Yakima resident Leola Reeves wants people to realize how serious COVID-19 is.
Her stepfather, 70, was confirmed to have the virus and initially seemed OK. But he then suddenly took a turn for the worse and was hospitalized due to low oxygen levels. He remained in the hospital for weeks, and was expected to need hospice care. Reeves said he survived the virus but its impact is not over, she said.
She shared her family’s story during a Yakima Health District briefing on Wednesday.
“Even though my stepfather is one of the lucky ones who has survived this, he will now be on an oxygen machine for the rest of his life. Two weeks after being cleared from COVID, he now has pneumonia because his lungs just are not as strong as they used to be,” she said. “So chances are this is something we are going to have to face for the rest of his life.”
Reeves created a Facebook page to show support for those diagnosed with COVID-19 and their families, “I love someone with Covid-19.”
“This is not just about the death toll,” she said. “It’s also about the quality of life after, and this is not something you want to learn from experience.”
Yakima County reached a new milestone Wednesday, surpassing 100 local deaths with 103 individuals lost to COVID-19.
The new total comes as the county saw 1,000 new cases of the respiratory virus in the span of a week, Yakima Health District spokeswoman Lilian Bravo said.
“I want to express our deep sympathies for each and every person who has lost a family member to COVID-19 and for each and every one of you who has had to go through the experience of having a loved one in the hospital and not being able to be by their side to support them,” Bravo said.
“As a public health community and a health care community, we pledge to continue to work day and night to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Yakima so that we do not have to see more suffering from COVID-19, whether that be to deaths, hospitalizations or ill family members.”
The total case count as of Wednesday evening was 5,092, up 83 from the previous day. There were 43 people hospitalized countywide. The health district has been tracking cases since mid-March, and 1,934 people have recovered.
Masks and trends
Bravo and Dr. Tanny Davenport of Virginia Mason Memorial urged the community to wear masks in public. The practice is proven to decrease the spread of the virus and does not cause health risks to those wearing them, they said.
Davenport emphasized that Yakima’s COVID-19 trends are worsening. He said 52% of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in all of Washington on Tuesday were from Yakima County. For context, he said Yakima County makes up just 3.2% of the state’s total population.
What’s more, Bravo said Yakima County recently was recognized as the county with the fourth-highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. relative to population in a two-week period.
She said Yakima County only includes lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in its counts. Probable cases are not included. In the case of individuals who have been tested multiple times, their confirmed case is only counted once in the Yakima Health District totals, she said. Still, nearly 30% of all tests in the county are coming back positive lately, compared to roughly 5% statewide. Bravo said the positive rate is growing.
The percentage of licensed hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in Yakima County is 19%, up from 17% last week, according to the state Department of Health data from Monday.
Bravo said it is up to the entire community to band together to fight the spread of the virus.
“We know the numbers are increasing every single day,” she said. “We need each and every one of us to commit and dedicate ourselves to follow the public health recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
Symptoms and testing
Yakima County does not have enough tests for all community members. Instead, they continue to be prioritized for those experiencing symptoms. Davenport said this is because these are the community members most at risk to hospitalization.
Those confirmed to have COVID-19 and their family members are recommended to stay home and isolated for at least 14 days to minimize the spread of the virus to other community members, he said. They should monitor themselves for symptoms including fever, cough, sore muscles, vomiting and diarrhea and contact a medical expert if symptoms worsen.
Those who do not have a primary care provider can call 211 for support.