Covid Rates Climbing In Tri-Cities Schools

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Host Lede: Education District 123 covers Benton and Franklin counties and has the highest Covid case rates in Washington state. Mitigation efforts at local schools from masking and distancing continue, but some school board members are pushing back against those measures.

NWPB’s Dori Luzzo Gilmour brings us that story.

Luzzo Gilmour: According to the Washington State Department of Health, covid case rates in Eastern Washington are top ten for the entire country. DOH is emphasizing the importance of masks and vaccines, and warn of hospitals becoming increasingly filled in the next two weeks with Covid cases.

Chris Reykdal is the Superintendent of Public Instruction , and says the biggest priority of OSPI was keeping schools open this year.

Reykdal:  “The health mitigation strategies parallel the learning. We are open because we kept cases down and we kept mortalities at half the national average. And we didn’t fill up our hospitals in most communities. That is because of masking, it is because of vaccines, and because of the protocols that we went through.”

Some school board directors are working against masking in schools and meetings. Reykdal explains that elected officials take an oath to the Constitution.

Reykdal: “Right now a lot of folks want to shun that because they personally don’t like the conclusion that public health experts or the Governor have come to on this and it’s unfortunate. I would expect these folks to remind their communities they do have a responsibility , a legal and moral responsibility to follow the law. And not pick and choose it based on their personal  assumptions or feelings about it.”

There is still no end date for masking or contact tracing, precautions that the Department of Health is in charge of and works with OSPI to implement. School boards that willfully violate the law will be warned and risk losing school funding.

For NWPB Dori Luzzo Gilmour

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