Sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in eastern Washington

State concerned about increased cases in Benton, Franklin, Yakima and Spokane Counties

A report from the Washington State Department of Health describes the drastic rise in cases in Benton, Franklin, Yakima and Spokane Counties as concerning and in need of changing as the state reopens.

The department wrote the spike shows possible activity from memorial day and a lack of social distancing overall. The statewide situation report shows COVID-19 transmission in the 4 counties, highlighting the increase in cases at the end of May. There was an uptick in western Washington as well but each county across the state has significant differences in transmission. Eastern Washington saw the highest increase and the department expects cases and deaths to rise substantially if the virus continues to spread at the same rate.

Each county’s infection rate is evaluated by percentage. The department compares Benton, Franklin, Yakima and Spokane Counties to the situation King County was in during its peak in March. King County is where the first COVID-19 case was found in Washington and the county saw the highest number of cases. The county has had 8,785 cases and has since moved into the modified phase 1 portion of Gov. Inslee’s safe start reopening plan. Benton and Franklin Counties applied for Phase 2 variance last week and haven’t been approved yet. Yakima County has not applied for modified phase 1 or phase 2.

Cases are drastically growing in Yakima County. The virus is showing a 3% prevalence in the county according to a chart provided in the new statewide situation report. That means 3% of the total population is infected with the virus. When King County was at its peak in March with a rampant number of new cases, they hit 1.6% prevalence. Benton and Franklin Counties combined are almost to that point. The counties are showing almost 1.5% prevalence together. The department wrote the counties may require similar efforts as King County to expand hospital capacity and testing, protection for people at highest risk and an increase in physical distancing.

Yakima, Spokane, Benton and Franklin Counties rise in COVID-19 cases

To move into phase 2, counties should meet or almost meet the goals set by the state like enough testing, hospital bed availablity, contact tracing and low case counts. These are not requirements but the state wants each county to prove they are working to meet the goals. The Benton-Franklin Health District is currently working to meet the goals by adding a mask directive for all citizens and offering more testing sites starting Wednesday.

Read the full report from the Washington State Department of Health here.