At least 70 agriculture and fruit workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Yakima County, the Yakima Health District said Friday.
“We recognize that all of our critical infrastructure workers are at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection, and that the agriculture industry in particular is vulnerable due to the inability to stay home,” Andre Fresco, the health district’s executive director, was quoted as saying in a news release.
The district is working with companies and organizations that have had multiple cases, notifying staff about the tests, the release said. The district did not publicly identify the facilities, or say how many had cases.
Earlier this week, the health department said there are “plans in place and testing set aside for contact investigations in employment settings where multiple cases have been identified.”
The Centers for Disease Control guidelines say essential employers with confirmed cases should send ill individuals home, monitor people in close contact with temperature checks on arrival, ensure 6 feet of distance between people or have them wear masks, and frequently clean commonly touched surfaces.
It is not recommended that critical infrastructure businesses shut down unless there are people who stay in the facility overnight, the health district said.
“COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person, and as such, the most important factor in COVID-19 in a place of employment is to ensure that individuals who have COVID-19 are identified and isolated at home,” Dr. Teresa Everson, the district’s health officer, was quoted as saying in the release.
The number of coronavirus cases in Yakima County increased to 759 as of Friday.
Lilian Bravo, spokeswoman for the Yakima Health District, said the number of deaths since the outbreak began has increased to 34, up five since Thursday. The number of positive cases represents an increase of 52 from the previous day, Bravo said.
Nineteen people are currently hospitalized.
The number of cases is cumulative, Bravo said, meaning that many of those are people who have since recovered from the virus.
In Klickitat County, there have been 16 positive cases with three deaths, while Kittitas County reports 14 positive cases and no deaths, according to county health officials.
About 200 of the cases are associated with long-term care facilities in the county, including Willow Springs Care, Garden Village and Good Samaritan nursing homes in Yakima, Prestige Care and Rehabilitation-Parkside in Union Gap and Toppenish Nursing and Rehab Center-Prestige Care. Of the deaths, all but one had an underlying health condition, Bravo said.
Bravo said the health district plans to release a map next week showing concentrations of COVID-19 cases.