Increased masking leads to COVID-19 decline in Yakima County, health officials say

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YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — Yakima County has surpassed 10,000 cases of the coronavirus, but health officials say overall transmission is on the decline.

According to a report from the Institute for Disease Management, the number of new COVID-19 cases and the positive test rate in Yakima County has declined since its previous peak in June.

“The recent progress in Yakima highlights that nearly universal public masking is a critical part of regaining control of the epidemic, in addition to physical distancing and limiting social contacts and gatherings,” the report said.

Previously, the county was seeing upwards of 200 new cases per day; the average is now about half that much, between 80 and 90 daily.

“It fluctuates from day to day but overall the trend is positive,” Dr. Marty Brueggemann said.

Brueggemann said the number of patients hospitalized at Virginia Mason Memorial hospital is also decreasing from its previous high of about 40 to 50 hospitalizations.

“We’ve watched that number steadily decline over the past couple weeks,” Brueggemann said. “We even hit a low; we dipped under 20, actually 19 a few days ago.”

Brueggemann said epidemiological experts anticipate another spike in cases this fall. In the meantime, Brueggemann encourages the community to keep doing what they’re doing.

“Wear those masks, practice the physical distancing and avoid large gatherings,” Brueggemann said. “Wash those hands and we’ll continue to decline. It’s really that simple.”