Yakima Health District says COVID-19 cases rising, flu serious threat – Yakima Herald-Republic

Vaccines sit at the ready at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans’ Community Resource Center where they were offering members and the public free flu and COVID-19 vaccines Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Lynwood, Calif.
RFA/Health Care Access Reporter
Vaccines sit at the ready at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans’ Community Resource Center where they were offering members and the public free flu and COVID-19 vaccines Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Lynwood, Calif.
The Yakima Health District urges residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza, as COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths increase. 
The Health District said the COVID-19 seven-day case rate had increased from 54 per 100,000 on Nov. 15 to 142 per 100,000 on Dec. 26, an increase of 163%. The last time case rates were that high in the county was late September.
The district reported seven deaths due to COVID-19 in December. Combined, the three months before that saw six deaths in total. The 14-day hospitalization rates for COVID-19 saw a 233% increase from 1.5 per 100,000 on Nov. 15 per 100,000 to 5 per 100,000 people on Dec. 26.
The health district warns these numbers could be underreported with people using at-home tests.
The XBB.1.5 COVID-19 variant, which first started raising concerns internationally in October, has now grown to be the most dominant strain in the U.S. XBB.1.5 is a descendant of the omicron XBB subvariant. It is highly transmissible, but not considered to be more potent or dangerous than other omicron strains.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the XBB.1.5, or kraken, variant makes up about 40% of all COVID-19 cases in the country, though the majority of cases are concentrated in the Northeast.
While RSV cases are beginning to decline in Yakima County, flu cases are still circulating at a high level, the release said.
Astria Health and Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital reported 17 cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, the last week of December, and a 6.7% positivity rate. That’s down from 45 cases and a 15% positivity rate the week before Christmas.
The hospitals reported 116 flu cases the last week of December with a 23% positivity rate, with 144 cases and a 26% positivity rate the week before Christmas. 
Flu and RSV numbers were higher in late November and the first two weeks of December. The hospitals reported 287 flu cases the first week of December and 253 the second week of December.
The numbers are just from the hospitals, and don’t include private provider test results.
On Jan. 4, there were 15 active COVID outbreaks, two flu outbreaks and one flu and COVID outbreak. They were reported inside nursing homes, substance abuse disorder treatment facilities, adult family homes and assisted living facilities. The two flu outbreaks were in assisted living facilities, and one nursing home was experiencing the flu and COVID outbreak, the district said.
Yakima Health District continues to work with organizations that have outbreaks to provide education and guidance.
The district recommends residents wear masks in crowded places, cover their coughs, wash their hands often and stay home when sick.
COVID-19 and flu vaccines are available to all individuals 6 months or older. Local health officials also recommend for those who are eligible to get the bivalent booster, which can help protect against the more severe symptoms of the original COVID-19 strains and more recent strains like omicron.
Visit the Yakima Health District website to find more information on vaccination locations.
Santiago Ochoa’s reporting for the Yakima Herald-Republic is possible with support from Report for America and community members through the Yakima Valley Community Fund. For information on republishing, email news@yakimaherald.com.
Community COVID-19 vaccine clinics are planned:
• 2:30-6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 10, at Harrah Elementary/Middle School Library, 3240 Fort Road, Harrah. The site will also have flu vaccines available. 
• 2-4 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 25, at Perry Technical Institute, 2011 W. Washington Ave, Yakima.
• 2-6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Radio KDNA, 121 Sunnyside Ave, Granger.
• 2-6 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Radio KDNA, 121 Sunnyside Ave, Granger.
For a list of clinics and pharmacies offering vaccines, go to www.YakimaVaccines.org.
RFA/Health Care Access Reporter
Santiago Ochoa is a bilingual journalist covering health care access at the Yakima Herald-Republic in Yakima, Washington. Before joining the Herald, Ochoa reported for Flint Beat in Flint, Michigan, covering the city’s Latino population—health care, education, community building and more, and winning top honors in the Michigan Press Association’s feature category. He served as photographer and later editor for his college newspaper, The Michigan Times. When he’s not working, Ochoa enjoys cross-country trips on his motorcycle, going to the movies, reading and skiing. 
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