In an effort to control the spread of the new coronavirus, the Yakima Health District issued a stay-at-home order late Sunday for Yakima County, effective immediately.
According to the order, county residents must remain at home except when going out for necessary food, medicine and medical care.
It also exempts travel for “jobs that maintain continuity of operations of critical infrastructure sectors.”
The order remains in effect until further notice, said Dr. Teresa Everson, district health officer.
“As the novel coronavirus continues to spread in our community and statewide, it is critical that all residents follow the order to stay home except when necessary,” Everson said in a news release issued about 10:30 p.m.
The district also announced that as of Sunday afternoon, Yakima County has 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as well as eight presumptive positive cases.
That’s up from 20 confirmed and presumptive cases Saturday.
The district said essential services will remain open. It listed these services as essential:
- Gas stations.
- Food suppliers (grocery stores, convenience stores, food banks, takeout and delivery restaurants).
- Laundromats/laundry services.
- Essential state and local government functions.
The news release listed these jobs as part of the critical infrastructure sector:
- Health care, public health.
- Emergency services (law enforcement, fire department, public safety, public works).
- Energy (electricity, natural gas).
- Water and wastewater.
- Transportation and shipping.
- Government and community operations (including child care for children of critical-function employees and other services that support availability of critical function employees).
- Manufacturing that supports critical functions.
- Financial services and legal services.
- Hazardous material management, chemical manufacturing and management.
Organizations that remain open should have employees work from home, if possible, according to the news release.
If that isn’t an option, the health district said employers must ensure proper social distancing of at least six feet between individuals. Additionally, they are required to frequently sanitize common areas, give employees ample opportunities to wash their hands, and allow sick employees to stay home.
Business noncompliance can be reported by calling the health district at 509-249-6508.
In a Saturday news conference, Virginia Mason Memorial CEO Carole Peet called on the public to stay home for two weeks.
Unless they did, she warned, the hospital would soon be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.
“On April 8, we physicians will be forced to decide which of our neighbors, our friends or family members, will get a chance to live, and which will die,” said Dr. Marty Brueggemann, the hospital’s chief medical officer.
City, county and state officials said earlier Sunday that they remained in discussions about the need for a stay-at-home order.
“Limiting interpersonal interactions is a proven strategy to slow the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” Everson said in the news release. “This order has been implemented in recognition that if we don’t take drastic action now, there will be a day in which our health care system is overwhelmed and we will not be able to provide critical medical care to the most vulnerable in our community. ”
Meanwhile, a second Yakima Catholic Diocese priest has tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The diocese reported Sunday that the Rev. José de Jesús “Chuy” Ramírez, 69, a senior priest in residence at Our Lady of the Desert Parish in Mattawa, tested positive for COVID-19. Ramirez has only mild cold- and flu-like symptoms and is recovering in self-isolation, a diocese news release said.
The Rev. Alejandro “Alex” Trejo, 48, pastor of the parish in Mattawa, was released March 18 from the Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, where he received 11 days of intensive care for pneumonia-like symptoms from the coronavirus. He is recovering at a private residence in Yakima, the news release said.
Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson said he is considering closing Catholic churches in the diocese in Yakima for at least the next two weeks to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“We all must do our part to heed the social distancing and hygiene measures that health experts tell us are needed at this time in order to manage this health crisis well,” Tyson said in the news release.
Reporter Lex Talamo contributed to this story.