Virus Outbreak Washington State

J.D. Elquist, right, of the Downtown Tacoma Partnership, delivers meals to workers at Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, Wash., Wednesday, April 29, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – Soaring numbers of coronavirus cases in Yakima County, southeast of Seattle, has led Gov. Jay Inslee to issue an order requiring residents there to wear a face mask at all times in public.

“We know that this is frankly a desperate situation,” he said at a news conference, calling it “terrifying.”

State health officials say the county’s number of positive tests is equal to that for the entire state of Oregon and the hospitalization rate per capita is eight times as high as King County, Washington state’s hardest hit county. Last week, 26 percent of tests in Yakima County came back positive, compared to about 6 percent statewide.

Inslee said his face mask order in the area is “a legal requirement, not a suggestion.”

Critics have said the area, one of the largest fruit packing regions in the country, has turned problematic because the high population of migrant workers there lack access to medical care and personal protective equipment.

Due to some of the spikes, Inslee late last week issued new guidelines for weddings and funerals – both religious and non-religious – for counties that are in the first three phases of his four-step plan to reopen the state’s economy.

The guidance primarily follows the same guidelines in each stage for allowing regular indoor religious gatherings. In Phase 2, for example, services can be held with up to 200 people or 25 percent of the building’s capacity, whichever is lower.

Phase 3 allows gatherings of up to 400 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less, provided that social distancing of at least six feet can be achieved between households.

If food is to be served at a wedding reception or funeral luncheon, the same guidelines would apply at each phase that are currently in place for restaurants offering indoor dining, including the number of people allowed at each table, how far apart the tables must be and what precautions servers must take.

As protests continue in Seattle and other major cities nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control is now encouraging all attendees to get tested for coronavirus amid positive reports in several locations among protesters and organizers.

That includes the Seattle neighborhood known as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, where demonstrators set up a perimeter after officers abandon the Seattle Police Department East Precinct there earlier this month.

Mayor Jenny Durkan, who originally called it “a summer of love,” has now said the city will work to clear the area and reclaim the precinct after three shootings there over the weekend, including one fatality.