While COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates continue to decrease in Yakima County, outbreaks are still occurring, especially in congregate living facilities, county health officials said.
As of Wednesday, there were 16 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Yakima County, the Yakima Health District reported in a Thursday news release. Of those, five are from assisted living facilities and five are from long-term care facilities. The other six are from an addiction treatment center, a jail, a wildfire camp, a homeless shelter, a moving company and a golf club.
“All COVID-19 outbreaks are significant but are especially concerning when in congregate settings because the virus can spread quickly between individuals who live together,” the health district said in the release.
In particular, the health district on Oct. 15 was notified about people who tested positive for COVID-19 at the Sunnyside Assisted Living Facility. As of Wednesday, there have been five staff members and 29 residents who had tested positive for COVID-19, officials said.
A site visit is planned by the district’s Outbreak Response Team, and facility staff members have taken steps to stop the spread of COVID-19. The health district has recommended that they group individuals who have had a positive COVID-19 test and those who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
County health officials have also recommended that the facility test residents and staff twice a week, continuously monitor residents and staff for symptoms of COVID-19 and increase personal protective equipment, or PPE, usage for staff.
“These outbreaks serve as a reminder to the community about the importance of reducing community transmission to decrease the chances of COVID-19 being introduced in congregate settings,” health district officials said.
Yakima County overall continues to experience a high level of community transmission with case rates slightly decreasing. COVID-19 cases are currently highest among people ages 50 to 64, according to the health district’s weekly report on COVID-19 trends released Monday.
Though the COVID-19 hospitalization rate continues to decrease, hospitalizations are expected to remain high given the current level of transmission, the health district said. Similar to COVID-19 cases, the highest number of hospitalizations in Yakima County is among the 50-64 age group.
Sixty-four COVID-19 deaths were reported in September, which had the highest number of deaths in a month so far this year. Most of the deaths in September were among the 65-79 age group, followed by the 50-64 age group, officials reported.
Since the beginning of October, though, COVID-19 deaths appear to be decreasing in Yakima County. And the latest COVID-19 modeling and surveillance situation report from the state Department of Health also shows case counts, hospital admissions and hospital occupancy have declined, though those levels remain high.
And overall, COVID-19 cases continue to be much more common in unvaccinated individuals than in fully vaccinated individuals, officials said.
As Yakima County continues to see high levels of community transmission, “it is crucial that all community members follow public health recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community,” the health district said.
Those include getting vaccinating for COVID-19 as soon as possible, wearing a mask when in public indoor settings and in crowded outdoor settings, frequently washing hands and sanitizing surfaces, and practicing social distancing.
“Vaccination greatly reduces the chance of severe illness and hospital admission. Getting vaccinated and following public health recommendations is the best way to help our hospitals and health care providers.” said Dr. Neil Barg, Yakima County health officer.
People should also limit gatherings with those outside of the household or gather virtually. And if an individual from a household gets infected with COVID-19, it’s important that the individual isolates at home away from all other household members.
Despite declines in COVID-19 admissions, total hospital occupancy in the state has remained constant at more than 90% and is projected to persist through the fall.
“COVID-19 cases and outbreaks are preventable, and we must continue to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. We want to help our health care system, which is already overburdened with many hospital admissions and ER visits,” he said.
“The number of hospital admissions and ER visits would be much closer to normal if there were fewer COVID-19 associated cases admitted to the hospitals.”