Coronavirus infections continue to swell in Yakima County, and the picture is ever-changing.
New information comes out daily. The state provided updated criteria Friday for reopening counties. Researchers and health officials know more about COVID-19 than they did earlier this year.
Here’s a breakdown of what we know now.
Sources for this information are the state Department of Health, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Yakima Health District, previous Yakima Herald-Republic reporting and The Associated Press.
When can things reopen here?
Yakima County will continue to stay in Phase 1 of the state’s four-stage reopening plan. It has more COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations per capita compared to other places in the state, as well as a higher transmission rate.
It’s not clear when things may reopen here.
The state will be looking at several metrics to decide whether counties can move to the next stage of reopening. Officials hope to see fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period, flat or decreasing hospitalizations and a transmission rate of less than 1. Counties also have to submit testing data and information on resources available for contact tracing investigations. Another factor is the number of outbreaks based on population.
Yakima County is nowhere close, with an infection rate of about 500 per 100,000 over the past 14 days, and a transmission rate above 1. The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is 24%, the highest in the state. The local hospital system is at capacity and has few intensive care units beds available, the Yakima Health District said Saturday.
The health district said that while some of the spread is because of outbreaks, infection is also happening because people are gathering with others outside their households.
“If we want to see our community move into Phase 2, we need to double-down our efforts to stop the spread,” health officer Dr. Teresa Everson said in a statement.
Gov. Jay Inslee said select Phase 1 counties could submit plans for limited activities under a “Phase 1.5.” Those plans would need to come from the county level and would be judged on an individual basis, he said.
But Inslee also highlighted the problems in Yakima County during a Friday news conference, saying people here need to do more to stop the spread of COVID-19. He encouraged more people to wear face coverings in public.
What do we need to do to reopen?
Everson said Wednesday that Inslee has five main metrics for re-opening counties, which are ranked from red — meaning they aren’t doing well — to green, which means they are.
Yakima is still solidly in the red when it comes to disease activity, risk to vulnerable populations and health care system readiness. The county fared only slightly better — yellow — for testing capacity and contact tracing.
Health officials say people in Yakima County have work to do to improve local numbers, and everyone’s help is needed. People need to stay home if they are sick, not gather in groups, and wear face coverings in public.
What’s open in Yakima County?
Under Phase 1, all essential businesses are open, including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and food producers.
Elective medical procedures have resumed. Vehicle and vessel sales, pet walking and landscape businesses are allowed to operate.
Existing construction has resumed, along with curbside pickup for retail sales. Restaurants are open for takeout and delivery.
Fishing, golf and recreational areas are open for day use.
People should not be gathering or taking part in social activities with people from outside their households, with the exception of religious services noted below. Only essential travel is recommended.
While some nearby counties are further along in reopening, Yakima County residents should follow the Phase 1 restrictions in place here, health officials said.
What about religious services?
Outdoor religious services with up to 100 people are now allowed statewide, including in Yakima County. That includes outdoor weddings and funerals.
All employees, members and visitors must wear face coverings.
There must be no direct physical contact, and anything to be consumed — such as a communion wafer — may not be presented in a communal container or a plate. While singing is permitted during a service, people must keep face coverings on. Choirs will not be allowed to perform during services.
Religious organizations are encouraged — but not required — to keep a log of attendees at each service to help trace cases in case of an outbreak.
SCHOOLS What about high school graduation ceremonies?
School districts in the Yakima Valley are in contact with the health district on graduation plans. Each district has its own plan.
There’s a difference between what’s recommended in Phase 1 and Phase 2 for graduation ceremonies under state health guidelines, and plans could change. Drive-in and drive-through ceremonies are only allowed in Phase 2 and above.
When school is out, will kids have access to meals?
Most Yakima County school districts offer free meals throughout the summer to ages 18 and under. Districts are working out those plans, and the need is expected to be greater this year due to COVID-19.
The Yakima School District, the county’s largest district with 16,000 students, has been offering weekly meal packages each Wednesday for all youth 18 and younger during the pandemic. Meals have been available at eight school buildings. While the last school-year distribution will be June 24, the district’s summer meal program will resume the following week on July 1, meaning there will be no disruption in distribution.
But staffing and locations for summer meal distributions will be reduced, since most school staff do not work year-round, said district communications director Kirsten Fitterer. The district is also weighing the possibility of evening distribution, instead of mid-day, to better accommodate parents’ schedules and avoid the heat of the day, she said.
HEALTH What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Here’s a list of COVID-19 symptoms, provided by the CDC:
- Fever or chills.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
- Muscle or body aches.
- New loss of taste or smell.
- Sore throat.
- Congestion or runny nose.
- Nausea or vomiting.
Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the coronavirus, according to the CDC.
How do I get tested?
Call your doctor, or, if you don’t have one, call 211.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, free mobile testing is available this week at the following locations from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 211 to schedule a visit.
Monday: West Valley High School, 9800 Zier Road, Yakima.
Tuesday: Selah United Methodist Church, 1061 Selah Loop Road, Selah.
Tuesday: East Valley Elementary School, 1951 Beaudry Road, Yakima.
Friday: Perry Technical Institute, 2011 W Washington Ave., Yakima.
Friday: Toppenish Middle School, 104 Goldendale Ave., Toppenish.
How is COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets, created when someone talks, coughs or sneezes. That’s why wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart are important.
What happens if I get sick?
Most people with COVID-19 have a mild illness and recover at home.
If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have it, stay home except to get medical care (call first). Do not go out in public. Take care of yourself and monitor your symptoms. Stay in touch with your health care provider.
Separate yourself from other people, and stay in a specific room away from other people and pets in your home. Wear a mask if you are around other people.
What happens if someone I know has COVID-19?
If someone you know tests positive for COVID-19 and you have had close contact with that person, health officials will ask you to stay in your home.
The state Department of Health changed the definition of “close contact” last week to align with new CDC guidance, which now describes close contact as being within 6 feet of someone with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes. Previous guidance said 10 minutes.
If you are caring for someone with COVID-19, limit contact, avoid sharing personal items, wear a mask, clean “high-touch” surfaces and items every day, wash your hands often and track your own health.
Is there a cure or vaccine?
There is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19 right now, the CDC says. There is nothing you can take, inhale or rub on yourself that will protect you from the virus or cure it, according to the state Department of Health.
What about children?
Adults make up most of the known COVID-19 cases to date. However, children do get the virus and become ill. Most have mild or asymptomatic infections.
Two children younger than 10 in Central Washington have been diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), associated with COVID-19. This serious illness is rare.
MIS-C has been described as inflammation (swelling) across multiple body systems, potentially including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal organs. Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash and fatigue.
If your child has any of these symptoms or other COVID-19 symptoms or concerning signs, contact your pediatrician. If your child is showing emergency warning signs, seek emergency care right away.
The CDC recommends that everyone 2 years and older wear a cloth mask that covers their nose and mouth when they are out in the community.
• Staff writers Lex Talamo and Janelle Retka contributed. Email questions to email@example.com.