COVID-19 hot spot: Hospitals full in Yakima County, Washington

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Hospitals in Yakima County — which has the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in Washington state — are beyond capacity with sick patients.

Virginia Mason Memorial hospital in Yakima, which holds more than 200 beds, had none available as of Thursday night, intensive care or otherwise, the Yakima Health District said in a statement late Friday.

The Seattle Times reports at least 17 patients had already been transferred out of the county. That leaves a total of 61 individuals in hospital beds with positive COVID-19 diagnoses, the county’s highest to date.

And “all hospitals” are experiencing severe staffing shortages — many due to COVID-19 cases within hospital staff, symptoms of the coronavirus, or proximity to a quarantined patient.

Nearby Benton and Franklin counties are also feeling the strain on their health care systems, but Yakima County remains Washington state’s hot spot for the virus.

The county now represents 22% of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Washington (61 of 242 cases), a higher tally than King County, which is nearly 10 times larger than Yakima County.

Washington state’s most populous county has been approved to move into Phase 2 of reopening from Gov. Jay Inslee’s coronavirus restrictions.

King County, which has about 2.2 million residents, will be allowed to relax rules for businesses like restaurants, barbers and retail operations.

Health authorities announced Friday morning that King County was OK’d for Phase 2, while Island, Lewis and Mason counties will be allowed to transition to Phase 3.

Inslee’s stay-home order began March 23 and is now being relaxed — gradually — across the state. More than 27,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Washington state and at least 1,245 have died.