Yakima County to stay in Phase 3 despite hospitalization data error


YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — The state Department of Health will allow Yakima County to remain in Phase 3, despite an error in COVID-19 data that shows the county had a higher hospitalization rate than previously reported.

To stay in Phase 3, the county needed to have five or fewer new hospitalizations per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. Initial hospital data showed the county had a hospitalization rate of 3.9, but when health officials looked at the revised data several days later, they found that the county was exactly five per 100,000.

“Counties that are right on the cusp are looked at individually, taking into consideration where they fall in the case count/rate metric as well,” state health officials said in a statement to KAPP-KVEW. “Because Yakima is exactly at the threshold for movement between phases 2 and 3, the state determined the county may remain in phase 3.”

State health officials said there are no plans to change what phase the county is in prior to the next evaluation, which is set for May 3.

“However, we strongly recommend leaders and community members take immediate measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19,” the statement said. “This includes continued efforts to promote wearing of masks, watching distance, keeping gatherings small and outdoors, enforcement of Healthy Washington sector guidance, along with vaccination.”

When the state Department of Health initially reviewed hospitalization data from Yakima County, it had 14 new hospitalizations reported from March 24 to 30.

“Because Yakima hospitalizations were close to the threshold, we double checked with Yakima Health District that the hospitalization data were correct,” the statement said.

When the Yakima Health District consulted with one of the local hospitals, they reported that four of the 14 hospitalizations had incorrect admission dates that did not fall within the reporting period. State health officials removed those four from the report, which left the county with 10 hospitalizations, for a rate of 3.9 per 100,000.

While it failed the case rate test by having more than 200 new cases per 100,000 people over two weeks, the county was allowed to stay where it was because it passed the hospitalization rate test. It needed to have less than 5 new hospitalizations per 100,000 people in a week and it had 3.9.

The state Department of Health released its report April 12. While Yakima County failed the COVID-19 case rate metric by having more than 200 new cases per 100,000 over a two-week period, it was able to stay in Phase 3 because it passed the hospitalization rate metric.

State and local health officials continued to look into the discrepancy through the week and determined that the hospital had incorrectly provided discharge dates instead of admission dates.

“Three of the four hospitalizations that had been removed should have been included,” the statement said. “The fourth hospitalization was not a COVID-19 case.”

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