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Latest count: Four votes separate Gartrell, Macias in Yakima council race
 Pat Muir  / 

Yakima City Council candidate Eliana Macias, who was 20 percentage points behind Kenton Gartrell on election night, has closed within a single point as of Friday’s updated count and now trails by four votes.

As of Friday, the count stood at 307 votes for Gartrell and 303 for Macias, or 50.3% to 49.7% in the District 1 race.

Preliminary results on election night showed Gartrell ahead by 71 votes, 213 to 142, or 60% to 40%. Gartrell said he knew all along it would be much closer in the end.

“I did think it would come down to 10 votes,” he said.

While he said it was worrisome, “of course, I’ve always been worried,” he said. “Even when everyone wanted to do interviews after the first counting, I said they’re still going to be counting.”

Macias didn’t immediately return calls from the Yakima Herald-Republic late Friday afternoon.

If she is elected, she would be the Council’s sole Latina. If she loses, the council would be without Latino representation for the first time since 2015, when a federal Voting Rights Act lawsuit forced the city to change its elections to better represent the city’s Latino population. Prior to that, the Council had no Latino council members.

The Gartrell-Macias race has been contentious, with Gartrell making headlines for knocking a phone out of a Macias supporter’s hand at a downtown bar on the night of the August primary as she shot video of him. No charges were filed in the incident.

Nearly 31,000 of the estimated 39,993 votes cast in Yakima County had been counted as of Friday. It’s not clear how many of the remaining 9,000 ballots to be counted are from Yakima’s City Council District 1.

Gartrell said either way, the contest has sparked voter participation.

“We’ve definitely attracted a lot of votes, which is a good thing,” he said.

Because of Veterans Day on Monday, counting will not resume until Tuesday. The election will be certified Nov. 26.

The District 1 seat was held by Dulce Gutierrez, who decided not to seek reelection.

Pharmacy students help out to stop Hepatitis A outbreak in Yakima
 Mai Hoang  / 

Christina Buchman, a clinical assistant professor for Washington State University’s College of Pharmacy, got an email from one of Safeway’s pharmacy managers on Thursday.

The manager was expecting a significant influx of Yakima Valley residents to come for a Hepatitis A vaccination in response to an outbreak within the last two weeks.

Safeway needed extra people to administer the vaccination.

Within a half-day, several students at WSU’s College of Pharmacy in Yakima, with Buchman’s guidance, mobilized and started distributing the vaccine at the pharmacy inside the Safeway store at 205 N. Fifth Ave. The students have been certified to issue vaccines, including the flu and hepatitis A vaccine.

“They love to be out in the community and provide the services,” said Buchman, who is also a pharmacist.

The increased availability of the vaccine will be helpful in stopping the spread of hepatitis A in the coming days. The infection is spread when a person acquires the virus by coming in contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person.

On Thursday, the Yakima Health District said five cases of acute hepatitis A were reported within the homeless and illicit drug user population, and there was potential exposure at a Popeye’s location on Nob Hill Boulevard in Yakima.

Restaurant not source

The fast-food restaurant was not the source of the outbreak, Yakima Health District officials said Friday.

The primary source in Yakima likely came from the homeless and illicit drug community, which mirrors similar outbreaks in other parts of the country, said Lilian Bravo, director of public health partnerships for the Yakima Health District.

Lack of access to health services and hand washing makes that population more vulnerable, Bravo said.

It is unclear what caused customers and workers at the Popeye’s location to be exposed to hepatitis A, Bravo said. Regardless, the restaurant has been quick in responding, disinfecting the location and offering a dedicated hotline to answer customer questions. That number is 1-844-944-5444.

The Yakima Health District has recommended that anyone who visited the restaurant between Oct. 23-31 get the vaccine. One dose of the vaccine is 95% effective. A second dose six months later increases the effectiveness to 97%.

To that end, local pharmacies, such as Safeway, are working to make the vaccine available to Yakima Valley residents.

Rite-Aid, which runs several locations in the Yakima area, can offer the vaccine, said company spokesman Chris Savarese.

He recommends calling ahead first, but “we’re prepared with the vaccine if you need one,” he said.

The WSU Pharmacy students will be administering the vaccine at the Safeway on North Fifth Avenue during regular pharmacy hours Saturday and Sunday, said Santos Rivera, a Doctor of Pharmacy student who will be graduating in 2021.

While an outbreak of any virus or illness is not ideal, Santos said he’s grateful that he and his fellow students, who are part of a local student group of the American Pharmacist Association, can respond to the increased need and gain valuable hands-on training.

“Nobody likes to have this situation, but it’s definitely a valuable opportunity for our students to learn,” Rivera said.

US officials identify 'strong culprit' in vaping illnesses

NEW YORK — U.S. health officials announced a breakthrough Friday into the cause of a mysterious outbreak of vaping illnesses, reporting they have a “very strong culprit.”

The same chemical compound was found in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 patients across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The compound — vitamin E acetate — was previously found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many of those who got sick.

But this is the first time they’ve found a common suspect in the damaged lungs of patients, officials said.

“We are in a better place in terms of having one very strong culprit,” said the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat.

Agency officials cautioned they cannot rule out all other toxic substances, and it may take animal studies to clearly show vitamin E acetate causes the lung damage that’s been seen.

More than 2,000 Americans who vape have gotten sick since March, many of them teen and young adults, and at least 40 people have died. The bulk of the cases occurred in August and September but new cases are still being reported.

Vitamin E acetate has only recently been used as a thickener in vaping fluid, particularly in black market vape cartridges. While vitamin E is safe as a vitamin pill or to use on the skin, inhaling oily droplets of it can be harmful. It’s sticky and stays in the lungs — the CDC’s Dr. Jim Pirkle likened it to honey.

Many who got sick said they had vaped liquids that contain THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana, with many saying they got them from friends or bought them on the black market.

E-cigarettes and other vaping devices heat a liquid into an inhalable vapor. Most products contained nicotine, but THC vaping has been growing more common.

Pirkle said thickeners like vitamin E acetate probably would not be routinely added to nicotine liquids, which need to be more watery for vaping.

Symptoms of the vaping illness include trouble breathing, chest pain, fatigue and vomiting. Imaging tests show lung injuries and doctors can’t find infections or other causes.

Installers, police say windshield tinting isn't just a bad idea. It's illegal.
 Donald Meyers  / 

Like many vehicles in the Yakima Valley, Kelly McTee’s has tinted windows.

Part of it is to show off the work he does at his Aftermath Custom Auto in Yakima, but there are personal reasons for it as well, such as privacy and comfort.

“When it’s 100 degrees in Yakima, you want that heat rejection,” McTee said. “It protects the interior from cracking and fading.”

But there’s a trend toward extending tinting to the front windshield of the car, one that Yakima-area window tint installers say they won’t do, nor endorse.

“It’s our guys’ job to let you know it’s not safe,” said Gerardo Altamirano, owner of America’s Window Tint and Graphics.

And Yakima police are also reminding people through social media that it is an illegal practice that can cost violators almost as much as a tint job on their car.

“School started a little while ago, and we need to remind people that there are regulations for this,” said Lt. Chad Stephens with the Yakima Police Department.

While police say driver visibility is a major concern, law enforcement also considers it an officer-safety issue. Police are vulnerable when they can’t see into a vehicle during a traffic stop.

For those looking to use tinting to cut down on heat inside the car, installers say there’s a perfectly legal way to tint a front window to do that without sacrificing visibility.

Under Washington state law, dark window tinting is allowed on all but the windshield, and the tinting must allow at least 24 percent of the light striking it to pass through. The law does allow some transparent tinting on the top part of the windshield, but only down to where the AS-1 mark is on the window, or about six inches.

There are exceptions for motor homes, ambulances, hearses and multi-passenger vehicles for darker privacy tints, but only on windows behind the driver’s position.

The law also allows medical exceptions, but those must be accompanied by a doctor’s prescription, said Jake Macias, owner of Jake’s Custom Window Tinting and Graphics.

And even then, they can’t cover the entire windshield, Yakima Police Sgt. Jim Moore said.

“The thought with the law is, if you need it to be dark, you can wear sunglasses,” Moore said.

Stephens said officers carry devices that allow them to measure how much light passes through a window to determine if it is legal.

Macias, who has been tinting windows for 40 years, said there are benefits to darkening some windows on a car. Along with keeping the inside cooler and less prone to sun damage, tinting can also provide some added security, he said.

“If you want to conceal that you are a traveler or a vendor with a little SUV or multipurpose vehicle, it gives you that privacy,” Macias said.

McTee said it could also deter a vehicle burglar, by making it hard to see what’s inside the car at night.

But recently, there’s been an increase in completely tinted windshields. Moore and Yakima County sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Swallow said they have both noticed it.

In an Oct. 22 post on the YPD’s Facebook page, the department reminded people that it’s illegal and carries a $139 fine. In comparison, tinting a vehicle can run between $150 and $400, McTee said.

Altamirano said he noticed the trend toward tinted windshields starting two years ago, and he gets customers coming into his shop wanting the same thing because they like how it looks.

But Altamirano and his employees tell those customers that they are not going to do it, partly because it’s illegal, and partly because it makes it harder for drivers to see at night.

“If we do a dark tint on the windshield, at night they are going to get glare,’ Altamirano said. “They can’t see through it at night.”

When someone asks for illegal tinting, Altamirano has a paper that customers can read outlining both the legal and safety arguments against tinting windows.

He’s also made it a part of his advertising, noting in a radio spot that he won’t tint windshields.

Another part of the law requires installers to affix a sticker either to the car post or somewhere near the driver’s window stating to what degree the windows are tinted and by which company. It’s a part of the law that Swallow said often gets ignored.

“I have yet to see anyone who’s done it,” Swallow said.

McTee said he doesn’t do it because his customers don’t want it, seeing it as advertising for the tinting company.

Macias and Altamirano said there are special tinting materials that can legally be used on windshields. They are designed to block mostly infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths of light, which eliminates a significant portion of the heat coming in, while permitting most visible light to pass through.

While installers say they won’t tint windshields, it does not deter people from doing it themselves. Macias said he cannot police what someone will do if they buy tinting material from him and take it home.

If people object to the law, they should seek a referendum instead of illegally tinting their windows themselves, Macias said.