Health Officials Say Prepare for Worst, Hope for Best
The superintendent of ESD 105, Kevin Chase, told reporters in Yakima that parents need to prepare for the possibility of schools around the state closing for up to five weeks. Chase joined other city and county officials Friday at a news conference at the Yakima Health District to talk about the coronavirus.
Health District spokeswoman Lilian Bravo says two cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed by the Washington State Department of Health. Bravo says a third case has tested positive at a private lab, but has yet to receive state confirmation. Bravo says they're recommending any events in the valley involving more than 100 people be canceled and that those in high-risk groups avoid crowds and stay home for at least two weeks.
Those suggestions and the fact that Yakima County, the city of Yakima and the city of Union Gap have declared emergencies led to the cancellation of the Central Washington Home Show, which was planned in the Yakima Valley SunDome this weekend.
Yakima's Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital is banning visitors at the hospital, closing the gift shop, canceling valet parking, community education and exercise classes. Astria Hospital of Toppenish is now developing drive-up testing that they hope to make available next week.
ESD 105's Chase says while he hasn't seen anything official about closing schools in the state, he anticipates it could happen as early as next week and classrooms could be shuttered until April 24 -- just as the governor has already ordered on the west side of the state.
Virginia Mason Memorial officials say they're doing everything they can to stop the spread of the disease. The hospital's Dr. Tanny Davenport told reporters he doesn't think all the actions taken in the county are an overreaction. He says those with symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath should call their health care provider before going to the hospital. Those without a provider can call the hospital's call center at (509) 249-5097. Or call the Washington State Department of Health coronavirus hotline at 1-800-525-0127.