Classes start, open houses called off to keep virus at bay

With increasing cases in the Tri-Cities, the Richland School District canceled open houses scheduled through October to restrict the number of people coming into schools. This photos shows the first day of classes for the 2021-22 school year.

RICHLAND — Tri-Cities school districts continue to be hard hit by COVID-19, both with students and employees who are sick and hundreds who are having to quarantine the second week of the school year.

The Kennewick district reported 576 students, or about the size of one elementary school, could not attend classes last week.

They either had COVID-19 symptoms, had come in close contact with someone with the virus or had tested positive between Sept. 7-11.

Kennewick reported 91 students with COVID-19 last week and 116 the first week of class.

The district doesn’t list employee cases.

Richland and Pasco only post the number of students and staff who test positive for COVID-19.

The most recent numbers available from Pasco show they had 680 students out of class for COVID-19-related issues ranging from a positive test to symptom to coming in close contact with someone.

The numbers fluctuate daily, they said.

Richland didn’t immediately have information on all the people quarantining away from schools.

However, both districts reported more sick students and staff.

Still, so far, no classrooms in any of the three large districts have needed to close because of an outbreak.

Richland schools

Richland updated its case counts for last week, bringing the two-week total to 67 cases, including 13 students from Richland High and 11 at Hanford High.

While Richland schools trail Pasco and Kennewick in the number of COVID-19 cases reported, the case count is higher than during the height of the second wave Nov. 30-Dec. 11, 2020.

During that period school officials reported having 42 COVID-19 cases among students.

With increasing cases in the community, the 14,000-student school district took steps last week to curb the number of people inside the schools by canceling open houses scheduled through October.

Richland High freshman football also was canceled for a day after several students reported being sick. They’re also doing regular COVID-19 testing before games and practices.

Kennewick, Pasco schools

Kennewick and Pasco districts reported over 90 new cases each last week. The counts were slightly down from the week before.

Kennewick had 91 new cases with 10 students out at Kennewick High School, nine at Chinook Middle School and 8 each at Kamiakin and Southridge high schools. That was down from 116 for the district last week.

To be listed on Kennewick’s COVID-19 dashboard, the student had to have been physically on-site while they were infectious.

Pasco reported 135 new cases among its students and employees. Unlike Kennewick, the Pasco district includes every student that tested positive whether they were on campus or not.

Pasco cases were down slightly from the nearly 140 COVID-19 infections the week before.

Of the new cases, only 34 had details provided on the district’s list. Those are the cases that have been investigated. Eleven of those were staff and the remaining were students.

So far this week, the district reported there have been 22 students and employees who are sick with COVID-19.

The numbers don’t show where the students were infected or if they passed it on to anyone else in school.

They do show what schools the students attended, and whether the illness forced a classroom to be closed.

The Benton Franklin Health District reported on Sept. 3 there have been five cases of at least two people transmitting COVID-19 to each other at a school. Two more potential outbreaks were being investigated.

Kennewick, Pasco and Richland school officials have said they are not aware of any COVID-19 outbreaks at school facilities.

“As with last year, the positive COVID-19 cases we are reporting in our schools are a result of students and staff being exposed to the virus in other settings and bringing it in,” said Ty Beaver, Richland’s communication director.

“We continue to work closely with Benton-Franklin Health District on ensuring we are taking the proper steps to address COVID-19 when it shows up in schools and keep our students, parents, staff and community informed of cases,” he said.

People can see the district’s COVID-19 reports online at the Pasco, Kennewick or Richland school districts’ respective web sites.

COVID-19 rates continue to be high in Benton and Franklin Counties as the delta variant spreads.

The two counties had a combined case rate of 1,005 new cases per 100,000 people over the course of the two weeks ending on Sept. 5.

The rate for children between 5 and 14 in both counties was 923 per 100,000 for the two weeks.

And health officials said there have been 1,248 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 for those aged 15 to 19 in the Tri-Cities.

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