Health officials said that as of Tuesday, there have been no new COVID-19 outbreaks in Yakima County.
“We have no outbreaks so that is great news,” Melissa Sixberry, director of disease control for Yakima County, said during Wednesday’s County Health Board meeting. “We haven’t been able to say (that) this whole time.”
Case numbers and hospitalizations are also slowing down, said Larry Jecha, interim health officer for Yakima County.
“The trends are going the right direction that we like to see,” Jecha said.
Washington state fully reopened Wednesday, allowing all businesses to operate at full capacity and fully vaccinated residents to go most places in public without masks.
The mask mandate remains in place for unvaccinated individuals indoors in public places, according to a state Department of Health news release.
As the state opens, health officials expressed concern about three variants — the alpha variant, originally found in the UK; the gamma variant, discovered in Brazil; and the delta variant, originally from India.
Washington state has identified that 46% of the state’s variants are alpha, 17% are delta and 16% are gamma, said Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for communicable diseases.
“The gamma variant has essentially twice the hospitalization rate of the average and twice the death rate of the average. The delta variant isn’t quite as aggressive as the (gamma) variant in Washington state,” Lindquist said.
Lindquist said the state will continue to monitor all three variants, though he is expecting the delta variant to become more predominant strain over the coming weeks.
Yakima County has 38 cases of the delta variant, Jecha said.
“It only affects the people who aren’t vaccinated. So that’s the good news. If you’re worried about the delta or any of the variants, it’s best to be vaccinated,” he said.
Concern about the delta variant is increasing across the nation. On Monday, Los Angeles County announced a change in its guidance, recommending masking indoors as a precaution against the delta variant, according to a Los Angeles County public health news release.