A Tri-Cities man in his 60s has died of complications of COVID-19, the Benton Franklin Health District reported Friday.
The death was announced as the Tri-Cities area makes no progress in catching up to the Washington state rate of COVID-19 vaccinations and the number of new daily cases has increased for two weeks.
Since the start of the pandemic, 340 Tri-Cities area residents have died from infection with the coronavirus, including 227 Benton County residents and 113 Franklin County residents.
The most recent death was a Benton County man.
Tri-Cities area COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic include 136 people who were 80 or older; 93 in their 70s; 69 in their 60s; 27 in their 50s; 11 in their 40s; one each in their 30s and 20s; and two people younger than 20.
There were 12 deaths reported in June and nine in May. The local health district announces recent deaths once a week, on Fridays.
Local public health officials verify that the deaths are from COVID-19 complications by checking for a positive test result and that a coronavirus infection was named as a primary cause of death on the death certificate.
In all of Washington state 5,938 deaths from the coronavirus have been reported since the start of the pandemic through Thursday.
Of the people who have died, just 40 were known to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and at least 24 of them lived in long-term care facilities for the elderly, according to the latest state report on vaccination breakthrough cases issued June 23.
Tri-Cities vaccination rates
In the Tri-Cities area, just 37% of all Benton County residents and 30% of all Franklin County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Washington state Department of Health.
All others are required to continue wearing face masks indoors in public spaces, such as stores.
Statewide 50% of all residents are fully vaccinated.
Gov. Jay Inslee had promised to lift most COVID-19 restrictions in the state before June 30 if 70% of people age 16 and older were at least partially vaccinated.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses several weeks apart to be fully protective.
The state of Washington still has not met that goal, although most COVID-19-related restrictions were lifted the last day of June.
Statewide 69.1% of people ages 16 and older were at least partially vaccinated as of Thursday, a figure that includes some people vaccinated through federal programs, including Veterans Affairs.
In Benton County that drops to 53% and in Franklin County 46%, although percentages might be a couple of points higher if federal vaccination data was available at the county level.
Tri-Cities COVID-19 cases
The Benton Franklin Health District received reports of 227 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the past week, for an average of 32 new daily cases per day.
Last week, cases averaged 31 per day, up from an average of 23 new cases per day the previous week.
Reported new cases were particularly high on Friday, with 55 new confirmed cases reported that day. That could be the result of soaring temperatures causing the free drive-thru testing center at Columbia Basin off Argent Road to close hours early on several days earlier in the week.
Public health officials had feared that new cases could increase because of gatherings for Memorial Day, the end of school and graduations.
Now they are keeping an eye on the rate of new cases as restaurants, bars, movie theaters and fitness centers, among other businesses, were allowed to return to full capacity as of June 30.
Briefly last month the rate of new cases in Benton County exceeded the rate in Franklin County.
But by Friday, the local health district was reporting a rate of 142 new cases per 100,000 people over two weeks in Franklin County and 117 new cases per 100,000 over two weeks in Benton County.
Cases confirmed with positive test results now total 29,799 in the Tri-Cities area, including 17,260 in Benton County and 12,539 in Franklin County.
The number of people hospitalized locally with COVID-19 remains higher than in the spring, when the number was usually in the teens.
As of Friday, the local health district had reports of 26 people hospitalized for COVID-19.
They accounted for 6.5% of all patients in the Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and Prosser hospitals.
The Tri-Cities area continues to have outbreaks.
The Benton Franklin Health District this week reported seven active outbreaks and five more possible that are under investigation.
They include four in businesses with four more under investigation, two in schools and one in a long-term care facility for the elderly, with another under investigation.
An outbreak is declared when at least one case is determined to have been transmitted from one person to another within a business or facility.
The largest number of outbreaks in the state in settings not related to health care have been in restaurants, followed by nonfood manufacturing, retail stores not including grocery stores, K-12 schools and child-care centers.
For the last full week of June the Washington state Department of Health reported 32 outbreaks statewide, with the largest number, six, at construction companies, followed by four each in schools, child-care centers and churches.