Sunnyside joins battle to slow COVID19 spread

Astria Sunnyside Hospital Outreach Worker Ray Castro Escobar loads some of the 1,000 masks which he will distribute to his clients, Sunnyside Rotarian and city Finance Director Elizabeth Alba organized the giveaway of 17,000 disposal masks the city requested for distribution to residents.

SUNNYSIDE — When City Financial Director Elizabeth Alba was given the job of distributing a donation of 17,000 disposable face masks, she sent a shout out to her fellow Sunnyside Rotarians for help.

One of those Rotarians answering that call was Ray Castro Escobar seeking 1,000 masks to hand out to his clients.

Astria Sunnyside Hospital durable medical equipment specialist Escobar said, “We want to make people understand that we need to continue to follow the rules,” when he picked up the prepackaged masks at Alba’s office on Thursday, June 18.

“We need to be wearing these masks, keeping our distance not only for ourselves but for our children and families. We need to make sure things are staying safe,” Escobar urged.

Alba said the masks are meant for low income people who might do not have access to masks first, “…but that is not a requirement.”

Alba said the city, through all of its contacts, had given away 9,000 masks in the first day of the distribution.

The allocation came on the heels of the Yakima Health District issuing a county-wide face mask directive earlier this month. YHD and the Yakima County Office of Emergency Management worked to find 200,000 disposal face coverings to be dispersed throughout the county via community organizations and municipalities.

“We received 17,000 masks which we were able to distribute to the public over the course of two days,” City Manager Martin Casey expressed.

“We set aside masks for local organizations including the Sunnyside Rotary. We are thankful for their aid in passing out masks via its members, many who are business leaders in the community,” he conveyed.

Casey said some masks were also set aside for the police and fire departments to distribute during their contacts with the public.

“We even set aside masks for the council,” Casey commented.

In the coming days, the YHD and the Office of Emergency Management are expecting delivery of an additional 300,000 cloth masks, announced Casey.

Those will be distributed throughout the county to those who meet the 200% of poverty line or below residents.

“We’ll be using community service groups to help with the cloth masks delivery to those needing masks,” Casey explained.

At Monday night’s regular City Council meeting, Mayor Francisco Guerrero made a city-wide proclamation urging city residents to follow Gov. Jay Inslee’s Saturday mandate that all Yakima County residents are to wear a face covering in public.

Guerrero said Inslee will issue his directive this week, outlining the procedures to enforce that all Yakima County residents wear face coverings when in public in the county. Yakima County currently has the highest increase in COVID-19 cases and county hospital are currently exceeding hospital ICU capacity, according the YHD.

As of Monday evening June 22, the YHD reported a total of 6,596 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 117 cases as more than reported Saturday, June 20. The local hospitals reported 57 hospitalized with 13 on ventilators.

Inslee said his proclamation will be issued in the next several days and will be a legal requirement that will order businesses not to sell to customers who don’t wear face coverings.

“Essentially this means, no masks no services. No masks, no goods,” Inslee said.

Julia Hart can be reached at 509-837-4500, ext. 123 or at

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