March 24, 2020

Benton-Franklin Health District COVID-19 Update

Melissa Lantz, Acting Planning Section Cheif, Benton-Franklin Health District

Event Name:   COVID-19 Response

Date:  March 11th, 2020

Time:  1500 hrs.

Mission #: 20-0265

ICS Activation:     Level  2

General Situation/Overview:

On January 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Washington State Department of Health announced the first case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States in Washington State.

The risk posed by a virus outbreak depends on factors including how well it spreads between people, the severity of the illness it causes, and the medical or other measures we have to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccine or treatment medications). The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is very high, both to the United States and globally

Benton and Franklin County At-A-Glance

  • Positive (Confirmed) Cases: 0
  • Deaths: 0

As commercial testing becomes available, the health district may not be aware of persons undergoing testing until notified about positive tests as required by WAC.

Public Health:

Benton-Franklin Health District continues to monitor the situation and has activated their Emergency Operations Center in order to manage the large amount of information that is being shared through Washington State Dept. of Health (DOH), and the planning needed to provide the community, healthcare providers, schools, etc., with the most up to date information.  

Additional actions completed by the health district include:

·        BFHD is aware of the governor’s press conference and is currently mobilizing with health care providers, community partners and decision makers to consider the local response going forward. More information will be provided as it becomes available. This does not change the threat level in our community

·        BFHD has been made aware from Dept. of Health that there are people from the cruise ship Grand Princess that live in Benton/Franklin County and will be returning soon.  BFHD is in communication with Dept. of Health regarding the situation. 

·        Social Distancing Guidelines for High Risk Populations:

·        Due to the fact that commercial testing does not require Health District approval, therefore,  District does not have exact knowledge of the total number of tests performed in the community to date

·        Frequently Asked Questions on Facebook

·        Multiple interviews with news media

·        Provided guidance to healthcare providers regarding testing guidance, and case definition.

·        Public Information Officer Webinar with Community Partners

·        Conducting informational webinar for local medical providers weekly (Tuesdays at 5:30pm)

·        Conducting weekly planning conference calls with hospital emergency preparedness staff (Thursdays at 10:00am)

·        Public Health Activated – Weekly Syndromic Surveillance for select Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities, select area schools, and Emergency Department (ED) Data.

·        Responding to community partner requests for speaking engagements

·        Reviewing procedures with BFHD cleaning contractor and staff to confirm enhanced disinfecting procedures.

·        Working on Long-Term Care information guidance to send out to Long-Term Care Facility partners.

·        Adding contacts into messaging system to increase numbers of agencies receiving guidance information.

·        Providing guidance to healthcare partners concerning resource acquisition and requesting.

·        Developed staffing schedule for long term EOC staffing.

·        Posting information to social media and monitoring citizen postings to identify rumors and false information

·        Monitor volume and type of incoming COVID-19 related telephone calls.

·        Created and placed in service a local message line to assist with routing and responding to inquiries and concerns from the public.

·        Communication to community partners regarding COVID-19 and their mitigation efforts.

·        Disseminated guidance to school districts, healthcare agencies, local businesses, etc. from the Department of Health regarding COVID-19

·        Developing contingency plans to expand operations if needed.

·        Maintain situational awareness of current events occurring in Washington and Oregon.

·        Participate in multiple COVID-19 related conference calls with Department of Health, Emergency Management, and CDC. (Public Information Officer, Communicable Disease, Local Emergency Response Coordinator, and Regional Emergency Response Coordinator).

·        Sharing information with neighboring local health jurisdictions and cross border partners.

·        Review Health District’s response plans to identify gaps and insure they are up to date

·        Provide guidance to food establishments regarding COVID-19 and sanitizing

·        Developing respiratory precautions signs and guidance for clients coming into building

Healthcare Systems:

Healthcare facilities are activating their response plans and policies regarding pandemic planning and possible surge of concerned citizens. Providers and medical facilities continue to request generalized COVID-19 information and questions around specific testing guidelines and case definitions. 

REDi Healthcare Coalition:

The REDi Healthcare Coalition is activated in response to the 2019 novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The coalition is surveying hospitals in Eastern Washington to evaluate supplies, staffing, and impacts of possible surge.

Community Mitigation Measures:

Continue to share information to the public through media outlets concerning COVID-19 and encourage hand washing, cover your cough, stay home when you are sick, and call your health provider prior to going to the doctor for respiratory symptoms. Healthcare providers continue to share COVID-19 information with patients and follow guidelines to minimize or eliminate the possible spread of infections in their facilities.  Social Distancing Guidelines for High Risk Populations

Communication Activity and Strategies:

The health district will continue to issue information and guidance as needed including the sharing of periodic Incident Action Plans and a bi-weekly Situation Report on Wednesdays and Fridays. BFHD Shall continue to issue health advisory and media information, provide timely information and answered inquiries from school districts, healthcare providers and public, will maintain the health district’s website with up to date COVID-19 information.

Washington State Dept. of Health (DOH):

DOH IMT Epidemiologists continue to evaluate and monitor potential contacts and reach out to travelers. Operations staff are focused on building communications to promote community engagement, and establishing safe and scalable isolation capabilities. DOH response efforts are focused on three main areas: continuing epidemiology and lab testing operations, supporting healthcare systems readiness, and emphasizing mitigation efforts.  Washington State Case Counts are located on the Dept. of Health Website

Anticipated Needs:

Continued staffing of public information officer position and possible select key positions by external response partners.


·        Benton-Franklin Health District:

·        Benton-Franklin Health District Investigations and Outbreaks:

·        Washington State Department of Health:

·        Center for Disease Control and Prevention


Melissa Lantz, Local Emergency Response Coordinator: Current Planning Section Chief


Local LHJ: Management Team, EOC staff – Posted to internal SharePoint Site

Region 8: Local Emergency Response Coordinators, Emergency Management agencies, healthcare partners, Fire/EMS agencies

WA State: Regional Emergency Response Coordinators, DOH Duty Officer

Eastern WA: REDi Coalition Duty Officer

Cross Boarder: Oregon Regions 6 and 9 Liaisons

Benton-Franklin Hospital Preparedness Partners