Yakima County’s face covering directive goes into effect

face masks

YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima County’s face covering directive went into effect Wednesday, June 3, as the number of cases among residents continued to skyrocket.

Dr. Teresa Everson, health officer at the Yakima Health District, said most Yakima County residents are directed to wear a cloth face covering over their mouth and nose in public places where they cannot maintain six feet of distance from other people.

Exceptions include children, people with disabilities, deaf individuals who use facial movements to communicate and individuals who are told by their medical care providers that they should not wear a mask.

There is no penalty for not obeying the directive. However, Everson said the health district is depending on the community’s cooperation to slow the rate of infection.

As of Tuesday evening, at least 4,103 Yakima County residents have had COVID-19 and 92 of them have died, according to the health district.

Due to the high rate of infection in Yakima County, health officials have ramped up testing efforts. Their hope was to see the percentage of people testing positive down. Unfortunately, they’ve been seeing the opposite.

In a news conference Tuesday, health district spokeswoman Lilián Bravo said more than 15,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Yakima County since the outbreak began in March. The rate of positive tests has been about 24% — four times as high as the statewide average of 6%.

The average number of infections linked to a single case is about 2 to 2.5 or higher. Everson said this number needs to drop below 1 in order to gain control over the virus.

A recent study conducted  by the health district over Memorial Day Weekend found that only 35% of community members in Yakima County were wearing masks when going to the grocery store or other essential businesses. In general, it is recommended that 80% of community members wear face masks to support reduced transmission of COVID-19.