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Coronvirus update: Masking up showing success in Yakima County; 75 new cases

New COVID-19 cases remained in double digits for a second day in a row with 75 recorded countywide Monday and two more deaths, according to the Yakima Health District.

There were 71 new cases reported Sunday, capping a week that saw 100 fewer cases than the previous week.

The county saw 765 new cases between June 22 and 28. There were 865 new cases the previous week, according to health district figures.

The decline brings the county’s two-week infection rate to about 600 per 100,000 people compared to the county’s high mark of more than 714 per 100,000 people earlier this month.

More people wearing masks in public is helping improve the numbers, health officials have said.

A couple of weeks ago, local businesses launched a “Mask Up, Open Up” campaign. Gov. Jay Inslee’s order requiring businesses in Yakima County to only serve customers wearing masks took effect last week.

Monday’s report brings the county’s case total to 7,316 with 138 deaths since mid-March. Of the 7,316 cases, more than half — 3,772 — have recovered, the health district reported.

As of Monday evening, there were 46 patients hospitalized, with 12 of them on ventilators.

Despite the apparent decline in new cases, the community must remain vigilant about following social distancing and mask rules, health officials said.

While the county is seeing a recent flattening of new cases, other areas of the state are starting to see increases, the state Department of Health reported Monday.

Upward trends have shown recently in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, according to a recent report.

Mask distribution

Hoping to keep people wearing masks in public here, the Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management is teaming with the health district to assure there are plenty to go around.

Free masks will be handed out before the Fourth of July weekend at two community drive-through sites.

● Wednesday — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Steel Structures America, 804 Zillah Drive, Zillah.

● Thursday — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Valley Mall in the southeast corner of the parking lot, South First Street and Valley Mall Boulevard.

Members of the Civil Air Patrol will help hand out masks.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say the governor's mask order requiring businesses to only serve customers wearing masks only covered Yakima County.

Split high court throws out Louisiana abortion clinic limit

WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, reasserting a commitment to abortion rights over fierce opposition from dissenting conservative justices in the first big abortion case of the Trump era.

Chief Justice John Roberts and his four more liberal colleagues ruled that a law that requires doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals violates abortion rights the court first announced in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

The outcome is far from the last word on the decades-long fight over abortion with dozens of state-imposed restrictions winding their way through the courts. But the decision was a surprising defeat for abortion opponents, who thought that a new conservative majority with two of President Donald Trump’s appointees on board would start chipping away at abortion access.

The key vote belonged to Roberts, who had always voted against abortion rights before, including in a 2016 case in which the court struck down a Texas law that was virtually identical to the one in Louisiana.

The chief justice explained that he continues to think the Texas case was wrongly decided, but believes it’s important for the court to stand by its prior decisions.

“The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a nearly identical Texas law,” Roberts wrote. He did not join the opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer for the other liberals in Monday’s decision, and his position left abortion-rights supporters more relieved than elated.

The case was t he third in two weeks in which Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, joined the court’s liberals in the majority. One of the earlier decisions preserved the legal protections and work authorization for 650,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The other extended federal employment-discrimination protections to LGBT Americans, a decision that Justice Neil Gorsuch also joined and wrote.

In dissent on Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “Today a majority of the Court perpetuates its ill-founded abortion jurisprudence by enjoining a perfectly legitimate state law and doing so without jurisdiction.”

Trump’s two high-court picks, Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were in dissent, along with Samuel Alito. The presence of the new justices is what had fueled hopes among abortion opponents, and fears on the other side, that the Supreme Court would be more likely to uphold restrictions.

The Trump administration had sided with Louisiana in urging the court to uphold the law. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany criticized the decision. “In an unfortunate ruling today, the Supreme Court devalued both the health of mothers and the lives of unborn children by gutting Louisiana’s policy that required all abortion procedures be performed by individuals with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital,” McEnany said.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said, “Today’s ruling is a bitter disappointment. It demonstrates once again the failure of the Supreme Court to allow the American people to protect the well-being of women from the tentacles of a brutal and profit-seeking abortion industry.”

On the other side, support for the decision mixed with a wariness that the future of abortion rights appears to rest with Roberts.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Monday’s decision by no means ends the struggle over abortion rights in Legislatures and the courts.

“We’re relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we’re concerned about tomorrow. With this win, the clinics in Louisiana can stay open to serve the one million women of reproductive age in the state. But the Court’s decision could embolden states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if abortion rights are to be protected,” Northup said.

In his reasoning, Roberts “signaled a willingness to lessen the legal protections for abortion,” University of Michigan law professor Leah Litman wrote on the Take Care blog. However, she also acknowledged that Roberts’ “emphasis on the importance of adhering to the Court’s prior decisions does not sound like the thinking of a person who is inclined to overrule Roe v. Wade.”

A trial judge had said the law would not provide health benefits to women and would leave only one clinic open in Louisiana, in New Orleans. That would make it too hard for women to get abortions, in violation of the Constitution, the judge ruled.

But the appeals court in New Orleans rejected the judge’s findings and upheld the law in 2018, doubting that any clinics would have to close and saying that doctors had not tried hard enough to establish relationships with local hospitals.

The clinics filed an emergency appeal at the Supreme Court, asking that the law be blocked while the justices evaluated the case.

Early last year, Roberts joined with the four liberal members of the court to grant that request and keep the law on hold.

Roberts’ vote was a bit of a surprise because of his earlier vote n the Texas case. It may have reflected his new role since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement as the court’s swing justice, his concern about the court being perceived as a partisan institution and his respect for a prior decision of the court, even one he disagreed with. Roberts didn’t write anything explaining his position at the time of the Texas case.

The regulations at issue in Louisiana are distinct from other state laws making their way through court challenges that would ban abortions early in a pregnancy. Those include bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as 6 weeks, and the almost total ban passed in Alabama.

COVID fireworks changes: Yakama Nation cancels sales, cities cancel shows

The Yakama Nation banned fireworks sales this year because of COVID-19, and nearly every local public display has been canceled for the same reason.

The city of Selah appears to be the lone holdout among Yakima County municipalities. It’s Independence Day festival is canceled, but the fireworks will go on.

The show, set to start around 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Carlon Park, is the only public display being promoted locally. An announcement to that effect from the city’s parks and recreation department asked that people “please enjoy from your home or your car.”

The Yakama Nation’s decision, made May 20 by the Tribal Council Law and Order Committee, is likewise intended to help curb the spread of the virus.

“Fireworks season is an important time for our communities to celebrate Fourth of July on Independence Day,” the Nation’s department of revenue said in announcing the ban. “However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has altered the way we can celebrate together, but it is necessary to follow the CDC public health guidelines and tribal leadership’s directions to ‘stay home and stay healthy.’”

The city of Yakima’s annual public fireworks display, a tradition for three decades, was canceled earlier this month. So were annual public displays in Sunnyside, Zillah and Granger.

Residents in Granger, Harrah, Mabton, Moxee and Zillah are legally allowed to use fireworks, with specific rules varying by jurisdiction. Moxee, in particular, has become known for its private fireworks displays. The town of about 4,000 residents is the Valley’s unofficial Fireworksville every Fourth of July, but this year city officials have cautioned against the sort of large front-lawn gatherings that have typified the day in years past.

“Be aware that Yakima County is still in Phase 1 which does not allow for social gatherings outside of members of your own household,” the city announced in a notice to fireworks users. “Governor Inslee has made it mandatory in Yakima County for masks to be worn while out in public along with social distancing of 6 feet due to the high rate of infection.”

For more information, call your local jurisdiction or visit the Yakima County Fire Marshal website, www.yakimacounty.us/1180/Fire-Marshals-Office. Or visit the Washington State Patrol fireworks information site, www.wsp.wa.gov/fireworks.

Washington population tops 7.6 million

OLYMPIA — Washington’s population has topped 7.6 million, with growth coming mostly from those moving to the state.

Numbers released Monday by the Office of Financial Management shows the state has grown by 109,800 residents over the past year, a 1.5% increase.

In the past year, net migration accounted for 76% of the state’s population growth, with net births responsible for the other 24%.

The state’s population has grown by 931,700 people since April 1, 2010, of which 329,600 moved into King County during that timeframe.

Population growth has remained concentrated in five of the state’s largest metropolitan counties: Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane. Nearly 70% of the state’s population growth occurred in those counties.

The top 10 cities for population growth are Seattle, Vancouver, Redmond, Bellevue, Tacoma, Pasco, Kirkland, Richland, Lacey and Spokane.