90 days. Some immunities are lifelong, while others are short-lived. Infection with other coronaviruses that cause human disease often do not produce lasting immunity and repeat infections are not uncommon. Without a better understanding of whether there is lasting immunity to COVID, we can’t bank on it.
- Increased exposures to this illness would overwhelm our hospitals and medical system. Overloading hospitals and clinics would jeopardize care not only for COVID patients, but for others with unrelated health conditions. We saw serious hospital and staffing capacity issues locally and across the nation from October 2020 through January 2021 as COVID was spreading quickly through the community.
- There are indications that this illness can cause enduring damage. People may recover, and may even have immunity, but at the price of new health complications. The symptoms, severity and outcomes of the illness aren’t the same for everyone. Experts still are working to understand the extent of what this virus does to the human body and researchers are now studying “longhaulers” and “Long COVID.”
Illness and Symptoms
What do I do if I was exposed to COVID-19?
Stay home and watch for symptoms for 14 days (there are certain exceptions for those who are vaccinated and essential workers): fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure and most commonly around day 5. If you develop symptoms, test, isolate and cooperate with public health to identify close contacts.
Pregnancy, Birth, and Caring for your Newborn during Covid-19
Are Quarantine and Isolation different?
Yes, they are different!
- Quarantine is for people who are not currently showing symptoms but are at increased risk for having been exposed to an infectious disease. Quarantine is for people who could become sick and spread the infection to others.
- Isolation is used for people who are currently ill and able to spread the disease and who need to stay away from others in order to avoid infecting them.
How do we know how many cases are in our community?
We post case count updates on our Benton-Franklin Case Count page every Monday through Friday. We will continue to follow HIPAA guidelines and will not release any other identifiable information. Check the BFHD website for up to date counts of lab-confirmed and probable cases.
Do I need to quarantine myself if a family member is sick?
Since efforts have moved to community mitigation, if a family or household member has been diagnosed with COVID-19, we recommend you quarantine yourself as you are considered a Close Contact. Do not go to work or school if you have been caring for a sick individual. Visit our “what to do if you are sick or exposed page” <insert new link>.
Do I need a doctor’s note, or to ask my employee to bring a doctor’s note, if they have potentially been exposed to COVID-19?
Washington State Department of Health wants employers to emphasize workplace illness precautions, but does not recommend requiring a health care provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work.. If an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, they should isolate for 10 days past symptom onset or test date, whichever was sooner, and not return to work unless they have been fever-free for 24 hours and other symptoms have improved.
Employee illness precautions should include:
Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work for 24 hours after fever is gone and symptoms get better, whichever is longer. Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick. Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies. Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies. Do not require a health care provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as health care providers may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way. Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
Can I be re-infected with COVID-19?
It is currently unknown how long COVID-19 immunity lasts after the initial infection with disease. Cases of reinfection with COVID-19 have been reported. We are still learning more about COVID-19 reinfection. Learn more from the CDC.
How can I protect myself from COVID-19
It’s important that everyone take steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The following can protect you and others:
- Get a vaccination when it is your turn.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
- Limit non-essential trips out of the house and minimize contact with others who don’t live with you.
- Stay at least 6-feet away from others outside of your home.
- Wear a cloth face covering or mask to cover your mouth and nose when outside your home.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay away from others who are sick. Stay home if you are sick or showing symptoms.
- Avoid group gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces.
- Fewer, shorter and safer interactions are crucial.
- Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
If you must travel, check for the latest COVID-19 Travel Alerts and follow the CDC’s Travelers’ Health guidance.
You can learn more about them and how to get vaccinated at our Vaccine Information page.
Why do you conduct case investigation of COVID-19 patients and what happens?
Case investigation and contact tracing are common public health practices used to stop the spread of communicable diseases. Contact tracing is being used for COVID-19 because the disease is highly infectious and can spread quickly. This is an effective measure to protect the health of the community and enable businesses to open and remain open.
Contact tracers will not shame or share your information with anyone you identify as a close contact.
When public health learns that someone has tested positive for COVID-19, an interviewer reaches out to talk to that person, usually by phone – this is known as a case investigation.
Staff ask every person for their date of birth, address, race, and ethnicity, and other questions. Interviewers will never ask for or write down immigration status, Social Security number, financial information or marital status. The information will be treated like a private medical record. It is strictly confidential and will not be shared with other agencies, including immigration officials.
Every person interviewed receives guidance about how to keep themselves and others safe. Interviewers can also help connect people with resources they may need while they stay home for 14 days to ensure they are not sick (quarantine) or stay home to recover from being sick (isolation). Here is an infographic explaining our investigation process.
WaNotify is a free app that runs in the background of your phone and shares time and spacial information with other phones with the app running within your vicinity. If you or someone else test positive for COVID-19, you can request to enter a code which will signal your phone to send an anonymous alert to other phones that meet the definition of a close contact. This allows them to watch for symptoms and test if they desire.
What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing involves calling people who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 to provide guidance and support. This helps us slow the spread of the virus. Interviewers do not reveal the name of the person who tested positive for COVID-19 when speaking with close contacts. These calls help us keep our families and communities safe. Contact tracers also help people exposed to the virus.
What does No Mask No Service mean?
On July 1, 2020, Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD) Health Officer, Dr. Amy Person issued a local health officer directive for businesses to require the public to use face coverings or refuse service to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The directive will take effect on July 6, 2020.
On July 7th the Governor issued a statewide order directing businesses to require and enforce the use of face coverings by all customers or clients.
Face coverings are required of employees, vendors, contractors, customers and visitors in the workplace, unless covered by a medical or other exemption. Businesses are encouraged to provide an accommodation for customers unable to wear a face covering safely.
Additional information and commonly asked questions is available at www.coronavirus.wa.gov/masks and www.doh.wa.gov/masks. If you’re an employer and have questions about the order regarding face coverings for employees, visit the state Department of Labor & Industries common questions page.
Are there exceptions/exemptions to mask requirement?
Yes, they are the same as in the Secretary of Health’s order 20-03.
What does the mask order mean for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing?
What this means for the Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafPlus, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened people is that they need to wear a mask at all times in public. You may choose, but are not required, to remove your mask as needed for a short time when you need to use lip-reading to communicate. Once you are done communicating, you must put your mask back on immediately. Wearing a mask in public is no longer optional, it is mandatory due to the number of COVID-19 cases rising every day in Washington State. We all need to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. The easiest way to do this is to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
To read more about Governor Inslee’s latest order, please visit this link: https://medium.com/@WAStateGov/inslee-announces-statewide-mask-mandate-812c9ba7a92
What can a business do if someone refuses to put on a mask?
If a customer or visitor is not wearing a face covering, businesses should take the following steps:
A business representative or employee should politely educate the customer or visitor about the public health requirement to wear a mask or face covering. Businesses may choose to keep a supply of disposable masks to offer customers who do not have one.
Businesses may ask – but are not required to ask – if an individual has a condition that exempts them from the requirements, but cannot inquire about an individual’s underlying health or medical conditions.
If the customer indicates they are exempt from the requirement to wear a face covering due to a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask, the governor’s proclamation does not require that any additional steps be taken to enforce the face covering requirement for that individual. However, to maintain a safe and healthy workplace:
Businesses should consider offering an alternative for customers not wearing face coverings such as curbside pickup, delivery or a scheduled appointment when physical distancing can be ensured.
If the business chooses to allow entry, additional safety precautions may include, but are not limited to, keeping doors and windows open, limiting the duration of the visit, additional physical distancing requirements, or providing no-touch payment systems.
Some individuals may be entitled to reasonable accommodations, and other obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination may apply. Businesses should be particularly thoughtful about how to provide accommodations for customers who indicate they have a disability covered under the ADA or the Washington Law Against Discrimination.
If a customer or individual refuses to wear a face covering, and refuses alternative service options, and does not indicate that they are exempt from the requirement due to a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask, they should be politely told that the business cannot serve them and that they need to leave the premises. Under no circumstances should the business representative attempt to physically block an individual from entering or physically remove them from the premises.
If the individual refuses to leave, the business representative should follow whatever procedures they normally follow if an individual refuses to leave the establishment when asked to do so.
Customers who are concerned that a business is not adequately enforcing the face mask order or other Safe Start requirements can submit an anonymous complaint. The link to the complaint form is available on the safe Start page of coronavirus.wa.gov.
Violations can be enforced by state agencies and could result in significant penalties or other sanctions.
What about face shields?
A face shield with a drape can be used by people with developmental, behavioral, or medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering. Face shields may also be used by children in childcare, day camp, and K-12 settings.
If used, face shields should extend below the chin, to the ears, and have no gap at the forehead. The addition of a drape may offer more protection.
Neck Gators are not recommended at this time.
What should I do if I see someone not wearing a mask?
Complaints about the public not wearing masks should be sent to the governor’s webpage: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/report-safe-start-violation
Complaints about employees not wearing masks should be called in to Labor and Industries at 1-800-423-7233 or you can use the following link to file a written safety/health complaint: https://lni.wa.gov/forms-publications/F418-052-000.pdf
Some people have conditions or circumstances that would make wearing a cloth face covering difficult or dangerous. Wear your mask and stay six feet away.
Why do I need to wear a mask?
COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets we all expel when as we cough, sneeze, speak, or even breathe. Covering your mouth and nose keeps these droplets to yourself. This is especially important if you are going to be less than six feet from other people. No single action completely stops the spread of the virus. In addition to consistently using cloth face coverings when we leave home, we also must continue to wash our hands often with soap and water, stay home if we feel sick, and stay six feet away from others whenever possible.
June 23, 2020 Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced a statewide order requiring use of face coverings. The order requires individuals to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces such as stores, restaurants or offices, or wen outdoor and unable to maintain 6 feed of distance.
Benton-Franklin Health District supports and endorses Secretary Wiesman’s face covering order.
If you see someone without a face covering, we encourage you to avoid engaging or attempting to correct them about it. Assume positive intent on their part and that they fall into criteria that excludes them from wearing a face covering. If you do have concerns about a business or organization not supporting the Secretary’s order or about any other non-compliance, you can submit a complaint online here.
When do I not have to wear a mask?
You do not need to wear a cloth face covering when you are in your own home or in your car, if you are only with people in your own household. You also do not need to wear a cloth face covering when you are exercising outdoors and you have plenty of space or when you are actively eating at a food establishment or a small gathering. It’s a good idea to keep one in your pocket, though, in case you end up running into someone on the trail.
I’d like to make my own! What kind of fabric should I use?
Use a tight weave, cotton fabric. The kind of fabrics used for shirts or quilting work well. Heavier cottons (upholstery weight, denim, twill, etc.) are uncomfortable to wear and hard to breathe through. If you’re really crafty, try making one with that allows others to see your lips as you speak! It’s really helpful to people who are hard of hearing. Here are some instructions: https://www.hsdc.org/accessible-deaf-friendly-face-mask/
I definitely don’t want to make my own. What’s the absolute easiest way to do this?
Cloth face coverings do not need to be complicated or expensive. Save medical masks and respirators for health care workers and others in high-risk settings. The absolute easiest way to do this is to take a scarf or any breathable, washable fabric, and wrap it around your face so that a couple layers of fabric are completely covering your mouth and nose.
Practice compassion. COVID-19 continues to be a very real threat. Consistently wearing a cloth face covering in public is a simple and important way you can protect others.
Case Count Questions
How do you count a person who tests positive, then has additional tests to determine if they are still positive?
A person is only counted once as a positive case, regardless of how many times they receive a lab confirmed positive test result.
If a person tests positive do the rest of the family members get counted as positive?
Only lab confirmed positive cases are counted as positive. Contact tracers will call close contacts to ask about symptoms, provide education and encourage them to get tested.
Are positive antibody tests counted as positives?
No. While positive antibody tests are reported to the Health District, we are not and have not reported them as lab-confirmed positive cases.
Are positive antigen tests counted as cases?
No. BFHD does not count positive antigen cases in our case counts. The Washington State Dept. of Health lists antigen tests as “probable” cases, but not lab-confirmed cases.
What numbers are estimates or based on assumptions?
How many people have recovered? Why do you not post this on your website?
People are asking why BFHD is not reporting the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19. The short answer is that we have no way to accurately and responsibly determine this number.
Washington State Department of Health has not provided a definition for what constitutes “recovered.” Counties with few case counts have the ability to call each person who tested positive on a regular basis until each person reports that they have recovered. Other counties are calculating an estimate based on the number of people who have not died or been hospitalized 28 days after a positive COVID test. Anyone who would like to calculate this number can use the Data Dashboards for each county on our website on the Benton-Franklin Case Count page.
We know that many people are ill for longer than 28 days even if they have not passed away or are hospitalized, so using a formula with no basis in fact doesn’t give us accurate data. Our community has emphasized the importance of receiving authentic, factual information. At such time when a standard definition of “recovered” in Washington State is available and able to be accurately tracked or calculated automatically, BFHD will publish the information.
How do you determine a COVID-19 death
BFHD defines a COVID-19 death as someone who died with COVID-19 as a contributing factor to their death, meaning they died because they had COVID-19. All deaths reported in Benton and Franklin counties attributed to COVID are a attributable to COVID-19, not from an unrelated cause of death.
Every death report the District receives is reviewed and audited before it is reported. If there is any question whether the individual died as a result of having COVID-19, the District can and has contacted the Coroner’s office. Deaths are not reported until they are audited and confirmed. This can take days to weeks.
National and state COVID death reporting did include death by other causes, but the Washington State Department of Health has since changed their reporting to match our reporting standards here in Benton and Franklin counties, which involves reviewing each COVID-attributed death certificate to ensure they do not include a non-COVID-related cause of death.
What is a Probable Case?
A Probable Case is a person with COVID-19 symptoms who was a household member or close contact of someone who was lab-confirmed positive within 14 days prior to onset of symptoms. This is the definition set forth by the CDC for epidemiological linked cases: https://wwwn.cdc.gov/nndss/conditions/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/case-definition/2020/. The CDC and DOH required us to count Epi-linked cases, and we use word “probable” to report these cases to the public.
What’s the difference between the weekly “epi curve” graph and the weekly cumulative case count graph?
An epi curve (epidemiological curve) shows the number of confirmed cases based on when the specimen was collected, not the day the cases were reported or assigned to the counties. This means that today, we could report 50 cases and those 50 cases will fall on the epi curve based on when the individual tested, not today.
The daily case count is based on when lab-confirmed molecular tests are assigned to the county and reported to the public.
Where does our County case data come from?
Benton-Franklin Health District receives its data from the Washington Disease Reporting System (WDRS), which is the database that different health care groups such as clinics, hospitals and health departments receive, enter and track disease-related data. It’s a system that we regularly use to track many diseases of public health concern.
Why do we use rates when talking about case numbers in our county?
We use rates (ex: cases per 100,000 residents) to report some data because a rate factors in different population sizes and demographics. Rates let us compare groups that have different sizes, and we use rates often in our public health data.
For instance, 100 cases in a county with 10,000 people looks very different than 100 cases in a county with 100,000 people. One out of every hundred people in the county with 10,000 people has a confirmed case, while one out of every thousand people in the county with 100,000 people has a confirmed case. The case rate is based on 14-days of epi curve data per 100,000 people in a population. You will see this as something like 250 cases per 100K over 14 days. Say the exact population is 200,000 people. That means that there are 500 people currently infected in that community.
Why aren’t you sharing recovery data?
We are unable to share recovery data for a few reasons. First, for quite a while, there was not a good, official definition of what recovery meant in relation to COVID-19. We also don’t have the ability to track and contact people with confirmed cases and ask them for updates about their symptoms on a regular basis.
Recovery is often a spectrum, and doesn’t happen the same way for everyone. A person typically doesn’t wake up one day and feel totally back to normal, it’s a gradual process that happens at different rates for different people. There may also be some who have had an antibody test that suggests they’ve had the virus, but who never had preliminary testing when they were having symptoms. Others were close contacts, or even roommates of people who had confirmed cases, but were not tested. These are some of the factors that have made tracking recoveries difficult.
Why are there some data that you don’t share?
Federal laws protect your health information so that it’s kept private. We only share protected health information if it’s legally required. We also do not share some data that aren’t specifically addressed as protected health information when we have a reasonable concern that sharing the data, or a combination of data, could allow an individual person to be identified. For example, we don’t share the sex, age and city of residence for cases of disease, because it’s possible that in small communities, that could be enough information for someone to identify the specific person who is sick.
We follow the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Small Numbers Standards. Based on these standards, we do not share numbers less than 10 except when the value to the public is critical. For example, we reported first cases of COVID-19 in the county, even though the total case count in our community was less than 10.
To be meaningful, our data sets must be 80% complete to conduct analyses or provide information about sub-sets of the data. If the data aren’t complete, we risk sharing inaccurate and unreliable data. For example, early on in the COVID-19 outbreak, we did not have race or ethnicity data for many confirmed cases. Once we had race and ethnicity data for at least 80% of confirmed cases, we were able to share a breakdown of confirmed cases by race or ethnicity.
Cleaning and Personal Protective Equipment
Do I need to wear a mask and where can I get them?
On April 3, 2020 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended people should wear cloth face coverings when they are in a public setting where it is difficult to keep six (6’) feet away from others (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). Governor Inslee has ordered all employers to require face coverings for their employees unless they are working alone in an office or vehicle or at a job site, starting June 8, 2020.
A Health Officer Directive has also been issued for Benton and Franklin Counties, effective June 8, 2020, for the public to use face coverings in indoor public places (like stores) and outdoor public settings where safe physical distancing cannot be maintained. More information is available on our Mask Information page.
The internet offers many types of DIY face covering patterns and instructions for both sewn and no-sew types of coverings. Here is just one that was put out by CDC.
We are urging people to use homemade face coverings and not seek out medical face masks, as those need to be reserved for members of our health care community.
What pattern should I use to make masks for our healthcare community?
Here is a link to the specific design of homemade masks that are preferred by the healthcare community.
What cleaning products can I use to disinfect for COVID-19?
You can find guidelines for cleaning products that have been specifically classified as able to disinfect for COVID-19 at www.epa.gov (EPA refers to this as SARS COV-2).
How should Janitorial Staff be Cleaning and Disinfecting for COVID-19?
All travel information is listed on our Travel Guidance page.
Closures (Businesses and Schools)
What businesses can open?
Please reference our Open for Business page under the appropriate open page.
Who fits under the restaurant category?
- Traditional dine-in restaurants, quick-serve food operations, fixed and mobile food trucks, and other prepared-food operations, including but not limited to, hotel kitchens and workplace cafeterias;
- Cafes, juice bars, and other businesses specializing in non-alcoholic beverages;
- Breweries, public houses, wineries and other businesses serving full meals prepared on-site in building kitchen facilities under the ownership of the winery or brewery.
Are the schools closed at this time? For how long?
Please visit our Schools page for reference to all current school information and guidance.