Yakima County COVID-19 patients treated at Seattle area hospitals

YAKIMA, Wash. — The number of COVID-19 patients in Yakima County is so high that some are being moved to other hospitals in Western Washington.

Yakima County has more cases than all of Oregon which is 16 times its population. Its rural hospitals are at capacity and over the last few days have sent 22 patients to other hospitals.

“We are frankly at the breaking point and we have to make the decisions looking forward,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

That means hospitals like Harborview Medical Center are stepping up to treat additional COVID patients from Yakima. Currently, Harborview is treating a male who is in critical condition. One patient has also been sent to Swedish Issaquah. And Overlake Hospital also received one over the weekend.

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Cassie Sauer, president of the Washington State Hospital Association, says overall the state’s hospitals are in pretty good shape.

“We have a lot of room at hospitals that can handle patients who have COVID,” Sauer said.

She said other patients are finally coming back, too. During the lockdown, some patients delayed necessary care to avoid the ER. With more cases from the state's new hot spot being treated in other areas, she's concerned people may avoid the hospital again.

“I hope they won’t. The COVID cases are very isolated within the hospital,” Sauer added.

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Inslee said the infection rate per capita is 27 times higher in Yakima than in King County. Part of the reason for the high number of cases -- the tight working conditions of those who work in Yakima’s agricultural industry. But officials believe there’s community spread, too. It’s especially concerning because of the risks it poses to the rest of the state as it reopens and attempts to curb the virus’ spread.

For the first time, the governor is ordering everyone in Yakima County to wear a mask in public.

“As Yakima County goes, so goes the rest of the state,” said Inslee.

In King County, new cases soared by 47% over the previous week.

UW Medicine said occupancy is at about 85% across its campuses and is prepared for more. It currently has 15 COVID patients in its system.

“We prepared surge plans to surge up to almost twice our normal capacity so we are extremely prepared for a surge if and when that happens in the future,” said Lisa Brandenburg, President of UW Medicine.