At times the interactions were testy, but a variety of information was learned during the Wednesday Benton Franklin Health District Board of Commissioners meeting.

Here's a synopsis of some of the most important points from the Zoom meeting, which was attended online by about 26 people, including us.

The 6 Benton and Franklin County Commissioners make up the Health Board that oversees the District. During the meeting, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amy Person reported the numbers have been greatly improving, saying the numbers look very different in a "very good way."

Benton reports 144 new cases per 100,000 of population the last 14 days, while Franklin was 387  per 100K over the same period. Over the last couple of weeks, new rates have dropped by at least 50%.

However, as some leaders have pointed out, while these improvements could merit B-F Counties moving up from Phase 1.5 to 2 or perhaps higher, there's been no movement at the state level by Gov. Inslee. The pause on county advancement is still in place, with no meaningful comments or input by the Gov.

There was some testy exchange between Person and Commissioner Clint Didier, who demanded to know what effect the COVID shutdown is having on mental health issues, namely increasing suicides and other related activity. He said the information he's seen is "very disturbing."  He also questioned why if rates are dropping, the county is opening up another lane of testing at one of the HAPO facilities.

Dr. Person pushed back against the idea that increased testing results in more positive cases. She said increased testing allows BFHD to get on top of cases early, and prevent more rapid infection of other people, thereby lowering case counts.

Commissioner Jerome Delvin responded to Didier's mental health question, saying he and some other officials, for a number of weeks, have been obtaining 911 suicide, domestic violence and other related 'mental' police call data, and relaying it to state officials with the hopes of pressuring them to open up the counties. It appears the purpose of this has been to drive home the effect these lockdowns are having on Benton, Franklin and other suppressed counties in the state.

It appeared from the reaction and comments of Delvin and others that there has not been specific dialogue or other movement at the state level regarding opening up the counties by taking into account the mental health aspects this difficult situation.

The board then moved on to other non- COVID related business.


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