Large spikes in COVID-19 cases in Benton County have prompted public health action. Starting Tuesday, masks are required when working at or visiting indoor county-run facilities.
The county has seen a thirteen-fold increase in reported cases over the last month. Officials reported during July, about 20% of new cases were in fully vaccinated residents. This is believed to be due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Benton County Public Health Administrator April Holland urged all residents to mask up when indoors and in crowded settings- regardless of vaccination status.
“Look, no one wants COVID to be in the rearview more than those of us who’ve been in non-stop emergency response mode for the past 18 months,” said Holland. “It’s upsetting to all of us that we need to take up an additional layer of protection. But we are witnessing evolution of this virus in real time here and we need to be nimble.”
Masks will now be made available at all main entrances (for those who don’t have their own) and must be worn inside any county facility. Holland said this mask mandate should not deter anyone from getting the vaccine.
“While fully vaccinated people enjoy very good protection against severe illness and death—because these are very good vaccines—the concerning news is that those infected with the Delta variant appear to have high viral loads and can transmit to others,” Holland said.
Hence the county public health move to mandate masks indoors.
Holland says getting vaccinated “isn’t just about you.” It’s about protecting the people around you.
“When a person is vaccinated, they are much less likely to spread the infection to a child who isn’t eligible for vaccination yet,” she said. “Or to an older person or to someone who is a transplant recipient or a cancer patient who could die from the infection.”
Holland pleaded with unvaccinated residents to get the shot and mask up for that added layer of protection at this point in the pandemic.
Listing of Benton County facilities and offices where masks are required:
5th Street Building
Event Center & Fairgrounds
Law Enforcement Buildings
Health Services Building