More kids test positive for COVID-19 in Yakima County

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — Yakima County health officials are concerned about the increasing number of young people testing positive for COVID-19.

The Yakima Health District reported 380 new cases in the county over the weekend, including 132 among people age 19 and younger.

“On any given day, it’s roughly 25% to 35% of the new cases are in that younger group,” said Dr. Marty Brueggemann, Chief Medical Officer at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital. “Certainly, the schools have seen a lot of activity that they’re navigating.”

Health district officials monitor cases in local school districts and have found 195 cases where a staff member or student has tested positive for COVID-19 and was on a school campus while potentially contagious.

While health officials believe most of those cases were a result of community transmission, they have documented at least seven cases where the individual was likely exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 at school, including:

  • Grandview School District: A student at Harriet Thompson Elementary who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 9 was likely exposed at school.
  • Naches Valley School District: Three students at Naches Valley High School who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 7 were likely exposed at school.
  • Toppenish School District: A student at Toppenish Middle School who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 7 was likely exposed at school.
  • West Valley School District: A student at West Valley High School who tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 30 was likely exposed at school.
  • Yakima School District: A staff member at Lewis and Clark Middle School who tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 25 was likely exposed at school.

“So far, Yakima has done a pretty good job and been able to keep things open,” Brueggemann said. “We just hope that trend continues for our kids.”

However, health officials said the rise in cases among young people is still a concern, along with hospitalizations. According to the health district, 22 children ages 11 and younger and 25 children ages 12 to 19 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 countywide since the beginning of the pandemic.

“About half of the patients that we’re admitting to the hospital are old enough to be vaccinated and the vast majority of those patients are not vaccinated,” said Dr. Danielle Zerr of Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Less than a third of children who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Yakima County are fully vaccinated, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

“It’s so important to prioritize getting vaccinated as soon as one is able,” Zerr said.

Zerr said if children are too young to get the vaccine, it’s up to the adults in their lives to take steps to protect them.

“If we can vaccinate everybody around them and observe strategies like mask wearing, we will go a very long distance in keeping the kids safe,” Zerr said.

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