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Health officials concerned by uptick in COVID hospitalizations, positive test rates in Yakima Co.

Nearly 93% of people in the most recent mask survey at Yakima County businesses wore face coverings. Restaurants are limiting indoor capacity. Signs everywhere urge residents to social distance and stay home if sick.

In public, it appears many Yakima County residents know and are taking the right steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. But a rising number of COVID-19 tests that are coming back positive and the increase in hospitalizations are concerning, said Dr. Tanny Davenport, physician executive of medical group operations at Virginia Mason Memorial hospital. It mirrors a rise in COVID-19 cases statewide.

“If we look at the community testing site at (State Fair Park and) all community testing in the last six to eight weeks, our positive rates were in the single digits and now they’ve crept up to 10 to 12%, depending on the day,” Davenport said Wednesday. “We were down to 5% in mid-September. In the last few weeks, we have climbed up into the low teens.”

Specifically, the testing site at State Fair Park, which opened Oct. 27, is seeing 12% positivity, said Dr. Teresa Everson, the health officer for Yakima County. She recently announced her resignation but will stay in that role through Nov. 20.

“All of this indicates that we are seeing a true increase in community cases and are at real risk in our county,” she said in an email.

In the early June, when cases were at their peak in Yakima County, the testing positivity rate was 26%. The state’s goal is less than 2%.

Health officials haven’t seen much transmission in schools because staff and students are following safety recommendations, she said. Yakima School District, the county’s largest school district, hasn’t returned to full in-person learning yet.

A total of 7.4% of the cases “are from outbreaks at workplaces, long term care facilities and other congregate settings. That means that most of the transmission in our community is still happening through those interactions with people not in our household — large family gatherings, parties, social visits,” Everson said.

With colder weather here, gatherings have moved indoors and are typically longer than 15 minutes. Transmission can happen from people who aren’t showing symptoms, Everson said.

“Start thinking now about how to make holidays special without those in-person gatherings this year. The holidays aren’t canceled, they just need COVID-ization,” she said.


The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests over a week is one of five key metrics the state Department of Health tracks to determine county readiness to move between phases of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan to reopen the state. Yakima County is in Phase 2 of the reopening plan.

This article was produced by the Yakima Herald and can be read on their site here:

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