2003226-yh-news-farmworker-11.jpg

FILE — Jennifer Williams, a physician assistant, right, prepares to see a patient Wednesday, March 25, 2020, at the mobile unit of Yakima Valley Farm Workers’ Medical-Dental Clinic, 602 E. Nob Hill Blvd. in Yakima, Wash.

The Yakima Health District reported 175 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday and one more death, bringing the Yakima County death toll to 96.

The increase brings the county total to 4,714 and further solidifying Yakima County as a COVID hot spot in Washington and the nation.

State Department of Health numbers, which lag a day or two behind local numbers and do not include Sunday’s new cases, indicate Yakima has a rate of 537.2 newly diagnosed cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks. The maximum allowable rate to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan is 25 per 100,000. That means Yakima County’s rate is more than 21 times too high for such a transition.

A study released last week by the Institute of Disease Modeling accounted for Yakima’s high percentage of essential workers and its socioeconomic disparity with other counties — two main causes blamed by local officials — and found they weren’t the sole cause of the county’s runaway COVID-19 numbers. People’s continued flouting of shelter-in-place rules has contributed, too.

“So as much as we can follow these recommendations that have been proven to work, the better that we’ll be as a community and the sooner that we can move out of Phase 1,” Yakima Health District spokeswoman Lilian Bravo said last week.

Strike settlement

Workers will return to their jobs Monday at Matson Fruit, following a strike that began May 12 over concerns associated with COVID-19. A settlement reached Friday was supported by all but five or six of the 35 striking workers, said Rosa Leon, a member of the workers’ committee that negotiated its terms.

The agreement does not include pay raises but does include a promise by management to re-evaluate pay based on seniority and a July 17 deadline to do so, Leon said. That wasn’t the only sticking point for those who voted against the settlement, she said.

“They said they didn’t feel really secure to go inside because the boss didn’t close the warehouse to disinfect,” Leon said. “And every day there are people coming up positive.”

A message Sunday seeking comment from Matson Fruit was not returned. But the bulk of striking employees felt the company had adequately stepped up its COVID-19 protections, Leon said. That includes enforcing a 6-foot distance between workers, something she said had been ignored prior to the strike.

“We would be touching each other with our hands, our hips. That’s not 6 feet.”

Under the agreement, distancing will be enforced, and there will be access to masks and hand sanitizer, she said.

“All the things we asked, now they’re doing them,” Leon said. “It’s a big win for us.”

More testing

More mobile testing sites will be available in Yakima County this week to anyone with any symptoms of COVID-19, the health district announced on its Facebook page.

All mobile testing events take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Testing is offered through a partnership with Yakima Valley Emergency Management, the health district and the Washington National Guard. Call 211 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for an appointment.

Sites scheduled this week:

Monday: Barge Lincoln Elementary School, 219 E. I St., Yakima; and Eisenhower High School, 611 S. 44th Ave., Yakima.

Tuesday: McClure Elementary School, 1222 S. 22nd Ave., Yakima; and Garfield Elementary School, 612 N. Sixth Ave., Yakima.

Wednesday: Lewis and Clark Middle School, 1114 W. Pierce St., Yakima; and Nuestra Casa, 906 E. Edison Ave., Sunnyside.

Thursday: Franklin Middle School, 410 S. 19th Ave., Yakima.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said 175 new cases was the highest-single day jump to date. On June 1, 188 new cases were reported.

Reach Pat Muir at pmuir@yakimaherald.com.