SUNNYSIDE — As of May 11 at 4:59 p.m., Yakima Health District (YHD) updated their data summary of COVID-19 case counts in the Yakima Valley and Sunnyside has been shown to have 900-1700 per capita confirmed cases making it the latest hotbed of infection in the lower valley.

Sunnyside City Manager Martin Casey clarified that the per capita rate is per 100,000 residents — or 9-17 cases per 1,000 residents. County health officials have not released a more specific count due to privacy concerns.

With spring here, the agriculture industry is beginning to ramp up in production and there are concerns about workers health and information being disseminated to help them keep safe during this pandemic.

Addressing Yakima County’s high infection rate, Neighborhood Health Communications Director Leah Ward stated, “We can’t escape the reality that our Latino farm workers are hit the most.”

Ward added staff members not only at Yakima offices but also at Neighborhood Health Services Sunnyside, 617 Scoon Road, are keeping lines of communica­tion open with their patients.

Frontline personnel are taking every opportunity to speak with patients especially those in agriculture, about the importance of safety measures like social distancing, hand washing and the wearing of protective masks, which can make a big difference.

As of the afternoon of May 11, YHD reported a total of 1,966 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Yakima County and that Sunnyside, Toppenish, and Wapato now have the highest per capita of cases.

“There is no real explanation as to why the numbers are so high in those areas, but it may be where essential workers are living” YHD Communication Director Lilian Bravo said during her Friday afternoon briefing.

Bravo added 40% of the cases are associated with long-term care facilities. She also noted that 16% (273) of the confirmed COVID-19 cases are among agricultural workers. “We believe the red areas are where our essential workers live,” Bravo noted.

As YHD dashboard data reveals, Sunnyside is highly effected being nearly 4 times the state average per capita.

“Our message is the same. In fact, if it changes anything it would be to make that message a little more urgent and a little more frequent,” Ward said.

She also informed that under the legislation Congress passed in mid-March, testing is free. “To make sure it stays free, Washington State insurance regulators mandated that private health insurance waive testing fees.”

Elizabeth Sustaita can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email esustaita@sunnysidesun.com.

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