MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Yakima County in ‘desperate situation’ as COVID-19 outbreak escalates

Jun 22, 2020, 9:45 AM | Updated: 10:10 am

Yakima County COVID-19 test site...

Medics at a coronavirus test site in Yakima County. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Yakima County, described by Gov. Jay Inslee as the “epicenter” of Washington state’s outbreak.

DOH concerned over recent increase in COVID-19 cases

“We know that this is frankly a desperate situation,” Gov. Inslee said of Yakima County during a virtual news conference on Saturday. Earlier in the week, he had labeled the region’s continued increase in new cases as “terrifying.”

He listed off statistics on Saturday: Yakima County has almost the entire case count of Oregon, its hospitalization rate for the virus per capita is eight times higher than it is in King County, 26% of the tests last week in Yakima County were positive, and 19% of hospital beds in the Yakima Valley are occupied by patients with COVID-19.

Seattle Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez — whose mother lives in Yakima County — commented on the region’s outbreak on Saturday as well, saying that it is “in part, due to ag/factory/farm workers being deemed ‘essential’ without employers providing or requiring PPE.”

Gonzalez also blamed a lack of access to health care for Yakima’s sizable Latin-American population.

“Conservative politics in Yakima County have had a direct impact on public health agencies across the County, leaving a void in necessary culturally and linguistically appropriate public education,” she noted. “Essential workers and their families in Yakima County are often of mixed immigration status meaning that many are left out of healthcare insurance systems. And, when they do qualify, the premiums are too expensive and give way to other basic financial needs.”

Inslee said ICU patients are now being transferred to Seattle hospitals — including Harborview Medical Center — due to a lack of capacity. Health officials say they expect hospitalizations to double, and that they’ll have to continue transferring patients across the state.

“Without us doing something quite dramatic, cases in Yakima County could double in the next couple of weeks,” the governor warned.

In the next few days, Inslee plans to issue a proclamation mandating facial coverings in public, which will be “a legal requirement, not a suggestion.”

Under the proclamation, businesses will not be allowed to sell products or services to those that aren’t complying.

“That essentially means no masks, no service,” Inslee warned.

Report: COVID-19 infections in Eastern Washington ‘slowly increasing’

In a recent survey, 35% of people in Yakima County were wearing masks when they went to a business. This number will need to rise dramatically if the area has any chance of quelling the spread of COVID-19.

The governor said they’re considering other measures, as well as including other counties in the proclamation.

Yakima County is the only county in Washington that is in a non-modified Phase 1 with no application to move forward. Benton and Franklin are in Phase 1, but have applications pending. As of early Monday morning, there are 6,283 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Yakima County, with 138 deaths.

MyNorthwest News

Photo: Locals living along Aurora Avenue are dealing with yet another shooting in their neighborhoo...

James Lynch

‘Just senseless violence:’ Neighbors grapple with another shooting along Aurora

Locals living along Aurora Avenue are dealing with yet another shooting in their neighborhood as they call for an end to violence.

13 hours ago

Photo: A brick was thrown at a truck on I-90 Tuesday morning. It could be the same man who threw a ...

Sam Campbell

I-90 brick-throwing suspect ‘could be’ same man who threw rocks at drivers in June

The man who threw a brick into a truck on I-90 Tuesday morning could be the same man in last month's attack on Rainier Avenue.

15 hours ago

Photo: Law enforcement responding to deadly crash in Tacoma at 6th and S. Alder.in April....

Luke Duecy

Felony-level traffic crime in King County up nearly 150% compared to 2019

King County officials are warning drivers to take extra precautions with the region facing a 143% increase in felony-level traffic crime compared to 2019.

16 hours ago

Adam Smith biden...

Charlie Harger and Bill Kaczaraba, MyNorthwest

WA Congressman Adam Smith: ‘Impossible’ for President Biden to win re-election

Washington Congressman Adam Smith, a Democrat, is ramping up his calls on President Biden to drop out of the race.

16 hours ago

MOD Pizza...

Bill Kaczaraba

It’s a MOD world: Pizza company saved from bankruptcy, for the moment

MOD Pizza, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, has been purchased by Elite Restaurant Group. (Getty Group)

16 hours ago

burien fire...

Frank Sumrall

Burien school fire now being investigated as arson, latest in series of statewide fires

A King County fire marshal said the department's investigation leads them to believe the Burien school fire was an act of arson.

18 hours ago

Yakima County in ‘desperate situation’ as COVID-19 outbreak escalates